The best Coney Island books 📚

Browse the best books on Coney Island as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

Coming Fall 2022: The ability to sort this list by genre (signup here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books).

Book cover of The Light of Luna Park

The Light of Luna Park

By Addison Armstrong

Why this book?

A dual-time story written by a Vanderbilt undergraduate (!), this is the story of a nurse at the Coney Island incubator “exhibit” where premature babies were brought because hospitals did not want to invest in this new technology (yes, this really happened). In 1926, Nurse Anderson takes a failing baby there with intentions of returning it to the parents, and a special education teacher in the 1950s has a connection to that fateful decision. Another fascinating piece of history that is not well known.

From the list:

The best historical fiction with rockstar nurses

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Coney Island: The People's Playground

Coney Island: The People's Playground

By Michael Immerso

Why this book?

Immerso’s book provided confirmation of a rumor I’d heard—that back in the late 1880s, the first thing a newly arriving immigrant making the transatlantic crossing would see wasn’t the Statue of Liberty—it was in fact Coney Island, and specifically the ridiculous edifice known as the Elephant Hotel. A bad idea from the get-go, the novelty, pachyderm-shaped hotel was converted into a brothel until even the hookers checked out and it burned to the ground.

From the list:

The best books about historic Coney Island

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of The Last Shot: City Streets, Basketball Dreams

The Last Shot: City Streets, Basketball Dreams

By Darcy Frey

Why this book?

Frey follows four Coney Island high school basketball stars (including Stephon Marbury) as they attempt to navigate through the gangs, drugs, and violence of the housing projects in order to wrap their hands around the Holy Grail--a D-1 basketball scholarship. Pressure--athletic and academic--is constant. NCAA coaches size them up the way judges examine livestock at a 4-H show. What’s your scoring average? Rebounds? Assists? GPA? SAT score? What can you do for me? Lurking in the background are more fundamental questions: How can neighborhoods like this be healed? How can these young men be healed? The book is twenty years…
From the list:

The best sports books about more than sports

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of The Museum of Extraordinary Things

The Museum of Extraordinary Things

By Alice Hoffman

Why 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…
From the list:

The best historical novels set in New York City

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Good Old Coney Island: A Sentimental Journey Into the Past

Good Old Coney Island: A Sentimental Journey Into the Past

By Edo McCullough

Why this book?

First published in 1957 (and re-issued with a welcome epilogue by historian Michael P. Onorato), the book vividly portrays the storied seaside’s heyday. McCullough was Coney Island royalty: His grandfather was one of its earliest settlers, his uncle was among its greatest showmen, and his dad owned a dozen amusement-park shooting galleries. The family’s love of the place seeps through these pages (a sub-sub title reads “the most rambunctious, scandalous, rapscallion, splendiferous, pugnacious, spectacular, illustrious, prodigious, frolicsome island on earth”—which about sums it up).  Particularly moving is the heartbreaking fate of the show animals on the night of a tragic…

From the list:

The best books about historic Coney Island

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Sodom By the Sea an Affectionate History of Coney Island

Sodom By the Sea an Affectionate History of Coney Island

By Oliver Pilat, Jo Ranson

Why this book?

Known as “the people’s playground,” Coney Island was also affectionately dubbed “sodom by the sea.” This thick volume, published in 1941, offers a history going all the way back to 1830, affording a sweeping view of Coney Island’s risque, criminal, glamorous, delightful, glittering, and sometimes seedy past. It includes a splendid few pages about my subject, Dr. Couney, which were no doubt approved by the self-inventing showman himself—co-author Ranson was among his favorite newspaper reporters. 

From the list:

The best books about historic Coney Island

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Or, view all 8 books about Coney Island

New book lists about Coney Island

All book lists about Coney Island

Bookshelves related to Coney Island

Browse books by…