UPPER WEST SIDE — Just like seeing your neighborhood pop up onscreen, reading a book set in your backyard can be a fun flash of recognition.
The Upper West Side makes an appearance in a host of novels, plays and historical texts. Readers can learn about the history of their neighborhood, or see otherwise obscure streets and parks come to life with tales of imaginary characters.
"There's not one genre that fits the Upper West Side," said Lynn Lobash of the New York Public Library, whose job it is to recommend books to New Yorkers. "There's romances, thrillers, mysteries — it's a really nice mix of all kinds of things."
She pointed to a book about the history of the neighborhood's most famous building, "The Dakota" by Andrew Alpern, and the surprising romance novel "Winter's Tale" by Mark Helprin as must reads for Upper West Siders.
Here's a list of nine books from the NYPL that Lobash recommends for summer reading:
"The Dakota" by Andrew Alpern
The Dakota is one of the most famous buildings in New York City. Once home to John Lennon and actress Judy Garland, the Dakota also pioneered the concept of the luxury apartment, according to Alpern. He explains how the building seduced the rich and famous from uptown mansions into a new way of living.
"Winter's Tale" by Mark Helprin
This novel was labeled "utterly extraordinary" by the New York Times Book Review. While in the process of robbing an Upper West Side mansion, a middle-aged Irishman stumbles across its resident, a young girl who is dying, triggering a passionate love affair that involves stopping time and raising the dead. [The book later became a motion picture starring Colin Farrell.]
"The New Yorkers" by Cathleen Schine
Friendship, love and camaraderie spring up in this humorous story following the lives of five lonely New York dog owners as they bump into each other over the course of four seasons.
"Emily and Einstein" by Linda Francis Lee
In another canine-centric tale, an editor who lives a charming life on the Upper West Side loses her husband in a tragic accident, discovering later that her marriage was based on lies. Sandy's only comfort comes from a strange and scruffy dog named Einstein, who stays with her as she navigates her new life and finds love again.
"Family Man" by Elinor Lipman
Henry Archer is a successful lawyer with a well-ordered life on the Upper West Side. He is also gay. But when his ex-wife reconnects him with his stepdaughter, his world is turned upside down. Now 29 and an aspiring actress with mommy issues, she moves into Henry's basement, restoring their relationship and giving Henry a new lease on life in more ways than one.
“This is Our Youth” by Kenneth Lonergan
In this play that takes place in the '80s and on the Upper West Side, a 19-year-old son from an affluent family gets himself kicked out of the house for smoking too much pot and stealing $15,000 from his abusive father. The story details the clash between the conservative ideals of parents and their wayward children.
“Pearl” by Mary Gordon
It's Christmas on the Upper West Side, and Maria Meyer gets a shocking phone call. Her 20-year-old daughter, Pearl, is chained to the American embassy in Dublin intent on starving herself to death in protest. But in protest of what? Maria is reminded of her own radical past and the Catholic faith she rejected long ago, but it doesn't bring any solutions to her daughter's extreme actions. Maria rushes to her daughter's side and, in the process, enters a maze of Ireland's tragic history, religion and motherly love.
"Rosemary's Baby" by Ira Levin
If you have ever experienced neighbors meddling in your business, you might identify with "Rosemary's Baby." It could also scare you to pieces. The story follows a young couple as they move to an Upper West Side apartment building. After the wife, Rosemary, becomes pregnant, she begins to suspect an eccentric and elderly couple in the building have not-so-nice plans for her and her unborn child.
“A Memory of War” by Frederick Busch
Psychologist Alexander Lescziak lives a cozy life on the Upper West Side — that is until a patient announces he is Alexander's half-brother, the son of his mother and a German prisoner of war. This forces Alexander to face his failing marriage, as well as bringing back thoughts about the disappearance of a young love and a former suicidal patient. Alexander's escape from his crumbling life is the imagined world of his mother's affair with the German POW.