The most recommended books on Central Park

Who picked these books? Meet our 17 experts.

17 authors created a book list connected to Central Park, and here are their favorite Central Park books.
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What type of Central Park book?


Book cover of The Professor and the Prostitute: And Other True True Tales of Murder and Madness

John Allore Author Of Wish You Were Here

From the list on to fall down a rabbit hole.

Who am I?

I chose these books because a theme in my writing is standing up, and being a champion for things that get forgotten – books, music, events, people. Also, for anyone who has done investigative reporting, the sense is always like you’re going down a rabbit hole and penetrating a dark, undiscovered country. Also – and I don’t think many people know this – I was an English Lit major in college at the University of Toronto. In my early days I did a lot of reading, on a disparate field of interests. 

John's book list on to fall down a rabbit hole

Why did John love this book?

Linda Wolfe is a throwback to the way true crime used to be written and should continue to be written. She was an old-school investigative reporter with an endlessly inquisitive mind and a keen sense of storytelling. Wolfe died just before the Covid pandemic broke, her passing went largely unnoticed. She’s chiefly known for her book about Robert Chambers, Wasted: The Preppie Murder about the 1986 Central Park strangulation murder of Jennifer Levin. The Professor and the Prostitute is a great, lurid title, and this series of essays are fascinating portraits of behavior and psychology. Included is one of her most famous pieces originally penned for New York Magazine, The Strange Death of the Twin Gynecologists about Stewart and Cyril Marcus, made famous in the David Cronenberg film, Dead Ringers.

By Linda Wolfe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ten accounts exploring the psychological forces that drive affluent people to destroy themselves and others focus on a New England professor's obsession with a prostitute, the drug-related deaths of twin gynecologists, and other cases

Stuart Little

By E.B. White, Garth Williams (illustrator),

Book cover of Stuart Little

Rebecca Chace Author Of June Sparrow and the Million-Dollar Penny

From the list on to reach for in the middle of the night.

Who am I?

I'm a writer who has mostly written books for adults, as well as plays and screenplays, and June Sparrow and the Million Dollar Penny is my only book for children (so far). Though I read a lot of adult literature I have never stopped reading children's books. I always keep a "comfort" book on my bedside table for the middle of the night. I think that a really well-written, timeless children's book can teach us, comfort us, and take us on a journey. No matter what age you may be, I hope that you will read these books, or revisit them even if you think you are "too old" for children's books.

Rebecca's book list on to reach for in the middle of the night

Why did Rebecca love this book?

When I wake up in the middle of the night I want to re-read something that will make me feel safe, and the character of Stuart is so sweet and funny, and familiar, that I come back over and over and always find something new to love in this book. The pictures are also just right, with Stuart looking jaunty as he sails his boat in Central Park, or rides his mother's wedding ring up out of the bathroom sink drain. I'm a New Yorker, so I have a soft spot for stories that take place in New York, but it's also just a story about a wonderful little guy named Stuart. It's also a love story, and a coming-of-age story. It's not easy being a mouse born into a household of humans, no matter how much they love you. This is a book that is filled with hope, and…

By E.B. White, Garth Williams (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The classic story by E. B. White, author of the Newbery Honor Book Charlotte's Web and The Trumpet of the Swan, about one small mouse on a very big adventure.

Stuart Little is no ordinary mouse. Born to a family of humans, he lives in New York City with his parents, his older brother George, and Snowbell the cat. Though he's shy and thoughtful, he's also a true lover of adventure.

Stuart's greatest adventure comes when his best friend, a beautiful little bird named Margalo, disappears from her nest. Determined to track her down, Stuart ventures away from home for…

Ida, Always

By Caron Lewis, Charles Santoso (illustrator),

Book cover of Ida, Always

Ellen Tarlow Author Of Looking for Smile

From the list on bringing on a tear.

Who am I?

I have been captivated by the emotional power of picture books since I was a child and have spent my adult life reading, sharing, and trying to write the kinds of books that connect to the youngest of readers on a deeper level. In Looking for Smile, I tried to write about the day when I was five years old and experienced real sadness for the first time. This became a story about Bear and his friend, Smile. My favorite kind of picture books are those that make me smile and tear up at the same time. I decided I would share some recent books that have had that effect on me…

Ellen's book list on bringing on a tear

Why did Ellen love this book?

Based on a true story about two polar bears at the Central Park Zoo, this is a beautiful book about the death of a loved one. In a zoo, there may literally be only two-of-a-kind, so the loss of one is especially poignant. The realization that one of the pair would be “going away” at first seems almost unbearable. Their leave-taking (complete with days of denial and days of laying together comforting each other) really takes readers through the process and yet offers enough wisdom and hope to help them come out better on the other side.

By Caron Lewis, Charles Santoso (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ida, Always as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A beautiful, honest portrait of loss and deep friendship told through the story of two iconic polar bears.

Gus lives in a big park in the middle of an even bigger city, and he spends his days with Ida. Ida is right there. Always.

Then one sad day, Gus learns that Ida is very sick, and she isn’t going to get better. The friends help each other face the difficult news with whispers, sniffles, cuddles, and even laughs. Slowly Gus realizes that even after Ida is gone, she will still be with him—through the sounds of their city, and the…

Back Then

By Anne Bernays, Justin Kaplan,

Book cover of Back Then: Two Literary Lives in 1950s New York

Pamela S. Nadell Author Of America's Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today

From the list on memoirs through the voices of women.

Who am I?

I am a professor of history and Jewish studies at American University and author of America’s Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today, winner of the National Jewish Book Award – 2019 Jewish Book of the Year. Since childhood I have been reading stories of women’s lives and tales set in Jewish communities across time and space. Yet, the voices that so often best evoke the past are those captured on the pages of great memoirs.

Pamela's book list on memoirs through the voices of women

Why did Pamela love this book?

Written in separate voices in alternating chapters, this unusual double memoir by the long-married couple, the novelist Anne Bernays and biographer Justin Kaplan, tells the stories of two privileged New Yorkers.  Growing up on opposite sides of Central Park, they came of age in the 1950s. Dreaming dreams of literary lives, they came to see them realized as their lives converged.

By Anne Bernays, Justin Kaplan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Novelist Anne Bernays and biographer Justin Kaplan -- both native New Yorkers -- came of age in the 1950s, when the pent-up energies of the Depression years and World War II were at flood tide. Written in two separate voices, Back Then is thecandid, anecdotal account of these two children of privilege -- one from New York's East Side, the other from the West Side -- pursuing careers in publishing and eventually leaving to write their own books.

Infused with intelligence and charm, Back Then is an elegant reflection on the transformative years in the lives of two young people…

The Park and the People

By Roy Rosenzweig, Elizabeth Blackmar,

Book cover of The Park and the People: A History of Central Park

Drew A. Swanson Author Of Remaking Wormsloe Plantation: The Environmental History of a Lowcountry Landscape

From the list on why American parks look the way they do.

Who am I?

I grew up a farm kid and then worked as a park ranger fresh out of college. This background draws me to the history of American preservation, where so much that seems natural also has deep cultural roots. I find the American South—with its combination of irony and tragedy, beauty, and flaws—the most fascinating place on earth to study. Or maybe I’m just pulling for the home team.

Drew's book list on why American parks look the way they do

Why did Drew love this book?

What’s not to love about a book that starts with the release of invasive starlings and ends with Donald Trump’s New York real estate deals? (And along the way describes a thousand equally fascinating events.) Throughout this richly detailed history of the nation’s most famous urban park, Rosenzweig and Blackmar always keep everyday New Yorkers in focus, highlighting how they shaped the park as surely as did urban elites. The result is one of the city’s most democratic spaces.

By Roy Rosenzweig, Elizabeth Blackmar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This "exemplary social history" (Kirkus Reviews) is the first full-scale account of Central Park ever published. Elizabeth Blackmar and Roy Rosenzweig tell the story of Central Park's people-the merchants and landowners who launched the project; the immigrant and African-American residents who were displaced by the park; the politicians, gentlemen, and artists who disputed its design and operation; the German gardeners, Irish laborers, and Yankee engineers who built it; and the generations of New Yorkers for whom Central Park was their only backyard. In tracing the park's history, Blackmar and Rosenzweig give us the history of New York, and bring to…

Horse People

By Michael Korda,

Book cover of Horse People: Scenes from the Riding Life

Candace Wade Author Of Horse Sluts: The Saga of Two Women on the Trail of Their Yeehaw

From the list on horse journeys not to be missed.

Who am I?

The me of me is a “late in life rider” and freelance writer—with an edge. I learned to ride horses in my ‘40s when we left the wonders of California for sweet tea, okra, and equine “yard art” of Tennessee. Horses and writing mixed to create Horse Sluts. My political bent led me to craft an exposé on the brutal “training” of Big Lick TN Walking Horses. I still ride and explore the more humorous sides of aging and riding. A stickler for "writing worth reading,” I eschew self-conscious, wandering-lost writing. The books I recommended are well crafted.

Candace's book list on horse journeys not to be missed

Why did Candace love this book?

Horse People is an oldie but a goodie. It is a canter through Central Park... being thrown onto the hood of a taxi... his horse startled on Columbus and Ninth then trying to back through the door of the White Tower hamburger shop. It is riding lessons on Staten Island, and close-your-eyes-and-hope-for-the-best at the Break Your Neck Fox Hunt. Korda’s story is honest—an equestrian smile. My ego was salved when I read some activities on horseback scared Korda too. The quality writing takes us over each jump.

By Michael Korda,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Bestselling author Michael Korda's Horse People is the story -- sometimes hilariously funny, sometimes sad and moving, always shrewdly observed -- of a lifetime love affair with horses, and of the bonds that have linked humans with horses for more than ten thousand years. It is filled with intimate portraits of the kind of people, rich or poor, Eastern or Western, famous or humble, whose lives continue to revolve around the horse.

Korda is a terrific storyteller, and his book is intensely personal and seductive, a joy for everyone who loves horses. Even those who have never ridden will be…

Book cover of Donut Feed the Squirrels

Lauren Stohler Author Of Gnome and Rat

From the list on early graphic novels with unique vibes.

Who am I?

I'm an author/illustrator of picture books and early graphic novels! I love stories that are immersive, transformative, and moody. Some of my favorite vibes come from: smelling freshly-shaved pencils in autumn, hearing a great song for the first time, and finding exactly the right book when you need it!

Lauren's book list on early graphic novels with unique vibes

Why did Lauren love this book?

The vibe is: a sunny Sunday in Central Park!

Donut Feed the Squirrels, like all of the books in the Norma and Belly series, is just plain beautiful. Illustrated entirely in loose ink-brush and watercolor, the art is soothing and lovely, which complements the gentle humor and friendly antics of its main characters.

This series is about the strivings of city-park critters (mostly squirrels) to acquire their latest delicious craving (and then get themselves out of the ensuing pickle)!

These books relax me like a good sit in the sun. The characters have sweetness and depth, cunning and naivety, all in wholesome combination. And did I mention it's gorgeous? (First in a series!)

By Mika Song,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Donut Feed the Squirrels as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Two squirrel best friends meet their match: a donut food truck! This Eisner-nominated hilarious young graphic novel is perfect for fans of Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea and anyone who would do ANYTHING for a donut.

Norma and Belly would really really really really really like a donut.

With a burned breakfast and a cranky donut seller at the local food truck, they may be stuck with only nuts to eat . . . unless they can steal the biggest, most delicious donut of their tiny lives!

Mika Song gives readers something to laugh at as these squirrels try their…

And Tango Makes Three

By Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell, Henry Cole (illustrator)

Book cover of And Tango Makes Three

Thomas Tracy Author Of Scoochie & Skiddles: Scoochie's Adoption Story

From the list on about LGBTQ+ families.

Who am I?

As a gay father of two transracially adopted daughters, I am constantly searching for books that feature families like mine. It is important for children to see families that look like theirs represented in their storybooks. Unfortunately, there is a limited number of children’s books spotlighting adoption and even less featuring LGBTQ+ families. I am happy to share this list of some of my favorites that represent diverse/LGBTQ+ families.   

Thomas' book list on about LGBTQ+ families

Why did Thomas love this book?

It is hard to imagine that And Tango Makes Three was revolutionary and controversial in 2015 when it was published, but it was. However, it is one of those books that paved the way for greater diversity in children’s literature. Like so many powerful books, And Tango Makes Three is based on the real experiences of two male penguins raising a baby penguin. It is a staple book for the personal libraries of all families interested in promoting family diversity. 

By Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell, Henry Cole (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked And Tango Makes Three as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the six political books for kids you should definitely read according to Zoe Williams in the Guardian, November 2018!

Roy and Silo are just like the other penguin couples at the zoo - they bow to each other, walk together and swim together. But Roy and Silo are a little bit different - they're both boys.

Then, one day, when Mr Gramzay the zookeeper finds them trying to hatch a stone, he realises that it may be time for Roy and Silo to become parents for real.

A Green Place to Be

By Ashley Benham Yazdani,

Book cover of A Green Place to Be: The Creation of Central Park

Jennifer Thermes Author Of Manhattan: Mapping the Story of an Island

From the list on nonfiction about New York City.

Who am I?

I’m a children’s book author, illustrator, and map illustrator, as well as an armchair traveler and history buff. I adore books that explain how the world works through the ideas and inventions of curious human beings, narratives of travel and change, and how past and present history are connected. Nonfiction picture books are a fantastic way to distill these true stories for readers of all ages!

Jennifer's book list on nonfiction about New York City

Why did Jennifer love this book?

Someone once referred to Central Park as the “lungs” of New York City. When the grid plan for the streets of Manhattan was designed it left little room for greenspace. Human beings need nature, and respite from the crowds, so a contest was held to design a park. Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted came up with the winning idea. This lushly illustrated book tells the story of how their Greensward Plan became Central Park— the first landscaped public park in the United States. I love to think about how the two designed the placement of every tree, bridge, and curved path, with the goal of making a place where all the people in the city could enjoy nature— and still do, today! 

By Ashley Benham Yazdani,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Green Place to Be as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1858, New York City was growing so fast that new roads and tall buildings threatened to swallow up the remaining open space. The people needed a green place to be - a park with ponds to row on and paths for wandering through trees and over bridges. When a citywide contest solicited plans for creating a park out of barren swampland, Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted put their heads together to create the winning design, and the hard work of making their plans a reality began. 

By winter, the lake opened for skating. By the next summer, the…

Frederick Law Olmsted

By Charles Beveridge, Paul Rocheleau (photographer),

Book cover of Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing the American Landscape

R Bruce Stephenson Author Of Portland's Good Life: Sustainability and Hope in an American City

From the list on urban design for human health and happiness.

Who am I?

I was fortunate to grow up in a typical 1960s neighborhood where the good life was an option. This was the storyline in The Wonder Years, and it was not just saccharine reminiscence. The physical environment defined sustainability: suburbs marked the distinction between country and city, obesity was not an epidemic, Nature-Deficit Disorder was unknown, most children walked to school, and vehicle miles traveled were 50 percent lower. If home sizes were smaller, face-to-face interaction was more prevalent and despair less common. I’ve worked to extend this privilege of place on sustainable lines because it is essential to solving the existential crises of our time—structural racism and climate change.  

R's book list on urban design for human health and happiness

Why did R love this book?

A richly illustrated presentation of a foundational figure, Olmsted believed that parks were integral to physical and mental health and he designed the park to give citizens immediate and visceral contact with nature. His genius was to meld art and psychology on functional lines to produce settings of extraordinary beauty. After his initial masterpiece, Central Park, his vision broadened as he planned his projects in a more comprehensive manner. Riverside, Illinois was an exemplary suburb that harmonized with nature, while Boston’s Emerald Necklace’s array of parks linked by greenways and pedestrian paths was a prototype park system and cultural statement. Its interconnected network of transcendental oases allowed escape from the strident, accelerated movement of a profit-propelled society. Like Henry David Thoreau sauntering through the Concord countryside, urban dwellers could move through the city to their own tune. A timeless vision, it is why Olmsted still inspires the good life of…

By Charles Beveridge, Paul Rocheleau (photographer),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Frederick Law Olmsted as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A man of passionate vision and drive, Frederick Law Olmsted defined and named the profession of landscape architecture and designed America's most beloved parks and landscapes of the past century--New York's Central Park, Brooklyn's Prospect Park, the U.S. Capitol grounds, the Biltmore Estate, and many others. During a remarkable forty-year career that began in the mid-1800s, Olmsted created the first park systems, urban greenways, and planned surburban residential communities in this country. He was a pivotal figure in the movement to create and preserve natural parks such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Niagra Falls. He also contrbuted to the design of…

The Fire Next Time

By James Baldwin,

Book cover of The Fire Next Time

Clarence B. Jones Author Of Last of the Lions: An African American Journey in Memoir

From the list on the realities of being Black in America.

Who am I?

I’m a Black man born in Jim Crow America to domestic servants so challenged by their circumstances that they had to place me in a kind of orphanage because they weren’t given permission to raise me in their employer’s home. I’ve known poverty, violence, racism, and law enforcement changing the rules to single me out. But I have also known the rarified success of Wall Street, my own thriving law practice, entertainment industry deals, and, of course, the privilege of a lifetime working side-by-side with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Therefore, I understand both the promise of the American Dream and the cruelty with which it’s mostly (and purposely) withheld from her citizens of color.

Clarence's book list on the realities of being Black in America

Why did Clarence love this book?

I was at that famous Jimmy Baldwin-Robert F. Kennedy meeting off Central Park. Jimmy gave the president’s brother both barrels.

See, he always told people the truth, no matter how hard it was to hear. I set up the publication of the first part of The Fire Next Time at The New Yorker – see, it started as a letter from Jimmy to his nephew. But thanks to the power of the published word, every Black boy and girl can – and should – take his familial wisdom about navigating America while Black to heart.

By James Baldwin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Fire Next Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A seminal meditation on race by one of our greatest writers' Barack Obama

'We, the black and the white, deeply need each other here if we are really to become a nation'

James Baldwin's impassioned plea to 'end the racial nightmare' in America was a bestseller when it appeared in 1963, galvanising a nation and giving voice to the emerging civil rights movement. Told in the form of two intensely personal 'letters', The Fire Next Time is at once a powerful evocation of Baldwin's early life in Harlem and an excoriating condemnation of the terrible legacy of racial injustice.


The Eyes of Bast

By Lisabet Sarai,

Book cover of The Eyes of Bast

Amber Daulton Author Of Mistletoe in the City

From Amber's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Book cover designer Historian Vegetarian Cat lover

Amber's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Amber love this book?

I love steamy shifter romances, but I’ve rarely read any featuring house cats. Tom the Cat was such a compelling character, and the pain he endured at the hands of an evil sorceress was heartbreaking.

I have two kitties of my own, and just thinking about them being bespelled and tortured makes me want to fly into a rage. I will do anything to protect my cats, and Shaina, the heroine from the book, was just the same. I sympathized with her in her pursuit to save Tom, and when the sorceress got what she deserved, I relished it!

By Lisabet Sarai,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Trust your heart. Follow your dreams. Shaina Williams' grandmother bequeathed her that wisdom, along with an old pendant from the Islands, carved from an ocelot's tooth. When instinct tells Shaina to visit the feral cat trap she's set in Central Park, she listens to that inner voice. She discovers she's caged a magnificent black tom, but the cat inexplicably vanishes after she tends to his wounds. Seeking the errant feline, Shaina encounters instead a handsome stranger whose slightest touch sets her body on fire. As the day dawns after a night of ferocious passion, her mysterious lover is forced back…


By Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Barbara Bray (translator),

Book cover of Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error

T.C. Kuhn Author Of The Artist of Aveyron

From the list on the amazing history of the south of France.

Who am I?

While using the city of Albi in southern France as a base for visiting some cave art locations I became fascinated with the history of the early Christians of the region and the brutal Cathar Crusade which happened there. I was also surprised to learn this was the home of Toulouse Lautrec and other later artists. As an archaeologist studying cave art, I became caught up in the long and important history of this one small area. The idea for a story intertwining different religious movements and art over thousands of years quickly emerged. I couldn’t resist this unique opportunity to reveal a piece of the past from a perspective I hadn't considered before.  

T.C.'s book list on the amazing history of the south of France

Why did T.C. love this book?

It is virtually impossible to write or even investigate medieval southern France, especially the famous Cathar Period without delving into this classic work.

Still available in different translations, Le Roy Ladurie takes us into the life of a 14th-century French mountain village and its people in a way no one else has ever attempted. Based upon meticulous church records of contemporary individual interviews and interrogations with alleged heretics in one small village by Church Inquisitors, the author gives us a look into the lives of common people of that time that has never been equaled.

I found myself returning to this small book time and again in creating my own setting and characters (including borrowing authentic names at times) for a near-contemporary portion of the story I wanted to build within the larger framework of time and place I was focused upon.

The reader gets a true sense of the…

By Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Barbara Bray (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie has had a success which few historians experience and which is usually reserved for the winner of the Prix Goncourt...Montaillou, which is the reconstruction of the social life of a medieval village, has been acclaimed by the experts as a masterpiece of ethnographic history and by the public as a sensational revelation of the thoughts, feelings, and activities of the ordinary people of the past."―Times Literary Supplement.

With a new introduction by author Le Roy Ladurie, this special edition offers a fascinating history of a fourteenth-century village, Montaillou, in the mountainous region of southern France, almost…