The Literary Bar Crawl: NYC Edition

New York has a great literary heritage and there are so many places you can go to soak up some of the liquid inspiration of great writers. In this list you can find places where poets drank, famous bar settings and places where you can just curl up with a manhattan cocktail in front of a crackling fire surrounded by library shelves. Perfect for warming up on a cold and soggy February weekend.


The White Horse Tavern

White Horse Tavern

567 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014

This is best described as an ‘old man pub’ – or as close to one as you’re going to get in NYC. It’s been around since the 1880s, is a certified Poetry Landmark and is famed as the bar where Dylan Thomas sank 18 shots of whisky before collapsing outside then dying of alcohol poisoning several days later. But it’s not just Thomas who has been a regular here – Bob Dylan, Anaïs Nin, Norman Mailer, Hunter S. Thompson, and Jack Kerouac all spent plenty of time propping up the bar. Kerouac was such firm fixture that legend has it ‘Go home Kerouac’ was written over the urinals.

The Shakespeare (inside the William Hotel)

24 E 39th St, New York, NY 10016

What was formerly The Peacock and is now The Shakespeare is a British restaurant / gastropub that sits inside the William Hotel and has a great library bar modelled on a Stratford pub called The White Swan. The hotel also houses speakeasy style joint The Raines Law Room where you can quaff beautifully made cocktails surrounded by opulent, cosy bookshelves.

Housing Works Bookstore Café

126 Crosby St, New York, NY 10012

This NYC book institution has a lovely cafe inside it where you can sip a wine or one of their monthly themed cocktails whilst also browsing the shelves. The whole place is staffed by volunteers and the stock is donated so 100% of the profits go to Housing Works’ projects. And if you’re looking for a quirky venue, you can even get married here…

Bookmarks Bar (photo

Bookmarks Bar at the Library Hotel

This upmarket cocktail lounge will float your boat if you decide you don’t want to slum it with the Beat Poets anymore. The romantic rooftop setting plays the perfect host to  the literary themed cocktails on the menu. Why not try The Pulitzer (Nolet’s Gin, Elderflower, Fernet Branca and agave nectar) or F.Scotch Fitzgerald (Brown buttered Glenmorangie, Campari and Carpano Antica).

Cafe Wah?

115 Macdougal St, New York, NY 10012

Cafe Wah is still a thriving music venue nearly 70 years after it first opened. Allen Ginsberg could often be found here and the likes of Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendricks and Bruce Springsteen all played here whilst launching their careers. This is definitely the place to go if you want to liven things up at the end of your night and with a really eclectic mix of performers there is something for everyone on offer here.

Pete’s Tavern

129 E 18th St, New York, NY 10003

This couldn’t be a literary list of NYC drinking holes without mentioning Pete’s Tavern. In continuous operation since 1864, Pete’s is synonymous with NYC’s writer crowd. The most famous of Pete’s customers was William Sydney Porter – aka O. Henry, the short story writer and in his honour, Pete’s have even kept his booth, where he supposedly wrote The Gift Of The Magi. Legend also has it that Ludwig Bemelmans wrote the first of his wildly popular children’s books – Madeline, on the back of one of the menus…

Minetta Tavern

113 Macdougal St, New York, NY 10012

If you need some food to line your stomach after all those delicious cocktails, then hop over to the newly revived Minetta Tavern. A mainstay of the 1930s Greenwich Village writer crowd including Ernest Hemingway, this wonderful restaurant has been taken over by Keith McNally and is now serving perfectly cooked côte de boeuf and french inspired food in sumptuous surroundings. People rave about this steakhouse – why not pop in before heading next door to Cafe Wah?

Rose Club Bar at the Plaza Hotel

768 5th Ave, New York, NY 10019

The Plaza Hotel should be on a literary tour of NYC for any bibliophile – just make sure you don’t dance in the fountain like F.Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald! The Rose Club Bar is the hotel’s in-house jazz club and the perfect place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city for a spot of luxury. Craft cocktails with their own mixologist mean that drinking here is a totally unique (and wallet punching) experience. On a side note – if you’re a fan of Home Alone 2  and want to live like Kevin, The Plaza are offering experiences based on the movie and they look AWESOME.



Where would you recommend people go to get a literary drink in NYC? The next edition will be London so get your suggestions in for places for bibliophiles to get a swift one…

Feature photo:

Tennessee Williams: No Refuge But Writing

February is all about Mardi Gras on Book And A View and there is no one I would rather sip a sazerac on a Bourbon St balcony with than the King of Southern Gothic, Tennessee Williams.

My life changed when my English teacher handed us a copy of his collected works in the sixth year and I met Laura, Blanche and Maggie the Cat. It was one of those rare moments when you feel like the vibrations of the world all magically align and play beautiful music. I was obsessed. Here was a playwright that, on the surface, I had nothing in common with and yet what he wrote resonated deeply with me. My love affair with Williams’ plays has endured far beyond any other. I know that I will love them until my dying day.

Tennessee Williams Writing

Williams was born in 1911 and produced some of the world’s most acclaimed drama in the 40s and 50s, pioneering a new, poetic style of theatre. A homosexual with alcohol and drug dependency issues, Williams poured his unhappiness, loneliness and response to a dysfunctional, violent early family life into his writing.

Everything in his life is in his plays, and everything in his plays is in his life

– Elia Kazan

His close relationship with his sister Rose, who was the inspiration behind The Glass Menagerie‘s Laura, further fuelled his tendency towards depression, especially when Rose’s life long battle with schizophrenia culminated in a frontal lobotomy. It is no coincidence that his characters are often tortured by their struggles with mental health issues and the sensitivity and poignancy with which he addresses these issues makes his writing as relevant today as it was groundbreaking when it was first published.


His plays deal with loneliness, ageing, the desperation to connect, sex and addiction. All things that he struggled with himself and that no one else was writing about. The poetry of his writing gives these difficult themes a fragile, decaying beauty – much like the Southern settings his characters inhabit.

I try to work every day because you have no refuge but writing.

– Tennessee Williams

Starting this month, New York’s Morgan Library has a new Williams exhibition – No Refuge But Writing, exploring Williams’ writing process and offering unprecedented access to his drafts, notebooks and letters. They are also showing several of the many film adaptations of his work including A Streetcar Named Desire, the Elia Kazan directed film that launched the stars of Marlon Brando and Vivian Leigh into the stratosphere, and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. The exhibition runs through until 13th May.

And whilst I’m in New Orleans later this month, I will be sure to raise a glass to my favourite playwright, after all, as Williams said…

“America has three cities – New York, San Francisco and New Orleans… Everywhere else is Cleveland.”



Photo credits: LIFE magazine and The Morgan Library.




Review: “The Half-Drowned King” by Linnea Hartsuyker


Hardcover: 448 pages

Publisher: Harper Collins

Release Date: 1st August 2017


SET IN NORWAY (9th Century)


Linnea Hartsuyker’s epic debut perfectly captures Viking Norway in a way that is exciting, uncompromising and elegantly written.  This is a book of heroes and whilst it draws on the Icelandic Sagas retelling of the making of kings, it’s refreshing to find a historical narrative that focuses as much on the female experience as the male without reducing the woman to the role of voiceless lover or pawn. In Svanhild Eysteinsson, Hartsuyker has created a complex and intelligent heroine that seeks to make her own way in a world dominated by men. This novel doesn’t shy away from the gory violent culture of the Vikings but also paints a picture of a society that values cunning and honour in addition to bravery and strength.

The Blurb: Centuries ago, in a blood-soaked land ruled by legendary gods and warring men, a prophecy foretold of a high king who would come to reign over all of the north. . . .

Ragnvald Eysteinsson, the son and grandson of kings, grew up believing that he would one day take his dead father’s place as chief of his family’s lands. But, sailing home from a raiding trip to Ireland, the young warrior is betrayed and left for dead by men in the pay of his greedy stepfather, Olaf. Rescued by a fisherman, Ragnvald is determined to have revenge for his stepfather’s betrayal, claim his birthright and the woman he loves, and rescue his beloved sister Svanhild. Opportunity may lie with Harald of Vestfold, the strong young Norse warrior rumored to be the prophesied king. Ragnvald pledges his sword to King Harald, a choice that will hold enormous consequence in the years to come.

While Ragnvald’s duty is to fight—and even die—for his honor, Svanhild must make an advantageous marriage, though her adventurous spirit yearns to see the world. Her stepfather, Olaf, has arranged a husband for her—a hard old man she neither loves nor desires. When the chance to escape Olaf’s cruelty comes at the hands of her brother’s arch rival, the shrewd young woman is forced to make a heartbreaking choice: family or freedom.

Set in a mystical and violent world defined by honor, loyalty, deceit, passion, and courage, The Half-Drowned King is an electrifying adventure that breathtakingly illuminates the Viking world and the birth of Scandinavia.


I was really excited to read this novel after seeing its gorgeous golden cover winking at me from the new release shelves at my local Barnes and Noble. I’d just come off the back of binging the last of Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Chronicles and fancied giving this a go whilst my head was still in a marauding and pillaging kind of space. But would it live up to King Cornwell? Well yes. Yes it would.

What I particularly loved about this book are the wonderfully complex characters. Hartsuyker takes the time to develop them and casts a critical eye over each and every one. All have their flaws, are weak at times and selfish but she takes care to ensure that your loyalties as a reader are always torn. There are no stereotypical warrior thugs here, you understand what drives these characters and how they strive to achieve their ambitions in often difficult circumstances.

Hartsuyker is in total control of her research and the setting throughout the novel. You feel like you are getting a guided tour of Viking life, but without the annoying educational voiceover explaining what everything means. She is a master of ‘show don’t tell’ and the descriptions throughout are often surprising and very evocative which ensures that whilst this is not the first Viking historical novel, you never feel like you’ve read it somewhere else before.

Many comparisons have been made between The Half-Drowned King and Game of Thrones and Outlander, but I feel that this does it a disservice. Yes it has the feel of an epic saga, but this one is rooted in a tangible setting and quite frankly kicks Outlander out of the park in terms of quality of writing (and I love Outlander…). That said, if you enjoy those series you will love this – and the best part is it’s but the first in a planned trilogy… The Sea Queen is released 14th August 2018 and I for one can’t wait.