“Cerebral and capacious, Teju Cole’s novel asks what it means to roam freely.”—The New York Times (One of the 25 Most Significant New York City Novels From the Last 100 Years)
“Influential . . . makes you think about what kind of city is revealed to us based on where we cannot go.”—Katie Kitamura, bestselling author of Intimacies
ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Time, NPR • WINNER: PEN/Hemingway Award, Rosenthal Foundation Award, New York City Book Award
Along the streets of Manhattan, a young Nigerian doctor named Julius doing his residency wanders aimlessly. The walks are a release from the tightly regulated mental environment of work, and they give him the opportunity to process his relationships, his recent breakup, his present, his past. Though he’s navigating the busy parts of town, the impression of countless faces does nothing to assuage his feelings of isolation.
Julius crisscrosses social territory as well, encountering people from different cultures and classes who provide insight on his journey—which takes him to Brussels, to the Nigeria of his youth, and into the most unrecognizable facets of his own soul.
Seething with intelligence and written in a clear, rhythmic voice, Open City is a haunting, mature, profound work about our country and our world.
FINALIST: National Book Critics Circle Award, Young Lions Fiction Award • ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Economist, Newsweek, The New Republic, New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Seattle Times, Minneapolis Star Tribune, GQ, Salon, Slate, New York, The Week, The Kansas City Star, Kirkus Reviews, The Guardian, Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, The Irish Times
Possibly the only negative thing to say about Cole's intelligent and panoramic first novel is that it is a more generous account of the recent past than the era deserves. America's standing in the world is never far from the restless thoughts of psychiatry resident Julius, a Nigerian immigrant who wanders Manhattan, pondering everything from Goya and the novels of J.M. Coetzee to the bankruptcy of Tower Records and the rise of the bedbug epidemic. In other words, it is an ongoing reverie in the tradition of W.G. Sebald or Nicholson Baker, but with the welcome interruptions of the friends and strangers Julius meets as he wanders Penn Station, the Upper West Side, and Brussels during a short holiday, and amid discussions of Alexander Hamilton, black identity, and the far left a truly American novel emerges. Julius pines over a recent ex, mourns the death of a friend, goes to movies, concerts, and museums, but above all he ruminates, and the picture of a mind that emerges in lieu of a plot is fascinating, as it is engaged with the world in a rare and refreshing way.
A good first novel
An unusual novel set mostly in NYC and Brussels from 2006-07 that read more like a memoir.
Glad that I Read This
I appreciate the big questions tackled in this book, questions of being itself. I read this with the twitter book club, and having a group to read with definitely helped me to persevere. In the end, it is well worth the investment. Thanks Teju!
Not a novel
A memoir, an essay, maybe a personal journal, but definitely NOT a novel. This is not fiction. I guess I can see why it's on all those best books lists-- I'm thinkin all those entities are in Manhattan. This is a very New Yorkey book. The voice is compelling, the insights relatable, but don't be looking for a plot. I did finish it, but if you've never been to NYC, the details of Coles meanderings through Midtown and the Bowery can be kind of boring.