New York City, NY

6 Great 2021 Novels Set in New York City

Claire Handscombe

New York City has long been a great playground for authors exploring a multitude of worlds in their fiction. Whether it's the art scene, publishing, theatre, or mingling with the rich and powerful, there's something for everyone in these six novels published this year, perfect for throwing into your beach bag this summer.

Astrid Sees All, by Natalie Standiford
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Set in the gritty New York City of the 1980s, this novel is billed as a great read for fans of Fleabag, Sweetbitter, and Patti Smith's books. It's the story of Phoebe who, grieving her father and seething with rage towards an older man who hurt her, escapes to the East Village and into a world of artists, parties, drugs, and It Girls, only to spiral further into darkness after betraying the friend she came to New York with. She can save herself, but that will come at a price.

"The author's glee in evoking the zeitgeist of the 1980s is infectious....Smart details, lively digressions, and spot-on period snapshots," says Kirkus Reviews

Black Buck, by Mateo Askaripour
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When 22-year-old Darren wows a CEO with his businessman's acumen at the Starbucks he works, it's the start of a new life for him. Headhunted for the tech startup upstairs, he finds himself the only Black epmloyee of the company and reinvents himself as a ruthless salesman.

Here's what Jenna Bush Hager said about Black Buck on the Today Show: "Mateo Askaripour’s voice is so fresh. The writing is so intimate. At moments, it's satirical and funny and then at moments, it's heartbreaking . . . The details are so intimate, spot on and beautiful. I found myself underlining constantly."

A Bright Ray of Darkness, by Ethan Hawke
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If you've missed the theatre, this book will be a great balm to your soul. Ethan Hawke writes of a more-than-moderately successful actor figuring out fatherhood in the aftermath of divorce as he rehearses and performs in a Shakespeare play on Broadway.

The Washington Post's Ron Charles loved it: “Explores the demands of acting and the delusions of manhood with tremendous verve and insight...the work of an author who knows every aspect of the profession from the inside... Hawke is a genius at conjuring the hush of the auditorium, the thrill of live actors, the magical sense of a performance moving through time. He’s written a witty, wise, and heartfelt novel... a deeply hopeful story... Bravo.”

Cheat Day, by Liv Stratman
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Fans of The Futures by Anna Pitoniak will enjoy this story of an unravelling marriage between college sweethearts, amid betrayal, guilt, and obsession with diets.

Here's what Pulishers Weekly says about Chat Day: "Stratman debuts with a sweet, smart account of one woman’s attempt to add some spark and direction to her humdrum everyday. . . . wry, insightful narration expounds on the inanities of the daily calculus of diet planning with hilariously cringy detail. This is a treat."

The Other Black Girl, by Zakiya Dalila Harris
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Set in the world of publishing, this much awaited debut is billed as Get Out meets The Devil Wears Prada. It's the story of Nella, who, who's delighted when another Black girl joins Wagner, her publishing company. But something seems off about the new girl, and then messages start appearing on Nella's desk, telling her to leave the company.

“Harris’ genre-bending evisceration of workplace privilege is set to become the debut of the summer," says Entertainment Weekly.

The Rooftop Party, by Ellen Meister
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When Dana Barry stops by her the Shopping Channel's roof party to tell the new CEO about a brilliant new idea of hers, she's shocked and dismayed by his lecherous advances. On her way out of the party, she passes out, and the next thing she knows the CEO has fallen off the roof to his death. She doesn't think she killed him -- but she'll need to prove that to herself, the police detector she's dating, and whoel lot of other people...

Kirkus Reviews recommends this book for "readers who like their mysteries light on the murder but heavy on the humor.”

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Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC, in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but really, let’s be honest, because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the host of the Brit Lit Podcast, a monthly show about news and views from UK books and publishing; the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan; and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives.

Washington, DC

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