The most recommended books about Massachusetts

Who picked these books? Meet our 172 experts.

172 authors created a book list connected to Massachusetts, and here are their favorite Massachusetts books.
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A Delusion of Satan

By Frances Hill,

Book cover of A Delusion of Satan: The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials

Neill McKee Author Of Guns and Gods in My Genes: A 15,000-mile North American search through four centuries of history, to the Mayflower

From the list on to understand the true founding of America.

Who am I?

During my childhood in Canada, I was fascinated by the “Wild West” and the fact that my maternal grandmother, who lived with us, was born in Wisconsin in 1876, when Jesse James was still robbing trains. I became an international multimedia producer, and I always took an entertainment-based approach to my work, grounded in research. After I retired, I began to search for my roots, uncovering interesting stories of my ancestors. Besides accessing websites and books, I traveled to where they lived to gain insights, meet historians, and distant cousins. I also engaged expert genealogists to prove my lineage back to the Mayflower and Puritan settlers of New England. That allowed me to join the Mayflower Society.

Neill's book list on to understand the true founding of America

Why did Neill love this book?

I read this book because Salem was founded by another ancestor of mine, Roger Conant. He first settled in Plymouth but could not abide the Pilgrims’ fanatical creed. He was a Puritan but not a religious separatist. Most Puritans had dreams of reforming the Church of England, starting in America. Fortunately, Conant died before the Salem Witch Trials began, for he would have been shocked at these developments. (Unfortunately for him, the town stuck his statue in front of the Witch Museum.) Frances Hill’s book is a blow-by-blow account of how the hysteria of some adolescent girls captured the minds of Massachusetts’ residents, including educated people, causing the death of 20 innocent people. It is also a study of Puritan culture, as it went more and more “off the rails.”

By Frances Hill,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Delusion of Satan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This acclaimed history illuminates the horrifying episode of Salem with visceral clarity, from those who fanned the crisis to satisfy personal vendettas to the four-year-old "witch" chained to a dank prison wall in darkness till she went mad. Antonia Fraser called it "a grisly read and an engrossing one."

Emily Writes

By Jane Yolen, Christine Davenier (illustrator),

Book cover of Emily Writes: Emily Dickinson and Her Poetic Beginnings

Lisa Rogers Author Of 16 Words: William Carlos Williams and the Red Wheelbarrow

From the list on biographies to inspire young poets.

Who am I?

I love sharing poetry with children! I became inspired to write poetic picture books during my 20-year career as an elementary school librarian. In class, we often read aloud, discussed, and performed poems. My students considered word choices, identified alliteration, metaphor, and simile, and developed a sophisticated vocabulary of “beautiful” words. They delighted in using their senses to write about special places and moments and did research to create and illustrate fact-based poems about people and animals. In exploring poetry and biographies of poets, students found inspiration and used their authentic voices to craft their own funny, engaging, and thoughtful poetry.

Lisa's book list on biographies to inspire young poets

Why did Lisa love this book?

What experiences might children have that inspire them to write poetry? Author Yolen brings readers into the Dickinson home in Amherst, Massachusetts, where young Emily scribbles on scraps of paper in her father’s study. Emily reads her three-word poem to her parents, to the flowers in the garden, and to Mrs. Mack, who provides encouragement that’s as warm and appreciated as the desserts they share. Just as Emily takes time to ponder what is the essence of a poem, this imagined story unfolds at an unhurried pace. That pace, combined with the engaging illustrations, permits readers to linger on small moments and let their own imaginations wander. Poetry takes time, just as growing up does.

By Jane Yolen, Christine Davenier (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Emily Writes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Perhaps, she thinks, I'll make a poem.
Emily smiles.
The garden makes her feel all sunny,
like a poet.

As a young girl, Emily Dickinson loved to scribble curlicues and circles, imagine new rhymes, and connect with the bountiful flowers in her spring garden. The sounds, sights, and smells of home swirled through her mind and Emily began to explore writing and rhyming her feelings. She thinks about the real and the unreal. Perhaps poems are the in-between.

This thoughtful spotlight on Emily's early experimentation with poetry as a child offers a unique window into one of the world's most…

A Storm of Witchcraft

By Emerson W. Baker,

Book cover of A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience

Bryan Le Beau Author Of The Story of the Salem Witch Trials

From the list on the story behind the Salem Witch Trials.

Who am I?

A native of Massachusetts and married to a descendent of two of the accused, the Salem witch trials have long fascinated me. Armed with a Ph.D. in American studies from New York University – focused on American history, literature, and religion – a significant portion of my academic career has been devoted to research, publications, classes, and public lectures on the Salem witch trials, reflected in the third edition of my book, The Story of the Salem Witch Trials. The book is only one of several books and many articles I have published on various aspects of American cultural history, many of which relate in some way to what happened in Salem in 1692.  

Bryan's book list on the story behind the Salem Witch Trials

Why did Bryan love this book?

In his latest book, Baker explores the various explanations for the Salem witch trials. He concludes that there was no single factor, but rather the result of a convergence of conditions, political, social, cultural, and economic. 

He focuses on key players in the outbreak, including the accused, the accusers, the judges, and government officials who failed to deal with the hysteria in a timely manner, thereby sparing those who lost their lives in the process.

In his final chapter, he discusses the response of Salem town, “witch city,” to the events of 1692 and its attempt to mine the tourist opportunities while recognizing the personal tolls taken by the accused. 

By Emerson W. Baker,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Storm of Witchcraft as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Beginning in January 1692, Salem Village in colonial Massachusetts witnessed the largest and most lethal outbreak of witchcraft in early America. Villagers-mainly young women-suffered from unseen torments that caused them to writhe, shriek, and contort their bodies, complaining of pins stuck into their flesh and of being haunted by specters. Believing that they suffered from assaults by an invisible spirit, the community began a hunt to track down those responsible
for the demonic work. The resulting Salem Witch Trials, culminating in the execution of 19 villagers, persists as one of the most mysterious and fascinating events in American history.


Young Men and the Sea

By Daniel Vickers, Vince Walsh,

Book cover of Young Men and the Sea: Yankee Seafarers in the Age of Sail

Thomas M. Truxes Author Of Defying Empire: Trading with the Enemy in Colonial New York

From the list on 18th century mariners.

Who am I?

Since the publication of my first book in 1988, my emphasis has always been on history as “story.” That is, the stories of men and women in past centuries with whom we share a common humanity but who faced challenges very different from our own. My goal is to bring their stories to as wide an audience as possible. Whether they describe Newfoundland fisherman in the 17th-century North Atlantic, expatriate Irish men and women in 18th-century Bordeaux, or colonial New Yorkers defying British authority on the eve of the American Revolution, the common theme is the impact of trade and the sea on the lives of ordinary people.

Thomas' book list on 18th century mariners

Why did Thomas love this book?

The sea figured prominently in early American life.  Westward expansion is a dominant theme in American history, but as historian Daniel Vickers demonstrates, the horizon extended in all directions. For those who lived along the Atlantic coast, it was the East — and the Atlantic Ocean — that beckoned. In Young Men and the Sea, seafaring is a normal part of life. Drawing on the records of thousands of mariners sailing from Salem, Massachusetts, Vickers offers a fascinating social history of early American seafaring.  In what sort of families were sailors raised? When did they go to sea?  What were their chances of death? Whom did they marry, and how did their wives operate households in their absence? This book is destined to become a classic of American social history.

By Daniel Vickers, Vince Walsh,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Young Men and the Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Two centuries of American maritime history, in which the Atlantic Ocean remained the great frontier.

Two centuries of American maritime history, in which the Atlantic Ocean remained the great frontier Westward expansion has been the great narrative of the first two centuries of American history, but as historian Daniel Vickers demonstrates here, the horizon extended in all directions. For those who lived along the Atlantic coast, it was the East-and the Atlantic Ocean-that beckoned. While historical and fictional accounts have tended to stress the exceptional circumstances or psychological compulsions that drove men to sea, this book shows how normal a…


By Jennifer Gennari,

Book cover of Muffled

Jody J. Little Author Of Worse Than Weird

From the list on kids who feel like outsiders in their family.

Who am I?

I’ve always been drawn to stories about outsiders and misfits. Who hasn’t, at some point, wondered if they fit in with their family, friends, or school? I love the moments in stories when characters find their voice and recognize that being different can be empowering. As an elementary teacher, it’s my hope that each student in my classroom can share their uniqueness and let their voice shine. I want them to know that it’s okay to feel different or to be weird. The lead characters in the middle grade books I’m recommending all have that sense of being an outsider in some way. I hope you enjoy them.

Jody's book list on kids who feel like outsiders in their family

Why did Jody love this book?

"How can I be me in a loud world?Amelia is sound sensitive. Even the smallest sounds, like soft footsteps, and gum chewing feel amplified in her head. Imagine having to deal with that discomfort each minute of the day? Gennari’s beautiful, detailed writing helped me feel exactly what daily life was like for Amelia, including her struggles to fit in at school and home. Mostly it made me empathetic to my soft-spoken, introverted students who deal with their outgoing classmates every day. 

By Jennifer Gennari,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A young girl learns how to cope with her noise sensitivity and step outside of her comfort zone in this "thoughtful" (Beth Turley, author of If This Were a Story and The Last Tree Town), heartwarming middle grade novel that's perfect for fans of Tune It Out by Jamie Sumner and El Deafo by Cece Bell.

Ten-year-old Amelia does not like noise. From subway brakes to squeaky sneakers, she is sensitive to sound, just like her dad. Amelia has always worn noise-canceling headphones, but now that she's going into fifth grade, her parents want her to stop wearing them. To…

The Postmistress

By Sarah Blake,

Book cover of The Postmistress

Sally Cabot Gunning Author Of Painting the Light

From the list on for her side of history.

Who am I?

 I’ve always loved history, and especially those small stories, so often about women, that never made the history books. No big surprise then that as an author I eventually gravitated to historical fiction, and that all of my novels have featured strong, independent women. Women were wonderful sources for the kinds of stories I wished to tell – they kept journals and diaries; they wrote voluminous letters; they were excellent chroniclers of their time; they were clever and witty and brave, and they bared their souls. To be able to bring some of these women to life has been a most rewarding experience for me. I hope reading my books proves as rewarding for you.

Sally's book list on for her side of history

Why did Sally love this book?

There are a lot of World War II books out there, and in truth, I was growing tired of them until I read Sarah Blake’s. Partially located on my home turf of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the brush against our local history pre-World War II fascinated me. But Blake doesn’t stay local; she leaves the postmistress to do—or not doher job and flies off to London with a female war correspondent. How their stories cleverly intertwine is part of my fascination with this tale. Blake has a habit of dropping unforgettable characters on my doorstep, where they tease and tantalize long after I’ve turned the last page. 

By Sarah Blake,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Experience World War 2 through the eyes of two very different women in this captivating New York Times bestseller by the author of The Guest Book.

"A beautifully written, thought-provoking novel."-Kathryn Stockett, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Help

In 1940, Iris James is the postmistress in coastal Franklin, Massachusetts. Iris knows more about the townspeople than she will ever say, and believes her job is to deliver secrets. Yet one day she does the unthinkable: slips a letter into her pocket, reads it, and doesn't deliver it.

Meanwhile, Frankie Bard broadcasts from overseas with Edward R. Murrow.…

Caleb's Crossing

By Geraldine Brooks,

Book cover of Caleb's Crossing

Amy Belding Brown Author Of Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America

From the list on New England’s forgotten conflict.

Who am I?

I write historical fiction set in New England and based on the lives of real people. My New England roots go back to the 1630s when my English ancestors first came to the region so I’m steeped in its traditions and literature. I love doing the research for my books, especially when my characters lead me in new directions. I spent ten years digging into the conflict between the Puritans and the indigenous Natives and in the process discovered a largely forgotten story that has long-lasting implications for our day.

Amy's book list on New England’s forgotten conflict

Why did Amy love this book?

When Caleb’s Crossing came out I couldn’t wait to read it. Not only was it written by one of my favorite authors, it was inspired by a true story and set in the same place and time period as the novel I was working on. Brooks’ depiction of the love between a Puritan minister’s daughter and the son of a Wampanoag leader is fraught with tension as two very different cultures collide. The novel brings to life the forces driving the conflict through the characters of Bethia and Caleb as they struggle to navigate a perilous time and the looming prospect of war.

By Geraldine Brooks,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Caleb's Crossing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A bestselling tale of passion and belief, magic and adventure from the author of The Secret Chord and of March, winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

Bethia Mayfield is a restless and curious young woman growing up in Martha's vineyard in the 1660s amid a small band of pioneering English Puritans. At age twelve, she meets Caleb, the young son of a chieftain, and the two forge a secret bond that draws each into the alien world of the other. Bethia's father is a Calvinist minister who seeks to convert the native Wampanoag, and Caleb becomes a prize in the contest…

Much Ado about Baseball

By Rajani LaRocca,

Book cover of Much Ado about Baseball

Laurie Morrison Author Of Coming Up Short

From the list on for athletes and non-athletes alike.

Who am I?

I’ve always loved watching and playing sports, and now I love writing about them, too. As a former teacher, I’ve seen firsthand how sporty books appeal to sporty kids. But after publishing my novel Up for Air, which is about a star swimmer, I’ve been struck by how many readers tell me they connected deeply with the main character even though they don’t like sports at all. That made me think about what makes sports stories resonate, and now I look out for books that capitalize on all the most exciting and relatable things about sports while also offering compelling hooks to readers with all sorts of interests.

Laurie's book list on for athletes and non-athletes alike

Why did Laurie love this book?

How can baseball, math, salty snacks, and Shakespeare fit together in one book? I’m not entirely sure, but somehow, Rajani LaRocca has combined these seemingly disparate elements to create Much Ado About Baseball, a delightful retelling of Much Ado About Nothing. This magical summer adventure features two equally lovable main characters, Trish and Ben, math rivals turned baseball teammates who come together to solve a problem. I love that there’s a female pitcher on a team of mostly boys, and I love all the connections LaRocca makes between baseball and math. Whether kids are baseball fans, math whizzes, or neither of these things, they’re sure to enjoy this charming novel, which also features an extremely sweet dog.

By Rajani LaRocca,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Much Ado about Baseball as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Much Ado About Baseball is the best children's book I've read in the past 10 years!" -Brad Thor, New York Times bestselling author of the Scot Harvath series

"A moving tale of baseball, magic, and former rivals who come together to solve a problem." -Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

In this companion novel to Midsummer's Mayhem, math and baseball combine with savory snacks to cause confusion and calamity in the town of Comity by Newbery-Honor winner Rajani LaRocca.

Twelve-year-old Trish can solve tough math problems and throw a mean fastball. But because of her mom's new job, she's now facing a…

Mystic River

By Dennis Lehane,

Book cover of Mystic River

Scott Von Doviak Author Of Charlesgate Confidential

From the list on crime that bring Boston to life.

Who am I?

The roots of my debut novel Charlesgate Confidential are in the time I spent in Boston, most notably the three years I lived in the Charlesgate building when it was an Emerson College dormitory. I always wanted to find a way to write about that time, but it wasn’t until I immersed myself in the world of Boston crime—not only the novels of Higgins, Lehane, and company but nonfiction works like Black Mass and movies like The Departed and The Town—that I hit on the way to tell my story. I’ll always be excited for new Boston-based crime fiction, and I’m happy to share these recommendations with you.

Scott's book list on crime that bring Boston to life

Why did Scott love this book?

After Robert B. Parker, Lehane is the most successful and skilled descendant of Eddie Coyle (a debt he acknowledges in his introduction to a reissue of the Higgins book). While you can’t go wrong with any of the entries in his Kenzie/Gennaro detective series (or his later historically-based trilogy), this stand-alone novel about three childhood friends brought back together by a crime one of them may have committed is his most powerful work, as well as the novel that first spurred my interest in trying my hand at Boston-based crime fiction.

By Dennis Lehane,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This New York Times bestseller from Dennis Lehane is a gripping, unnerving psychological thriller about the effects of a savage killing on three former friends in a tightly knit, blue-collar Boston neighborhood.

When they were children, Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle were friends. But then a strange car pulled up to their street. One boy got into the car, two did not, and something terrible happened—something that ended their friendship and changed all three boys forever.

Twenty-five years later, Sean is a homicide detective. Jimmy is an ex-con who owns a corner store. And Dave is trying to…

The Babysitter

By Jennifer Jordan, Liza Rodman,

Book cover of The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer

Eric J. McNulty Author Of You're It: Crisis, Change, and How to Lead When It Matters Most

From Eric's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Educator Birder Provocateur Wine guy

Eric's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Eric love this book?

Whoa—what a true crime thriller! I spend time on Cape Cod and enjoy books set there. This book reveals the tale of a serial killer told by someone who was close to him—but who was just a bit too young to appeal to him as a victim.

The story is in part the co-author’s endearing and revealing childhood memories and partly the tale of grisly murder. Bringing the two together kept my reading light on way too late. Even though I knew the author lived to write the book, I could still feel the danger in her interactions with the serial killer. Chilling.

By Jennifer Jordan, Liza Rodman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This chilling true story and “harrowing account of the evil that can lurk around the edges of girlhood” (Carolyn Murnick, author of The Hot One)—reminiscent of Ann Rule’s classic The Stranger Beside Me—follows a little girl longing for love who finds friendship with her charismatic babysitter, unaware that he is a vicious serial killer.

Growing up on Cape Cod in the 1960s, Liza Rodman was a lonely little girl. During the summers, while her mother worked days in a local motel and danced most nights in the Provincetown bars, her babysitter—the kind, handsome handyman at the motel where her mother…

Everywhere Disappeared

By Patrick Kyle,

Book cover of Everywhere Disappeared

George Wylesol Author Of 2120

From the list on graphic novels that reinvent the book (literally).

Who am I?

I’m an artist who likes to write, but I’ve never been interested in classic superhero or pulp graphic novels. Early in my career, the word “comics” felt like an insult—it's not “real art,” right? Too childish! While that instinct was definitely wrong, I found a (small) world of experimental, abstract, genre-breaking graphic novels that combine art and writing in a wholly unique way. This is a list of some of my recent favorites that have inspired my drawing and writing practice, and will hopefully inspire you. 

George's book list on graphic novels that reinvent the book (literally)

Why did George love this book?

You could really choose any graphic novel by Patrick Kyle—they’re all excellent. I personally like this collection of his short stories. The art is abstract, cartoony, expressive, drawn with a stylistic boldness not often seen in graphic novels. 

The art could stand on its own, and often I find myself skimming this novel just to look at the art. But the narratives themselves are the real key here—completely original, contemporary thinking that discusses things like the end of cell phones and purifying skin creams. These narratives will change the way you think about narrative.

By Patrick Kyle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Everywhere Disappeared as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A keen observer of the absurd, Patrick Kyle's stories defamiliarize the machinations of life, work, and art with droll dialogue and his angular, humanely geometric drawing and sci-fi settings that recall set design more than satellite images. Kyle's figures may be foreign and his settings strange, but his stories resonate deeply.

Patrick Kyle lives and works in Toronto, ON. He is the author of the graphic novels Black Mass (2012), Distance Mover (2014), and Don't Come In Here (2016). At the 2016 Doug Wright Awards, he won the Pigskin Peters Award for New Comics #6 and #7.

Dance Upon the Air

By Nora Roberts,

Book cover of Dance Upon the Air

Katerina Simms Author Of Sapphires and Secrets

From the list on contemporary romance that are a little bit extra.

Who am I?

I have a little secret. I was late to the romance table. Though I grew up with a romance reading mother, my initial interests lay in the fantastical worlds of Paulo Coelho, Anne Rice, and David Gemmel. Romance seemed forbidden, and I didn’t touch the genre until my late twenties, when a nasty breakup sent my disillusioned heart looking for more. And what a revelation! Romance taught me to expect more from myself and my relationships. At the close of one creative career, it lit an unstoppable passion to become a contemporary romance author. And here I am, a decade on, writing romance and sharing my book recommendations with you!

Katerina's book list on contemporary romance that are a little bit extra

Why did Katerina love this book?

I can’t talk about contemporary books without mentioning the genre’s Queen, Nora Roberts. She’s the first romance author I ever read, and I have to say, Dance Upon Air really touched my “90s teenager” soul. Why, you ask?

Well, there was this exceptional time when everything New Age and witchy was in, and everyone listened to Enya, and mooned over Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock in Practical Magic. Ha! Roberts’ Three Sister’s Island series is all that in book form.

Think remote island, three women in the throes of finding love and themselves, with a magical and suspense-filled witchy subplot thrown in.

By Nora Roberts,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Dance Upon the Air as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Nell Channing arrives on Three Sisters Island, she hopes she has finally found refuge from her abusive husband. But even in this peaceful place, she feels haunted by fear. Then she discovers the island is suffering under a terrible curse and that she must find the power to save herself. Pbk: ISBN 0749932775.

A Catskill Eagle

By Robert B. Parker,

Book cover of A Catskill Eagle

Rob Avery Author Of Close-Hauled

From the list on a hard-nosed detective series.

Who am I?

I grew up in California when cameras had flashcubes, skateboards had clay wheels, and kids longed for a lime-green Schwinn Stingray. Sailing, surfing, beach parties, and rock music were staples of my youth. Over time, we lost the Beatles but found the Allman Brothers, Zeppelin, and The Who. Disco had not yet destroyed us. I ditched the skateboard but kept sailing. Later, I became a criminal defense attorney. My profession inspires me to write realistic mystery/thriller novels. My sailing provides the setting. My goal is to give readers a solid, entertaining tale while bringing them to warm waters and island cultures and putting a little sand between their toes.

Rob's book list on a hard-nosed detective series

Why did Rob love this book?

Spenser is a hard-nosed private detective living and working in Boston. When his girlfriend Susan runs off to California with another man, Spenser feels betrayed but understands. She has her freedom. Then his best friend, Hawk, is falsely arrested and jailed in the new man’s town. This sets off a firestorm of murder and violence as Spenser first frees Hawk and then they both attempt to free Susan from an abusive, if consensual, relationship. And then the CIA gets involved. A Catskill Eagle is the twelfth of forty Spenser novels written by Parker.

By Robert B. Parker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Catskill Eagle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Susan's letter came from California: Hand was in jail, and she was on the run. Twenty-four hours later, Hawk is free, because Spenser has sprung him loose—for a brutal cross-country journey back to the East Coast. Now the two men are on a violent ride to find the woman Spenser loves, the man who took her, and the shocking reason so many people had to die. . . . 

Praise for A Catskill Eagle

“Entertaining.”—The San Diego Union-Tribune

“His best mystery novel.”—Time

The Patina of Place

By Kingston Wm Heath,

Book cover of The Patina of Place: The Cultural Weathering of a New England Industrial Landscape

Sarah Fayen Scarlett Author Of Company Suburbs: Architecture, Power, and the Transformation of Michigan's Mining Frontier

From the list on architecture and social identity in industrial America.

Who am I?

When I was a kid I would cut out graph paper to design my ideal house. When I was in college, I walked into a class called American Material Life and had my eureka moment: “This is how I want to learn about people in the past!” I realized. I’ve been doing that ever since, first as a museum curator and now as a history professor. Houses, furnishings, and the way people interact with the built environment can reveal the complexity, diversity, and beauty of human lives.

Sarah's book list on architecture and social identity in industrial America

Why did Sarah love this book?

Kingston Heath’s captivating book Patina of Place investigates human relationships with working-class living spaces so powerfully. Sometimes I think parts of my book would have been better as a film for capturing what it feels like to move through a neighborhood and into a house. But Heath has managed to do it on static printed paper by combining historic photographs, first-hand accounts, childhood memories, and—most importantly, his gorgeous drawings!—to convey everyday experiences in New England’s three-decker housing units. What sets this book apart are Heath’s textured stories of women rearranging their furniture to make room for another family member; a child’s-eye view of his grandmother’s upholstered sofa; and one couple’s reflections on demographic change around their apartment of 50 years. 

By Kingston Wm Heath,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the booming textile industry turned many New England towns into industrialized urban centers. This rapid urbanization transformed the built environment of communities such as New Bedford, Massachusetts, as new housing styles emerged to accommodate the largely immigrant workforce. In particular, the wood-frame "three-decker" became the region's multifamily housing design of choice and is widely acknowledged as a unique architectural form that is characteristic of New England. In The Patina of Place, Heath offers the first book-length analysis of the three-decker and its cultural significance, revealing New Bedford's evolving regional identity within New…

The Book Rescuer

By Sue Macy, Stacy Innerst (illustrator),

Book cover of The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come

Mara Rockliff Author Of Doctor Esperanto and the Language of Hope

From the list on picture books about languages.

Who am I?

I am a children’s author best known for digging up fascinating, often funny stories about famous people—and forgotten people who deserve to be famous again. But only one of them inspired me to take up a whole new hobby: L. L. Zamenhof, creator of the international language Esperanto. Learning Esperanto turned out to be fun and easy. It helped me make friends all over the world, and got me interested in how language works.

Mara's book list on picture books about languages

Why did Mara love this book?

I’m so glad there is a children’s picture book biography of Aaron Lansky. His own memoir for adults, Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books, is so entertaining and engrossing that I’ve read it twice. While this picture book doesn’t have space for all of Lansky’s funny, touching stories, it does get across the amazing fact that thanks to one young man who refused to believe that a “dying” language should be buried, Yiddish was given new life—and a permanent address at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. (I recently visited, and it’s spectacular! There is a great children’s section, too, full of books, games, and fun activities.)

By Sue Macy, Stacy Innerst (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Recipient of a Sydney Taylor Book Award for Younger Readers
An ALA Notable Book
A Bank Street Best Book of the Year

"Text and illustration meld beautifully." -The New York Times
"Stunning." -Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Inspired...[a] journalistic, propulsive narrative." -Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"The story comes alive through the bold acrylic and gouache art." -Booklist (starred review)

From New York Times Best Illustrated Book artist Stacy Innerst and author Sue Macy comes a story of one man's heroic effort to save the world's Yiddish books in their Sydney Taylor Book Award-winning masterpiece.

Over the last forty years, Aaron Lansky…

Paper Love

By Sarah Wildman,

Book cover of Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind

Irene Wittig Author Of All That Lingers

From the list on hard times and resilience in the World War II era.

Who am I?

World War II has been the background of my life. My Viennese family fled the Nazi regime. My childhood was peopled with Holocaust survivors and other people displaced by war. My uncle was a refugee and was trained as a Ritchie Boy and sent to war. I have been inspired by how people can survive traumatic times and come out stronger and kinder.

Irene's book list on hard times and resilience in the World War II era

Why did Irene love this book?

A poignant, well-written and deeply researched non-fiction story of the author’s search for the girlfriend her grandfather had left behind in Vienna. As my family left Vienna because of the Nazi regime, and my own novel takes place in Vienna, I found Ms. Wildman’s book especially meaningful, raising the question not only of what had happened to the woman but also of how much guilt and responsibility the grandfather carried?

By Sarah Wildman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One woman’s journey to find the lost love her grandfather left behind when he fled pre-World War II Europe, and an exploration into family identity, myth, and memory.

Years after her grandfather’s death, journalist Sarah Wildman stumbled upon a cache of his letters in a file labeled “Correspondence: Patients A–G.” What she found inside weren’t dry medical histories; instead what was written opened a path into the destroyed world that was her family’s prewar Vienna. One woman’s letters stood out: those from Valy—Valerie Scheftel—her grandfather’s lover, who had remained behind when he fled Europe six months after the Nazis annexed…

Defending Jacob

By William Landay,

Book cover of Defending Jacob

Otis Scarbary Author Of Leo's Redemption

From the list on regional criminal/legal mysteries with a twist.

Who am I?

I’m a southern boy. I practiced law for thirty-five plus years, the last twenty-nine plus as a prosecutor. I loved that time of my life and handled a lot of cases, but it eventually took its toll. I was ready to leave that part of me behind. When I retired, I promised I would let all that go, but I discovered I couldn’t. I started writing because I kept remembering stuff, and I thought I could do a credible job recording it. Writing has helped me to get over it. If you read any of my books, I hope you’ll like them, but I love getting feedback even if you don’t.

Otis' book list on regional criminal/legal mysteries with a twist

Why did Otis love this book?

This is a legal drama/thriller/mystery that I couldn’t put down. The author does a credible job describing court scenes, but it’s not the thrust of the book. What really grabbed me was the psychological battles going on within the family. When you’re a prosecutor and your son is charged with a hideous crime, how do you handle that horror? Conflicts with your career are only part of it. Like other books on my list, this book was made into a theatrical release and was done credibly on the screen. The resolution of the story was done well, in my opinion, but it leaves you feeling somewhat dissatisfied. Like life, not everything turns out perfect.

By William Landay,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Defending Jacob as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

If your son was on trial for murder, what would you do?

Andy Barber's job is to put killers behind bars. And when a boy from his son Jacob's school is found stabbed to death, Andy is doubly determined to find and prosecute the perpetrator.

Until a crucial piece of evidence turns up linking Jacob to the murder. And suddenly Andy and his wife find their son accused of being a cold-blooded killer.

In the face of every parent's worst nightmare, they will do anything to defend their child. Because, deep down, they know him better than anyone.

Don't they?

Book cover of The Smallest Lights in the Universe: A Memoir

Bonnie J. Buratti Author Of Worlds Fantastic, Worlds Familiar: A Guided Tour of the Solar System

From the list on the planets and life outside the Earth.

Who am I?

As a child I was fascinated by space, planets, and the stars. Now I am a planetary scientist who has been involved with NASA’s interplanetary missions for four decades. I am curious, passionate about space exploration and discovery, and have been in leadership roles on some of these missions. I am also passionate about communicating these discoveries to the public. Learn about the planets from an expert, an insider who was there in the thick of the action during key times and who wants to communicate this excitement to you.

Bonnie's book list on the planets and life outside the Earth

Why did Bonnie love this book?

There can be no question greater than “Is there life outside the Earth?”. Sara Seager places her own search for planets outside the Earth - almost 5000 planets in other solar systems have been discovered in the past three decades, including Earth-like bodies - against her own life story and struggles as a scientist weathering the unexpected loss of a spouse and the raising of her two young sons. Astronomers estimate there are billions of undiscovered planets just in our Galaxy. Seager paints our very own Earth as a bright point of community and connection in the vastness of space as she gives a first-person account of the technical challenges of seeking other planets and life elsewhere.

By Sara Seager,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Smallest Lights in the Universe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Science and Technology in 2020

'A stunningly original memoir ... her most human tale of love, loss and redemption is illuminated and given meaning by this backdrop. A beautiful and compelling read' Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone

In The Smallest Lights in the Universe, MIT astrophysicist Sara Seager interweaves the story of her search for meaning and solace after losing her first husband to cancer, her unflagging search for an Earth-like exoplanet and her unexpected discovery of new love.

Sara Seager has made it her life's work to peer…

Trompe L’oeil

By Nancy Reisman,

Book cover of Trompe L’oeil

Margaret Farrell Kirby Author Of Becoming Nora

From the list on characters navigating the fragility of life.

Who am I?

I have always wanted to be a writer. I love reading and am inspired by authors of character-driven novels—Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Berg, Colm Toibin, Anna Quindlen, and others—who take time to explore the inner thoughts and motivations of their protagonists. The novels I picked take the reader deep into the interior thoughts of their protagonists. As they explore the complexities of relationships amid the texture of ordinary life, they reveal the fragility and strength of the characters as we discover what simmers beneath the surface of their relationships. Long after reading them, I remember the characters and the time I spent with them.

Margaret's book list on characters navigating the fragility of life

Why did Margaret love this book?

Nancy Reisman brings her characters to life in this portrait of a family that begins after the tragic death of one of their children. Four-year-old Molly is killed by a truck while dashing across a street in Rome during a family vacation. In an instant, their lives change. 

We follow the family in the aftermath of the accident and over two decades. Reisman chronicles the birth of two more children and the slow dissolution of the Murphy’s marriage. The loss of Molly reverberates throughout the novel. Through varying points of view, we observe the guilt, regret, longing, and despair that affect each member of the family.

By Nancy Reisman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Trompe L’oeil as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Set against a backdrop of Rome, Renaissance artworks, and images of Mary Magdalene, Trompe l'Oeil portrays the ripple effects of a family tragedy and the ways in which its members perceive and misperceive themselves and each other.

During a vacation in Rome, the Murphy family experiences a life-altering tragedy. In the immediate aftermath, James, Nora, and their children find solace in their Massachusetts coast home, but as the years pass the weight of the loss disintegrates the increasingly fragile marriage and leaves its mark on each family member. Trompe l’Oeil seamlessly alternates among several characters’ points of view, capturing the…

The Surgeon

By Tess Gerritsen,

Book cover of The Surgeon

Thomas A. Burns Jr. Author Of Sister!

From the list on dark mysteries you should read with the lights on.

Who am I?

I’m not sure why the dark side of humanity has always fascinated me, as it does so many others. I’ve read mystery and horror stories ever since I was a young boy, gravitating to ever darker books as I aged. I’m a pantser—that means that I don’t totally know where a story is going when I start, so I discover it right along with the characters. I think evoking emotion is key to writing a riveting tale, so I try to imagine what my character is feeling as I chronicle their experience. Part of being able to do this well is reading other writers who can, such as the authors on this list.

Thomas' book list on dark mysteries you should read with the lights on

Why did Thomas love this book?

The Surgeon is the first book in Gerritsen’s immensely popular Rizzoli and Isles series.

Detective Jane Rizzoli is a cop’s cop with a huge chip on her shoulder from years of working in a patriarchy.

As a homicide detective, she has seen it all, which is why it’s all the more chilling when the serial killer she’s chasing begins to worm his way under her skin.

Gerritsen is a physician, so her medical descriptions are accurate and clinical, and again, serve to accentuate the horror of the crimes her antagonist is perpetrating.

Even as a man, I was able to identify completely with Rizzoli by the climax of the book and experience the horror she felt right along with her.

By Tess Gerritsen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Surgeon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “A briskly paced, terrifically suspenseful work that steadily builds toward a tense and terrifying climax.”—People (Page-turner of the week)

This ebook edition contains a special preview of Tess Gerritsen’s I Know a Secret.

He slips into homes at night and walks silently into bedrooms where women lie sleeping, about to awaken to a living nightmare. The precision of his methods suggests that he is a deranged man of medicine, prompting the Boston newspapers to dub him “The Surgeon.” Led by Detectives Thomas Moore and Jane Rizzoli, the cops must consult the victim of a nearly…