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Literary Cambridge By Bike

Saturday May 16th, 2009

Reading List

A selection of literary works with Cambridge settings

Henry James, The Bostonians (1886) — Basil Ransome, a Mississippi lawyer, brings beautiful feminist Varena Tarrant to see Harvard and the Civil War tablets in Memorial Hall in this satirical political novel.

William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (1929) — Quentin Compson, a Harvard freshman, ties flatirons on and throws himself off the Larz Anderson Bridge.

May Sarton, Faithful Are the Wounds (1955) — Embattled Harvard liberals suffer in the paranoia of the 1950s

John Jay Osborn, Jr., The Paper Chase (1970) — First-year student at Harvard Law School meets a nasty professor.

Erich Segal, Love Story (1970) — "Love means never having to say you're sorry." Harvard, Radcliffe, love, and death.

Richard Stern, Other Men's Daughters (1974) — A middle-aged Harvard biology professor living near Ash Street has an affair with a student.

Jane Langton The Memorial Hall Murder (1978) — Detective Homer Kelly investigates the death of a chorus leader in the bowels of Harvard's Memorial Hall.

Monroe Engel, Fish (1981) — The narrator is a private school teacher with a passive personality, lots of Harvard Square.

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale (1985) — Harvard has been transformed into a prison for dissenters in this novel of a dystopia in which women are virtual slaves.

Linda Barnes, Lucky Penny (1985) — Private detective Carlotta Carlyle lives near Harvard Square from which she ventures to solve old and new cases in the 12 mystery novels in the series that started with this short story.

Sue Miller, The Good Mother (1986) — Set in the Porter Square area, this novel chronicles the relationship between a single mother and her boyfriend and the tragedy that ensues; made into a 1988 movie starring Diane Keaton and Liam Neeson.

Anne Bernays, Professor Romeo (1988) — Philandering Harvard professor Jake Barker finds his career at risk after charges of sexual harassment.

Dick Cluster, Return To Sender (1988) — Car mechanic and amateur detective Alex Glauberman gets hired by a man at a Central Square coffee shop who turns up dead outside Glauberman's North Cambridge apartment that night.

Scott Turow, One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School (1988) — The well-known legal thriller writer describes his law school experiences.

Susan Conant, Ruffly Speaking (1994) — An Alaskan malamute trainer living in Cambridge solves cozy mysteries in this one of 18 in the series of Dog Lover's Mysteries.

Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation (1994) — Memoir of a depressive who went to Harvard, wrote for The Crimson.

Robert B. Parker, Thin Air (1995) — Works in Boston, lives in Cambridge, Spencer appears in 38 books.

Stephen McCauley, The Man of the House (1996) — The narrator really hates what Harvard Square has become.

George Packer, Central Square (1998) — Therapy, writing, community organizing - it's all here.

Mameve Medwed, Host Family (2001) — This and her other novels are strong on the details of Harvard Square and points west.

Michelle Blake, The Book of Light (2003) — Rev. Lily Connor is at "Tate University" when trouble erupts.

Ben Mezrich, Bringing Down the House (2003) — Some fact, some fiction, MIT students work their mathematical magic in Las Vegas.

Matthew Pearl, The Dante Club (2003) — Lowell, Longfellow, and Holmes try to unravel a string of murders in 1865 Boston and Cambridge, following a trail that takes them through West Cambridge and Riverside.

Allegra Goodman, Intuition (2006) — Medical research, intrigue, and maybe fraud in an institute in Harvard Square

Joe Haldeman, The Accidental Time Machine (2007) — A lazy physics student at MIT starts to travel in time.

Thanks to most literate Cantabrigians Sara Kenney and Trudi Harkins for their major contributions to this list.

Additions welcome!

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