The Greatest "Boston, Historical fiction" Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 305 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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Historical fiction

Historical fiction is a genre of literature that combines fictional stories with real historical events, settings, and characters. These books often take place in a specific time period and are based on research and factual information, but also include imaginative elements to create a compelling narrative. Historical fiction allows readers to experience the past in a unique and engaging way, while also providing insight into the social, cultural, and political issues of the time.

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  1. 1. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

    Set in 17th-century Puritan Boston, this novel tells the story of a woman who conceives a daughter through an affair and struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity. She is forced to wear a scarlet "A" on her dress as a sign of her adultery while her lover, a revered local minister, remains unnamed and unpunished. Throughout the book, themes of sin, legalism, and guilt are explored.

    The 58th Greatest Book of All Time
  2. 2. The Rise Of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells

    The novel centers around the moral and ethical journey of Silas Lapham, a self-made businessman who rises from rural Vermont origins to become a wealthy paint manufacturer in Boston. As Lapham grapples with the social expectations and responsibilities that accompany his newfound status, he faces a series of personal and financial challenges that test his integrity. His desire to integrate into high society and secure advantageous marriages for his daughters leads to a clash between the values of material success and moral rectitude. Throughout the story, Lapham's character is explored through his interactions with the aristocratic Corey family, highlighting the tensions between the old and new elite in American society.

    The 1541st Greatest Book of All Time
  3. 3. The Bostonians by Henry James

    This novel is a satirical depiction of the post-Civil War feminist movement in Boston. The story revolves around a young feminist advocate, her conservative cousin, and a charming young man who wants to marry her. The novel explores themes of feminism, male dominance, and the battle between tradition and progress. It also provides a critical view of the era's political reformers and abolitionists.

    The 2238th Greatest Book of All Time
  4. 4. The Lamplighter by Maria Susanna Cummins

    "The Lamplighter" is a 19th-century novel that follows the life of Gerty, a spirited and neglected orphan girl who is rescued from her abusive caretaker by a kind lamplighter named Trueman Flint. Under Flint's guidance, Gerty grows into a virtuous and pious young woman, despite the many hardships and emotional trials she faces. The novel explores themes of Christian redemption, the importance of kindness and mentorship, and the transformative power of love and perseverance. As Gerty matures, she navigates complex social relationships and personal challenges, ultimately finding her place in the world and the possibility of happiness.

    The 3462nd Greatest Book of All Time
  5. 5. The Living Is Easy by Dorothy West

    The novel explores the life of Cleo Judson, a Southern-born African American woman living in early 20th century Boston, who navigates the complexities of race, class, and society as she strives to create a facade of affluence and respectability. Married to a successful businessman, Cleo manipulates those around her to reunite with her estranged sisters and recreate the familial bonds and social standing she longs for. However, her scheming and pursuit of superficial success reveal the deep-seated insecurities and the cost of her ambitions, as she grapples with the true meaning of family and identity amidst the backdrop of the African American upper class.

    The 3462nd Greatest Book of All Time
  6. 6. Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

    This novel is a historical fiction set in Boston during the early stages of the American Revolution. It follows the story of a young silversmith apprentice, whose life takes a dramatic turn after a crippling hand injury prevents him from continuing his craft. As he searches for a new purpose, he becomes involved with the Sons of Liberty, participating in pivotal events leading up to the American Revolution. Through his experiences, he encounters historical figures, faces moral dilemmas, and grows from a selfish adolescent into a patriotic young man, offering readers a vivid glimpse into the struggles and spirit of the time.

    The 4079th Greatest Book of All Time
  7. 7. A Modern Instance by William Dean Howells

    The novel explores the complexities of marriage and divorce in the late 19th century through the story of Bartley and Marcia Hubbard, a young couple from a small New England town. As Bartley's journalistic career takes off, his moral shortcomings and infidelity strain the marriage, leading to a tumultuous relationship. The narrative delves into the social and personal consequences of their failing marriage, highlighting the challenges of adhering to societal expectations and the impact of personal choices on the lives of individuals and their communities. The book is a critical examination of the institution of marriage, the evolving roles of men and women, and the pursuit of happiness in the face of societal pressures.

    The 5277th Greatest Book of All Time
  8. 8. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol I and II by M.T. Anderson

    The book follows the life of Octavian, a young African American boy raised in a strange and secretive environment in Revolutionary-era Boston. He is brought up as part of a philosophical experiment by a group of rationalist scholars who seek to determine the intellectual capacity of Africans. As he matures, Octavian realizes the true nature of the experiment and the oppressive reality of his existence. His journey of self-discovery leads him to question the very foundations of the society that treats him as an object of study rather than a human being. As the American Revolution unfolds around him, Octavian is drawn into the chaotic struggle for independence, identity, and survival, challenging the notions of freedom and what it means to be a traitor to a nation built on the paradox of liberty and slavery.

    The 7041st Greatest Book of All Time
  9. 9. H. M. Pulham, Esquire by John P. Marquand

    The novel is a reflective account of the life of Harry Pulham, a middle-aged, conventional Bostonian who is prompted to examine his past and the choices he has made during the process of writing a Harvard class reunion biography. As he delves into his memories, he confronts his youthful ambitions, his experiences in World War I, and his complex relationships, particularly with a vivacious woman who challenged the conservative values of his upbringing. Through this introspection, Harry grapples with the realization that he has conformed to societal expectations at the expense of his own happiness, leading to a poignant exploration of the conflict between individual desires and societal pressures in early 20th-century America.

    The 7168th Greatest Book of All Time
  10. 10. Work by Louisa May Alcott

    "Work" is a novel that follows the journey of Christie Devon, a young woman who seeks independence and self-fulfillment through various occupations after leaving her rural home. Throughout the story, Christie works in different roles, including as a servant, actress, companion, and seamstress, each providing unique challenges and insights. The narrative explores themes of women's rights, social reform, and personal identity, as Christie encounters a diverse array of characters and social situations that shape her views and life choices. Ultimately, the novel is a reflection on the struggles and empowerment of women in the 19th century, highlighting the importance of perseverance and self-reliance.

    The 8726th Greatest Book of All Time
  11. 11. The Late George Apley by John P. Marquand

    "The Late George Apley" is a satirical novel that presents a critical view of the upper class society in Boston during the early 20th century. The narrative unfolds through a series of letters, diary entries, and other documents, chronicling the life of George Apley, a wealthy Bostonian. The book explores Apley's struggles to uphold the traditions and social norms of his class, despite the rapidly changing world around him. The story provides a nuanced portrayal of the protagonist's life, highlighting the constraints and pressures of conforming to societal expectations.

    The 10138th Greatest Book of All Time

Reading Statistics

Click the button below to see how many of these books you've read!


If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.