While the City Sleeps: Suggested Readings

This page offers a brief guide to the many exemplary books (and authors) that are official While the City Sleeps selections. All official selections are available for checkout from the Library: in addition to paperbacks, e-book and audio formats may be available.

For additional reading recommendations, the Library offers two online databases: Novelist, which provides genre-specific reading lists as well as read-alike suggestions based on your favorite a author; and Booklist Online, which reviews and recommends fiction and non-fiction alike.

Featured Selections

Kansas City Noir (2012) edited by Steve Paul

This anthology features stories of crime and late-night living written by local authors, among them John Lutz, Nancy Pickard, Daniel Woodrell, Kevin Prufer, and Mitch Brian.



Live By Night (2012) by Dennis Lehane

A Jazz Age gangster noir. Joe, the youngest son of a high-placed Boston police officer, rebels against his father by scrambling up the ladder of organized crime. Boardwalk Empire meets The Great Gatsby in this novel of guns, rum, dames, and bootleggers that moves effortlessly between the cold streets of Boston streets and the warm sun-kissed beaches of Havana.



What the Dead Know (2007) by Laura Lippman

Thirty years ago two sisters disappeared at a mall on the day before Easter. At a local hospital, the victim of a car accident cannot produce ID or insurance, but drops a hint that she may be one of the long-missing sisters. Police questions about her whereabouts for the past thirty years reveal the woman knows too much and too little about the case and none of the answers produce information about her missing sister.



Suggested Readings

In the Heat of the Night (1965) by John Ball

Black big-city detective Virgil Tibbs is visiting relatives in small-town South Carolina when he’s enlisted by the local racist sheriff to help solve the murder of a leading citizen. Out of this tense situation an unexpected friendship develops.



Sharp Teeth (2008) by Toby Barlow

In this free verse novel packs of werewolves struggle for power in Los Angeles’ underbelly; winner of the 2009 Alex Award for books appealing to both adults and teens.



Friday Night Lights (1990) by H.G. Bissinger

Pulitzer-winning journalist Bissinger spent a year living in Odessa, Texas, in order to chronicle the season of a high school football team and the importance of sports to many small American towns.



The Moonflower Vine (1962) by Jetta Carleton

A Missouri farm is the setting for an intimate intergenerational tale of love, deceit, comfort, and forgiveness that results in tragedy but nevertheless strengthens the bonds that hold the family together.



Blue Nights (2011) by Joan Didion

The author offers an honest, unflinching, and self-lacerating account of the 2005 death of her adopted daughter and of her struggle as a mother and a writer to cope.



Geek Love (1989) by Katherine Dunn

A novel about the owners of a traveling carnival who breed their own freak show, using drugs and radioactivity to alter the genes of their children.



Black Dahlia (1987) by James Ellroy

This neo-noir crime novel is inspired by the unsolved 1947 murder of Hollywood party girl Elizabeth Short. It was the first volume in Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet cycle of novels set in the 1940s and ‘50s.



Neverwhere (1996) by Neil Gaiman

Based on the author’s script for a six-part BBC series about a young man’s adventures in London Below, this novel depicts a fantastic world operating by its own rules underneath the British capital.



Up All Night (2004) by Martha Gies

A flower market wholesaler, a nude dancer, a newsie, a longshoreman, and a zookeeper are among the nocturnal workers who share their stories of living and working while the rest of the city sleeps.



The Deluxe Transitive Vampire (1984) by Karen Gordon

It’s basically a book of English grammar as explained by vampires, murderers, mastodons, and other fantastic and/or scary creatures. At last, conjugation is fun.



Ghost Radio (2008) by Leopoldo Gout

The debut novel of this filmmaker, graphic novelist, and composer finds the host of a late-night Mexican radio show about the supernatural slipping ever deeper into paranoia.



Tropic of Night (2008) by Michael Gruber

A listless anthropology grad student is swept by her lover into the world of shamans and sorcerers, only to find it impossible to go back to normal reality.



Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 (1994) by James Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger

The story of the nearly tragic Apollo 13 moon shot, aborted because of an on-board explosion, and told by an astronaut who lived through it.



The Night Circus (2011) by Erin Morgenstern

In this phantasmagorical fairy tale a mysterious circus – open only from dusk to dawn – materializes in Victorian London and develops a coterie of addicted devotees.



Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, & My Journey from Homelessness to Harvard (2011) by Liz Murray

In this memoir Murray recalls life with her drug-addicted parents, her life on the streets as a teenager, and her eventual acceptance by Harvard University.



Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (2004) by Mary Roach

A compelling and often hilarious exploration of what happens to our bodies after death, including the contributions corpses have made to science.



Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore (2012) by Robin Sloan

The new clerk at an odd San Francisco bookstore begins studying the customers, who never buy anything and spend hours poring over obscure volumes stored in strange corners. He discovers a modern-day cabinet of wonders.



Dark Night of the Soul (1578?) by St. John of the Cross

This poem by a 16th-century mystic tracks the soul’s journey from a human body to union with God. Written while the author was imprisoned for advocating sweeping changes to his Carmelite order.



Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (1989) by William Styron

The author chronicles his near-fatal bout with depression, drawing links between his own illness and that of other writers, not to mention Abraham Lincoln.



The Age of Miracles (2012) by Karen Thompson Walker

A California teen’s usual struggles with parents and friends are exacerbated when the earth’s rotation slows, with days and nights growing longer, gravity changing, and the environment in upheaval.



Night (1960) by Elie Wiesel

In this terse 100-page book the author records his adolescent experiences in the Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, the death of God, and his growing disgust with humanity. Subsequent volumes Dawn and Day reflected his evolving view of life.