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Boston holiday gift guide for the book lover in your life

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Illustration by Paige Vickers

Have a book lover in your life? Gift them these tales about Boston and Bostonians.

The following list includes both fiction and nonfiction, including works for younger readers.


Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families

J. Anthony Lukas

↑ An incredible journalistic deep-dive into how the changes in the Boston region and in the City of Boston in particular in the 1960s and 1970s impacted the lives of the people who lived through them.

More than that, though, it is a tale of how the urban landscape morphed during that period; and how that change set the table for the rebound in urban living, for better or worse, that’s going on today.

All Souls: A Family Story From Southie

Michael Patrick MacDonald

↑ This fast-paced, cleanly written memoir chronicles South Boston—and other parts of Boston—back in the day, with a particular emphasis on the events and the effects of the 1970s’ busing controversy.

This is the book for those bibliophiles struggling to remember—though not romanticize—South Boston pre-gentrification.

The Last Hurrah

Edwin O’Connor

↑ The city that Edwin O’Connor’s novel is set in is never named.

Nevertheless, everyone knows The Last Hurrah is about (mostly Irish-American) power players and political intrigue in Boston in the early 20th century.

The novel’s Frank Skeffington is basically a stand-in for James M. Curley, legendary Boston mayor, Massachusetts governor, etc.

And, yes, the phrase springs from the title.

The Boston Girl

Anita Diamant

↑ The novel is ostensibly about the long life of the fictional Addie Baum, but it also weaves a larger tale about immigrant life in Boston going back a century.

The Given Day

Dennis Lehane

↑ Another novel that starts—and, in this case, also ends—100 years or so ago, The Given Day traces divergent storylines that converge on the 1919 Boston police strike.

The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway

Doug Most

↑ This history of the good, the bad, and the ugly that went into the development of the T is also about the development of the Boston region at a crucial time. Oh, the directions the area could’ve gone in, but didn’t!

Plus, The Race Underground answers crucial questions such as why the hub-and-spoke design for the T—who came up with that genius idea?

What’s the Big Idea? Four Centuries of Innovation in Boston

Stephen Krensky

↑ This nonfiction book for adolescent readers is exactly what its title implies: A rundown of the inventive twists and turns in the region since the 1600s in fields as disparate as poetry, engineering, education, and food.

Kimberly Vardeman/Flickr

Make Way for Ducklings

Robert McCloskey

↑ The children’s classic is essentially the story of one couple’s hunt for a decent place to live in Boston. Fun for the wee ones, but also very relatable for grownups.