99 books like The Spectral City

By Leanna Renee Hieber,

Here are 99 books that The Spectral City fans have personally recommended if you like The Spectral City. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Richard Vetere Author Of She's Not There

From my list on classic coming-of-age set within the last century.

Why am I passionate about this?

Richard Vetere’s teleplay adaptation of his published stage play The Marriage Fool, starring Walter Matthau, Carol Burnet, and John Stamos, now streaming on Amazon. He co-wrote the movie The Third Miracle, which is a screenplay adaptation of his own novel. It was produced by Francis Ford Coppola, directed by Agnieszka Holand, and stars Ed Harris and Anne Heche released by Sony Picture Classics. His screenplay Caravaggio, an adaptation of his own published stage play, won the Golden Palm Award for Best Screenplay at the Beverly Hills International Film Festival in 2021. In 2005, the Frank Melville Library at Stony Brook University created the Richard Vetere Collection, an archive of his work.  

Richard's book list on classic coming-of-age set within the last century

Richard Vetere Why did Richard love this book?

Published in 1943, this was certainly my favorite coming-of-age novel which I read in high school. I grew up in a neighborhood in Queens with trees and parks while to me, Brooklyn was a world of concrete.

Francie intrigued me with how she survived her drunk father, her single-minded mother, and the harshness of poverty. My working-class world was a lot less dangerous and drastic than Francie’s so she intrigued me as she never wavered or lost her belief that everything would work out. The novel is the epitome of the coming-of-age book since it is truly about growing up and looking back on childhood memories no matter how unforgiving they are.

You are only young once and the novel tells us to relish those memories since there is always something good in them even if they are buried. The movie directed by Kazan is a good watch showing the…

By Betty Smith,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked A Tree Grows in Brooklyn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick

A special 75th anniversary edition of the beloved American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the twentieth century.

From the moment she entered the world, Francie Nolan needed to be made of stern stuff, for growing up in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn, New York demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Often scorned by neighbors for her family’s erratic and eccentric behavior―such as her father Johnny’s taste for alcohol and Aunt Sissy’s habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce―no one, least of all Francie, could…

Book cover of The House of Mirth

Jan Eliasberg Author Of Hannah's War

From my list on exploring the world from a female point of view.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was raised to believe that I could do everything a man could do, just as Ginger Rodgers did, “backwards and in high heels.” My discovery that social expectations and boundaries for women were vastly different than those for men came as an enormous shock, and struck me as deeply, tragically unfair. I take strength from women in history, as well as from fictional female characters, who passionately pursue roles in a man’s world that are considered transgressive or forbidden. As a glass-ceiling-shattering female film and television director I take inspiration from women who have the gritty determination to live on their own terms. And then tell it as they lived it.

Jan's book list on exploring the world from a female point of view

Jan Eliasberg Why did Jan love this book?

This novel’s power remains intact every time I read it, even as the nature of the tragedy seems to shift – from the perils of living by one’s looks (my teenage reading) to the cruelty of the world towards women (my young adult reading) to the struggle for personal freedom in a money-obsessed culture (my more recent readings).

Edith Wharton’s novel is a masterpiece, both electrifying and relevant, and worth re-reading as often as possible. 

Once you finish the book, watch the Terence Davies-directed film, starring the luminous Gillian Anderson as Lily Bart.

By Edith Wharton,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The House of Mirth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A bestseller when it was published nearly a century ago, this literary classic established Edith Wharton as one of the most important American writers in the twentieth century-now with a new introduction from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan.

Wharton's first literary success-a devastatingly accurate portrait of New York's aristocracy at the turn of the century-is considered by many to be her most important novel, and Lily Bart, her most unforgettable character. Impoverished but well-born, the beautiful and beguiling Lily realizes a secure future depends on her acquiring a wealthy husband. But with her romantic indiscretion, gambling debts, and a maelstrom…

Book cover of The Museum of Extraordinary Things

Eileen Charbonneau Author Of Watch Over Me

From my list on history set in New York City.

Why am I passionate about this?

Eileen Charbonneau’s love affair with New York City was cemented the day she was downtown on jury duty and witnessed the 9/11 terrorist attacks. New York is the Melting Pot birthplace of her parents, home of her first job (Brooklyn) first Shakespeare (Central Park) and Folk music (Greenwich Village) performances, first apartments (West Village and Washington Heights), and first cocktail (Kir Royale at the Algonquin). Many family stories and deep roots remain.

Eileen's book list on history set in New York City

Eileen Charbonneau Why did Eileen love this book?

This one is set in the early 20th century. Coralie, works at her father’s Coney Island freak show as a mermaid and has extraordinary swimming abilities but is as sheltered as a goldfish in a bowl. She meets and falls in love with a photographer who is on hand to document the famous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. This is for readers who like their historical fiction touched with that kitchen-sink magical realism that Alice Hoffman is celebrated for. Turn-of-the-century New York sparkles throughout. This one is closer to my own Melting Pot roots and its eccentric characters seem so New York!

By Alice Hoffman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Museum of Extraordinary Things as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Coney Island, 1911: Coralie Sardie is the daughter of a self-proclaimed scientist and professor who acts as the impresario of The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a boardwalk freak show offering amazement and entertainment to the masses. An extraordinary swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl,and a 100 year old turtle, in her father's ""museum"". She swims regularly in New York's Hudson River, and one night stumbles upon a striking young man alone in the woods photographing moon-lit trees. From that moment, Coralie knows her life will never be the same.

The dashing photographer…

Book cover of Time and Again

Stoney Compton Author Of Treadwell: A Novel of Alaska Territory

From my list on accurate immersion in a past time and place.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a child I read and experienced history books as adventures. Adventure drew me to Alaska after a hitch in the Navy. I wanted to write an accurate historical novel about Juneau and the Treadwell Mine and began my research. I knew the Alaska Historical Library was the perfect place to begin. When I discovered the extensive photo collections, I flashed back to my admiration of the historical novels that impressed me. I borrowed technique and structure from all and incorporated imagery in my manuscript. My main goal was to successfully immerse the reader in a good novel about 1915 in Alaska Territory.

Stoney's book list on accurate immersion in a past time and place

Stoney Compton Why did Stoney love this book?

Being a romantic I loved Time and Again (as well as the movie) for the story’s construction. I appreciate verisimilitude in historical novels and Finney has done his homework. Having briefly visited New York City twice, I do not know it personally. 

Finney makes it breathe in 1882 with fascinating detail that never bores, and by using photographs. I thought the novel was perfect, and it stuck in my head as much for production/construction values as well as the story. When I first researched Treadwell at the Alaska Historical Library in Juneau I came across dozens of photographs, and the form for the novel coalesced in my head.

In retrospect I realize the novels I loved taught me about the architecture of story as well as entertaining me.

By Jack Finney,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Time and Again as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Si Morley is bored with his job as a commercial illustrator and his social life doesn't seem to be going anywhere. So, when he is approached by an affable ex-football star and told that he is just what the government is looking for to take part in a top-secret programme, he doesn't hesitate for too long. And so one day Si steps out of his twentieth-century, New York apartment and finds himself back in January 1882. There are no cars, no planes, no computers, no television and the word 'nuclear' appears in no dictionaries. For Si, it's very like Eden,…

Book cover of Ghost Story

Michelle Mellon Author Of Down by the Sea: and Other Tales of Dark Destiny

From my list on fate dealing its infamously fickle hand.

Why am I passionate about this?

It’s natural for humans to wonder who or what might have power over our actions. We’ve clawed our way to the top of the food chain, channeled the power of the elements, and tamed much of nature to our whim. What if something out there was the architect—or more—of our successes and failures? It’s something I’ve explored since I first began writing: fed by the adventures of living as an “Army brat” with a new life every two years, in keeping with my natural inclination to solve puzzles, and spurred by my fear of death and the equally frightening possibility that someone is or isn’t pulling the strings…

Michelle's book list on fate dealing its infamously fickle hand

Michelle Mellon Why did Michelle love this book?

There are certainly many different types of lists on which this book belongs. I always tell people Ghost Story is the scariest thing I’ve ever read. I was fortunate enough to relay that to the late great Peter Straub at a horror writers’ conference many years ago. Though I’m sure he would have liked praise for a more contemporary work, there’s a timelessness in the terror he evokes in this book. But that’s not the reason I include it here. It’s because I think ghosts are a form of Fate. Violence, injustice, visceral reactions—these are the things we associate with ghosts, and these are the elements that are central to the story of the punishing hand of Fate in this novel. 

By Peter Straub,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Ghost Story as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 New York Times bestselling author Peter Straub’s classic tale of horror, secrets, and the dangerous ghosts of the past...
What was the worst thing you’ve ever done?
In the sleepy town of Milburn, New York, four old men gather to tell each other stories—some true, some made-up, all of them frightening. A simple pastime to divert themselves from their quiet lives.
But one story is coming back to haunt them and their small town. A tale of something they did long ago. A wicked mistake. A horrifying accident. And they are about to learn that no one can bury…

Book cover of The Diviners

Amy Carol Reeves Author Of Ripper (A Ripper Novel)

From my list on to get your Sherlock Holmes fix.

Why am I passionate about this?

I think the lure of the detective novel lies in our human instinct to problem solve. There’s something satisfying about following a smart, observant, and even flawed character as they solve a crime. We’re working through a complicated puzzle, deciphering clues and theorizing, alongside the detective. Personally, I love detective novels set in richly drawn historical settings. I grew up addicted to Edgar Allan Poe and Sherlock Holmes stories. I remember reading The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins in a few days because I couldn’t put it down. The following books are a must-have for any Sherlock Holmes fans.

Amy's book list on to get your Sherlock Holmes fix

Amy Carol Reeves Why did Amy love this book?

Evie O’Neill has been sent to live with her Uncle Will when she can’t obey the conventional rules of her hometown. The good news is that he lives in glitzy New York City during the 1920s, but Will runs a very different scene, operating the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult. After a girl’s body is discovered with clues indicating that the murder was motivated by the occult, Evie, her uncle, and a few new friends find themselves involved in the investigation. A Young Adult book, what I particularly love about this novel, is the way Evie evolves from a thoughtless party-girl to a young detective who embraces the psychic gift she has long kept at bay. In the process, she becomes wiser about the larger, complicated world around her.  

By Libba Bray,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Diviners as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

It's 1920s New York City. It's flappers and Follies, jazz and gin. It's after the war but before the depression. And for certain group of bright young things it's the opportunity to party like never before.

For Evie O'Neill, it's escape. She's never fit in in small town Ohio and when she causes yet another scandal, she's shipped off to stay with an uncle in the big city. But far from being exile, this is exactly what she's always wanted: the chance to show how thoroughly modern and incredibly daring she can be.

But New York City isn't about just…

Book cover of Mallory's Oracle

Christa Loughlin Author Of The Pallbearer

From my list on mystery thrillers that keep you glued to the pages.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always had a passion for anything crime fiction—books, movies, podcasts, or TV shows. It didn’t matter. I loved it all. It was probably because I grew up in a family with six police officers that seldom talked about anything unrelated to policing. I was like a sponge and picked up some terminology and learned about different police procedures they would discuss. There was rarely a family gathering that didn’t have some type of story or anecdote being shared by each of them and I always found myself being drawn right in. For those reasons, I fell in love with trying to figure out the who’s, how’s and why’s of any story. 

Christa's book list on mystery thrillers that keep you glued to the pages

Christa Loughlin Why did Christa love this book?

Kathy Mallory is a character unlike any other. Kathy was a child of the streets who had the good fortune of being adopted into the loving home of a police officer who saw her brilliance and resourcefulness even at a young age. Years later, Kathy has become an NYPD officer who brings justice to victims through her own sense of right and wrong. She is a street-hardened, lone wolf who doesn’t stop until she gets what she wants. I love the complexity of this tough-as-nails female officer who bends all the rules in her pursuit of justice. This book is so well written I immediately read every book I could find by this author.

By Carol O'Connell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Mallory's Oracle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jonathan Kellerman says Mallory's Oracle is "a joy." Nelson DeMille and other advance readers have called it "truly amazing, " "a classic" with "immense appeal." It is all of that, and more: a stunning debut novel about a web of unsolved murders in New York's Gramercy Park and the singular woman who makes them her obsession.

At its center is Kathleen Mallory, an extraordinary wild child turned New York City policewoman. Adopted off the streets as a little girl by a police inspector and his wife, she is still not altogether civilized now that she is a sergeant in the…

Book cover of The Crime Fighter: How You Can Make Your Community Crime Free

Wes Denham

From my list on crime and criminal justice.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write books and newspaper columns on criminal justice and criminal defense. As an investigator for criminal defense attorneys, I spent years in the jails and prisons of Florida and Georgia interviewing felony defendants—murderers, child molesters, con men, robbers, drug dealers, whores, wife beaters, and shooters for hire. Some were insane; most weren’t. My interest is personal as well as professional. I live in Police Zone 1, the most dangerous area of my city. It’s a place where kids and church ladies can distinguish a Chinese AK from a Glock nine by sound alone. It’s a place where I carry an extra-large can of pepper spray and a combat knife, just to walk the dog!

Wes' book list on crime and criminal justice

Wes Denham Why did Wes love this book?

Maple was the architect of the tactics that allowed the NYPD to lower homicides by 60% in two miraculous years from 1990–1992. This book is easy to read and often funny, which doesn’t obscure Maple’s tactical genius. The story of how a lowly transit cop who fancied suits, vests, bow ties, and homburgs became Assistant Commissioner of Police in New York is astonishing. You can only regret that Maple was never able to use his fake “Gun-Sniffing Dog” ploy to flush suspects with concealed firearms. It was sheer genius.

By Jack Maple, Chris Mitchell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Crime Fighter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Former NYPD Deputy Commissioner Jack Maple was a man in a bow tie and homburg--he was also on a mission to revolutionize the way crime is fought: how cops go after crooks, and how they prevent crime in the first place. And he succeeded.

But Maple is not satisfied. In The Crime Fighter, he shows how crime can be attacked all across America. Laced with fascinating, incredible, and often very funny tales of Maple's adventures as a cop, the book is as entertaining as it is informative. Anyone interested in how criminals think and act, and how the police should…

Book cover of Cotton Comes to Harlem

Jake Lamar Author Of Viper's Dream

From my list on social thrillers about money, race, and power.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in the Bronx, New York. I arrived in Paris, France at the age of 32. Thought I would stay for one year. That was thirty years ago. I'm still in Paris, and the author of a memoir, a play, and seven novels. Many of my novels fit the term "social thriller," popularized by Jordan Peele to define his ground-smashing classic film Get Out. Peele identified a genre that has been with us, particularly when it comes to crime fiction, for a long time. I've always been fascinated by dark, suspenseful stories that explore the nature of greed, of racism, of political power. And how the three are so often wrapped around each other.

Jake's book list on social thrillers about money, race, and power

Jake Lamar Why did Jake love this book?

Only when I arrived in Paris did I discover the works of this major African American writer.

Back then, Himes—still under-recognized in the USA—was a long-time household name in France. Himes not only brought the American crime novel to the Black part of town, he did it with a satiric bite that is his distinguishing feature.

The Black police detectives Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson are at the center of the nine novels in Himes's Harlem Cycle, an epic achievement in crime fiction.

Himes's Harlem is a violent phantasmagoria where Digger and Edin order to protect the poor, ordinary working folk of the communityare forced to be the baddest of the bad.

Cotton Comes to Harlem is my favorite work in the collection. Published in 1965, it skewers both Black militants and white racists with wicked glee.

By Chester Himes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cotton Comes to Harlem as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From “the best writer of mayhem yarns since Raymond Chandler” (San Francisco Chronicle) comes a hard-hitting, entertaining entry in the trailblazing Harlem Detectives series about two NYPD detectives who must piece together the clues of the scam of a lifetime. 

Flim-flam man Deke O’Hara is no sooner out of Atlanta’s state penitentiary than he’s back on the streets working a big scam. As sponsor of the Back-to-Africa movement, he’s counting on a big Harlem rally to produce a massive collection—for his own private charity. But the take is hijacked by white gunmen and hidden in a bale of cotton that…

Book cover of Lush Life

Chris Pavone Author Of Two Nights in Lisbon

From my list on suspense that is actually about something bigger.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love crime fiction—mysteries, thrillers, espionage, you name it, plots and puzzles that excite and confound and ultimately gratify. I also love the non-genre called literary fiction, sharply observed and beautifully written books that move me, and leave me with a slightly better understanding of humanity. And I think the sweetest spot of all is the intersection of the two, with sparkling prose, fully realized characters, and interesting settings combined with an insistent, credible plot that makes it a matter of urgency to turn the page, presenting the exquisite dilemma of wanting to race through the excitement but also the opposite urge to slow down and enjoy it all.

Chris' book list on suspense that is actually about something bigger

Chris Pavone Why did Chris love this book?

Richard Price’s propulsive plots revolve around crime, but the novels are always about something much bigger, and Lush Life merges many of his favorite themes into one masterpiece: ambition and compromise, race and class, gentrification and crime, the push-and-pull of a city’s progressive leanings against reactionary forces for law and order and property values. Price’s city is constructed on a bedrock of conflict between those who’ve come to New York struggling to create art, those who were born here struggling to get by, and the cops struggling to hold the middle, in a spectacular kaleidoscope of a downtown scene at the turn of the millennium, of hipsters and gangsters, housing projects and trendy restaurants, all these subcultures clashing in one microcosm of urban life.

By Richard Price,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lush Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'So, what do you do?' Whenever people asked him, Eric Cash used to have a dozen answers. Artist, actor, screenwriter But now he's thirty-five years old and he's still living on the Lower East Side, still in the restaurant business, still serving the people he wanted to be. What does Eric do? He manages. Not like Ike Marcus. Ike was young, good-looking, people liked him. Ask him what he did, he wouldn't say tending bar. He was going places - until two street kids stepped up to him and Eric one night and pulled a gun. At least, that's Eric's…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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