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Best Books Based On Boston

Boston skyline
File image (Credit: iStockphoto)

Boston is one of the oldest cities in the United States. It has also been a literary hub over the centuries. As such, there is a multitude of books based in or about Boston. From photography books to Gothic novels, there is plenty to read for those interested in Boston. The best bookstores in town have a great selection of these books available, so go browse and see what is on the shelves.

"The Scarlet Letter" By Nathaniel Hawthorne
Harvard University Bookstore
1256 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 661-1515

"The Scarlet Letter" is a surprisingly accurate view of both Puritan Boston and the beliefs of Puritan Boston. Obviously, it is a work of fiction and there is a touch of the supernatural betwixt the pages, but Puritan Boston was much as described. It was published in 1850 and is set in the 17th century, just a few years after Boston was founded. This novel is one of the most celebrated in American history and not a long read, so every reader interested in Boston history should try this story of adultery and betrayal.

Related: Boston's Best Independent Bookstores

"Old Boston In Early Photographs"
Boston Public Library - Central Branch
700 Boylston St.
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 536-5400

"Old Boston In Early Photographs" is a collection of prints courtesy of the Bostonian Society. They date from 1850 to 1918, giving readers a glimpse of some of Boston's earliest photographs. Sites include familiar ones like Paul Revere's House. Others are no longer a part of Boston, but are immortalized in this interesting coffee table book. Some of the most interesting aspects of these photographs are the attire and the vehicles. Have fun trying to guess which fad or early vehicle is on the page.

"Johnny Tremain" By Esther Forbes
Children's Book Stop
237 Washington St.
Brookline, MA 02445
(617) 734-7323

"Johnny Tremain" is an iconic children's novel based during the American Revolution. It centers on the eponymous character, who works as a smith's apprentice as he becomes involved with the Sons of Liberty and the revolution itself. While the novel is a fictional work, it gives children a great doorway into the most famous figures in Boston at the time, what was happening for everyday people in the town and just how the war began. There is a reason it is often part of the curriculum when it comes time to teach the Revolutionary War to children.

"The Gardner Heist" By Ulrich Boser
Boston Public Library - West Roxbury Branch
1961 Centre St.
West Roxbury, MA 02132
(617) 325-3147

Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was home to a massive art theft in 1990. Among the stolen pieces were irreplaceable works by Degas, Rembrandt and Vermeer, including the only seascape by Rembrandt. To date, the thieves have gone unpunished and the art still missing. This book is the true story of the heist, what was taken and just how the criminals were able to pull it off so successfully. True crime and Boston history buffs will love this tale.

Related: Boston's Best Places To Read Your Book With Coffee

"Boston Sites & Insights" By Susan Wilson
Porter Square Books
Porter Square Shopping Center
25 White St.
Cambridge, MA 02140
(617) 491-2220

For those looking to visit historic sites, take a walking tour or just learn a bit more about Boston, this book is great. Based on as much original source work as possible, it takes great strides to be accurate and up-to-date. The perfect book to act as a companion around Boston when traveling through the city or making it a point to tour it, "Boston Sites & Insights" will give even long-time residents something to think about. Even learn a bit of lore from its pages.

Shelly Barclay is a professional freelance writer and amateur author. She writes on a variety of topics from food to mysteries. She loves to share the culture and rich history of her birthplace and home, Boston, with the rest of the world. Her work can be found at


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