Finding Love in NYC, Literally
The city that never sleeps is the backdrop for some of literature’s best love stories.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, we asked our NYPL book experts to name their favorite romantic scenes that take place in the city, and then we mapped their locations.
Click on the red hearts for titles and authors, and scroll down for descriptions of why we love these love stories.
When Tito Loved Clara by Jon Michaud is a then-and-now story, tracing the relationship between a boy and a girl from the Dominican Republic who start as high-school sweethearts. As adults, Tito comes back into Clara’s life at a particularly vulnerable point, and frequent flashbacks give readers a glimpse into both the past and present of the neighborhood.
Nancy Garden’s groundbreaking LGBT YA novel, Annie on My Mind, presents us not only with one of the most beautifully described love stories in YA literature, it also presents us with an incredible panorama of New York City cultural landmarks. For Annie and Liza, the book’s two main characters, these landmarks are immensely significant and, for readers, the inclusion of such iconic NYC locations is alluring. I wanted to revisit all of them as soon as I finished the book, so many years ago—as much as I wanted to meet Annie and Liza for coffee at one of the magnificent (primarily Greek-run) coffee shops that could be found on almost every NYC block in the 1970s and '80s. —Jeff Katz, Chatham Square
There’s a lot of love in Walter Dean Myers’ collection of YA short stories, What They Found: Love on 145th Street, but Marisol and Skeeter’s story is especially poignant. Marisol: “What I liked about Skeeter was that when you talked to him you got the feeling he was really listening, really wanted to hear what you were saying.” Aw. Yes.
Upper West Side
The New Yorkers by Cathleen Schine. An Upper West Side street and multiple love stories among the residents, often set in the local cafe. Plus, a great dog on the cover... —Danita Nichols, Inwood
What if your first kiss really was as special as you always wished it to be? In Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead, 7th grader Bridge and her more-than-a-friend Sherm have that special moment on the steps of his brownstone in the Upper West Side. (Plus a perfect epilogue!) —Anna Taylor, Programming
The Dakota, on 72nd Street and Central Park West
Jack Finney transports the reader from modern-day New York City to 19th-century New York City and back again in his extraordinary, thought-provoking, romantic tale, Time and Again. Incredibly, the centerpiece of the story—the time-travel launching pad—is the Dakota, on 72nd Street and Central Park West (the building that is most famous now for being the home of John Lennon and Yoko Ono). A modern classic that truly can alter one’s perceptions of the world upon completion. —Jeff Katz, Chatham Square
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
What about love doomed to never be realized? In Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, a novel brimming with New York’s Gilded Age high society, Newland Archer falls in love with the Countess Ellen Olenska. Archer is enthralled by Ellen and cannot help but desperately love her, an emotion that Ellen eventually admits to returning. Since they’re both married, though, any amorous relationship between them would condemn them forever. The majority of the New York locations happen around 5th Ave. between 57th and 58th Streets, but the scene where Ellen and Archer finally agree to consummate their relationship happens at the “Art Museum”, largely believed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. —Katrina Ortega, Hamilton Grange
The Museum of Natural History
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is a charming book about an Australian man with (undiagnosed) Asperger’s who tries to find a wife. What he finds instead is a woman who fits none of his criteria but might be able to give him love. When these two Aussies decide to go on vacation to New York City, how can this genetics professor pass up sharing the Museum of Natural History with his potential partner? —Leslie Bernstein, Mott Haven
The New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
In Truman Capote’s offbeat New York romance Breakfast at Tiffany’s, one scene is set in the main reading room of The New York Public Library; the nameless narrator, unseen, observes Holly Golightly in an unlikely environment as she “sped from one book to the next,” researching her hoped-for future life in Brazil. In the film version with Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard, two scenes, more romantically charged, were actually filmed in the Library. —Kathie Coblentz, Special Collections
3rd Avenue and 37th Street
Daniel Handler’s novel Adverbs isn’t a love story, but it is a story about the many forms love can take. It’s told as a series of interconnecting, overlapping short stories that share characters. Handler himself even makes an appearance in one chapter. In the book’s opening scene, our narrator breaks up with his girlfriend on 3rd Avenue and 37th Street and promptly falls in love with his cabdriver. It only gets weirder from there. —Charlie Radin, Inwood
Sahara’s and 2nd Avenue
Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment is a very sweet book about an aging, childless couple whose connection is bolstered when they need to care for their ailing dog, a dachshund named Dorothy. There’s a subplot involving the selling of their East Village co-op and another involving a tanker stuck in a Midtown tunnel. They dine at Sahara’s and a fictional 2nd avenue restaurant called Xza-Xzu’s. —Jenny Baum, Jefferson Market
A timeless story with love floating in and out of it, Pete Hamill’s Forever is one of my favorite New York novels. Cormac O’Connor arrives in New York during the 18th century and watches (and helps) the city grow. Fast forward to the 21st century, and we encounter the woman who will change his destiny, if he can only win her heart: Delfina Cintron. —Emily Pullen, NYPL Shop
The Strand bookstore on 12th & Broadway
In Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan, Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a shelf at her favorite NYC bookstore just waiting for the right guy to come along but is Dash the right guy? As they pass the notebook back & forth trading dreams, desires and dares they criss-cross New York City and wonder if their notebook connection can live up to the real thing. Who doesn’t dream of meeting a perfect stranger at Christmastime in NYC? And it all starts at a bookstore. Perfect.—Anne Rouyer, Mulberry Street
For a more traditional love story, there’s the Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot, which starts in Greenwich Village and includes a sweet romance between Princess Mia and Michael Moscovitz. — Susie Heimbach, Mulberry Street
Ash and Ethan have a beautiful thread of a love story in Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings. One image from their relationship that stays with me is Ethan, a cartoonist, having to wedge his drawing table beneath their loft bed because their first apartment in the East Village was so tiny. —Gwen Glazer, Readers Services
Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin. Rachel is a hardworking attorney in NYC who cuts loose at her 30th birthday party thrown by her best friend Darcy. After too many drinks Rachel wakes up in bed with Darcy’s fiancé Dex, and a relationship ensues. The book is set between NYC and The Hamptons, but the first night Dex and Rachel get together they are at a bar 7B in Alphabet City and they later go back to Rachel's apartment near 73rd and 3rd. —Morgan O’Reilly, Aguilar
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan. Why is this title a winner? NYC’s indie rock scene + hipsters + teenage angst + exciting first dates + sarcasm + realistic dialogue = a recipe for one of the best, non-mushy romance YA novels of all time! —Anne Barreca, Battery Park City
Lower East Side
For readers who like their dystopian sci-fi served up with a side of romance, Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story is the story of how Lenny Abramov, a pudgy book-loving schmuck, falls in love with Eunice Park, a sleek techno-file and total hottie. Much of their romance takes place in Lenny’s tiny apartment on the Lower East Side at the Vladek Houses, a housing project overlooking the East River. Other New York landmarks that form the backdrop of Eunice and Lenny’s futuristic, politically charged love affair include Central Park and the North Shore of Staten Island. —Nancy Aravecz, Jefferson Market
Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish is a harrowing, impactful love story taking place all around the margins of NYC, but primarily Flushing. An Iraq war veteran with PTSD and an undocumented immigrant from the Uighur tribe in China meet-cute and begin a relationship. My favorite novel in years, perhaps longer. —Alexis Walker, Epiphany
“They hiked out of Chinatown until they were far enough away to see the red lacquered Chinese eaves and the fire escapes and then kept going…by the expressway and the autorepairs whose signs were in Chinese. The road took them by a cemetery…. They fell into a rhythm, going for miles, and she lost herself, their hoofs beating the drum of the earth as they marched.
When they made it to the rise where Jewel Avenue crossed over the fields and they could see in all directions—the old condominium towers, the sheets of water, the rooftops and the distance—they stopped and looked at it all. They were at the center of a wheel. Skinner put his arms around her.
That’s a view, he said.”
The 7 Train
Jane goes from Queens to Seoul and back in a quest to figure out her own identity as an orphan and a Korean-American young woman. Two different men play roles in Patricia Park’s Re Jane, but Jane’s real love story doesn’t involve either of them in this modern-day coming-of-age tale. —Gwen Glazer, Readers Services
Four minutes are all it takes for the ingénue to miss her flight from JFK to London in The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith. But the timing proves fateful when Oliver, a handsome British boy, appears on Hadley’s next flight as the two of them leave the airport and the Big Apple behind and embark on a sweet YA romance.
The Brooklyn Bridge
In Saint Mazie, Jami Attenberg gives us the brassy Mazie Gordon, a woman who lives on the LES in the ’20s. Mazie’s too independent to ever marry so she devotes her life to the city, the people, and her friends. Like any smart young woman in the city, Mazie knows how to enjoy herself, so the passionate scene on the Brooklyn Bridge with her sometimes-lover is both realistic and romantic. —Caitlyn Colman-McGaw, Programming
Cobble Hill, Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Flatbush
I believe the majority of Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn takes place in Cobble Hill, but Eilis and Tony’s love story begins at a Friday night social and takes them all over Brooklyn—trips to Coney Island; meeting Tony’s family at their house in Bensonhurst; taking in a Dodgers game at the former Ebbet’s Field in Flatbush with his brothers. —Susen Shi, Mid-Manhattan
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. Corrigan fell in love with Adelita in the Bronx. That scene on the couch in her apartment, when he’s watching TV with her children and she recognizes she loves him? So beautiful. —Genoveve Stowell, Grand Central
For the Love of the Game—Michael Shaara’s last novel, published after his death—features a major-league baseball player pitching what could be his last game in front of tens of thousands of fans at Yankee Stadium. There’s a traditional love story here too, about Billy trying to figure out why his longtime girlfriend left him, but baseball is his truest, most constant love.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Who could ever forget the lavish mansion in West Egg, Long Island and Gatsby staring off across the water at Daisy’s green light. —Lynn Lobash, Readers Services
The Pigman by Paul Zindel. It’s 1968 on Staten Island and two troubled teens, John and Lorraine, are telling the story of how they befriended Mr. Pignati, a neighborhood man they’d previously made fun of and pranked. Mr. Pignati, a.k.a. “The Pigman,” is the first adult to give them positive attention and affection. Through this friendship John and Lorraine begin to fall for each other romantically. Written in the late 1960s, you could say this classic YA novel is one of the books that started it all, and it still stands the test of time.
John and Lorraine attend Franklin High School in the novel. It is said to be a stand-in for Tottenville High School where Paul Zindel was a science teacher from 1959 to 1969. The school is now located in Hugenot, but in the 1960’s, its location was 528 Academy Ave, Staten Island. —Anne Rouyer, Mulberry Street
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Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!