Cities are full of the passion, poverty and people that drive writers to write. And they're the ones who can best translate all the confusing emotions of fast paced urban life. As such, we wanted to look at the authors who have best dissected the minutiae of the metropolis, compiling in the process an essential reading list for the year ahead. Featuring picks from our good friends at Vintage Books, here are our top city-slicking reads...
Bright Lights, Big City - Jay McInerney
Cities can be isolating. Especially in your twenties and especially if you try and hide from this in the hedonism of nightly clubs and drugs. A hangover is a lonely place. Written in an invigorating second-person voice, McInerney's astounding debut novel is one of the best books about finding yourself in the city and in life.
Goodbye to Berlin - Christopher Isherwood
Set in the 1930s, Goodbye to Berlin evokes the glamour and sleaze, excess and repression of Berlin society. Isherwood shows the lives of people at threat from the rise of the Nazis: a wealthy Jewish heiress, Natalia Landauer, a gay couple, Peter and Otto, and an English upper- class waif, the divinely decadent Sally Bowles.
Ulysses - James Joyce
Set entirely on one day, 16 June 1904, Ulysses follows Leopold Bloom and Stephen Daedalus as they go about their daily business in Dublin. From this starting point, James Joyce constructs a novel of extraordinary imaginative richness and depth. Unique in the history of literature, Ulysses is one of the most important and enjoyable works of the twentieth century.
A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway's memories of his life as an unknown writer living in Paris in the twenties are deeply personal, warmly affectionate and full of wit. Looking back not only at his own much younger self, but also at the other writers who shared Paris with him - James Joyce, Wyndham Lewis, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald - he recalls the time when, poor, happy and writing in cafes, he discovered his vocation. Written during the last years of Hemingway's life, his memoir is a lively and powerful reflection of his genius that scintillates with the romance of the city.
Thrilling Cities - Ian Fleming
In 1959, Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, was commissioned by the Sunday Times to explore fourteen of the world’s most exotic cities. Fleming saw it all with a thriller writer’s eye. From Hong Kong to Honolulu, New York to Naples, he left the bright main streets for the back alleys, abandoning tourist sites in favour of underground haunts, and mingling with celebrities, gangsters and geishas. The result is a series of vivid snapshots of a mysterious, vanished world.
Invisible Cities - Italo Calvino
In Invisible Cities Marco Polo conjures up cities of magical times for his host, the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan, but gradually it becomes clear that he is actually describing one city: Venice. As Gore Vidal wrote 'Of all tasks, describing the contents of a book is the most difficult and in the case of a marvellous invention like Invisible Cities, perfectly irrelevant.'
London Fields - Martin Amis
London Fields is a brilliant, funny and multi-layered novel. It is a book in which the narrator, Samson Young, enters the Black Cross, a thoroughly undesirable public house, and finds the main players of his drama assembled, just waiting to begin. It's a gift of a story from real life...all Samson has to do is write it as it happens.