Which books are most representative of each city?
May 6, 2008 10:21 PM   Subscribe

What one book will allow others to gain the truest insight into the soul of each city or region

Inspired by this recent Metafilter post and blatantly stealing the idea (and some text) from this AskMe post, I have decided to try and read a book about all of the major cities in the United States and the world. I've seen AskMe's in the past about various cities, such as London and New York.

So: which single book from each city is most revealing of the lifestyle, customs, struggles, and spirit of that nation? I lived in San Francisco a while back, and I would recommend any of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City' books to get a true idea of life in the City.
posted by reenum to Writing & Language (15 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
posted by zippy at 10:34 PM on May 6, 2008

For Brisbane (that's in Australia) I'd probably go for the Andrew McGahan trilogy of 'Praise', '1988' and 'Last Drinks'. He's the only modern Australian author I can actually stomach so I can't offer any insight for Melbourne or Sydney.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:48 PM on May 6, 2008

For Bombay (Mumbai) -- Suketu Mehta's Maximum City.
posted by peacheater at 11:51 PM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Bizarre, this was in my list of future AskMe questions.

London, the Biography is a cracker of a book.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:18 AM on May 7, 2008

A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe is a great look into Atlanta, and general Southern, culture.
posted by farishta at 5:54 AM on May 7, 2008

Best answer: I actually had a nomadic co-worker who was obsessed with finding "the" representative book for each city she lived in, but I don't think she ever found a Milwaukee novel.

There's a poetry book, though, that captures the mix of oddity, catholicism, despair, and joy of living here... Milwaukee Does Strange Things to People.
posted by drezdn at 7:06 AM on May 7, 2008

A Confederacy of Dunces is everything you need to know about New Orleans.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:25 AM on May 7, 2008

For Savannah, I like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Any Carl Hiaasen book for Miami, but my favorite is Hiaasen's Skinny Dip.
posted by misha at 7:29 AM on May 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

The pre-1985 run of Peanuts more or less pre-indoctrinated me to live in the Twin Cities. Attitudes, concerns, weather, it's all there. The wall that Linus and Charlie Brown lean on all the time looks like the standard design used in older Minneapolis city parks.

I suppose Keillor's the guy for outstate Minnesota, but Charles Schulz really wrote the book on Minneapolis and St. Paul.
posted by COBRA! at 7:36 AM on May 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

For Reykjavík, 101 Reykjavik. I'm currently reading Helen Garner's Monkey Grip, which feels like it's giving me a good feel for Melbourne (I was there about a month ago) but I'd like a Melburnian to back me up on this.
posted by Kattullus at 8:32 AM on May 7, 2008

Providence, RI: The Prince of Providence
posted by lunit at 10:00 AM on May 7, 2008

For Portland, OR, Chuck Pahlaniuk's Fugitives & Refugees offers a unique perspective.
posted by Roach at 10:05 AM on May 7, 2008

Best answer: Czech Republic:
Novels by Milan Kundera ( The Joke, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting)

Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz ( Collected Poems)

Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

Rilke ( Selected Poetry)

Strindberg ( Six Plays)

Dubliners by James Joyce
posted by doppleradar at 10:16 AM on May 7, 2008

For Bombay (Mumbai) I'd go for Vikram Chandra's Sacred Games - actually like a fiction version of Mehta's maximum city.
posted by lalochezia at 4:38 PM on May 7, 2008

Vancouver - Douglas Coupland's City of Glass

Montreal - Leonard Cohen's The Favorite Game
posted by awenner at 6:50 PM on May 7, 2008

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