Memorial Hall Library

Once Upon A Time In Boston - A Gritty City Literary Timeline

Consider Boston, a shining "city on a hill." John Winthrop, the Puritan Bay Colony Governor, set the bar high quoting the New Testament to ascribe grand aspirations to a small peninsula sourounded by swampland.  Nineteenth century engineers that filled in what we now call the Back Bay could not have imagined that that their work would be upstaged 100 years later with the Central Artery project better known as the Big Dig.  Home to museums and dive bars, birthplace of the telephone and marshmallow fluff, Boston is simultaneously bawdy and erudite. At the end of the day, rowdy sports fans and Nobel prize winners all find themselves on the same T platforms. The very same place that Oliver Wendell Holmes (the poet and Phillips Academy graduate, not his son, the jurist) called, "the hub of the universe" is where you are just as likely to hear a world class symphony as you are to drive through black-snow-filled parking lots come springtime. It makes no difference if you line up for fried clams at Wollaston Beach or the dine at the Top of the Hub, proper Bostonians love to learn about the mighty metropolis bound by the Charles and the Atlantic. We hope you enjoy this selection of Boston nonfiction books that span from the 17th century through contemporary times.    

The city-state of Boston : the rise and fall of an Atlantic power, 1630-1865
The city-state of Boston : the rise and fall of an Atlantic power, 1630-1865
by Mark A. Peterson, 2019

 Following Boston's development over three centuries, Peterson discusses how this self-governing Atlantic trading center began as a refuge from Britain's Stuart monarchs and how--through its bargain with slavery and ratification of the Constitution--it would tragically lose integrity and autonomy as it became incorporated into the greater United States.
Bunker Hill : a city, a siege, a revolution
Bunker Hill : a city, a siege, a revolution
by Nathaniel Philbrick, 2013

Recounts the events of the Boston battle that ignited the American Revolution, tracing the experiences of Patriot leader Dr. Joseph Warren, a newly recruited George Washington, and British General William Howe
Dearest friend : a life of Abigail Adams
Dearest friend : a life of Abigail Adams
by Lynne Withey, 2001

Creates an authoritative portrait of Abigail Adams that captures her diverse roles as a prolific writer, First Lady, fighter for independence and equality, abolitionist, mother, and wife and confidante of John Adams, based on her letters. 
The Athens of America : Boston, 1825-1845
The Athens of America : Boston, 1825-1845
by Thomas H. O'Connor, 2006

In this book, historian Thomas H. O'Connor sets the matter straight by showing that Boston's eminence during the first half of the nineteenth century was the result of a much broader community effort. After the nation emerged from its successful struggle for independence, most Bostonians visualized their city not only as the Cradle of Liberty, but also as the new world's Cradle of Civilization.
All on fire : William Lloyd Garrison and the abolition of slavery
All on fire : William Lloyd Garrison and the abolition of slavery
by Henry Mayer, 2008

The author of Son of Thunder presents a definitive portrait of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and his role in the anti-slavery movement, discussing the impact of his newspaper The Liberator and his relationships with Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and other notable abolitionists. 
Tell it with pride : the 54th Massachusetts Regiment and Augustus Saint-Gaudens' Shaw Memorial
Tell it with pride : the 54th Massachusetts Regiment and Augustus Saint-Gaudens' Shaw Memorial
by Sarah Greenough, 2013

" On July 18, 1863, six months after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, one of the first American units composed of African Americans stormed Fort Wagner in South Carolina, led by Colonel Robert Shaw Gould. Although the regiment suffered great losses, the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry legitimized the idea of blacks serving in the military, and Lincoln considered their sacrifice a turning point in the Civil War. Twenty years later, sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens beganwork on a bronze memorial for this heroic troop, which was installed on the Boston Common in 1897. Tell It With Pride explores the enduring significance of this beloved monument. Original daguerreotypes, carte-de-visite portraits, and a full listing of the regiment's members, along with vintage and contemporary artworks by Matthew Brady, Lewis Hine, and Carrie Mae Weems tell the story of the legacy of the Battle of Fort Wagner and the role of photography in memorializing the regiment then and now. "
Jordan Marsh : New England's Largest Store
Jordan Marsh : New England's Largest Store
by Anthony M. Sammarco, 2017

Jordan Marsh opened its first store in 1851 on Milk Street in Boston selling assorted dry goods. Following the Civil War, the store moved to Winthrop Square and later to Washington Street between Summer and Avon Streets. The new five-story building, designed by Winslow & Wetherell, unveiled the novel concept of department shopping under one roof. It attracted shoppers by offering personal service with the adage that the customer is always right, easy credit, art exhibitions and musical performances. By the 1970s, it had become a regional New England icon and the largest department store chain in the nation
Dark tide : the great Boston molasses flood of 1919
Dark tide : the great Boston molasses flood of 1919
by Stephen Puleo, 2003

Describes the 1919 collapse of a steel tank containing more than two million gallons of molasses in Boston--a disaster that claimed the lives of twenty-one people, injured 150, and caused widespread destruction--the causes of the tragedy, its aftermath, and the sweeping social changes that transformed the era.
The race underground : Boston, New York, and the incredible rivalry that built America's first subway
The race underground : Boston, New York, and the incredible rivalry that built America's first subway
by Doug Most, 2015

Documents the dramatic and sometimes deadly competition between New York and Boston to build the first American subway, describing the rivalry between two brother subway engineers and their famous supporters. 
Fenway 1912 : the birth of a ballpark, a championship season, and Fenway's remarkable first year
Fenway 1912 : the birth of a ballpark, a championship season, and Fenway's remarkable first year
by Glenn Stout, 2012

Tells the behind-the-scenes story of Fenway Park's construction and the tumultuous--yet glorious--first season it saw in 1912, which culminated in a World Series battle against John McGraw's New York Giants.   Drawing on extensive new research, the esteemed baseball historian Glenn Stout delivers an extraordinary tale of innovation, desperation, and perspiration--capturing Fenway as never before.
The selling of the Babe : the deal that changed baseball and created a legend
The selling of the Babe : the deal that changed baseball and created a legend
by Glenn Stout, 2016

The first book to focus on the ramifications of the sale of Babe Ruth by the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees in 1919 reveals brand-new information about Babe and the unique political situation surrounding his sale, which transformed him from player to icon and sparked a new era in the game.
Rogues and redeemers : when politics was king in Irish Boston
Rogues and redeemers : when politics was king in Irish Boston
by Gerard O'Neill, 2012

The best-selling co-author of Black Mass presents a behind-the-scenes history of Irish power and politics in 20th-century Boston, documenting the arrival of the first Great Famine immigrants through the wresting of power from the Brahmins to the Title I housing wars and the social uprisings over public transportation.
Fire in the Grove : the Cocoanut Grove tragedy and its aftermath
Fire in the Grove : the Cocoanut Grove tragedy and its aftermath
by John C. Esposito, 2006
In 1942 Boston suffered its worst disaster ever. At the city's premier nightspot, the Cocoanut Grove, the largest nightclub fire in U.S. history took the lives of 492 people--nearly one of every two people on the premises. A flash of fire that started in an imitation palm tree rolled through the overcrowded club with breathtaking speed and in a mere eight minutes anyone left in the club was dead or doomed. Against the backdrop of Boston politics, cronyism, and corruption, author John C. Esposito re-creates the drama of the fire and explores the public outcry that followed. In retelling the horrific events of one of America's most cataclysmic tragedies.
Summer of '49
Summer of '49
by David Halberstam, 1989

The year was 1949, and a war-weary nation turned from the battlefields to the ball fields in search of new heroes. It was a summer that marked the beginning of a sports rivalry unequaled in the annals of athletic competition. The awesome New York Yankees and the indomitable Boston Red Sox were fighting for supremacy of baseball's American League, and an aging Joe DiMaggio and a brash, headstrong hitting phenomenon named Ted Williams led their respective teams in a classic pennant duel of almost mythic proportions--one that would be decided in an explosive head-to-head confrontation on the last day of the season.
The last pass : Cousy, Russell, the Celtics, and what matters in the end
The last pass : Cousy, Russell, the Celtics, and what matters in the end
by Gary M Pomerantz, 2018

THE LAST PASS situates the Celtics dynasty against the full dramatic canvas of American life in the 50s and 60s. It is an enthralling portrait of the heart of this legendary team that throws open a window onto the wider world at a time of wrenching social change. Ultimately it is a book about the legacy of a life: what matters to us in the end, long after the arena lights have been turned off and we are alone with our memories"
Astral weeks : a secret history of 1968
Astral weeks : a secret history of 1968
by Ryan H. Walsh, 2018

The award-winning video director and member of the Hallelujah the Hills band documents the story of the creation of Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks" album against a backdrop of the political and cultural turmoil of 1968 Boston, examining how other famous or lesser-known period artists raised awareness about key historical events and issues.

	Our bodies, ourselves
Our bodies, ourselves
by Boston Women's Health Book Collective

"The gold standard for women's health books, in time for the fortieth anniversary of the book's first publication, featuring new material and a completely updated approach to critical women's health issues. The name "Our Bodies, Ourselves" has become synonymous with women's health and protecting it. This updated edition contains vital new information on such issues as the HPV vaccine, changes in the healthcare system, cosmetic surgery, violence against women, healthcare activism in the twenty-first century, and much more. Since its original publication forty years ago, Our Bodies, Ourselves has sold more than 4 million copies worldwide, and resources based on the book are available in twenty five languages, in print, digital, and social interactive formats, and Braille. Called "America's bestselling book on all aspects of women's health" and "a feminist classic" by The New York Times, 300,000 copies of Our Bodies, Ourselves have been donated to women's groups around the world, creating an estimated readership of more than 20 million worldwide. This new edition will tie in closely to the group's website, one of the leading online women's health resources and a recipient of citations for its excellent quality from International Planned Parenthood Federation and Scientific American"
Common ground : a turbulent decade in the lives of three American families
Common ground : a turbulent decade in the lives of three American families
by J. Anthony Lukas, 1986

Probes the school integration crisis that shattered Boston during the decade 1968-1978 through portraits of three families--black, Irish and Yankee.  Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and the American Book Award, the bestselling Common Ground is much more than the story of the busing crisis in Boston as told through the experiences of three families. As Studs Terkel remarked, it's "gripping, indelible...a truth about all large American cities."
The soiling of Old Glory : the story of a photograph that shocked America
The soiling of Old Glory : the story of a photograph that shocked America
by Louis P. Masur, 2009

Traces the story behind the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1976 photograph in which an enraged white man used an American flag as a weapon on an African-American, examining how racism, cultural beliefs about the flag, and the power of photography combined to capture the famous picture.
Black mass : Whitey Bulger, the FBI, and a devil's deal
Black mass : Whitey Bulger, the FBI, and a devil's deal
by Dick Lehr, 2002
 James "Whitey" Bulger became one of the most ruthless gangsters in US history, and all because of an unholy deal he made with a childhood friend. John Connolly a rising star in the Boston FBI office, offered Bulger protection in return for helping the Feds eliminate Boston's Italian mafia. But no one offered Boston protection from Whitey Bulger, who, in a blizzard of gangland killings, took over the city's drug trade. Whitey's deal with Connolly's FBI spiraled out of control to become the biggest informant scandal in FBI history.
The Gardner heist : a true story of the world's largest unsolved art theft
The Gardner heist : a true story of the world's largest unsolved art theft
by Ulrich Boser, 2010

Documents the unsolved theft of the lost Gardner masterpieces, tracing the research of the late art detective Harold Smith while recounting the author's own forays into the art underworld of looters, mobsters, and investigators.
The hub : Boston past and present
The hub : Boston past and present
by Thomas H. O'Connor, 2001

A noted historian and author of Boston Catholics retraces the events that have continually shaped Boston and its cultural heritage for almost four centuries, making it one of the most resilient and unique cities in America.
Homegrown : How the Red Sox Built a Champion from the Ground Up
Homegrown : How the Red Sox Built a Champion from the Ground Up
by Alex Speier, 2019

A Boston Globe sportswriter documents the inside story of the 2018 Red Sox, identifying the shrewd planning and important decisions that led to the development of champion players and a successful organization. 75,000 first printing.