I personally love reading about places that I’m familiar with. When a character encounters a place I’ve been to, it adds a new dimension of reality to the story for me. More recently, I’ve had this particular, “I’ve been there!” epiphany more than a few times as I become more and more familiar with the city of Boston. It turns out many authors like to base their books here. I have compiled a short list for any of you Boston-based bookworms, so you can get as excited as I do when beloved characters ride the same T as you do.
- “Writers and Lovers”
Written by Lily King, “Writers and Lovers” is narrated by Casey Peabody, an aspiring writer in the Boston area who is trying to figure out her life. The story follows Casey amidst balancing her passion for writing with her love life, crushing school debt and feelings of isolation, all while processing the death of her mother. The story takes place in the summer of 1997 where Casey lives in Cambridge, works in Harvard Square and contemplates her life on the BU Bridge. It’s an entertaining story of self discovery, so maybe you’ll be able to relate to more than just the setting.
- “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow”
One of my all time favorite books, “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow,” by Gabrielle Zevin, begins at the Harvard stop on the redline where Sam Masur rekindles his friendship with his childhood best friend Sadie Green through gaming. The book touches upon the multifaceted qualities of identity, failure, friendship, miscommunication, jealousy, love and the need to connect. If you are to read any book on this list, I recommend this one.
- “The Idiot”
Set in 1995 in Cambridge, Elif Batuman’s “The Idiot” reads like an inner monologue of college freshman Selin. Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, embarks on her first year at Harvard, relearning how to make friends, sitting through classes and dealing with an all-consuming crush on a classmate. One of my close friends describes reading this book as “trying on a new brain.” The constant overthinking of every social interaction is all too relatable as Selin navigates her first love and year of college.
- “It Ends with Us”
You’ve probably heard of “It Ends with Us” by Colleen Hoover because it blew up on TikTok last year, leading to shelves of it on display in every Barnes and Noble. Like most Colleen Hoover novels, “It Ends with Us” is a contemporary romance novel with a twist. Protagonist Lily Bloom starts up a relationship with neurosurgeon Ryle Kincaid but every so often thinks of her first love, Atlas Corrigan. As the book does take place in Boston, the city plays a special role in one of Lily’s relationships, so read to find out more!
- “The Handmaid’s Tale”
This is a stretch, but Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” takes place in a futuristic New England society which very possibly could be post-apocalyptic Boston. While you probably won’t recognize any Boston landmarks, it’s a captivating dystopian novel. It follows the story of Offred, a handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, “a patriarchal, white supremacist, totalitarian theonomic state,” who is only valued for her ability to reproduce. Offred narrates her day to day handmaid activities while desperately trying to hold onto memories from her life before.
- “The Love Hypothesis”
While most of the story is set in San Francisco, the protagonist, Olive, takes a work-related trip to Boston where many exciting events in the novel unravel. “The Love Hypothesis,” by Ali Hazelwood begins with Olive, a Ph.D. candidate convincing her best friend that she has a boyfriend, when she does not, and ultimately kissing the first person she sees to prove her story. If you’re looking for an easy, lighthearted romance read, this book is for you!