8 New York City Books for Every Type of New york Obsessed New Yorker

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“Practically everybody in New York has half a mind to write a book — and does.

- Groucho Marx

Long-term New Yorkers typically fall into one of three categories. First, there’s the native New Yorker, who was raised in the city and sees it, not as a place of adventure or success, but simply their hometown. Then, there’s the people who are here for the money, work and lifestyle. They came to the city for a specific job or to get ahead in a certain career and have stayed due to their success and the lifestyle it has granted them. Then, there’s the die-hard lovers of New York City. These are those full-time bartenders, baristas and nannies that work the side service jobs just to maintain living in the greatest city on earth. They may have come to the city to find success and pursue a career, but they choose to stay and struggle because they fucking love this city.

I fall into the last category– the freelance writer living paycheck to paycheck. I could have a more comfortable life somewhere else, but I'd rather spend $8 on a Bud Light here than live in a house with a backyard. I’ve often said I can’t imagine doing what I do here if I didn’t love this city. It’s expensive, exhausting and just hard. But in my opinion, totally worth it. As John Steinbeck once wrote,

 "New York is an ugly city, a dirty city. Its climate is a scandal, its politics are used to frighten children, its traffic is madness, its competition is murderous. But there is one thing about it - once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough."

This NYC passion I have drives most of my life's motives, including the books I read. I love the grime and grit of a NYC-based book over the typically sunny and bright disposition of LA ones. What can I say? I'm just a New York obsessed New Yorker.  

Since I'm far from the only one, I narrowed down some of my favorites NYC books that are great for all different types of the New York obsessed New Yorkers. 

For the struggling creative

Just Kids, by Patti Smith 

Courtesy of   Amazon.com

Courtesy of Amazon.com

This memoir by Patti Smith is one of my (and many others') favorite books of all time. Not to be dramatic, but I partially credit this book to helping me realize I wanted to quit my job and write more. As a poet, singer, writer and all-around artist, Patti Smith’s tale of finding her place in the world and New York City’s artistic scene can be applied to almost any creative experience, even in modern day New York. This self-discovery all happens while in an incomparable relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. If you're struggling to stay on track creatively, it’s easy to find inspiration in Smith's difficult, original and prosperous tale that she so purely shares.   

 

For the name dropper

The Village: 400 Years of Beats and Bohemians, Radicals and Rogues, a History of Greenwich Village, by John Strausbaugh

Courtesy of Amazon.com

Courtesy of Amazon.com

This enticing book is all about the interesting figures that occupied the West Village since it became an artist sanctuary. Stories about everyone from Walt Whitman to Jackson Pollock to Edna St Vincent Millay to Dylan Thomas are told with such descriptive color that you feel like you’re sitting next to them at Chumley's or White Horse Tavern. 

 

 

 

For the Bob Dylan groupie

MAYOR OF MACDOUGAL STREET, by Dave Van Ronk

Courtesy of Amazon.com

Courtesy of Amazon.com

Bob Dylan came to New York with two people in mind to meet: Woody Guthrie and Dave Van Ronk. Any true Dylan fan has already read his Chronicles: Volume 1. As wonderful as it is, it mainly focuses on how Dylan created his music. For a musician, that’s all well and good, but for a story teller more interested in history, I prefer Van Ronk’s unfinished memoir. Although he didn't reach the fame many other folk singers had at the time, he was a mentor to a lot of them and popular with most. They didn't call him the Mayor of MacDougal street for nothing. He retells his stories with such personable writing, it feels like he's talking directly to you. Which probably explains how he had me laughing out loud multiple times.

 

For the literary snob

Kafka Was the Rage, Anatole Broyard

Courtesy of Amazon.com

Courtesy of Amazon.com

This is another unfinished memoir by another village inhabitant. Broyard was a literary critic and editor who often wrote for the New York Times. In his sharp, short memoir, he provides incredibly personal stories about sex and literature through a raw passion and beautifully descriptive writing. If you don't believe me, Norman Mailer once wrote, "I've read two stories by Anatole Broyard. They are each first-rate, and I would buy a novel by him the day it appeared." Sadly, no novel was ever published, but this little memoir makes for an honorable substitute. 

 

For the mob sympathizer   

The Gangs of New York an informal history of the underworld, by Herbert Asbury

Courtesy of Amazon.com

Courtesy of Amazon.com

This non-fiction paperback goes into great depth on the lesser-told stories of the early gangs in New York. Instead of the Cosa Nostra and the Westies, it's more Dead Rabbits and Bowery Boys claiming their territory in the Five Points. If you're thinking this sounds an awful lot like Scorsese’s movie, you're right. This book of the same title was the inspiration for it. It has so much information that it's all any mob sympathizer like me needs to back up an argument on how and why organized crime started. (It's just business!) 

 

 

For the free spirit

Up in the Old Hotel, by Joseph Mitchell  

Courtesy of Amazon.com

Courtesy of Amazon.com

Anyone who likes books for characters rather than plot needs to read this one. It's a compilation of features written for The New Yorker by the renowned Mitchell back in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Instead of anecdotes about the famous, he tells the stories of everyday New York City eccentrics. It draws you in from the beginning with a humorous piece depicting the fun and lively history of McSorley’s up until the year it was published in the 1940. It maintains its rich personalities with tales of gypsy kings and Professor Sea Gull. 

 

For the east sider

Saint Marks Is Dead: the many lives of america's hippest street, Ada Calhoun

Courtesy of Amazon.com

Courtesy of Amazon.com

In case you haven't noticed, I’m a bit biased when it comes to NYC neighborhoods. I'll admit, I favor the west side over the east. To keep things fair I had to include this book about the grungy, punk history of the East Village told through the development of its most famous street. Born and raised on Saint Marks, Calhoun depicts its growth from the time it was Peter Stuyvesant’s farm up to Kids’  movie fame. She also includes quotes from first-hand interviews she conducted with people who lived, loved and helped create East Village culture.     

 

 

For the Studio 54 wannabe

Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up, by Bob Colacello

Courtesy of Amazon.com

Courtesy of Amazon.com

I went through a phase where I read every book I could find on Andy Warhol. I succeeded too, reading everything from The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) to Popism. But this one was by far my favorite. As a feature writer and friend of Warhol, Colacello beautifully recounts some seriously crazy stories from a first-person perspective that you can’t get anywhere else. He perfectly paints Warhol as the brilliant, manipulative, fame-obsessed, complicated artist he was. He also doesn't hold back any juicy details about the Warhol entourage. He name drops and shares all kinds of crazy stories that took place during the wild years of the Silver Factory. 

I Cannot Get Enough of This Netflix Movie

With Oscar season in full swing, if you’re like me, you’ve probably read articles, seen and discussed just about every movie that’s been snubbed and nominated. But I’m going to take a step back from the award chaos to talk about a Netflix film I haven’t stopped thinking about since I watched it.

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I’d rather not say how many times I’ve watched A Futile and Stupid Gesture in the past week because it’s embarrassing and brings to question whether I work or do anything else with my life. What I will say is that I need more than one hand to count it on. 

A Futile and Stupid Gesture is biopic about Doug Kenney, one of the founders of National Lampoon magazine and the writer of Animal House and Caddyshack.

Before I get into the beauty of this movie, I’d like to note that I’m not a huge Doug Kenney fan nor did I know anything about him or his life before watching this movie. I cannot speak to how well they paid homage to him, but I appreciated every second of the story, learning as I went along. I found it to be smart, funny, original and, most importantly, entertaining.

Even though it's based off a true story, a lot of other people probably don't know about Doug Kenney either. So I will make a quick SPOILERS AHEAD note before I continue. I've been blamed and criticized enough for spoiling movies, I won't do it on my first column about one. 

Now that we've settled that, the story opens with a modern-day Doug Kenney (played by Martin Mull) being interviewed. For fellow Kenney newbies, this narrative device just seems like Mull is the real, older Kenney introducing us to his life story. After a quick Wikipedia search though you discover that Doug Kenney died at 33. This bold choice sets the tone for the rest of the film’s wacky style and unconventional character choices, including casting 47-year-old Will Forte to play Doug from the age of 18-33.

They actually didn’t cast anyone who looked similar to the real people portrayed in the movie. Joel McHale plays a young Chevy Chase and Jon Daly, Bill Murray. Not only did the actors not look like their characters, but they didn’t really act like them either. Instead of doing full-on impressions, the actors just captured the overall nature of these iconic comedians. It may sound like a recipe for disaster, but I found it to be quite refreshing. There’s so many movies these days based off real people that we get enough impersonations. In this year’s Oscar season alone we have Tonya Harding, Tommy Wiseau and Winston Churchill. In A Stupid Gesture you just accept the characters for who you’re told they are and move on from there. Because it's just not the point.

This funky narrative style perfectly coincides with the colorful bright backdrop of their 1970’s New York and LA. The setting's bold colors are beautiful yet simple enough so not to distract from the jokes being told. As they point out in the film, this is perfectly in line with the art of National Lampoon magazine. 

A lot of people think your material goes too far.”

“A lot of people voted for Nixon.

As for the jokes and writing, I found the back and forth, punchy dialogue between Doug and his National Lampoon business partner, Henry Beard, incredibly fun to listen to. Kenney’s quick-wit and over-the-top bits were enjoyable from start to finish. Even during his downfall, Kenney still maintains– a sometimes dark– humor that comes so to naturally him.

There's one scene that just about sums up Kenney's brilliance and the toll it took on him. Towards the end of his life, Kenney and Beard meet up in New York during a Caddyshack press event. Kenney is drunk and depressed that the movie is a failure. Beard reassures him, saying, "You wrote the most successful comedy of all time on your first try." Kenney replies, "that was two years ago." This small interaction is all you really need to understand Kenney's inner demons. Throughout his hugely successful career, instead of enjoying it, you see him trying to find the next bigger thing. As a way to cope with the pressures he puts on himself, his partying goes from a fun pass time to a destructive distraction (like drinking a bottle of whiskey before a big press event). At the end of the scene, as he stumbles to the door, Beard asks him if he needs them to call him a cab. "I'm a cab," he slurs back, in true Kenney fashion. 

All of these components combined have me completely infatuated. The beautiful esthetic draws me in while the quick dialogue and goofy style keep me invested. It’s almost like this film has some sort of hypnotic power over me that I don’t quite understand. I highly recommend you watch it anyway, but if you do, maybe you can help me figure it out. In the meantime, I'll just be over hear racking up more views and loving every second of it. 

A Love Letter On My Coming-of-Age With BCBG

Growing up on the eastern shore of Maryland, the closest place to shop was the nearby outlets. There, you could pick up your general t-shirts, jeans and polos thanks to stores like LL Bean, Old Navy and Bass. If you wanted something trendier like Abercrombie or Hollister, you’d have to travel almost an hour to the nearest mall.

When I was in high school, the complex got a huge makeover, bringing in designer stores like Kate Spade, Michael Kors and Calvin Klein. However, there was one place in particular that changed the game for me completely: BCBG. 

BCBG became my guide of sorts through the transition of small town teenager to young metropolitan adult. Just like most BCBG admirers, it started with a homecoming dress. Nothing too crazy, just a knee-length black halter dress. Then, little by little, I started to stock up– a simple top I could pair with black jeans here, a sweater I’d wear to school there. Before I knew it, BCBG esthetic became my esthetic. 

I’ll admit, it wasn’t always a smooth ride. The 2000’s were an awkward time for teenage style, or really any style for that matter (Remember how Kim Kardashian looked back then?!). At first I didn’t always know how to wear my BCBG pieces. There were some pretty poor pairings I regret, some scarfs and hats I wished I’d never purchased from other stores. But the more time I spent in the store, the more I learned how to create the style the I was craving. 

" It took me from an awkward teenager in a homecoming dress to confused college student in a party top to ambitious intern in a black blazer to the young New York woman I am today.

" It took me from an awkward teenager in a homecoming dress to confused college student in a party top to ambitious intern in a black blazer to the young New York woman I am today.

It was during those many trips to the outlet store where I finally learned how to put together a clean, chic outfit. It taught me that clothes can be both sexy and sophisticated at the same time. And just like a true New Yorker, it helped prove that black will always be the new black.

Since discovering my love for BCBG, it has dressed me for some of my life’s biggest events. It’s been worn to first days working at dream magazines; to fairy tale weddings in New York, DC and Ireland; and to countless amounts of parties I’ll never forget.

In old news, brick and mortar BCBG's no longer exist. Therefore, no other young, small-town girl will have the opportunity to experience a similar coming-of-age with this place that felt so important to me. BCBG took me from an awkward teenager in a homecoming dress to confused college student in a party top to ambitious intern in a black blazer to the young New York woman I am today.

I don’t think it’s an over-exaggeration to say that BCBG’s style completely shaped my young-adult, metropolitan style. It might have even helped inspire me to create the New York City life I’m lucky enough to be living.  

Welcome to column!

Make it look natural but stock. Courtesy of Brendan McCann

Make it look natural but stock. Courtesy of Brendan McCann

Hi there! Welcome to my new column. As a freelance writer, I have the opportunity to write about a lot of different things from dry shampoos to bookstore bars to Huntington’s Disease. However, there’s also a lot of things I don’t always have the chance to write about that I wish I could. Enter: this column!    

On here, I’ll write about anything and everything ­– books, life's struggles, fashion and yes, still tons of beauty. This platform is an opportunity for me to express my most authentic self in my most authentic voice. There’s no catch, no hook and no bullshit.

Over this first week, I’ll be posting a new article every day to celebrate the launch. From then on, I'll continue to put up stories I think are worthy and relevant. A girl's got to sell some ideas to make a living writing after all!

I hope you can enjoy, relate or learn something from this nonsense column. At the very least, I know I will!