Part of the same excellent guidebook series that gave us The Out Traveler Hawaii, the Out Traveler New York City, by the prolific writer and Manhattan resident Dan Allen, also provides a savvy, enthusiastic, and extremely well-researched guide to GLBT New York City.
We're talking about one of the larger cities in the world, so if you're planning a fairly intensive trip and really want the lowdown on every nook of the city, you'll probably want to supplement your guidebook buying with an additional title (I like the Time Out New York guide for practical info, and DK's Eyewitness Travel New York City for great photos and cultural details. In terms of getting to know the city's gay vibe, Out Traveler New York City is indispensable, and also a highly enjoyable read.
The book is well-organized and easy to follow, opening with two good overview chapters outlining critical details on the city, followed by a chapter that details Allen's best picks for New York City on a wide range of topics, from multicultural gay clubs to places to watch movies.
The rest of the book is organized by neighborhood, from Lower Manhattan through the East Village and Chelsea, up to Midtown and Upper Manhattan, and then finishing off with a nice compendium of things to see and do in the Brooklyn (which has the most for gay visitors to see of any Outer Borough), Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island (yup, there's a nascent gay scene there, too).
Each geographic chapter contains a concise overview of the neighborhood's layout and distinct features, a map with bullet points (the maps in these Out Traveler guides leave a bit to be desired in terms of scale and aesthetics, but they're fine for getting your bearings), activities (i.e., museums, cool streets to stroll, etc.), lodging, dining, shopping, and nightlife. Most reviews of shops and bars are a sentence or two, and the dining and especially lodging entries are a bit longer and more detailed. The important consideration here is that Allen has researched this material carefully and judiciously, and his recommendations are personable, smartly written, and fun (often filled with extra trivia on the city, such as pointing out that Magnolia Bakery has been lauded in Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada).
Apart from containing the usual 411 on getting around the city and figuring out what to see and do, Allen includes plenty of tips as well as side notes on the city's history and more GLBT-relevant facts, all in an engaging, conversational voice. In his "Dos and Don'ts For the NYC Visitor", he sagely warns against overstaying one's visit in friends' apartments (because they're invariably tiny) and standing in the middle of sidewalks reading maps and guidebooks, and he encourages visitors to ride the subway and "be prepared to step in dog poop" (one of those New York inevitabilities).
Other sidebars provide lists of useful websites, a profile of iconic gay painter Paul Cadmus, a round-up of movies that offer a gay take on the city (including one of my favorite all-time movies, Short Bus, "Great (And Not So Great) Moments in Gay NYC Theater History," a time line of Greenwich Village (and other cool neighborhoods) history, and numerous other profiles of local gay celebs of note, from Jerome Robbins to Montgomery Clift to Langston Hughes. This book is a genuine encyclopedia of GLBT history in New York City - worth a read for that alone, even if you're not necessarily planning a trip any time soon.
The guidebook series is produced by the Out Traveler. Also consider checking the Out Traveler Atlanta came out - it's authored by knowledgeable Atlanta scribes Jordan McAuley and Matt Burkhalter.