In Sunlight and in Shadow by Mark Helprin (Mariner, $16). Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale weaves historical realities of New York City with the fantastic to profound effect, but this 1940s love story also enchants. The magic here is the intensity of Harry's love for Catherine, the purity of his code of honor. The title is from Poe's poem "Eldorado," about a gallant knight. Helprin convinces that honor in the service of love triumphs even when it appears to fail by mortal standards.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman (Scribner, $28). This tale of early-20th-century New York City is rich with engaging detail. Raised by a sinister father who owns a freak show, Coralie falls for Eddie, who is from an Orthodox Jewish family. The polished, luminous prose serves well a wonder-filled story that goes over the top with the kind of authority Ray Bradbury would have adored.

Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers (William Morrow, $17). This genre-defying historical novel–thriller-fantasy is set in 1962 London. Poet Christina Rossetti, her beloved brother, and others must thwart the malevolent spirit of John Polidori, former doctor to the poet Lord Byron. Exhilarating, imaginative, dark, lunatic, the story is ultimately about love that surpasses all understanding.

The Color of Light by William Goldman (out of print). Chub Fuller is an acclaimed writer by the time he leaves college for New York City. He takes too seriously the advice to write what he knows. In his headlong pursuit of love, he fashions for himself material darkly comic and tragic. This exploration of a writer's mind, heart, and ambition has an ending as stunning as it is right.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (Dover, $4). Both cities in this classic are portrayed with Dickens's talent for detail. His Paris in revolution is chilling. Madame Defarge is one of the great monsters of literature. The last scene and final sentence are deeply moving, as is the author's insistence that totalitarian politics doesn't have the power to eradicate love from the world.

— Dean Koontz has written 14 No. 1 best-sellers, and his collected works have sold more than 450 million copies worldwide. His new novel, The City, is the coming-of-age tale of a jazz prodigy finding his way in the New York City of the 1960s.