Are you looking for interesting books about Boston?
One of the best parts about planning any trip is poring through travel books ahead of time. If you love to learn as much as possible about where you're going, local history, and the people who live there, these books will give you new insights about Boston
The following list of ten books is by no means comprehensive, but will get you off to a good start. We include Amazon links (as an Amazon Associate, Boston Discovery Guide earns from qualifying purchases), and as you'll see, you can often buy used copies for just pennies.
So much of what we know about events in Boston during previous centuries comes from eye-witness accounts, as recorded in journals, letters, newspapers, and even old photographs.
Of course, people see things in individual ways - and even eye-witness accounts often contradict each other. How do you know if what you learn from history books is "true" or "accurate" vs "fake news"?
A strength of this book, which describes Boston's major historical sites and attractions, is that the authors (a mother-daughter team) cite original sources as much as possible. Where eyewitness reports or records differ from each other, they say so.
As a result, what you'll find here sometimes differs a lot from the "popular wisdom" stories about events that you'll see in a lot of books about Boston. If you want to know more about famous Boston sites, historical events, and the real stories behind them, this is a must-get book.
Until just a decade or two ago, Boston's then-gritty landscape provided the perfect background for the city's favorite gathering spot: dive bars.
Now, these favorite no-frills watering holes, full of history, comraderie, and good times, have become an endangered species.
If you want to understand the "real" Boston of yesteryear, Boston's Best Dive Bars will show you where you can still get a glimpse at 90 of the city's best remaining taverns before they all disappear, victim to high real estate prices and more upscale expectations.
Caveat: Before visiting any drinking establishment recommended by this book, google it first . . . just to confirm that it still exists.
Produced by a history professor who specializes in Boston, this lovely photograph-filled coffee table book gives you a comprehensive tour in pictures of the most famous historic and cultural sights in each of Boston's famous neighborhoods.
You'll see the gorgeous Public Garden and Old South Church in the Victorian Back Bay neighborhood, the USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides") in Charlestown, Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, and the Aquarium in the Downtown Waterfront, Fenway Park in the Fenway neighborhood, and the African Meeting Hall and gold-domed Massachusetts State House in stately Beacon Hill - plus lots more.
Equally appealing is the author's entertaining commentary that gives you the perfect introduction to Boston, or commemorates your visit.
This informative book about Boston parks and gardens provides a lot of interesting, well-researched details about how the parks developed historically and what you'll find to enjoy in them today.
Although it focuses on Boston's "Emerald Necklace," the series of connecting parks planned in the 19th century by famed landscape designer Frederick Law Olmstead, it also includes a small section on other areas, such as the Esplanade, Boston beaches, and even Olmstead's Brookline home on the edge of Boston.
Pros: Includes 2 things that are critical for any successful book about gardens: excellent photos, and easy-to-read maps.
Cons: This book was published in 2002, and does not include the new Rose Kennedy Greenway or improvements to Harborwalk - but it does cover everything else.
This compact, crammed-with-info book about Boston's public transportation system provides detailed information about the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) options, including maps for each of the rapid transit (T) system, commuter rails, buses, and ferries. It also describes non-MBTA options and everything else that you need to know to get around the metropolitan area successfully without a car.
Sections on "Popular Sites and Excursions" and "Place Listings - How to Get There" give you detailed information about how to get to every neighborhood, attraction, historical site, college, theater, museum, sports arena, and so forth - plus thumbnail descriptions of each place.
Unfortunately, this book hasn't been updated since 2003. Some changes have occurred to the the T, such as the addition of the Silver Line to Logan Airport via the burgeoning and newly trendy South Boston Waterfront. And Boston has some new major attractions - most notably, the replacement of the old elevated Central Artery highway with the beautiful attraction-filled Rose Kennedy Greenway. Additionally, the MBTA's website has vastly improved since 2003 and now offers lots of information on line, although navigating the website isn't always easy and you won't find the level of detail that this book offers. Finally, the advent of Boston's bikeshare Hubway program and the development of bike paths around the city have occurred since this book was published.
Despite being somewhat outdated, the book's core information is still highly valuable and not duplicated elsewhere. You can usually find steeply discounted copies of the book available online, and as long as you don't spend too much, it is a worthwhile resource.
The Great Molasses Flood in Boston's Italian North End ranks as one of the city's worst disasters - but for years, suggestions that Italian anarchists were to blame shrouded the real cause.
In Dark Tide, a sometimes gripping and always fascinating book about Boston in the early 20th century, Stephen Puleo presents the results of extensive primary-source research to uncover the real reasons - mostly related, perhaps not surprisingly, to corporate greed and lack of concern about public safety.
Underlying the "what really happened and why" narrative is what, personally, I find the most fascinating aspect about this story: an in-depth look at Boston life, social and economic structures, class and ethnic conflicts, and portraits of daily life in one of Boston's most interesting and vibrant historic neighborhoods. Particularly interesting are Puleo's depictions of how fear, paranoia, real-life events, and self-interest form a toxic stew.
Wait for a snowy February weekend or a rainy June day to read The Gardner Heist, because once you start it, you won't be able to put it down.
This non-fiction thriller centers on the 1990 theft of 13 paintings, including 3 Rembrandts and a Vermeer worth hundreds of millions of dollars, from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Fenway. Thieves posing as Boston cops entered the museum and walked out with perhaps the biggest haul in the history of art theft, unleashing a massive search that so far has produced mostly dead ends.
Enter the book's author, Ulrich Boser, a contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report who initially reported on the story but then found himself in the role of obsessed amateur detective after inheriting the files of a fine arts adjuster haunted by the unsolved crime until he died. While pursuing clues and a previously overlooked possible observer of the thieves, Boser finds himself among felons in the underbelly of the art world and organized crime. Finally, fearing for his own safety, Boser pulls back - but not before he identifies a possible suspect, and presents convincing evidence to the reader.
You can form your own opinion . . . and then find out if you're right if this crime is ever solved.
Great gift for mystery/thriller fans.
With only 73 pages, this small book consists almost entirely of black and white photographs, plus captions. It is long out of print, but you can usually find used copies on line, although they may be slightly yellowed from age.
Historic Boston captures "old Boston" during all seasons. What''s special is that you can see these very same places today - the Massachusetts State House, Old Granary Burial Ground, Boston Common, Paul Revere's House, the U.S.S. Constitution, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Rose Garden, the Swan Boats.
Bring this book with you when you visit, and see how little has changed in 70+ years. But look a little closer, and you begin to notice what's missing . . . you see Trinity Church without the John Hancock Tower soaring next to it, the Custom House Tower without Financial District skyscrapers towering over it, and the Charles River without Storrow Drive. What's really shocking is that most streets appear to have no traffic!
Perfect gift for someone moving to the city.
This lovely coffee table-style book is filled with new and vintage photos of famous Boston landmarks, neighborhoods, attractions, and locations comparing the glistening modern city that we know today with the same views from an earlier time.
Because so many of Boston's key historic and cultural landmarks have been preserved, they may look remarkably the same although everything surrounding them may be very different. Paul Revere's house in the North End neighborhood looks almost the same today as during earlier eras, but the surrounding neighborhood has transformed many times.
In other cases such as Quincy Market, the transformation is far more radical, even though original structures are still in place. In still other cases, such as the elevated Central Artery highway removed in recent years by the "Big Dig" project and replaced by the Rose Kennedy Greenway parkland, changes are more radical.
Whether you're buying this book as a way to preserve memories or you just want to see how the city has changed through the centuries, you'll find plenty to enjoy here.
This fascinating, carefully researched, and well-written history takes you through almost 400 years of Boston's love of beer.
Did you know that the first Puritans brought 10,000 gallons of beer with them on their ship, the Arbella?
You'll also find out about the role played by taverns during the Revolution.
In case you wonder exactly what the Colonists drank, Nathan provides easy-to-follow recipes for you to try at home.
You'll learn a lot from this book about Boston, then and now, and your view of taverns will never be the same.
Great gift book for beer lovers.
This meticulously researched book relies upon a lot of original source materials - court documents, journals, legal papers, depositions, letters - to bring to life the people, events, and history of Boston's earliest days.
The original author's preface, dated October 22, 1872, describes his concern about the rapidity with which old landmarks were disappearing plus his desire to identify exactly where historical events had unfolded as being his two motives for writing the book.
On November 10 and 11, a Great Fire destroyed a large part of older Boston - so many of the landmarks and events that he had previously documented suddenly no longer existed. A second preface sadly acknowledges this, and gives thanks that the Old South Meeting House and the Old State House were spared.
If you are interested in the history of Boston places and people and don't mind slightly old-fashioned language, you'll find this book fascinating. And because it uses original sources and materials rather than just re-telling second-hand accounts, it's a lot more accurate than many of the quick summaries of Boston history that you'll find in guidebooks.