Books every Bostonian should read

'All Souls' by Michael Patrick MacDonald. "All Souls" by Michael Patrick MacDonald.
By Elizabeth Gehrman
Boston Globe / October 1, 2010

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All Souls: A Family Story From Southie, by Michael Patrick MacDonald (2000): This memoir shows the bigger picture of South Boston’s working class and crime worlds through the family saga of MacDonald and his many siblings.

The Bostonians, by Henry James (1886): This comic masterpiece tells the fictional story of Verena Tarrant, a young beauty torn between feminism and romance.

Common Ground, by J. Anthony Lukas (1986): This tale of three families dealing with school integration in the 1970s won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction.

The Given Day, by Dennis Lehane (2008): Set during World War I, this nail-biter tells of a black ballplayer who kills a man and flees to Boston, where he crosses paths with an Irish beat cop. Babe Ruth and the Boston molasses flood of 1919 make cameo appearances.

Home Town, by Tracy Kidder (2000): The cracks in Northampton’s small-town facade are revealed in profiles of a police sergeant, a Smith College student, a drug informant, and others.

The Living Is Easy, by Dorothy West (1948): Upper-class black society in Boston in the early 1900s is profiled in this well-written cult classic.

Looking for Rachel Wallace, by Robert B. Parker (1987): Spenser, Parker’s popular private detective, has been hired as the bodyguard to a feisty feminist.

The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850): A classic of repressive Puritanism, this tale focuses on the adulterous Hester Prynne.

Summer of ‘49, by David Halberstam (1989): A meticulous re-creation of the pennant race between the Yankees and the Red Sox, the rivalry between Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, and an unforgettable era before steroids and scandals.

3000 Degrees, by Sean Flynn (2002): This book is a gripping account of the Worcester blaze that killed six firefighters in 1999.

Elizabeth Gehrman, a frequent contributor to the Globe Magazine, is a freelance writer in East Boston. Send comments to


101 things every Bostonian should know:
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