In my post the other day about Optimist Freak’s birthday, I wrote about my love of the Brookline Booksmith, that shining wonder of good book smell, creaky wooden floors, over-priced greeting cards, and “Tim recommends!” signs. (Tim works at the Booksmith, and he writes in green marker and recommends Ann Beattie’s “The New Yorker Stories.” I like Tim.) Still, the Booksmith is a very dangerous place for me. All bookstores are, but the smaller ones, like BB—with its’ giant clearance tables filled with journals and do-dad cross-word puzzles and faux-vintage copies of “Lord of the Flies”—are just the absolute worst. One second I’m wandering aimlessly down the street pretending to be both Florence from Florence and the Machine and Blake Lively (during a pillowfight; they’re best friends, natch), and the next minute I’m standing amid a bunch of paper, convincing myself that a giant book on the history of Beat poetry is a must-have for $10.99 (I am very edgy), and why would someone in their right mind ever pass up a biography of Sojourner Truth for $7.00, and seriously, a collection of the best “New Yorker” Cat cartoons from the 1980s for only twelve bucks?!? Thirty dollars later, I’m like, “Oh shit, MORE CLUTTER. Plus, actually I hate cats….” But it’s a high, you know? Libraries are great, and all, but you can’t get high there. Also, there’s nothing smug about them. Returnable books with shiny wrappers on them just do not look as good leaning against your bedroom wall.
But anyhoo, I got a book at the Booksmith that day I’m really glad I dropped the six bucks for, and I think you should read it, hence the reason for this post. It’s called “How Lincoln Learned To Read: Twelve Great Americans And The Educations That Made Them”, and among other things, it’s reminding me of how bad-ass Boston is. I’m only through the first two “Great Americans” in the essay collection (Ben as in Franklin, and Nabby as in Abigail Smith, aka Adams), and already I feel I’ve learned so much about the events that have shaped this city, and our country, and all in places that I walk through every day! It’s very cool. (And yes, I have forgotten everything I ever learned in high school/college, so if you’re not one of those people, screw you.) The author of the book, Daniel Wolff, is a historian who is actually entertaining, and the way he forces you to think about these beloved historical figures as curious, up-to-no-good children—instead of such pre-formed, untouchable, adults—is really awesome. (Also, being normal is clearly over-rated.)
And it’s all got me thinking about something I’ve wanted to write about for a while: I need Boston-based book advice! Now that I live here, I feel sort of sheepish walking around and not knowing more about the statues and signs I see, especially when I know I really should, since, uh…I JUST SHOULD. For instance, I took this photo today without really thinking much about it, other than the fact that in the moment it caught my eye, and then I’m reading the plaque, and I’m, like, what do I really know (besides some vague b.s.) about the history of Irish immigrants in Boston? I mean, once I wrote a paper in sixth grade about the potato famine, and I was really into JFK as a ten-year-old, but that’s not really going to cut it…
So once I get through my current read, I would love some suggestions, in anything ranging from non-fiction to historical fiction, from colonial Boston, to books about local sports; I’m sure there is plenty of good N.E. stuff out there. I don’t tend to get a lot of responses on my blog, so I’m hoping for some good comments and feed-back! (Quick disclaimer: I’m all about Plimouth Plantation, but I could not get through Nathanial Philbrick’s “Mayflower,” so, hopefully nothing that dense? (Was that book dense? No? Just me?) Also, I’ve heard that Anthony Luke’s “Common Ground” is a great read, so if anyone has any thoughts on that one, let me know.
Oh my gawd kid, a interwebs book club about Bahstan! Fack!
(Wait, but, really…)
PS: The artist Robert Shure did the sculptures for the memorial. They are beautiful.