With literary landmarks, beautiful and historic libraries, and a wealth of bookstores, Boston is every book lover’s dream. Check out this curated list of some of the best literary Boston has to offer.
The Boston Public Library’s Central Branch at Copley is one of my favorite places in the city and a can’t miss destination for visitors. Founded in 1848, the Boston Public Library was the first free library in the United States. It’s now home to over 23 million items, including rare books and manuscripts, art, music, and more. With regular exhibitions, musical events, lectures, and book sales it’s got something for everyone and is a true cultural center for the city. Not to mention that the building is breathtaking! Take a stroll through the courtyard and older sections of the McKim building as well as the newly renovated, modern Johnson building. Free art and architecture tours are offered daily.
Is one library not enough? The Boston Athenaeum, founded in 1807, is one of the oldest independent libraries in the United States. Its collection today features over half a million volumes, with a particular focus on local Boston history, state, and New England history, as well as its permanent collections of artwork and rotating exhibitions. It’s a beautiful, classical space with columns, busts, and shelves and shelves of books. You have to pay for admission but it’s worth the trip to 10 ½ Beacon Street (I just love that!)
Omni Parker House Hotel
The Omni Parker House Hotel has a long and varied history since its opening in 1855 and that includes some literary greats. The legendary nineteenth-century Saturday Club, an intellectual club that included Emerson, Thoreau, Longfellow, and others, met regularly at the Omni Parker for conversation (and I would assume cocktails). You might also remember the Omni Parker House Hotel from Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence. It’s not just a landmark though, but a working, gorgeously preserved historic hotel, so take a quick break in the hotel bar or restaurant—supposedly they perfected Boston cream pie here—and enjoy!
Famous Author Residences and the Boston Literary District
Speaking of famous authors, Boston has been home to so many I can’t even begin to list them all! Some of the highlights include Sylvia Plath and her residence on Willow Street, Kahlil Gibran, the Lebanese-American painter, poet, and author of The Prophet, and his residence and memorial, and Phillis Wheatley, the African-American poet and the Old South Meeting House where she joined the congregation in 1771. Boston has a designated Literary District (that stretches from the Boston Public Library in Copley Square through the Boston Public Garden and Beacon Hill) and the map provided by the Boston Literary District is an especially useful resource to find author residences, literary landmarks, and more!
Boston has a wealth of bookstores, notably independents that serve almost every neighborhood in the greater Boston area. I’ll feature a few here but they are all different and wonderful.
Brattle Book Shop and Trident Booksellers are two of the best indies in the downtown area. Brattle Book Shop, located next to the Boston Common, is one of America’s oldest and largest antiquarian book shops. It’s known for its collectible and rare books as well as its photogenic outdoor sale lot (And yes, that is a large pencil!) Trident Booksellers and Cafe is a lovely and inviting space, with a great selection of new books and gifts. And the cafe serves a killer brunch.
Brookline Booksmith, located in Coolidge Corner, Brookline, just outside of Boston, is an absolutely wonderful and beloved independent bookstore. The selection is diverse and it’s obvious that a lot of love (and work) has gone into the curation of the Booksmith’s collection. Check out the used book cellar, the gift section, and all of the fantastic author events, book clubs, and more!
Harvard Book Store is a locally owned independent located in the heart of Harvard Square in Cambridge. It’s an extensive collection of new, used, and remaindered books, Harvard University merchandise, and gifts. The author event series is award-winning and you shouldn’t miss their print on demand, espresso book machine “Paige M. Gutenborg.” Twice a year they open their warehouse in Somerville for a can’t-miss sale.
For the Kids
Visiting Boston with the family? Here are some easy, fun, literary adventures to have with children. If you’re downtown near the Boston Common, visit the Make Way for Ducklings Sculpture located in the Public Garden, a tribute to Robert McCloskey’s Caldecott medal-winning children’s story. It’s beloved by Bostonians and you’ll often find the ducklings dressed up for the season or a special event. You can pick up the book Make Way for Ducklings at most Boston-area bookstores for fun bedtime reading.
Also in the Public Garden is the Trumpet of the Swan Bridge and Swan Boats, named after E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan. This is the spot where Louis, a trumpeter swan born with no voice embraces who he is and plays his trumpet. The swan boats are available to ride in the warmer months but it’s a lovely area to walk through regardless of the season.
A whimsical book and toy store in Harvard Square all about—you guessed it—Curious George. In addition to books, toys, and merchandise related to Curious George, the store also has a delightful selection of other children’s books and toys.
This post was originally published on Book Riot.
The lovely and talented Marissa Meyer launched her new book Renegades earlier this week at an event through Brookline Booksmith (and held at the Brookline Public Library). I bought my ticket as soon as I heard about the event! I love Marissa’s other books, The Lunar Chronicles series and my personal favorite Heartless, which is a Queen of Hearts/Alice in Wonderland retelling. The event was packed and there was so much energy in the room. Her books are beloved by all ages and it was wonderful watching all of the young fans in the room (primarily young girls) just absolutely love these books and reading. And between the cupcake decorating and the photo booth it was just such a fun event. And I got three of my books signed!
Just a little food porn to get us all through the weekend. This dish is new at Ganko Ittetsu Ramen in Brookline, MA.
This past week I saw Barbara Lynch, the award-winning, Boston-based chef and restauranteur discuss her new book Out of Line: A Life of Playing with Fire with Ishan Gurdal, the founder and owner of Formaggio Kitchen. The event was hosted by Harvard Bookstore and held at the Brattle Theatre and it was packed. Sold out with people standing in the back!
The conversation was heartbreakingly honest with tears and a lot of laughs and I came away from it (just like the first time I saw Barbara Lynch) totally in awe of this woman!
About her new book:
Blood, Bones, & Butter meets A Devil in the Kitchen in this funny, fierce, and poignant memoir by world-renowned chef, restaurateur, and Top Chef judge Barbara Lynch, recounting her rise from a hard-knocks South Boston childhood to culinary stardom.
Celebrated chef Barbara Lynch credits the defiant spirit of her upbringing in tough, poor “Southie,” a neighborhood ruled by the notorious Whitey Bulger gang, with helping her bluff her way into her first professional cooking jobs; develop a distinct culinary style through instinct and sheer moxie; then dare to found an empire of restaurants ranging from a casual but elegant “clam shack” to Boston’s epitome of modern haute cuisine.
One of seven children born to an overworked single mother, Lynch was raised in a housing project. She earned a daredevil reputation for boosting vehicles (even a city bus), petty theft, drinking and doing drugs, and narrowly escaping arrest—haunted all the while by a painful buried trauma.
Out of Line describes Lynch’s remarkable process of self-invention, including her encounters with colorful characters of the food world, and vividly evokes the magic of creation in the kitchen. It is also a love letter to South Boston and its vanishing culture, governed by Irish Catholic mothers and its own code of honor. Through her story, Lynch explores how the past—both what we strive to escape from and what we remain true to—can strengthen and expand who we are.