Reading list for kids, teens visiting Boston for the first time

La Bibliotequetress asks:

We want book suggestions for kids/YA coming to Boston for first time. History fiction or non fiction to read before trip?




Some answers via Twitter

By on

Common Ground

For older kids, I'd recommend "Common Ground." It's one of the best books ever written about Boston, Bostonians and Boston culture. Although surely not intended, it also gives great insight into the types of people who still don't want bridges in "their" city named after Jews. Also, "The Last Hurrah" and "The Friends of Eddie Coyle."

For younger kids, "Johnny Tremain" can't be beat.

Funny you'd mention Eddie

Funny you'd mention Eddie Coyle-- I have that on my list to reread to get the right age recommendation.

"The Last Hurrah" looks interesting. I remember the Huntington doing the play a while back but I didn't realize what it was about.

"The Last Hurrah"

"The Last Hurrah" is set in a fictional, Boston-like city but it's really about Boston, James Michael Curley, and the death of ward politics. I read it when I was a teenager but I don't know if any kid would enjoy it now.

The Spensers--especially, the earlier ones--are a lot of fun and there's always William Martin's "Back Bay" and "Harvard Yard." I'd say they're all page-turning guilty pleasures for older kids.

Second "The Last Hurrah"

By on

So far as historical fiction, it's pretty hard to beat. Captures perfectly a changing face of Boston politics (even though Boston is never named.) Be sure to tell the kids that the main character is actually James Michael Curley.


I will second Johnny Tremain

Much, much, more dry, but I first read Whitehill's Topographic History of Boston in 8th grade is a go to for a history of the city's development along with some interesting sidebars like muskrat hunting in the Charles and the rituals of Pope Day.

For pre-teen girls --

By on

Emma's Journal by Marissa Moss (author of the Amelia's Journal series)

"The year is 1774, and the British army has blockaded Boston. Ten-year-old Emma is stuck at Aunt Harmony's house in the city, far from her family. Emma desperately wants to help the American struggle for freedom. When Papa gives her a secret code the militia uses, she finally gets her chance to change the course of history."

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing

By on

was the most extraordinary book that I've read in ages--definitely for older kids or teens since it takes a pretty complex look at the goings-on in Boston before and during the Revolution. I definitely second Johnny Tremain for younger kids and the Jane Langton books set in Concord are wonderful.

Edward Rowe Snow

..has several books that focus on Boston.

I remember when he showed up at the Walter Parker Junior High School in 68 to do an assembly on ship history.

They all make a nice bridge between a teen book and a grown up book.

"The Romance of Boston Bay" is one. He wrote another about the Harbor Islands.

The Big U

The Big U by Neal Stephenson is required reading for anyone attending, living near, or otherwise involved with Boston University.

Great Author

By on

I had forgotten about that book. Also by the same author, set around Boston, and a quite hilarious story about a "Greenpeace" type chemist: Zodiac.
But I guess the rampant drug use in it makes it not so suitable [in some people's minds] for YA. Then again at that age I had already read "A Scanner Darkly" by Philip K. Dick.

Sounds interesting, and I'll

Sounds interesting, and I'll check it out.

Some kids-- and more importantly, some parents-- can handle the drug content and others can't. One of the reasons I'm not a YA librarian is because I tend to assume teens can read adult material, like you did. My YA librarian colleagues are much better at making that judgment call than I, based on the reader. I grew up before YA ballooned to the market it now is. While the robust YA scene is a huge improvement, and the YA options entice many teens to read more than they would be otherwise, having some more adult options in the mix is good. By 15, I was reading adult books because that was the only option once I read To Kill A Mockingbird and The Once and Future King.

Here's a thought- ask a librarian!

By on

Sorry to be harsh. I would have been nicer to a different screen name.

It depends on the age. Make Way For Ducklings for a toddler up to Bibles, Brahmins, and Bosses, which was required reading for U.S. history in high school.

These are excellent recommendations!

A number of books here I either had not considered for YA or didn't know. Thanks a lot & please keep them coming!

This was inspired by a question I received from a school librarian in Virginia who knows first hand how kids who live near historic sites grow up reading so much more on that history than kids elsewhere.

A Classic

By on

"Hello Wally" by the literary genius Jerry Remy.

That's not even a question...

By on

"History fiction or non fiction to read before trip?"

What's with people nowadays not being able to actually ask a question, and instead act stupid and write an incomplete sentence with a question mark at the end? Just another sign of our moronic times, I guess.


Anyone ever tell you you're a real ray of fucking sunshine?

Oh horrors

By on

The little people are writing stuff and it is soooo dreadful!

How dare they attempt to use informal speech that makes the point clear!

I guess it really makes me feel special and superior, though. That is a plus!


By on

Buddy if that's your biggest problem today then I would say you are a lucky man. Honestly, are you really that miserable?

for the more mature YA reader...

By on

Dennis Lehane's The Given Day and Live by Night are super historical fiction centered on a Boston family from the WW1 era to prohibition. Has lots of historical context that describes why Boston is how it is today, including Brahmin vs Irish, the cop strike, and the mob. Sensational to a point, but great reads. The second book ranges fairly far afield from Boston, but tracks the family.

Lehane is dropping a new novel this year and I can't wait.