Boston Reading List
Following is Hub Blog's official Boston Reading List, assuming you want to learn more about the hub of the universe that you now inhabit, literally or digitally.* The tough standards for getting on the list were: 1.) I had to have read the book. 2.) It helped explain how Boston ticks. 3.) I enjoyed it. In historic chronological order (sort of) and cribbed from an earlier post
(sort of): Mayflower
by Nathaniel Philbrick. Mayflower fills in so many historical gaps: the Puritans, Mayflower Compact, Pokanokets, Massasoit, Plymouth Rock, Thanksgiving, King Philip's War. It's all here. Highly enjoyable read for history buffs.Captors and Captives
by Evan Haefeli and Kevin Sweeney. Focuses on the 1704 Deerfield Raid and the little-known Queen Anne's War in between King Philip's War and the French and Indian War -- but it's really about the hard everyday lives of Indians and colonial-era settlers.Paul Revere's Ride
by David Hackett Fischer. Fischer shows how Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had it right and the revisionists have it wrong: Revere was a common-man hero of his time and deserved to be rescued from obscurity by the poet. Fischer's description of the dramatic events of April 19, 1775 is first-rate.Now We Are Enemies
by Thomas J. Fleming. Read this after reading Paul Revere's Ride. Bunker Hill was an epic showdown with long-term military and political ramifications for both Americans and the British.The Flowering of New England – 1815-1865
by Van Wyck Brooks. A rich and detailed look at how a Puritanical society transformed into a more open Universalist society that produced the likes of Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Alcott and other literary figures. Winner of the 1937 Pulitzer Prize, ‘Flowering of New England’ is a difficult read -- but well worth the effort. Back Bay
by William Martin. It's light. It's corny. It's a James Michener-like novel. But it's an entertaining book that provides a sweeping history of 18th, 19th and early 20th century Boston.The Last Hurrah
by Edwin O'Connor. A fictional look at James Michael Curley and the Irish-Yankee battles of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. Key to understanding Boston politics.Make Way for Ducklings
by Robert McCloskey. It's a Boston institution. The fact Bostonians so cherish the book says much about how Bostonians perceive the charm of their city. When you stand at Charles and Beacon and proudly think of the book, you know you're a Bostonian.Friends of Eddie Coyle
by George V. Higgins. Before the true nature of the Irish mob became apparent in the '80s and '90s, Higgins was writing about it in novels in the '70s. The book is so good it almost proves life imitates art. The Boston dialogue is pitch perfect. Common Ground
by J. Anthony Lukas. The one book you need to read if you're going to understand contemporary Boston. It's about busing in the 1970s. But it's much, much more. It's about race, ethnic and class politics, and a city tragedy no matter how you view busing. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Common Ground is considered one of the top non-fiction American books of the 20th Century. Black Mass
by Gerard O'Neill and Dick Lehr. The nonfiction story of how Whitey Bulger and his gangster cronies corrupted the local FBI -- and local politics. Brothers Bulger
by Howie Carr. Think of a cross between Black Mass and Mike Royko's Boss
. You'll laugh out loud at the most gruesome things.
* This list is a work in progress. I know it should include books such as Henry James's The Bostonians.
But I haven't read The Bostonians -- and many other classics. I might get to them one day. Still, you can't go wrong with the list above. Good Boston primers. ... Hat tip to Dan Zarella
for getting the ball rolling on essential Boston books, as well as to Charles
. Next up on my reading list (or one of these days): The Hub
by Thomas H. O'Connor and The Proper Bostonians
by Cleveland Amory. ... If you have suggestions or comments, please write to me at jayfitzgerald20 at hotmail.comUpdate
-- Since posting this list, a number of readers have written in with their own suggestions -- here
. Check them out. I particularly liked Stephen's recommendation of 'The Flowering of New England,'
which I haven't read yet. .. Update to update: I've since read 'Flowering.' It made the list. See above.