Summer Reading List, Boston Edition

Get lost in a great summer read, like this woman on Crane’s Beach in Ipswich, Mass.
Get lost in a great summer read, like this woman on Crane’s Beach in Ipswich, Mass. –Yoon S. Byun/The Boston Globe

With only a few weeks of summer left, why not make the most of it by filling your days with some juicy summer reading?

We’ve compiled the following selection of Boston-themed books, all recommended by Boston librarians, booksellers, and other trusted bibliophiles. Most are fiction (F), some are nonfiction (NF), but all have a direct connection to the city we love.

Dive in!

The Rascal King: The Life and Times of James Michael Curley, 1874-1958 by Jack Beatty: A spellbinding biography of the famous mayor of Boston, with stories of both glory and graft. (NF)

Mortal Friends by James Carroll: A saga that sweeps from the Irish Rebellion in the 1920s to JM Curley’s Boston, full of Irish lore and fateful decisions. (F)


Fire in the Grove: the Cocoanut Grove Tragedy and Its Aftermath by John C. Esposito: The story of the tragic 1942 nightclub fire that killed 492 people. (NF)

Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn: A memoir about the author’s experience working at a Boston homeless shelter, where he is reconnected with his estranged con-man father. (NF)

The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins: Mobsters, cops, and thieves come to life in this classic crime novel, inspired by Higgins’ years as a mob prosecutor in Massachusetts. (F)

The Bostonians by Henry James: A Mississippi lawyer navigates relationships and the feminist political movement in late-1800s Boston. The term “Boston marriage’’ comes from this book. (F)

Defending Jacob by William Landay: A suspenseful courtroom drama about a suburban Boston couple struggling to defend their young son, the prime suspect in a grisly murder. (F)

The Given Day by Dennis Lehane: By the author of another great Boston novel, Gone Baby Gone, this is an epic of two families – one black, one white – living in Boston amidst post-WWI unrest. (F)

Black Mass: The Irish Mob, the FBI, and the Devil’s Deal by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill: The book about Whitey Bulger responsible for bringing Johnny Depp to Boston. (NF)


Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families by J. Anthony Lukas: An examination of racial tension, busing and school integration in 1970s Boston, told from the perspective of three families – one black, and two white. (NF)

The Late George Apley by John P. Marquand: This Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel follows the diminishing fortunes of an upper-crust Boston family in the early 20th century. (F)

The Last Hurrah by Edwin O’Connor: Also based on the career of JM Curley, this famous novel centers around a larger-than-life Irish-American political boss as he runs for his last term as Boston mayor. (F)

Run by Ann Patchett: From the author of Bel Canto comes this story of an ambitious former mayor of Boston, his two sons, and a New England snowstorm that changes their lives. (F)

The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl: An original crime story about a group of Harvard scholars who translate Dante’s The Divine Comedy in 1865, and the series of murders that breaks out across Boston after they finish. (F)

Dark Tide: the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 by Stephen Puleo: The story of the unusual tragedy in the North End that claimed 21 lives. (NF)

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro: This gripping Faustian tale was inspired by the real-life unsolved robbery of 13 priceless paintings from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. (F)

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