For generations, Brooklyn has produced and attracted masters of the written word. Today’s Brooklyn is a hub for MFA-wielding authors and self-taught writers alike. This thriving literary milieu has yielded dozens, if not hundreds, of masterpieces. If you’re the type who likes to read stories set in the places to which you travel and you have an upcoming trip to Brooklyn planned, you’re in luck. Below, you’ll find a compilation of some of the most beloved Brooklyn-based books around.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay by Michael Chabon
Kavalier and Klay is to Michael Chabon as Infinite Jest is to David Foster Wallace. This epic work of literary fiction chronicles the love, loss, and life experiences of two Jewish cousins who find themselves bound tightly together after one of them (Kavalier) flees Europe following Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939. You’d be hard-pressed to finish it on a short visit to Brooklyn, but can at least make a dent while staying in place where the book is primarily set.
Brookland by Emily Barton
An inventive work of historical fiction, Brookland takes the reader deep into Brookland’s past. Set in the 18th century, the characters’ of Emily Barton’s Brookland lived at a time when no bridges connect Brooklyn to the borough of Manhattan. That didn’t stop protagonist Prudence Winship from imagining, and trying to build, one.
Desperate Characters by Paula Fox
In Desperate Characters, Paula Fox profiles the successes and trials of a well-to-do family in a changing Brooklyn neighborhood. Set in the 1970s, the novel profiles a Brooklyn very different from that of 1900 and at least as different as that of today. Hailed as a postmodern Great Gatsby by literary critic Irving Howe, Desperate Characters is not the most uplifting of books. It is, however, well-written and thought-provoking.
A Meaningful Life by LJ Davis
A novel about a writer living in Brooklyn by a writer living in Brooklyn may not seem like such a novel idea. But when LJ Davis published A Meaningful Life in 1971, the concept was much more original than it might now seem. Mercifully, Davis’s comedic and heartfelt account of Lowell Lake still reads like a one-of-a-kind novel today.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Arguably the most well-known book about Brooklyn, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn follows heroine Francie Nolan and her immigrant family as they struggle to carve out a better life than the one they left behind in Europe. Set at a time when the borough was made up almost entirely of immigrants like the Nolans, this tale provides a window into the Brooklyn of the early 20th century.