Boston in Books

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Boston in Books

Boston. Beantown. Home of America's oldest university, park and subway system. But what is it like to live in such a fabled and esteemed city? The titles on this bibliography explore that question. Six novels and one memoir tell tales of racial and economic inequality that are as American as apple pie.

(Please note all titles are linked to their physical copies; nearly all are also available as library ebooks via OverDrive and its app Libby.)

Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn 
In this memoir, the author recounts meeting his father, a derelict and a con artist, while working in a Boston homeless shelter. Nick Flynn is also an award-winning poet.

The Bostonians by Henry James 
A contest of ideals and battle of wills unfolds when Southern gentleman Basil visits his high-minded cousin Olive in Boston. The cousins both seek to influence and befriend the bewitching feminist speaker Verena Tarrant. James’s classic yet satirical novel is sure to delight fans of Jane Austen and Downton Abbey.

Caucasia by Denzy Senna 
Cole and Birdie are bi-racial sisters growing up in 1970s Boston. Cole passes for black while Birdie looks white. The sisters share a deep psychological bond that is upended when their parents’ marriage falls apart. Caucasia was published in 1998 to critical acclaim and commercial success.

The Idiot by Elif Batuman
This coming-of-age novel tells the story of Selin, a young woman from Turkey who enters her freshman year at Harvard. Selin’s insight and sense of humor smooth the transition to American culture as she befriends the charismatic Svetlana and the mysterious Ivan.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace 
Set in the future at a tennis academy in a Boston suburb, Wallace’s critically acclaimed novel breaks every rule of fiction. Nonetheless, the 1100-page modern classic entertains in an epic way. Put it on your bucket list for those long pandemic weekends.

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri 
Gogol is a college student who grew up in Boston after his parents left Kolkata. During his senior year in college Gogol finally learns the story behind his strange name. But how will he reconcile the differences between the two cultures? The Namesake was adapted for film by director Mira Nair. Author Jhumpa Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Hemingway awards for other works of fiction.

Run by Ann Patchett

Bernard Doyle is a widower and the father of two adopted brothers. He is also the former mayor of Boston who left office in disgrace. Patchett weaves a tight tale of love and redemption as told in one day and a snowstorm. Patchett is the critically acclaimed author of Bel Canto among others.