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Janet Groth's 6 favorite books by New Yorker writers
A former employee of The New Yorker recommends works by E.B. White, John McPhee, and other writers associated with the august magazine
 
The ultimate New Yorker insider, Janet Groth, the magazine's former longtime receptionist, shares her favorite works associated with the publication.
The ultimate New Yorker insider, Janet Groth, the magazine's former longtime receptionist, shares her favorite works associated with the publication.
Courtesy the author

Stories From The New Yorker 1950–1960 (out of print). Puts to rest that old cliché about the cookie-cutter sameness of the New Yorker short stories. Here is diversity galore, from Salinger's "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters" to Dorothy Parker's "I Live on Your Visits" to Philip Roth's "Defender of the Faith." 

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark (Harper Perennial, $14). A tonic lesson in the influence charismatic teachers can exert upon their impressionable students, for good or ill. Jean Brodie is brought to vivid, sometimes amusing, sometimes horrifying, life in this short novel. It appeared in its entirety in The New Yorker, and the Scottish schoolmarm went on to live again in adaptations for the stage and screen. 

Balanchine by Bernard Taper (Univ. of Calif., $33). Taper, a contributor of fact pieces for the magazine in the 1960s and '70s, did outstanding profiles too; this one, a picture of George Balanchine at work, stands as a classic. Taper spent many hours observing the master in his studio, and the resulting notes are riveting for ballet novice and professional dancer alike.

Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell (Vintage, $18). Here is the cream of a life's work by one of the magazine's most revered writers. While he suffered a writer's block lasting for 32 years, the publication of this compendium late in his life earned him scores of admiring new readers. It depicts the worlds he loved to capture — the New York waterfront, the Bowery, and the gypsy underground encamped all around the town. 

The John McPhee Reader (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $21). This anthology dates from McPhee's early years, when the author was relatively unknown and people reading him in The New Yorker were marveling at how dramatic and even suspenseful he could make the building of a birch-bark canoe or the growing of oranges. It also has wonderful profiles of Bill Bradley and Arthur Ashe. 

Here Is New York by E.B. White (Little Bookroom, $17). Eloquent testimony to the vitality non-native New Yorkers bring to the city with their many personal, passionate quests, some of which even get realized.

Janet Groth is the author of The Receptionist, a new memoir about her 21 years at The New Yorker, which she left in 1978 to complete a Ph.D in literature. 

 

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