Read your way through Boston neighborhoods with these books!
ALLSTON/BRIGHTON: Eleven Seconds: A Story of Tragedy, Courage & Triumph by Travis Roy
In this heartfelt testament to the power of love and the strength of the human spirit, Travis Roy, who suffered a devastating injury eleven seconds into his first college hockey game, reveals how he has managed to cope after the accident and, with the help of family and friends, overcome tremendous barriers to begin a new life.
BACK BAY: Stronger by Jeff Bauman
When Jeff Bauman woke up on Tuesday, April 16th, 2013 in the Boston Medical Center, groggy from a series of lifesaving surgeries and missing his legs, the first thing he did was try to speak. When he realized he couldn’t, he asked for a pad and paper and wrote down seven words: Saw the guy. Looked right at me, setting off one of the biggest manhunts in the country’s history.
Just thirty hours before, Jeff had been at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon cheering on his girlfriend, Erin, when the first bomb went off at his feet. As he was rushed to the hospital, he realized he was severely injured and that he might die, but he didn’t know that a photograph of him in a wheelchair was circulating throughout the world, making him the human face of the Boston Marathon bombing victims, or that what he’d seen would give the Boston police their most important breakthrough.
In Stronger, Jeff describes the chaos and terror of the bombing itself and the ongoing FBI investigation in which he was a key witness. He takes us inside his grueling rehabilitation, and discusses his attempt to reconcile the world’s admiration with his own guilt and frustration. . Brave, compassionate, and emotionally compelling, Jeff Bauman’s story is not just his, but ours as well.
BEACON HILL: Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
This classic tale of the famous Mallard ducks of Boston is available for the first time in a full-sized paperback edition. Awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1942, Make Way for Ducklings has been described as “one of the merriest picture books ever” (The New York Times). Ideal for reading aloud, this book deserves a place of honor on every child’s bookshelf.
CHARLESTOWN: Inside the O’Brien’s by Lisa Genova
Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.
Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?
As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.
DORCHESTER: Darkness, Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane
Master of new noir Dennis Lehane magnificently evokes the dignity and savagery of working-class Boston in Darkness, Take My Hand, a terrifying tale of redemption.
Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro’s latest client is a prominent Boston psychiatrist, running scared from a vengeful Irish mob. The private investigators know about cold-blooded retribution. Born and bred on the mean streets of blue-collar Dorchester, they’ve seen the darkness that lives in the hearts of the unfortunate.
But an evil for which even they are unprepared is about to strike, as secrets that have long lain dormant erupt, setting off a chain of violent murders that will stain everything – including the truth.
DOWNTOWN: The Last Hurrah by Edwin O’Connor
O’Connor’s 1956 account of big-city politics, inspired by the career of longtime Boston Mayor James M. Curley, portrays its Irish-American political boss as a demagogue and a rogue who nonetheless deeply understands his constituents. The book was later made into a John Ford film staring Spencer Tracy.
FENWAY: Reversing the Curse: Inside the 2004 Boston Red Sox by Dan Shaughnessy
With lively reporting, penetrating insight, and a keen sense of history, Shaughnessy brings the 2004 baseball season alive in all its glory, drama, and garishness as the Boston Red Sox victory turns everyday sports into the stuff of legend.
JAMAICA PLAIN: Hammurabi’s Code by Charles Kenney
When Boston’s most beloved public figure, Councillor Philip Stewart, is murdered in his home, the city is stricken with grief. As Boston reels from the shock of such a tragedy, newspapers across the city scramble to get the biggest story in this city’s recent history. Who would wish harm upon a man regarded as a sainted soul who dedicated his life to helping the poor and downtrodden? The Boston Post has put its best investigative reporter on the case. Frank Cronin has achieved near celebrity status himself as a shrewd, tireless journalist who always manages to get his story – even if it means bending the rules, ignoring conventional wisdom, or bucking political pressures. Before long, while rival papers are still printing their glowing eulogies, Cronin is hunting down the story no one else wants to know about. In death, facts about Councillor Philip Stewart are emerging that raise troubling questions about the true nature of his life, his character, and his deeds. As Cronin persists in stripping back the facade that in life made Stewart such a beloved public figure, the trouble begins. With pressure mounting to leave the dead man’s reputation alone, Cronin must put everything on the line – his job, his reputation, even his life – as he decides just how much of the truth to tell. Digging ever deeper into Stewart’s past, Cronin moves inexorably closer to unmasking the killer and his motive – but just when you think you know exactly what to expect, the story takes a stunning turn.
NORTH END: The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
Addie Baum is The Boston Girl, born in 1900 to immigrant parents who were unprepared for and suspicious of America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End, then a teeming multicultural neighborhood, Addie’s intelligence and curiosity take her to a world her parents can’t imagine – a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture and new opportunities for women. Addie wants to finish high school and dreams of going to college. She wants a career and to find true love.
Eighty-five-year-old Addie tells the story of her life to her twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, who has asked her “How did you get to be the woman you are today?” She begins in 1915, the year she found her voice and made friends who would help shape the course of her life. From the one-room tenement apartment she shared with her parents and two sisters, to the library group for girls she joins at a neighborhood settlement house, to her first, disastrous love affair, Addie recalls her adventures with compassion for the naïve girl she was and a wicked sense of humor.
Written with the same attention to historical detail and emotional resonance that made Anita Diamant’s previous novels bestsellers, The Boston Girl is a moving portrait of one woman’s complicated life in twentieth-century America, and a fascinating look at a generation of women finding their places in a changing world.
ROXBURY: Boston Boy by Nat Hentoff
Boston Boy is Nat Hentoff’s memoir of growing up in the Roxbury section of Boston in the 1930s and 1940s. He grapples with Judaism and anti-Semitism. He develops a passion for outspoken journalism and First Amendment freedom of speech. And he discovers his love of jazz music as he follows, and is befriended by, the great jazz musicians of the day, including Duke Ellington and Lester Young among others
SOUTH BOSTON: All Souls: A Family Story from Southie by Michael Patrick MacDonald
In All Souls, MacDonald takes us deep into the secret heart of Southie. With radiant insight, he opens up a contradictory world, where residents are besieged by gangs and crime but refuse to admit any problems, remaining fiercely loyal to their community. MacDonald also introduces us to the unforgettable people who inhabit this proud neighborhood.
We meet his mother, Ma MacDonald, an accordion-playing, spiked-heel-wearing, indomitable mother to all; Whitey Bulger, the lord of Southie, gangster and father figure, protector and punisher; and Michael’s beloved siblings, nearly half of whom were lost forever to drugs, murder, or suicide.
MacDonald’s story is ultimately one of overcoming the racist, classist ideology he was born into. It’s also a searing portrayal of life in a poor, white neighborhood plagued by violence and crime and deeply in denial about it.
SOUTH END: Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families by Jay Anthony Lukas
Winner of 3 different awards, this is a story of the busing crisis in Boston. The book traces the history of three families: the working-class African-American Twymons, the working-class Irish McGoffs, and the middle-class Yankee Divers. It gives brief genealogical histories of each families, focusing on how the events they went through illuminated Boston history, before narrowing its focus to the racial tension of the 1960s and the 1970s. Through their stories, Common Ground focuses on racial and class conflicts in two Boston neighborhoods: the working-class Irish-American enclave of Charlestown and the uneasily integrated South End.
WEST END: Tall Men, Short Shorts: The 1969 NBA Finals: Wilt, Russ, Lakers, Celtics, and a Very Young Sports Reporter by Leigh Montville
They don’t set up any better than this. The greatest basketball player of all time – Bill Russell – and his juggernaut Boston Celtics, winners of ten (ten!) of the previous twelve NBA championships, squeak through one more playoff run and land in the Finals again. Russell’s opponent? The fearsome 7’1″ next-generation superstar, Wilt Chamberlain, recently traded to the LA Lakers to form the league’s first dream team. Bill Russell and John Havlicek versus Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. The 1969 Celtics are at the end of their dominance. The 1969 Lakers are unstoppable.
Add to the mix one newly minted reporter. Covering the epic series is a wide-eyed young sports writer named Leigh Montville. Years before becoming an award-winning legend himself at The Boston Globe and Sports Illustrated, twenty-four-year-old Montville is ordered by his editor at the Globe to get on a plane to L.A. (first time!) to write about his luminous heroes, the biggest of big men.What follows is a raucous, colorful, joyous account of one of the greatest seven-game series in NBA history. Set against a backdrop of the late sixties, Montville’s reporting and recollections transport readers to a singular time – with rampant racial tension on the streets and on the court, with the emergence of a still relatively small league on its way to becoming a billion-dollar industry, and to an era when newspaper journalism and the written word served as the crucial lifeline between sports and sports fans. And there was basketball – seven breathtaking, see-saw games, highlight-reel moments from an unprecedented cast of future Hall of Famers (including player-coach Russell as the first-ever black head coach in the NBA), coast-to-coast travels and the clack-clack-clack of typewriter keys racing against tight deadlines.
Tall Men, Short Shorts is a masterpiece of sports journalism with a charming touch of personal memoir. Leigh Montville has crafted his most entertaining book yet, richly enshrining luminous players and moments in a unique American time.