100 books like Baltimore Revisited

By P. Nicole King (editor), Kate Drabinski (editor), Joshua Clark Davis (editor)

Here are 100 books that Baltimore Revisited fans have personally recommended if you like Baltimore Revisited. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City

Mary Rizzo Author Of Come and Be Shocked: Baltimore Beyond John Waters and the Wire

From my list on why Baltimore's problems are so hard to fix.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a cultural historian of 20th century America, I’m fascinated by how culture is used to rebel against the status quo and how the status quo fights back. In my first book, Class Acts: Young Men and the Rise of Lifestyle, I looked at greasers, hippies, and white hip hop lovers to understand how they used style and fashion to push back against being white and middle class. In Come and Be Shocked: Baltimore Beyond John Waters and The Wire, I went beyond looking at how individuals shape their identity to thinking about how artists and city leaders shape the identity of a place. Can artists counter the efforts of cities to create sanitized images of themselves?

Mary's book list on why Baltimore's problems are so hard to fix

Mary Rizzo Why did Mary love this book?

A former journalist, Antero Pietila delves into the history of Baltimore’s battles over housing and race since the 1880s. He shows how racism and antisemitism shaped who could live where in Baltimore, eventually consigning working-class Black people to disintegrating neighborhoods in the inner city. Where this book is especially good is on the history of blockbusting in the 1950s and 1960s.

Pietila introduces us to the real estate agents who preyed on Black people desperate to move out of slums and shows us how they panicked white people into selling their houses cheaply to get out before Black people moved in. Pietila draws connections between this history and the more recent example of speculators who lured Baltimore residents into subprime mortgages. Baltimore successfully sued Wells Fargo for discriminatory lending in 2012.

By Antero Pietila,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Not in My Neighborhood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Baltimore is the setting for (and typifies) one of the most penetrating examinations of bigotry and residential segregation ever published in the United States. Antero Pietila shows how continued discrimination practices toward African Americans and Jews have shaped the cities in which we now live. Eugenics, racial thinking, and white supremacist attitudes influenced even the federal government's actions toward housing in the 20th century, dooming American cities to ghettoization. This all-American tale is told through the prism of Baltimore, from its early suburbanization in the 1880s to the consequences of "white flight" after World War II, and into the first…


Book cover of The Beast Side: Living and Dying While Black in America

Mary Rizzo Author Of Come and Be Shocked: Baltimore Beyond John Waters and the Wire

From my list on why Baltimore's problems are so hard to fix.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a cultural historian of 20th century America, I’m fascinated by how culture is used to rebel against the status quo and how the status quo fights back. In my first book, Class Acts: Young Men and the Rise of Lifestyle, I looked at greasers, hippies, and white hip hop lovers to understand how they used style and fashion to push back against being white and middle class. In Come and Be Shocked: Baltimore Beyond John Waters and The Wire, I went beyond looking at how individuals shape their identity to thinking about how artists and city leaders shape the identity of a place. Can artists counter the efforts of cities to create sanitized images of themselves?

Mary's book list on why Baltimore's problems are so hard to fix

Mary Rizzo Why did Mary love this book?

In the space of two years, D. Watkins published two stunning books about Baltimore. The second, The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir, is sharp and smart, but if I had to only choose one, it would be The Beast Side. In this slim volume of essays, Watkins invites us to explore the two worlds he lives within and between. He grew up on the tough east side, known locally as the beast side, and sold drugs, but also went to college and now teaches creative writing.

While there are many books by Black authors that use stories of poverty and despair to titillate or move white audiences to pity, Watkins does none of that. He speaks first to Black audiences, especially those who maybe don’t love to read, because literacy, he says, is a step towards liberation. The Beast Side may be the best way to see…

By D. Watkins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Beast Side as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Best Seller! Baltimore, one of our country's quintessential urban war zones, is brought powerfully to life by literary talent, D. Watkins

To many, the past 8 years under President Obama were meant to usher in a new post-racial American political era, dissolving the divisions of the past. However, when seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot by a wannabe cop in Florida; and then Ferguson, Missouri, happened; and then South Carolina hit the headlines; and then Baltimore blew up, it was hard to find any evidence of a new post-racial order.

Suddenly the entire country seemed to be…


Book cover of I Got a Monster: The Rise and Fall of America's Most Corrupt Police Squad

Mary Rizzo Author Of Come and Be Shocked: Baltimore Beyond John Waters and the Wire

From my list on why Baltimore's problems are so hard to fix.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a cultural historian of 20th century America, I’m fascinated by how culture is used to rebel against the status quo and how the status quo fights back. In my first book, Class Acts: Young Men and the Rise of Lifestyle, I looked at greasers, hippies, and white hip hop lovers to understand how they used style and fashion to push back against being white and middle class. In Come and Be Shocked: Baltimore Beyond John Waters and The Wire, I went beyond looking at how individuals shape their identity to thinking about how artists and city leaders shape the identity of a place. Can artists counter the efforts of cities to create sanitized images of themselves?

Mary's book list on why Baltimore's problems are so hard to fix

Mary Rizzo Why did Mary love this book?

In The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Streets, David Simon, also an author of nonfiction books about Baltimore, depicted Baltimore cops as Sisyphean figures trying to fight an endless wave of crime and failing. Baynard Woods and Brandon Soderberg tell a much less positive story about the police. They examine an elite unit called the Gun Trace Task Force which became, under its leader Wayne Jenkins, a criminal syndicate. Using their badges as weapons, these police officers robbed drug dealers of tens of thousands of dollars, planted weapons and evidence, and terrorized Black Baltimore residents.

As media pundits were wringing their hands about whether Baltimore’s people had gone out of control when they rioted after Freddie Gray’s death, we learn that these cops were literally robbing prescription drugs to sell them on the street. Even if you’re suspicious about the role of police in inner-city communities, this book…

By Baynard Woods, Brandon Soderberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Got a Monster as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The explosive true story of America's most corrupt police unit, the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF), which terrorized the city of Baltimore for half a decade.

When Baltimore police sergeant Wayne Jenkins said he had a monster, he meant he had found a big-time drug dealer―one that he wanted to rob. This is the story of Jenkins and the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF), a super group of dirty detectives who exploited some of America’s greatest problems: guns, drugs, toxic masculinity, and hypersegregation.

In the upside-down world of the GTTF, cops were robbers and drug dealers were the perfect victims,…


Book cover of The Black Butterfly: The Harmful Politics of Race and Space in America

Dean G. Lampros Author Of Preserved: A Cultural History of the Funeral Home in America

From my list on the hidden power of space and place to shape our lives.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in a post-industrial city that bore the scars of urban renewal, I developed an early fascination with historic preservation. I began my studies as an architecture major; by my second year, I switched to American history because my passion lay in studying and understanding existing buildings and landscapes. Preserved is the product of inspiration that hit me when I spotted a beautifully preserved funeral home. Most of the neighborhood’s nineteenth-century refined residential fabric had been erased, but the grand Italianate mansion served as a reminder of what the area was like at the start of the twentieth century. At that moment, I realized that this was a story worth telling.

Dean's book list on the hidden power of space and place to shape our lives

Dean G. Lampros Why did Dean love this book?

This book reminds us that in addition to shaping our laws, our institutions, and our culture, white supremacy has also shaped our nation’s landscape, from housing discrimination and redlining to blockbusting and urban renewal.

Although Brown focuses on racial segregation and Black neighborhoods in Baltimore, his insights speak to communities of color throughout the United States and how decades of hypersegregation in American cities have adversely impacted health, livelihoods, and lives.

What makes Brown’s analysis of the landscape of urban apartheid so compelling, however, is his recipe for dismantling it and replacing it with a new landscape of racial equity. 

By Lawrence T. Brown,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Black Butterfly as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The best-selling look at how American cities can promote racial equity, end redlining, and reverse the damaging health- and wealth-related effects of segregation.

The world gasped in April 2015 as Baltimore erupted and Black Lives Matter activists, incensed by Freddie Gray's brutal death in police custody, shut down highways and marched on city streets. In The Black Butterfly-a reference to the fact that Baltimore's majority-Black population spreads out like a butterfly's wings on both sides of the coveted strip of real estate running down the center of the city-Lawrence T. Brown reveals that ongoing historical trauma caused by a combination…


Book cover of On Middle Ground: A History of the Jews of Baltimore

Deborah Dash Moore Author Of Urban Origins of American Judaism

From my list on Jewish lives in urban America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in New York City on the corner of 16th Street and 7th Avenue in an apartment on the 11th floor. I loved the city’s pace, diversity, and freedom. So, I decided to study New York Jews, to learn about them from not just from census records and institutional reports but also from interviews. After publishing my first book, I followed New York Jews as they moved to other cities, especially Miami and Los Angeles. Recently, I’ve been intrigued by what is often called street photography and the ways photographs let you see all sorts of details that potentially tell a story. 

Deborah's book list on Jewish lives in urban America

Deborah Dash Moore Why did Deborah love this book?

Goldstein’s and Weiner’s history of Jews of Baltimore is an unconventional account of this border city. Jews in Baltimore were definitely located in the middle between white Christians on the one hand and Blacks on the other. The book does not flinch from uncovering just what this middle ground meant, how the antisemitism that pervaded Baltimore propelled some Jews toward conservatism (including the support of slavery) and others toward progressivism (including abolition). At the same time, the book explores the rich diversity of Jewish religious life in the city that parallels Jewish participation in building important elements of Baltimore’s economy. I loved learning about a city that was new to me.

By Eric L. Goldstein, Deborah R. Weiner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On Middle Ground as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A model of Jewish community history that will enlighten anyone interested in Baltimore and its past.

Winner of the Southern Jewish Historical Society Book Prize by the Southern Jewish Historical Society; Finalist of the American Jewish Studies Book Award by the Jewish Book Council National Jewish Book Awards

In 1938, Gustav Brunn and his family fled Nazi Germany and settled in Baltimore. Brunn found a job at McCormick's Spice Company but was fired after three days when, according to family legend, the manager discovered he was Jewish. He started his own successful business using a spice mill he brought over…


Book cover of Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets

Jonathan R. Rose Author Of After the Flames: A Burn Victim's Battle With Celebrity

From my list on showing uncomfortable truths.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always strived to speak out when surrounded by silence, whether in person through my own voice, or through the books I have written and had published. Not because I am heroic or noble, but because I am angered by suppressed truth, and I believe reality should be shown as it is, not as people believe it should be. That is why the books I chose are so important to me, because they fearlessly exposed the truths the respective authors were determined to show, risks be damned. I hope these books inspire you as much as they have inspired me.

Jonathan's book list on showing uncomfortable truths

Jonathan R. Rose Why did Jonathan love this book?

I loved this book because it was the basis of the incredible show, The Wire. Before starting the book, I always wondered if in-depth journalism could be written as a thrilling story, and Mr. Simon's incredible work proved it absolutely can be.

Despite it being over 700 pages, I couldn’t put it down. The reality David Simon showed in every word and every page, in all its flawed and uncomfortable humanity, was nothing short of mesmerizing. The details were so memorable that I felt like I was walking the same streets he described. This book inspired me a great deal.

By David Simon,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Homicide as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the creator of HBO's The Wire, the classic book about homicide investigation that became the basis for the hit television show

The scene is Baltimore. Twice every three days another citizen is shot, stabbed, or bludgeoned to death. At the center of this hurricane of crime is the city's homicide unit, a small brotherhood of hard men who fight for whatever justice is possible in a deadly world.

David Simon was the first reporter ever to gain unlimited access to a homicide unit, and this electrifying book tells the true story of a year on the violent streets of…


Book cover of Her Name Was Mary Katharine: The Only Woman Whose Name Is on the Declaration of Independence

Beth Anderson Author Of Cloaked in Courage: Uncovering Deborah Sampson, Patriot Soldier

From my list on children’s stories on the American Revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an educator, I’ve experienced the power of true stories to engage readers, widen their world, spur thinking, and support content areas. I’ve learned plenty from these books, too! As an author, I’m fascinated with many aspects of the American Revolution that I never learned about as a student. Researching this time period has revealed much more than men at war. The revolution affected every aspect of life—a “world turned upside-down.” Today, we’re fortunate to have a range of stories that help kids understand that history is about people much like them facing the challenges of their time and place. 

Beth's book list on children’s stories on the American Revolution

Beth Anderson Why did Beth love this book?

We all know about the Declaration of Independence and recognize at least a few of the dozens of signatures of the men who signed it. But who knew about the single female name that appears on the document?

Here’s the story of Mary Katharine Goddard, a businesswoman and newspaper publisher, who dared to break the norms of society. When the call went out for a printer to publish the treasonous Declaration, she rose to the task and went so far as to put her name on it! This story offers a fascinating peek into the life of a revolutionary woman.

By Ella Schwartz, Dow Phumiruk (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Her Name Was Mary Katharine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

A rousing picture book biography of the only woman whose name is printed on the Declaration of Independence.

Born in 1738, Mary Katharine Goddard came of age in colonial Connecticut as the burgeoning nation prepared for the American Revolution. As a businesswoman and a newspaper publisher, Goddard paved the way for influential Revolutionary media. Her remarkable accomplishments as a woman defied societal norms and set the stage for a free and open press. When the Continental Congress decreed that the Declaration of Independence be widely distributed, one person rose to the occasion and printed the document-boldly inserting her name at…


Book cover of Into the Suffering City: A Novel of Baltimore

G.P. Gottlieb Author Of Charred: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery

From my list on fabulous historical mysteries set in American cities.

Why am I passionate about this?

I read at least 100 books each year, mostly novels, and before I became a published author in 2019, used to send a list of my favorite 30 to hundreds of friends, friends of friends, and family. I began hosting New Books in Literature, a podcast channel on the New Books Network, in 2018, and have interviewed over 180 authors so far. It was tough to choose just 5 top books, but in looking over all those interviews, I remembered how much I loved reading these books, all set in the United States long before the 21st century.

G.P.'s book list on fabulous historical mysteries set in American cities

G.P. Gottlieb Why did G.P. love this book?

Sarah Kennecott is a brilliant young doctor who cares deeply about justice, but she’s not like other people; she doesn’t like noises and smells, she doesn’t understand chit chat, and she cannot interpret inflection or nuance.

It’s 1909, and the city of Baltimore is filled with gilded mansions and a seedy corrupt, underworld. Sarah struggles to be accepted as a doctor. After getting fired for looking too closely into the killing of a showgirl, she refuses to back down from the investigation and joins forces with a street-smart private detective who can access saloons, brothels, and burlesque theaters where Sarah isn’t allowed.

Together, they unravel a few secrets that could cost them their lives.

Loved a protagonist who is both a doctor and on the autism scale – we don’t see that many differently-abled protagonists in historical fiction, especially not in mysteries. Refreshing!

By Bill Lefurgy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Into the Suffering City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Baltimore Novel of Suspense

Baltimore, 1909. Sarah Kennecott is a brilliant young doctor who cares deeply about justice for murder victims. She also has a habit of displeasing powerful men and getting into trouble. After getting fired for looking too closely into the killing of a showgirl, she refuses to back down from the investigation.

Sarah forms a promising partnership with Jack Harden, a street-smart private detective struggling with terrible memories. They have much in common: Both defiant. Both independent. Both regarded as a bit unusual. Sarah gathers evidence in gilded mansions and fancy ballrooms. Jack follows leads into…


Book cover of We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops, and Corruption

Mara Leveritt Author Of The Boys on the Tracks: Death, Denial, and a Mother's Crusade to Bring Her Son's Killers to Justice

From my list on true crime books about cover-ups.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a longtime reporter in a small state with big politics, I’ve become fascinated by how sly intrusions of power can distort what should be routine police investigations. One of my sources observed, “Sometimes the cover-up is more interesting than the crime.” With that in mind, I began writing books to examine cases whose outcomes didn’t seem to make sense. It’s become a genre I call “crime after crime.”

Mara's book list on true crime books about cover-ups

Mara Leveritt Why did Mara love this book?

Fenton climbed a mountain here and reached the top. Freddie Gray has died in the back of a police van in Baltimore. Something’s wrong with that picture, but who’s going to question the city’s elite Gun Trace Task Force—a vanguard unit in the war on crime—when most civic leaders hold it in awe? Fenton, a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, digs in, doing the meticulous research and insightful writing that expose powerfully guarded secrets and plant a flag for accountability.

By Justin Fenton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Own This City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS’ CHOICE • The astonishing true story of “one of the most startling police corruption scandals in a generation” (The New York Times), from the Pulitzer Prize–nominated reporter who exposed a gang of criminal cops and their yearslong plunder of an American city

NOW AN HBO SERIES FROM THE WIRE CREATOR DAVID SIMON AND GEORGE PELECANOS

“A work of journalism that not only chronicles the rise and fall of a corrupt police unit but can stand as the inevitable coda to the half-century of disaster that is the American drug war.”—David Simon

Baltimore, 2015. Riots are erupting…


Book cover of Paradise Under Glass: An Amateur Creates a Conservatory Garden

Catherine Horwood Author Of Potted History: How Houseplants Took Over Our Homes

From my list on keeping your houseplants alive.

Why am I passionate about this?

I remember my first ever houseplant—doesn’t everyone? It was a spider plant, just a small one grown as an offset from my mother’s vast ‘mother’ plant. Yestwo mothers! The plant and my green-fingered mother got me hooked on houseplants. As a social historian, I’ve written about all things to do with the homeclothes, gardens, even gardeners themselves but houseplants? Why was there no social history of plants in the home? Where did that spider plant come from? And when? The answer is Japan in the late 18th century. But the truth is that plants have been brought into homes for centuries and their stories are fascinating. 

Catherine's book list on keeping your houseplants alive

Catherine Horwood Why did Catherine love this book?

Sometimes you don’t need glossy colour photographs of plants to be transported to green pastures. Ruth Kassinger charts her journey from complete plant novice to houseplant addict enchantingly with stories of visits to nurseries across the US as she learns about the plants she longs for and how they are grown. Before long, her conservatory fills with treasures, each with a story to tell. You come away inspired and encouraged to follow in her footsteps to create your own green patchwork of plants even if you live in the smallest apartment in the most inhospitable climate.

By Ruth Kassinger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Paradise Under Glass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Paradise Under Glass is a witty and absorbing memoir about one woman's unlikely desire to build, stock, and tend a small conservatory in her suburban Maryland home. Ruth Kassinger's wonderful story of the unique way she chose to cope with the profound changes in her life-a book that will delight readers of Eat, Pray, Love and I Feel Bad About My Neck-is interwoven with the fascinating history of conservatories from the Renaissance orangeries to the glass palaces of Kew.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Maryland, Baltimore, and urban sociology?

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