Participants in the online vote rank their top 5 of 13 NYC-related books, practicing ranked choice voting ahead of important citywide elections later this year. Book ballot voting is open through May 11

Which book set in New York City is best? The New York Public Library and media outlet Gothamist have teamed up to ask New Yorkers this very important question via the online Big Apple Book Ballot. 

The ballot offers 13 “candidates”—books set in New York City, chosen by NYPL librarians—and asks voters to rank their top 5. Participants can then share a book-related “I Voted” sticker on social media. The ballot encourages reading, but also offers low-risk, high-fun practice with ranked choice voting, the new way New Yorkers elect their leaders as of 2021. With significant citywide elections coming later this year, including a race for mayor, it’s important that NYC voters become acquainted with this new process.

Voters can participate in the Big Apple Book Ballot via or The ballot is open through May 11, and a winner will be crowned on May 12. New Yorkers can borrow and read the books from the comfort of their homes using smartphones with the Library’s SimplyE app (for iOS or Android), or reserve a copy for pick up at one of the Library’s open locations

To choose the 13 candidates, NYPL librarians engaged in much discussion, debate, and New York style arguing, and decided on titles that they feel represent the diversity, excitement, and beauty of the cultural center of the world. The candidates are:

  1. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
  2. Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
  3. Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
  4. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
  5. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  6. Jazz by Toni Morrison
  7. Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee
  8. Open City by Teju Cole
  9. The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
  10. Just Kids by Patti Smith
  11. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  12. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos
  13. Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem

More information on each title available at the Big Apple Book Ballot Voter Guide through NYPL or Gothamist.

The list of books wasn’t easy to narrow it down; those who want more should check out The New York Public Library’s 125 NYC Books We Love, featuring 125 books related to NYC that the Library recommends for adults, kids, and teens. That list was put together in December 2020 as a love letter to New York during the NYPL’s 125th anniversary year. It was during that same time that Gothamist and the NYPL partnered on Dear NYC, a month-long deep dive into the Library’s NYC-related research collections. 

The ballot is a part of the Library’s overall “Read, Think, Vote” initiative to provide resources and information tied to this year’s high-stakes NYC elections (primaries June 22, general election November 2). The Library’s voter guide, which will be updated throughout the year, can be found at For more information about Library services and initiatives, sign up for the NYPL Connect newsletter.

About The New York Public Library

For 125 years, The New York Public Library has been a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With 92 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library receives approximately 16 million visits through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at

About Gothamist

Gothamist is a website about New York City and everything that happens in it. Founded in 2003 and covering news, arts, food & more, if it matters to New Yorkers, Gothamist has you covered. Gothamist joined New York Public Radio in 2018, and is part of the WNYC newsroom.

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