Beacon Street Diary blog

Summer reads: Book recommendations from our staff

What better way to spend the last weeks of summer than with a good book? Whether you're headed to the beach or taking refuge in air conditioning, Associate Librarian Steve Picazio has five suggestions for you summer reading list. Brush up on your Congregational history and knowledge of early New England with these summer reads, all available to borrowing members of the Congregational Library & Archives.

David Powers' work Damnable Heresy is a rich, fascinating look at the first book banned in Boston. It's a biography of William Pynchon, an influential landowner whose work The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption was burned on the Common in 1650 for its argument against Puritan theology.

Francis Bremer's new work, Lay Empowerment and the Development of Puritanism, looks at how laypeople influenced Puritan society, where religious figures had an outsize influence on government, society, and private life. Frank will be speaking at the CLA on November 12 as part of our History Matters speaker series.

Colonial Comics: New England, 1620-1750 is a great pick for younger readers. It features twenty-five stories told by an eclectic mix of comic artists, authors, professors, and historians. Colonial Comics provides an inclusive history of New England's first century: Stories about women, slaves, and Native Americans appear alongside familiar stories of the Puritans' migration, and well-known characters like Cotton Mather.

If you're not already familiar with Cotton Mather, try The First American Evangelical by Rick Kennedy. This entertaining biography recasts Mather as a neighborhood preacher, instead of a larger-than-life religious figure, or overzealous witch hunter. Kennedy is a Mather expert, and spoke at the Library's Mather Redux program in 2013.

A Storm of Witchcraft is a new survey of the Salem Witch Trials. Salem State University professor Emerson Baker has synthesized the many theories about why the witch trials happened. It's great for anyone casually interested in the witch trials, or as a jumping-off point for deeper study. If you're in the Boston area, you can hear Dr. Baker speak at 14 Beacon on September 16 as part of the History Matters series.

Executive Director Peggy Bendroth recommends The Rainborowes: One Family's Quest to Build a New England. The book follows one of the original English families to settle at Plymouth, Massachusetts, tracing their influence through a generation in England and New England. From the father's taste for adventure, to his daughters' social ambition, to his sons' passion for democracy, this English family embodied American values. Adrian Tinniswood's new biography resurrects the all-but-forgotten clan that left its mark on England and the United States alike.