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Text by Chuck Leddy | Globe Correspondent
by Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1841
The clearest, best-known statement of Emerson’s Transcendentalist philosophy, “Self-Reliance” commands its readers to follow the dictates of their own consciences, no matter the consequences of opposing convention. The Concord sage’s wisdom still resonates: “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.”
The Scarlet Letter
by Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1850
A perennial New England classic about the clash between conscience and community standards in Puritan Massachusetts, as Hester Prynne hides the dark secret of her baby’s father and is publicly condemned for it, while Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale suffers inner torment about his own secret guilt.
by Herman Melville, 1851
Setting sail from Nantucket, the whale ship “Pequod” and its obsessed Captain Ahab cross the globe hunting for the white whale Moby Dick. Melville’s 1851 novel is more than a profound exploration of the New England whaling industry, but also an existential journey into the one man’s dark soul as he grapples with good and evil.
by Henry David Thoreau, 1854
Perhaps the most important nonfiction book in all American literature. On July 4, 1845, Concord philosopher and curmudgeon Thoreau set out to live in a cabin on Walden Pond, where he sought to “live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
Science and Health With Key To The Scriptures
by Mary Baker Eddy, 1875
Born in New Hampshire and founder of the Boston-based Christian Science Church, Eddy wrote this 1875 book, which has become a “textbook” for Christian Scientists, to show the connection between Christianity and health.
The Rise of Silas Lapham
by William Dean Howells, 1884
A longtime editor at the then Boston-based Atlantic Monthly magazine, where he edited Mark Twain, Howells also had a distinguished writing career. In his 1885 novel about Boston during the Gilded Age, he tells the rags to riches (and back to rags again) story of the title character, who must choose between wealth and doing what’s right.
by Henry James, 1886
In the prolific author’s famous 1886 novel, Mississippi lawyer and Civil War veteran Basil Ransom visits his cousin Olive Chancellor in Boston, where the conservative southerner falls in love with a beautiful Boston feminist.
by Edward Bellamy, 1888
The author lived in western Massachusetts and wrote this 1888 utopian novel (really Bellamy’s vision of an ideal socialist future) about a man who wakes up in the Boston of 2000, a century after going to sleep in 1887.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
by Mark Twain, 1889
Written while the legendary humorist was living in Hartford, this classic novel is the story of Hank Morgan, a citizen of Hartford, who awakens one morning to find himself inexplicably transported back in time by over 13 centuries, to the era of legendary King Arthur.
The Varieties of Religious Experience
by William James, 1905
The renowned psychologist and philosopher, and older brother of novelist Henry, spent his entire academic career at Harvard. In this his most famous work, James used science to interpret religious experience, exploring the fascinating interconnections between psychology and faith.
by Edith Wharton, 1911
Wharton spent much of her childhood in Newport, R.I. This 1911 novel explores a tragic love triangle, as a poor New England farmer endures a miserable marriage, but everything changes when his wife’s beautiful sister arrives.
The Education of Henry Adams
by Henry Adams, 1918
Perhaps the best autobiography/memoir ever written, the Boston-born Henry Adams tells his own (and America’s) story of growing up in the mid to late 19th century with profound self-understanding, especially about the weight of his family’s famous history and the melancholy inevitability of technical change as a new century looms.
The Enormous Room
by e.e. cummings, 1922
The legendary Cambridge-born and Harvard-educated poet wrote this great novel largely based upon his experiences as a captured ambulance driver who spent months in a World War I prison camp.
The Call of Cthulhu
by H.P. Lovecraft, 1928
Providence-born Lovecraft’s creepy short story follows a trail of manuscripts in order to unwind a frightening truth. This one will scare you and keep you in its scarifying grip until its final sentences.
by Thornton Wilder, 1938
First performed in 1938, Wilder’s masterpiece is set in the quintessentially American town of Grover’s Corners, N.H. and follows the lives of its inhabitants. Wilder wrote much of this classic, much-performed play in New Hampshire’s MacDowell Colony for artists.
Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel
by Virginia Lee Burton, 1939
Published in 1939, this classic story by the Gloucester-based author has delighted generations of children. Mike and his trusty steam shovel, Mary Anne, dig deep canals for boats to travel through, cut mountain passes for trains, and help build cities.
Two Years Before The Mast
by Richard Henry Dana, 1940
Dana’s classic maritime story details his real-life adventures as a common sailor during a two-year voyage that began in Boston. The Cambridge-born and Harvard-educated Dana would go on to become one of the great lawyers in American history.
Make Way For Ducklings
by Robert McCloskey, 1941
This wonderful, award-winning children’s picture book tells the story of a family of ducks that decide to make their home on an island in the middle of the lagoon in the Boston Common. A bronze statue of these determined ducks is today among the most popular attractions in the Boston Common.
by Jean Stafford, 1944
A fiction writer renowned for her exquisite prose style, Stafford lived in Boston, was married to Boston-born poet Robert Lowell, and wrote this her first novel about the city’s snobbery. Stafford’s protagonist is working-class immigrant Sonie Marburg, who searches for love and meaning in her life, while Boston’s conservative social structures barely recognizes her existence.
Catcher in the Rye
by J.D. Salinger, 1951
The greatest novel about adolescence ever, as New Hampshire resident (and famous recluse) Salinger describes the tribulations of Holden Caulfield as he seeks a place in a world of loss and pain. Salinger’s young narrator is funny, tender, and among the greatest characters in American fiction.
by E.B. White, 1952
Inspired by his time spent in the barn near his Maine farmhouse, White’s beloved children’s classic tells the story of a plucky spider determined to save a pig from getting slaughtered by the farmer. The 1952 book, like everything White wrote, is a masterpiece of simple, elegant prose.
by Arthur Miller, 1953
Playwright Miller’s legendary 1952 drama depicts the hypocrisy and injustice of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials in order to indirectly attack the hypocrisy and injustice of a 1950s America dominated by paranoid Cold Warriors such as Senator Joseph McCarthy.
Profiles in Courage
by John F. Kennedy, 1955
This Pulitzer-winning history tells the stories of several courageous American statesmen who did the right thing even in the face of unpopularity. Written when he was a freshman senator from Massachusetts, Kennedy’s 1955 book focuses on, among others, New England political giants such as John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster.
by Grace Metalious, 1956
Manchester, N.H. novelist Metalious created a classic piece of entertainingly addictive, trashy fiction that shocked 1950s America. This epically popular 1956 novel tells the juicy story of behind-closed-doors sex, adultery, and murder in a small, “proper” New Hampshire town.
The Last Hurrah
by Edwin O'Connor, 1956
The classic 1956 story by the Providence-born O’Connor is about old-style Boston politics as practiced by the likes of former Boston Mayor James Michael Curley, when showing up at Irish wakes, pressing the flesh, and knowing every ward boss’s name were keys to political success.
On The Road
by Jack Kerouac, 1957
Lowell-born Kerouac’s great road novel remains a monument of the entire Beat Generation. Kerouac’s improvisational, experimental writing style, and his unconventional way of living, is everywhere on display in this classic 1957 story about freedom, the open road, friendship, art, and adventure.
The Wapshot Chronicle
by John Cheever, 1957
Born in Quincy, Cheever spent his career writing about suburban WASPs from New England and New York. In this 1957 novel, which won him a National Book Award, Cheever tells the story of an eccentric family living in a Massachusetts fishing village.
A Separate Peace
by John Knowles, 1959
Knowles's semi-autobiographical debut novel tells of a prep school friendship between two boys that is psychologically complex and hauntingly told. The Devon School of the novel is based on Knowles’ alma mater, Philips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire.
by Richard Yates, 1961
Bostonian Yates, surely among America’s most woefully under-appreciated novelists, tells the story of a married couple, Frank and April Wheeler (played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslett in the recent film adaptation) trapped in the spiritual wasteland of 1950s suburban Connecticut.
One Boy's Boston
by Samuel Eliot Morison, 1962
Born in Boston in 1887, Morison became a renowned maritime historian. This small volume tells about his early childhood in Boston, from 1887 to 1901, as Morison grew up in a family steeped in New England history.
The Bell Jar
by Sylvia Plath, 1963
In Boston-born Plath’s semi-autobiographical classic, a talented but deeply troubled young woman returns home to the Boston suburbs, where she descends into mental illness. Plath’s novel has become a feminist classic, and a landmark of confessional-style writing.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
by Malcolm X, 1965
Much of it set in Boston, where Malcolm X lived and spent time in jail, “The Autobiography” tells the gripping story of how this great man transformed himself from a petty criminal into a martyred, still-inspiring leader of the African-American community.
Death at an Early Age
by Jonathan Koziol, 1967
First published in 1967, Kozol's book describes how segregation damaged the lives of African-American students in the Boston Public Schools. It would have a major impact on the school desegregation crisis of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
by John Updike, 1968
The late novelist, and longtime Massachusetts resident, tells the story of adultery in a small Massachusetts town, as Protestant traditions clash with 1960s-style sexual liberation. The then-controversial 1968 novel earned Updike a place on the cover of Time magazine, wherein he discussed changing American sexual mores.
Welcome to the Monkey House
by Kurt Vonnegut, 1968
The late, great novelist formerly lived in Barnstable, on Cape Cod, where he once ran a Saab auto dealership. This 1968 short story collection includes some of Vonnegut’s most experimental and finest fiction.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
by Eric Carle, 1969
Beloved by tens of millions of children (and their parents) around the world, Massachusetts resident Carle’s wonderfully illustrated story is about what one extremely hungry caterpillar eats before transforming into a butterfly.
by Erich Segal, 1970
A mammoth success as both a novel and a film, “Love Story” is an all-time tearjerker about the young love between a Harvard man and a Radcliffe woman who’s doomed to die young. The classic film line, “love means never having to say you’re sorry,” came from the Harvard-educated Segal’s screenplay.
Friends of Eddie Coyle
by George V. Higgins, 1972
The Brockton-born Higgins, a former Boston Globe writer and top Boston lawyer, herein tells the story of Boston’s Irish-American underworld through the experiences of small time gangster Eddie Coyle. Higgins’s acclaimed 1972 novel was turned into a gritty 1973 film starring Robert Mitchum (as Coyle) that remains the best movie ever made about Boston.
Blue Hill Avenue
by Mark Mirsky, 1972
Born in Boston and a Harvard graduate, novelist Mirsky wrote this humorous and scathing portrait of the Jewish community around Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester in 1972, as one of three novels about that same community.
by Stephen King, 1974
Maine horrormaster King’s stunning 1974 debut novel tells the dark tale of teenage misfit Carrie White, who’s tormented by her mother and Maine high school classmates until one day she transforms into a vengeful demon who makes them all pay for her humiliation.
by William Styron, 1979
The great novelist lived his later years on Martha’s Vineyard and is buried there. In this his best-known novel, and one of the best novels about the Holocaust, readers learn of Sophie's anguished personal story, and how the sweep and brutality of history haunt one woman’s life.
The Old Patagonian Express
by Paul Theroux, 1979
The Medford-born travel writer (who graduated from UMass-Amherst) embarks from Boston’s South Station to begin a whirlwind journey south by railway through Mexico, Central and South America. The people Theroux meets and the places he sees are vividly rendered in this absorbing, horizon-extending masterpiece of travel writing.
by Marilynne Robinson, 1980
A novelist who graduated from Providence’s Pembroke College and has taught creative writing at UMass-Amherst, Robinson has written three landmark novels in her three decades of writing. “Housekeeping” is the story, and the spiritual journey, of Ruth and her sister Lucille as they confront loss and seek their place in the world.
by Steve Levy, 1984
In his informative and hugely entertaining 1984 book, Levy (who lives in western Massachusetts) describes the history and unique subculture of hackers, showing how they’ve helped the development of computer technology. Needless to say, much of Levy’s gripping tale is set at the center of the hacking universe, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
by J. Anthony Lukas, 1985
This exhaustively researched, wonderfully written account of the Boston school desegregation crisis of the early 1970s is investigative reporting at its all-time best. The inexhaustible Lukas followed the story from every angle, from City Hall to the Federal Courthouse to the lives of the children and families (black and white) impacted by the passionate divisions over federally mandated school desegregation.
The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood, 1985
Born in Canada but educated at Radcliffe College and then Harvard, Atwood tells the story of a futuristic society that subjugates women with its totalitarian brand of Christianity. In addition to winning her numerous awards, the popular novel has also garnered Atwood a great deal of controversy.
by Nat Hentoff, 1986
This is journalist and free speech advocate Hentoff's searing, self-deprecating memoir about growing up in Roxbury in the 1930s and '40s, where he faced bullying and anti-Semitic taunting. And where Hentoff also developed his lifelong devotion to jazz music.
The Good Mother
by Sue Miller, 1986
Smith College professor and Oprah-approved author Miller wrote this inspiring 1986 novel about divorced mother (and Boston-resident) Anna Dunlap, who fights against her ex-husband for custody of their daughter Molly.
by John Hersey, 1987
On Martha's Vineyard, an old fisherman befriends a young man and they discuss life, nature, and fishing. For anyone who loves the outdoors in New England, especially Cape Cod, this wondrous book is a must-read.
A Prayer For Owen Meany
by John Irving, 1989
New Hampshire novelist Irving tells the story of John Wheelwright and his boyhood best friend Owen Meany as they grow up in a New Hampshire town in the 1950s and '60s. Irving's engaging novel explores, with a vivid New England setting, the subjects of tragedy and redemption, loss, and family.
by Russell Banks, 1989
In Banks's novel, a has-been New Hampshire sheriff named Wade Whitehouse moves from disappointment into outright criminality. Narrated by Wade's equally troubled brother, Banks's disturbing story is a spellbinding masterpiece of contemporary American noir.
Summer of '49
by David Halberstam, 1989
The late, great journalist tells the story of the dramatic 1949 American League pennant race, as the Red Sox and Yankees slugged it out for baseball supremacy. Halberstam focuses on the two rival superstars, showing how Boston’s Ted Williams and New York’s Joe DiMaggio drove their teams forward with stunning individual brilliance.
by Nancy Zaroulis, 1991
A massive historical novel with epic ambitions, Massachusetts resident Zaroulis tells the story of the Revells family, from their arrival on the Mayflower, to their participation in the first Thanksgiving, the Salem witch trials, the American Revolution, and beyond.
She's Come Undone
by Wally Lamb, 1992
Raised by a working class family in Norwich, Conn., novelist Lamb tells the unlucky coming-of-age story of Dolores Price from childhood to middle age. Dolores confronts divorced parents, obesity, and worse, but fights hard for something better.
The Promised Land (a Spenser novel)
by Robert B. Parker, 1992
The Springfield-born detective novelist, creator of the Spenser P.I. series, here offers his fourth Spenser novel. The 1976 book shows Spenser on Cape Cod but soon caught in the middle of a murder investigation involving his wife and the mob.
by Jonathan Franzen, 1992
The author’s second novel, this 1992 book centers on an unusual topic, earthquakes in Boston. Louis Holland arrives in the Hub in time for seismic mayhem, with one of the quakes killing his grandmother, and then falls in love with a Harvard seismologist.
The Secret History
by Donna Tartt, 1992
Started while she studied at Bennington College in Vermont, Tartt’s dark 1992 novel is set in a New England college and centers on a close-knit group of six students and their professor of classics. A murder radically changes their relationships.
by Alan Lightman, 1992
MIT professor Lightman’s 1992 novel is a fictional account of young Albert Einstein as he was developing his groundbreaking theory of relativity. The book consists of 30 chapters, each exploring one dream of Einstein’s during this crucial period.
by Susanna Kaysen, 1993
In this 1993 bestselling memoir, Cambridge’s Kaysen tells of her own experiences as a young patient in a psychiatric hospital, Belmont’s McLean Hospital, in the 1960s. Winona Ryder played Kaysen in the film adaptation.
Breath, Eyes, Memory
by Edwidge Danticat, 1994
Having earned her MFA from Brown University in Providence, the brilliant Danticat has become a leading literary voice concerning the pains of exile. Danticat's debut novel tells the unforgettable coming-of-age story of Sophie Caco, as she grows up in her native Haiti and later moves to New York.
Paul Revere's Ride
by David Hackett Fischer, 1995
A renowned American historian, and Brandeis professor, examines what really happened on that fateful Massachusetts night of April 18, 1775, separating legend from fact, and uncovering truths far more interesting than the myths created by the likes of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and others.
by David Foster Wallace, 1996
Amherst College graduate Wallace published this voluminous, cult favorite novel in 1996. Set in Boston, the novel "Infinite Jest" is the story of the addictive film “Infinite Jest,” particularly how it affects a halfway house for recovering addicts and a nearby tennis academy, and the many organizations trying to obtain the film for their own purposes.
by Alice Hoffman, 1996
Cambridge-resident Hoffman’s 1996 novel, set in a Massachusetts town, is a complex story centered on Sally and Gillian Owens, a tale that combines magic and mystery to create something unforgettable.
A Civil Action
by Jonathan Harr, 1996
Northampton-resident Harr tells the true story of an epic civil lawsuit concerning the toxic drinking water of Woburn. The bereaved parents of deceased children and their determined lawyer Jan Schlictmann tirelessly pursue the dark truth from two huge companies they accuse of polluting the Woburn water supply.
The City Below
by James Carroll, 1996
Boston resident and longtime Boston Globe columnist Carroll, in his award-winning 1994 novel, tells the compelling saga of two Boston Irish brothers, Nick and Terry Doyle, working to move beyond the working-class streets of Charlestown in order to find success in the wider world.
by Mark Kurlansky, 1997
A huge bestseller about the history and impact of cod and the cod fishing industry on the world, especially on New England. The Hartford-born Kurlansky shows in his highly accessible account how this "fish that changed the world" has triggered wars, provided jobs to generations of people, and impacted global cuisine.
The Perfect Storm
by Sebastian Junger, 1997
Boston-born investigative journalist Junger’s dramatic bestseller follows the ill-fated fishing boat Andrea Gail, and its crew, as she sails out of Gloucester and runs into a lethal nor’easter off the coast of Nova Scotia. A wonderful true-life adventure later made into a terrific film.
Tuesdays With Morrie
by Mitch Albom, 1997
This mega-bestselling memoir describes the author’s time spent with his dying former professor, Morrie Schwartz, who taught at Brandeis University and who inspiringly shared his wisdom about life, love, spirituality, and death.
by Scott Turow, 1997
Turow’s bestselling account describes his experiences as a first year law student (a 1L) at Harvard Law School, where he’s forced to compete with the best while continually seeking to understand his own motivations for becoming a lawyer.
The Weight of Water
by Anita Shreve, 1997
Shreve’s bestselling historical novel speculates about what really happened in the case of the Smuttynose Island murders of 1873, when two New Hampshire women were murdered on the island. The Longmeadow author is a graduate of Dedham High School and Tufts University.
A Walk In The Woods
by Bill Bryson, 1998
The author, a longtime New Hampshire resident, describes his hilarious adventures hiking the Appalachian Trail with a friend. Like all of Bryson’s work, this account is elegantly written, meticulously detailed, and will leave you laughing so hard your stomach will hurt.
by Ha Jin, 1999
Boston-resident Jin’s novel, which won the 1999 National Book Award, is about the love between a married doctor and an unmarried nurse, who first meet in China and are forced to wait 18 years before the doctor can gain a divorce and marry his beloved nurse.
Revere Beach Boulevard
by Ronald Merullo, 1999
Born in Boston and raised in Revere, Merullo’s gripping novel tells the story of mobster and loan shark Eddie Crevine, who probably faces as much danger from his real Italian-American family (especially his TV reporter sister trying to expose him) as from his mob associates.
Blanche Cleans Up
by Barbara Neely, 1999
Blanche White, the character upon whom Jamaica Plain novelist Neely has based a series of addictive mysteries, is both amateur detective and a queen-sized, middle-aged, working-class black woman. In this mystery, complications ensue after Blanche gets suckered into standing in as cook-housekeeper for Allister Brindle, a Boston Brahmin politician, and his do-gooder wife.
by Michael Patrick McDonald, 2000
A gut-wrenching memoir about the author’s anguished, tragedy-filled childhood in the housing projects of South Boston. McDonald’s simply-crafted story, as good a rendering of the Irish-American experience as anything ever written, achieves a haunting, lyrical grace through the unadorned way it depicts the tragedies of drug abuse, alcoholism, loss, survival and, ultimately, redemption.
The Rascal King
by Jack Beatty, 2000
A thoroughly researched and eye-opening biography of James Michael Curley, former mayor of Boston and paragon of a bygone style of Irish-American politics. In Bostonian Beatty's fine rendering, the fascinating Curley was both a scoundrel and master of populist politics.
The House of Sand and Fog
by Andre Dubus III, 2000
Massachusetts novelist Dubus grippingly tells the story of the American Dream gone wrong, as an Iranian immigrant, a single American woman, and a sheriff engage in an escalating struggle over possession of a house.
by Richard Russo, 2001
Set in the fictional town of Empire Falls, Maine, an old mill town that’s seen better days, Russo’s Pulitzer-winning novel centers on Miles Roby, manager of the Empire Grill, who watches his business, his town, and his family deteriorate around him.
by David McCullough, 2001
A brilliant and entertaining biography of Quincy's own John Adams, exploring his New England upbringing and his central role in moving the American colonies toward independence. The unique relationship between Adams and wife Abigail is also a fascinating focus of McCullough's narrative.
by Dennis Lehane, 2001
Dorchester-born Lehane’s gritty 2001 crime novel about three boyhood friends from Boston caught in a web of tragedy also became an Oscar-winning film starring Sean Penn. Mystery master Lehane has recently begun crossing genres, and his latest novel, “The Given Day” (historical fiction) may be his best work yet.
by Julia Glass, 2002
In the Boston-born Glass’s debut novel, which earned her a National Book Award in 2002, we follow the lives of the McLeod family across the years, as its members grapple with loss, illness, and the challenges of relationships. Glass’s prose is sublime, and her story is structured with the craftsmanship of a master.
The Prince of Providence
by Mike Stanton, 2003
A compelling biography of former Providence mayor Buddy Cianci who, despite being haunted by corruption and criminal charges, revitalized the Rhode Island capital city through hard work and his "colorful" political style in the mold of James Michael Curley's.
The Da Vinci Code
by Dan Brown, 2003
Born in Exeter, N.H., Brown has become one of the giants of contemporary fiction. In this wildly popular mystery novel, Brown’s plot describes the efforts of Robert Langdon, professor of religious symbology at Harvard University, trying to solve the murder of renowned curator Jacques Saunière of Paris’s Louvre Museum.
Mountains Beyond Mountains
by Tracy Kidder, 2004
This compassionate, inspiring 2003 biography tells the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Cambridge resident and physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Farmer, a specialist in infectious diseases, sacrifices his time, his money, and more to bring world-class healthcare to impoverished nations like Haiti.
The Late George Apley
by John P. Marquand, 2004
Through the memorable character of the Harvard-educated George Apley, Marquand satirizes the upper-class pretensions of Boston’s Beacon Hill Brahmins. The popular novel won the author (an alum of Newburyport High School and Harvard) a Pulitzer Prize in 1938.
by Zadie Smith, 2005
British novelist Smith spent a year teaching at Harvard, helping her create the New England college setting for this award-winning and often-hilarious novel about a British academic and his family. Like much of Smith’s work, “On Beauty” humorously examines the difficulties of cultural identity and the challenges of cross-generational understanding.
The Secret Life of Lobsters
by Trevor Corson, 2005
Boston-based journalist Corson herein tells the story of why Maine’s lobsters were disappearing in the 1980s, focusing on the dual perspectives of lobstermen and marine biologists. Corson entertainingly tells his readers more about lobsters, including their unusual anatomy and unique sex lives, than they’ll learn anywhere else.
by Tom Perrotta, 2005
Belmont-resident Perotta’s acclaimed 2004 novel tells the dark, though often funny, tale of a suburban Boston town and its summer of sex, lies, and lurking danger. Perotta’s novel was adapted into an award-winning 2006 film starring Kate Winslet.
Team of Rivals
by Doris Kearns Goodwin, 2005
The perennially bestselling Massachusetts historian, and huge Red Sox fan, herein describes how our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, brilliantly led the nation with the help of a Cabinet filled with his former political rivals.
by Nathaniel Philbrick, 2006
Nantucket-resident Philbrick, in this bestselling account, tells how it all started with the voyage of the “Mayflower” and the difficult early decades of Plymouth Plantation. Philbrick makes it clear that the idyllic vision of Pilgrims and Indians living in harmony was not the reality, as he concludes his page-turning narrative with the brutality of King Philip’s War waged across New England in the late 17th century.
The Emperor's Children
by Claire Messud, 2006
Somerville resident and Yale graduate Messud wrote this bestselling, critically acclaimed 2006 novel about three privileged friends in their early thirties, living in Manhattan in the months before Sept. 11, 2001, and their struggles to achieve lofty expectations in their personal and professional lives.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
by Junot Diaz, 2007
Fiction master Diaz, who’s a professor at MIT, paints an immigrant family’s saga on a broad canvas, spreading from the Dominican Republic to New Jersey. At times hilarious, experimental, and always gripping, Diaz’s one-of-a-kind, Pulitzer-winning novel has been described as “astoundingly great” by Time magazine.
by Jodi Picoult, 2007
Hanover, N.H. novelist Picoult, educated at Harvard, here describes the fictional town of Sterling, N.H., where not much ever happens until one shocking act of violence occurs. In Picoult’s wildly popular novel (a book club favorite), Sterling's residents then seek justice, understanding, and healing.
by Elizabeth Strout, 2008
Set in Crosby, Maine, Strout's one-of-a-kind novel offers 13 inter-related stories about the life and times of the title character, a sometimes curmudgeonly retired math teacher who bemoans the failings of her students, her town, and those around her. Yet Strout (born in Portland, Maine) humanizes Olive, making us sympathize with her sense of loss and sadness.
by Jhumpa Lahiri, 2008
The author grew up in Kingston, R.I., and attended Boston University (where she later taught). “Unaccustomed Earth,” named one of the “ten best books of 2008” by “The New York Times Book Review,” is a gorgeously written collection of short stories that examines the challenges of cross-cultural understanding as characters move between India, Europe, and the United States.