New York City has a long, long history of great writers and today we celebrate what would have been the 150th birthday of one of its greatest: Edith Wharton. Born on 23rd Street in 1862, Wharton (nee Edith Newbold Jones) was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize and, along with her friend Henry James, remains one of the best Old New York writers going. A wicked, wicked writer whose style and settings, as the Times pointed out this weekend, are currently enjoying a renaissance thanks to a little something called Downton Abbey, is definitely worth revisiting.

Sadly most people know Wharton from either a forced trudge through Ethan Frome in high school or from movies where, to paraphrase Ari on Entourage (sorry about that!), a guy likes a girl but can't have sex with her for five years "because those were the times!" A shame because, a) her books are so much better than that, and b) if you want to read some nasty social criticism of a bygone era you really can't do better. Take The Custom of the Country for example (seriously, take it—its free!). Not only does its mischievous antihero, the gloriously named Undine Spragg, plot and marry her way up through and out of New York society into European aristocracy while ignoring her son and essentially pushing one husband to his death—she totally gets away with it scot-free. When it comes to landing a "Mr. Big" Carrie Bradshaw, another New York transplant, has nothing on Undine.

Or, if you prefer your social satire a little gloomier, you can't do wrong with The House of Mirth (also free!) whose tragic heroine Lily Bart—well, you'd be better off just reading it (though the Gillian Anderson film isn't bad). Oh, you aren't actually interested in reading? Good news! To celebrate Wharton's big day the Center for Fiction is holding a Marathon Reading of the book on Thursday starting at 5 p.m. The $20 event will feature a slew of readers, including Jennifer Egan and Roxana Robinson, reading the whole House of Mirth as a fundraiser for The Mount, Wharton's estate in Massachusetts (which is also celebrating the author with a big party this weekend and events throughout the year). And the fun celebrations don't end this week. In March the New York Society Library will be showing an exhibition of artifacts from Wharton's New York.

So how will you celebrate Wharton's birthday? Even though we still think the cast would have worked better if they'd switched Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder, we'll probably be celebrating with a screening of Martin Scorsese's gorgeous Age of Innocence adaptation...