Mount Auburn Book Club – Book List 2008 – Present
The Mount Auburn Book Club discusses books written by or about individuals buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery, novels that have scenes that take place in Mount Auburn, or non-fiction books about death and grieving, or topics that relate to our horticulture collection/landscape.
The club meets the second Thursday of every month in Story Chapel at 10 AM. New members are welcome! Below is a full list of books we have read to date, they can be easily found a your local bookstore or library.
To find out about the next Book Club Meeting, check our events calendar.
January –Mansions of the Dead bySarah Stewart Taylor
We will discuss Mansions of the Dead bySarah Stewart Taylor. Taylor’s mystery, set against the backdrop of greater Boston, includes scenes at Mount Auburn Cemetery.
February – Sarah’s Long Walk: The Free Blacks of Boston and How Their Struggle for Equality Changed America by Stephen Kendrick and Paul Kendrick
We will discuss Sarah’s Long Walk: The Free Blacks of Boston and How Their Struggle for Equality Changed America by Stephen Kendrick and Paul Kendrick. In honor of African American History Month, we will read this true story about Benjamin Franklin Roberts, whose 1848 lawsuit against the city of Boston was an early effort by free African Americans to win the right to equal public education. Roberts is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery.
March – Poe & Fanny by John May
We will discuss John May’s novel Poe & Fanny. This work of historical fiction focuses on the friendship between 19th century literary figures Edgar Allen Poe and Fanny Osgood. Poet Fanny Osgood one of the many notable figures now buried at Mount Auburn that is portrayed in this work.
April – Amy Lowell: Selected Poems edited by Honor Moore
In honor of National Poetry Month, we will discuss Amy Lowell: Selected Poems edited by Honor Moore (2004, Library of America). Amy Lowell, an poet of the imagist school and a Pulitzer Prize recipient, is buried at Mount Auburn.
May – Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding by Scott Weidensaul
We will discuss naturalist Scott Weidensaul’s Of A Feather: A Brief History of American Birding (2007, Harcourt). Mount Auburn is one of New England’s premier bird watching destinations, and each May the Cemetery provides temporary shelter for thousands of spring migrant birds and welcomes almost as many “birders” who come here to spot them.
June – Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burialby Mark Harris
We will discuss Mark Harris’ Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial (2007, Scribner). Many people have heard of the “green burial” movement, but are not exactly sure what this entails. In this book Harris, an environmental reporter, shares the stories of several families and how they chose to bury and commemorate their loved ones in a variety of environmentally-sensitive ways.
July – The Natural by Bernard Malamud
In the spirit of summertime and America’s love of baseball, we will read and discuss The Natural by Bernard Malamud. Malamud’s first novel, The Natural remains in the eyes of many to be the finest novel ever written about baseball. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Bernard Malamud (1914 – 1986) is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery.
August – Pollyanna by Eleanor Hodgman Porter
This month we invite both adult and young readers to join us for a discussion of the classic children’s novel Pollyanna, the story of a young orphan whose eternal optimism effects all of those around her. Author Eleanor Hodgman Porter (1868 – 1920) is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery.
September – The Escher Twist by Jane Langton
Perfect for a late summer read, this month’s selection, The Escher Twist, is a mystery set against the backdrop of Cambridge, MA. Readers will recognize many of the local landmarks that appear in the novel, including Mount Auburn Cemetery.
October – Where Death and Glory Meet: Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Infantry by Russell Duncan
This month, we will discuss Where Death and Glory Meet: Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry by Russell Duncan (University of Georgia Press, 1999). Colonel Shaw, one of the Civil War’s most celebrated heroes, was only 25 when he died in battle in South Carolina. Although not buried here, he is remembered at Mount Auburn in his family’s lot on Pine Avenue.
November – Mosses from an Old Manse by Nathaniel Hawthorne
This month, we will discuss Mosses from An Old Manse by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne originally published this collection of short stories, which he wrote over a span of more than 20 years, in 1846. Included in this collection is “The New Adam and Eve,” which brings the story’s two characters to Mount Auburn Cemetery. Read all 26 stories or pick just a few!
December – Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America by Gary Wills
This month we will discuss Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America by Garry Wills(Simon & Shuster, 1992). In this Pulitzer Prize winning book, Wills explores the political and cultural context surrounding Lincoln’s famous speech, including the American “cult of cemeteries” that began with the creation of Mount Auburn Cemetery in 1831.
January –The Frozen-Water Tradeby Gavin Weightman
We will discuss The Frozen-Water Trade by Gavin Weightman (2003). During the 19th-century Frederic Tudor harvested ice in New England to be shipped as far away as Calcutta, Bombay and Martinique. Tudor endured years of hardship and ridicule before he made his fortune as Boston’s “Ice King.” One of the prominent icemen was Nathaniel J. Wyeth, who is buried at Mount Auburn.
February –Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
We will discuss Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs (penname Linda Brent, 1861). In honor of African American History Month, we will read Jacobs’ true account of her life as a slave in Antebellum South. Jacobs eventually escaped North and is now buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery.
March – American Chestnut: The Life, Death and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree by Susan Freinkel
We will discuss American Chestnut: The Life, Death and Rebirth of A Perfect Tree by Susan Freinkel (2007). Mount Auburn is an arboretum of great renown, with over 5,000 trees, though no American chestnuts exist within the Cemetery’s 175 acres. This book tells the story of the American chestnut and the mysterious blight that infected these majestic trees in the early 20th-century.
April – The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs and the Perverse Pleasure of Reading Obituaries by Marilyn Johnson
We will discuss The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs and the Perverse Pleasure of Reading Obituaries by Marilyn Johnson (2007). Discover why some people read the Obituaries with great passion and how it has developed into a truly respected form of journalism. After reading this book you will never look at the Obituary section the same way.
May – In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life by Jim Deetz
In honor of Preservation Month, we will discuss the classic book on modern archeology, In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life by Jim Deetz (1977). Learn how American life is studied through everyday details. We will also talk about how Mount Auburn supports contemporary archaeology by contributing to the work of researchers and genealogists.
June –The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature by Jonathan Rosen
Following one of the busiest months of birding season at Mount Auburn, we will discuss The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature by Jonathan Rosen (2008). Technology allows us to preserve and become more knowledgeable about wildlife and yet also contributes to its demise. Rosen leads the reader into the world of birding through a combination of observations, poetry, and history. Please bring stories of your recent bird sightings as they relate to the reading!
July – Hatching Magic by Ann Downer
Bring the entire family to this discussion of Hatching Magic by Ann Downer (2004). In this fantasy book, Wyvern the dragon is looking for a place to lay her egg and steps into a bolt-hole that transports her from 13th century England to 21st century Boston, where she makes her nest at Mount Auburn! The book is reading level appropriate for grades 4-7, but all ages are welcome!
August – Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
We will discuss Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham (1955). This classic fictionalized biography for Young Adults tells the story of Nathaniel Bowditch’s important contribution to marine navigation. Bowditch is now buried in Mount Auburn on Tulip Path, and a statue of the great navigator can be found at the intersection of Chapel and Central Avenues, paid for by sailors who benefited from his revolutionary guide to sailing the seas.
September – Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938 by R.A. Scotti
We will discuss Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938 by R.A. Scotti (2004). The Hurricane of 1938 was one of the most ferocious storms to hit the East Coast, killing 682 people and causing extensive damage across the Northeast. Mount Auburn was one of many sites devastated by the hurricane – the Cemetery lost over 800 trees and more than 400 monuments were damaged. Following the discussion, join us for a brief tour to look at evidence of this historic disaster.
October – For the Prevention of Cruelty: The History and Legacy of Animal Rights Activism in the U.S. by Diane L. Beers
We will discuss For the Prevention of Cruelty: The History and Legacy of Animal Rights Activism in the U.S. by Diane L. Beers (2006). You may think that Animal Rights Activism did not take off until the 1970’s with the publishing of Peter Singer’s famous book, Animal Liberation. However, two of the early leaders of the movement were George Angell and Emily Appleton, who founded the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1868. Both Angell and Appleton are buried in Mount Auburn.
November – This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust
Join us for a discussion of This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust (2008). Explore the impact of the enormous death toll as Americans struggled to comprehend the meaning and practicalities of the unprecedented loss of life from the Civil War. You can find memorials to many Union soldiers at Mount Auburn, both those who were returned home and buried here and those that were never recovered.
December – The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl
We will discuss The Dante Club By Matthew Pearl (2006). In this suspenseful novel, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes and James Russell Lowell team up to use their knowledge of Dante’s Inferno to catch a serial killer. All three men are buried in Mount Auburn.
January – Tales of a Wayside Inn by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
We will begin the year by reading one of the most famous poetic storybooks by one of Mount Auburn’s most famous residents: Tales of a Wayside Inn (1863) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. This collection of poems includes the classic “Paul Revere’s Ride,” otherwise known as “The Landlord’s Tale,” written by Longfellow 150 years ago in 1860. The illustrious author is now buried at Mount Auburn.
February – Mutiny on the Amistad: The Saga of a Slave Revolt and Its Impact on American Abolition, Law and Diplomacy by Howard Jones
In honor of Black History Month we will discuss Mutiny on the Amistad: The Saga of a Slave Revolt and Its Impact on American Abolition, Law and Diplomacy by Howard Jones (1987). Explore the details of this important episode in American history, in which the mutinous acts of a small band of black slaves affected the law, politics, and the fledgling abolitionist movement. Joseph Story, an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court, ultimately delivered the majority opinion freeing the Amistad slaves. He is now buried at Mount Auburn.
March – Sea of Glory: America’s Voyage of Discovery, the U.S. Exploring Expedition 1838 – 1842 by Nathaiel Philbrick
Join us for this discussion of Sea of Glory: America’s Voyage of Discovery, the U. S. Exploring Expedition 1838-1842 by Nathaniel Philbrick (2003). The U. S. Exploring Expedition is credited with the discovery Antarctica, the mapping of hundreds of Pacific islands, the Oregon and Washington coasts, and 100 miles of the Columbia River. The Expedition met with tragedy in Fiji, where members were killed during a bloody war with natives. A monument was erected at Mount Auburn on Hyacinth Path to honor those men.
April –Mrs. Jack: A biography of Isabella Stewart Gardnerby Louise Hall Tharp
In honor of one of Mount Auburn’s most notable residents, we will discuss Mrs. Jack: A biography of Isabella Stewart Gardner by Louise Hall Tharp (2003). Born 170 years ago on April 14, Gardner lived a charmed, complicated, and at times, tragic life. Join us as we discuss this biography of a great 19th century art collector. (Gardner and her husband Jack kept company with some of the leading men of the day, including Henry James, John Singer Sargent and Whistler.)
May – The Paradise of All These Parts: A Natural History of Boston by John Hanson Mitchell
Join us for this discussion of The Paradise of All These Parts: A Natural History of Boston by John Hanson Mitchell (2009). Celebrate the bounty of spring with this book about the birds, rocks, rivers, hills and trees of Boston, both past and present.
June –Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
We will discuss Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (2004). A New York Times Bestseller, Stiff is a fascinating, and sometimes humorous look at the realities of death. Explore what happens to our bodies after we die, and how for two thousand years cadavers have been involved in some of science’s biggest advancements from forensics to transportation safety research.
July – The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
In July, we will discuss the Newbury award-winning story, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (2009), about meet a boy who is raised in a cemetery by ghosts after his family is killed. All ages are encouraged to join us for a discussion of this funny but haunting young adult novel.
August – Walden Two by B. F. Skinner
The August book selection, Walden Two by B. F. Skinner (1948), presents a fictional outline of a modern utopia in which human problems are solved by a scientific technology of human conduct. Behavioral Psychologist, B.F. Skinner is buried at Mount Auburn on Azalea Path.
September – The Dangerous World of Butterflies: The Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationists by Peter Laufer
In September, we will discuss the compelling book, The Dangerous World of Butterflies: The Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationists by Peter Laufer (2008). Laufer explores unsolved science mysteries and illegal trade of these beautiful winged creatures. The butterfly garden near Willow Pond and the Wildflower Meadow at Washington Tower provide important habitat for butterflies here at Mount Auburn.
October – The Secret Six: The True Tale of the Men Who Conspired with John Brown by Edward Reneham, Jr.
This month we will discuss The Secret Six: The True Tale of the Men Who Conspired With John Brown by Edward Reneham, Jr (1997). Last October marked the 150th anniversary of John Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry. George Luther Sterns and Samuel Gridley Howe, both now buried at Mount Auburn, supported this controversial abolitionist.
November – Gracefully Insane: Life and Death Inside America’s Premier Mental Hospital by Alex Beam
Join us this month for a lively discussion of Gracefully Insane: Life and Death inside America’s Premier Mental Hospital by Alex Beam (2001). More than a few Mount Auburn residents have been patients at McLean Hospital.
December – The Trial of Socrates by I. F. Stone
To celebrate I.F. Stone’s December birthday, we will read his classic work, The Trial of Socrates (1988). In this work he struggles to understand why free and democratic Athens sentenced Socrates to death. Investigative journalist I.F. Stone is buried at Mount Auburn on Walnut Avenue.
January – Still Alice by Lisa Genova
We will discuss Still Alice by Lisa Genova (2007). This novel follows a Cambridge woman through early onset Alzheimer’s disease. In the course of this poignant story, she visits her parents’ graves at Mount Auburn.
February – Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War by David Herbert Donald
As part of a kick off to the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Civil War, we will read Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War by David Herbert Donald (2009). In this Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, delve into the Senator’s actions which led him to become one of the most controversial figures of the period. Charles Sumer is buried on Arethusa Path.
March – Dead Certainties: Unwarranted Speculations by Simon Schama
As a complement to the documentary screening and talk on March 17th, we will read Dead Certainties: Unwarranted Speculations by Simon Schama (1991). In this historical interpretation of the events surrounding the infamous Dr. George Parkman murder in 1849, Schama tries to untangle one of Boston’s biggest mysteries. Parkman is buried on Sumac Path in Consecration Dell.
April – Not Without Peril: 150 Years of Misadventure on the Presidential Range of New Hampshire by Nicholas Howe
Join us for a discussion of Not Without Peril:150 Years of Misadventure on the Presidential Range of New Hampshire by Nicholas Howe (2001). In 1849 Mt. Washington took the life of climber Frederick Strickland, the first of many deaths to occur on the deceivingly cruel Mountain. Strickland is buried on Greenbrier Path.
May – The Late George Apley by John P. Marquand
John P. Marquand’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Late George Apley (1937), takes a satirical look at Boston’s upperclass. In one funny scene a struggle ensues over where certain members of the family can be buried in the Apley lot at Mount Auburn.
June – Digging up the Dead: A History of Notable American Reburials by Michael Kammen
Digging up the Dead: A History of Notable American Reburials by Michael Kammen (2010) recounts some of the most high-profile and fascinating cases of reburial and the controversial reasons behind them. In discussion we will also share some noteworthy reburials at Mount Auburn.
July – My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry Between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth That Led to an American Tragedy by Nora Titone
My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry Between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth That Led to an American Tragedy by Nora Titone (2010) is the most recent history of the Booth brothers. In it a story emerges of competition and family troubles not explored in such depth before. Actor Edwin Booth is buried on Anemone Path.
August – The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade by Thomas Lynch
In The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade (1998) Thomas Lynch reflects on growing up in a funeral home and joining the family business. In this collection of essays, he shares stories, beliefs and musings on life and death.
September – The Oregan Trail: Sketches of Prairie and Rocky Mountain Life by Francis Parkman
We will discuss Francis Parkman’s The Oregon Trail: Sketches of Prairie and Rocky Mountain Life (1849). Valued as both literature and history, Parkman’s account of touring the West provides us with rich descriptions of the landscape and hunting buffalo with Native Americans. Parkman is buried on Indian Ridge Path.
October –The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America by Louis Menand
The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America by Louis Menand (2001) tells the story of a group of men who are primarily responsible for the concept of pragmatism. Intellectuals in Cambridge and beyond are the focus of the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History book. We are bound to find many connections to the residents of Mount Auburn.
November – Fannie’s Last Supper: Re-creating One Amazing Meal from Fannie Farmers 1896 Cookbook by Chris Kimball
Many of our visitors over the years have told us that Fannie Farmer’s Cookbook was their first cookbook, handed down from their mothers. In Fannie’s Last Supper: Re-creating One Amazing Meal from Fannie Farmer’s 1896 Cookbook (2010), Chris Kimball spends two years researching and testing a 12 course meal from the famous cookbook, made using authentic period tools. Fannie Farmer is buried on Central Ave.
December – Stop – Time by Frank Conroy
Stop-Time by Frank Conroy (1967) is a classic coming – of – age memoir. From the joy of learning yo-yo tricks to the pain of losing a parent, we will all be able to relate to parts of the story. Conroy is buried on Honeysuckle Path.
January – The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age by Edmund Blair Bolles
The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age by Edmund Blair Bolles(1999) is the history of the scientific discovery of the Ice Age. Louis Agassiz plays a key role as the first to theorize the concept and later others help by providing further evidence and popularizing it in the minds of the public. Agassiz is buried on Bellwort Path where a glacially deposited boulder from Switzerland marks his grave.
February – Looking Backward 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy
In this classic novel, Looking Backward 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy (1888), a 19th century Bostonian wakes up in 2000. Boston has changed immensely into a socialist utopia. A brief mention of Mount Auburn on Decoration Day (the precursor to Memorial Day) is our connection to this debatable and influential book.
March – Mary Baker Eddy by Gill Gillian
In honor of Women’s History Month we will read a biography of one of Mount Auburn’s most asked about and visited residents, Mary Baker Eddy. The often controversial but powerful and independent woman who founded Christian Science is explored at great depth in Mary Baker Eddy by Gill Gillian (1998). Mary Baker Eddy is buried on Halcyon Avenue.
April – A Night to Remember by Walter Lord
This month marks the centennial of the sinking of the steamship Titanic. In remembrance of this event we will read the classic book, A Night to Remember by Walter Lord (1955). There are memorials at Mount Auburn to two victims and additionally several survivors are buried here as well.
May – The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik
We will discuss the book that inspired the hit movie about fanatical birders, The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik (2004). Each May hundreds of birders descend on Mount Auburn to observe the spring migration. Some are casual birders and others are working on their life list, in this book we will explore the world of those who are the most driven.
June –Collected Poems of John Ciardi
John Ciardi was known for his gift of language as a translator and etymologist and poet. We will discuss Collected Poems of John Ciardi (1997), gathered from his over 20 books of poetry. Please pick a few of your favorites to share at the discussion. Ciardi is interred in Story Chapel Columbarium.
July – The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Percival Lowell (memorialized in his family lot on Trefoil Path), was instrumental in the discovery of the planet Pluto, and Brian Marsden (interred in Story Chapel Columbarium) was influential in the eventual demotion of Pluto to a “dwarf planet.” In Neil deGrasse Tyson’s The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet (2009) we will learn the history of this controversial celestial body.
August – The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough
We will discuss The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough (2011). Oliver Wendell Holmes, Charles Sumner, Winslow Homer, and Margaret Fuller are just some of the Mount Auburn notables who appear in this book about Americans who spent time in France to achieve their creative goals.
September – Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James McPherson
We will discuss the book upheld as the best single-volume history of the Civil War, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James McPherson (1988). In September 1862, the civil war heated up with the bloodiest day of the war. Several men now buried at Mount Auburn died during the battle of Antietam. This Pulitzer Prize winning book will help us to understand the war and remember the fallen during the Sesquicentennial of the second year of the conflict.
October – Candy Freak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America by Steve Almond
Squirrel Nut Brand, Baker Chocolate and Schrafft’s all have ties to men now interred in Mount Auburn, and each is mentioned in Candy Freak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America by Steve Almond (2004). We will explore one man’s obsession with candy and discuss our own weaknesses as well.
November – Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (2009) takes place largely in Highgate Cemetery in London, a garden cemetery. We will follow two American sisters as they navigate a new locale, odd neighbors and supernatural incidents.
December – Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship by Gail Caldwell
We will discuss the story of a powerful friendship in Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship by Gail Caldwell (2010). The two friends, Caroline Knapp and Caldwell share a deep connection during the latter half of their lives which is ended with Knapp’s death from lung cancer. Caroline Knapp’s funeral service took place in Story Chapel in 2002.
January – Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR’s Great Supreme Court Justices by Noah Feldman
This work (2010) by Noah Feldman is the story of four great justices including Felix Frankfurter. Frankfurter is inurned in Story Chapel Columbarium.
February – The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen
In a mystery joining past and present, a skeleton is found in a present-day backyard garden in Boston is traced to the 1830’s. The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen (2007) includes a young Oliver Wendell Holmes as a medical student. Holmes is buried on Lime Ave.
March – The Fixer by Bernard Malamud
This month’s selection is Bernard Malamud’s National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Fixer (1966). It is the story of a Jewish handyman who is unjustly imprisoned for murder in anti-Semitic Russia. Malamud is interred with his wife on the slope above Willow Pond.
April – Martyr’s Day: Chronicle of a Small War by Michael Kelly
This month marks the 10th anniversary of journalist Michael Kelly’s death while covering the Iraq War. In remembrance we will read his highly praised book on another war he was embedded in, the Gulf War; Martyr’s Day: Chronicle of a Small War (1993).
May – The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy by Evelyn Waugh
Join us to discuss British novelist Evelyn Waugh’s classic book The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy(1948). It is a satirical look at the funeral industry in Los Angeles.
June – The Dawn of Innovation: The First American Industrial Revolution by Charles R. Morris
The Dawn of Innovation: The First American Industrial Revolution (2012) by Charles R. Morris includes a chapter about Mount Auburn resident Thomas Blanchard and his inventions.
July – House on Nauset Marsh: A Cape Cod Memoir by Wyman Richardson
While many Bostonians escape to the Cape for the summer we will take an arm-chair journey there through Wyman Richardson’s House on Nauset Marsh: A Cape Cod Memoir(1947). Richardson is buried at Mount Auburn.
August – A City So Grand: the Rise of an American Metropolis, Boston 1850 – 1900 by Stephen Puleo
A City So Grand: the Rise of an American Metropolis, Boston 1850 – 1900 (2010) is a lively history of Boston by Stephen Puelo. We will find numerous connections to the many notable individuals now buried at Mount Auburn who shaped this area and the nation.
September – The Nature Principal: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age by Richard Louv
The Nature Principal: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age (2011) by Richard Louv explores the need for people to reestablish a relationship with nature.
October – Voice for the Mad: The Life of Dorothea Dix by David Gollaher.
Although best known for her work on behalf of the “insane,” Dorothea Dix was also Superintendent of Nurses during the Civil War. In honor of the 150th anniversary of the War Department’s Order no. 351 that gave Dix permission to appoint female nurses, we will read the biography of her life: Voice for the Mad: The Life of Dorothea Dix (1995) by David Gollaher.
November – A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.
In remembrance of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, we will read A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (1965) by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. Schlesinger who is buried at Mount Auburn served as Special Assistant to the President and won both the Pulitzer Prize for Biography and the National Book Award in Biography for this insider look at the Kennedy administration.
December – Body & Soul by Frank Conroy
The novel Body & Soul (1993) by Mount Auburn resident Frank Conroy has been widely acknowledged as some of the finest writing about the experience of being a musician. This year marks the 20th anniversary of this classic work.
January – Two Years Before the Mast: A Sailor’s Life at Sea by Richard Henry Dana, Jr.
Richard Henry Dana, Jr. wrote this account about his experiences on a two year sea voyage at the age of 19. Two Years Before the Mast: A Sailor’s Life at Sea (1840) is a riveting account of traveling around Cape Horn to the California coast. Although Dana is buried in Rome, there is a memorial to him at Mount Auburn in his family’s lot
February – To Free a Family: The Journey of Mary Walker by Sydney Nathans
In honor of Black History Month, the February book selection is To Free a Family: The Journey of Mary Walker(2012) by Sydney Nathans. This book tells the story of Mary Walker who escaped bondage and fled to the north. She is buried on Kalmia Path.
March – Margaret Fuller: A New American Life by Megan Marshall
Join us as we discuss Megan Marshall’s biography, Margaret Fuller: A New American Life (2010), in honor of Women’s History Month. Margaret Fuller was a journalist, women’s rights advocate, and much more. Following the book club meeting you can opt to also go on a walking tour to visit Margaret Fuller and some of her circle.
April – Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
In the spirit of National Poetry Month we will read the epic poem Evangaline: A Tale of Acadie by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1847). The poem follows a woman in her search of her lost love whom she was separated from during the Expulsion of the Acadians. Longfellow is buried on Indian Ridge Path.
May – Pure by Andrew Miller
Prior to the rural cemetery movement urban graveyards were crowded, unhealthy, and impermanent. Cities struggled to find room for the dead and graves and graveyards were often moved and occasionally lost or destroyed. Pure by Andrew Miller (2012) is a historical fiction look at the exhumation and moving of the ancient Cemitiere des Innocents in 18th century Paris.
June – Amy Lowell Anew: A Biography by Carl Rollyson
This biography of Mount Auburn Resident Amy Lowell sheds new light on the eccentric poet’s life and career. Join the book club for a discussion of Amy Lowell Anew: A Biography by Carl Rollyson (2013). Amy Lowell is buried in her family Lot on Bellwort Path.
July – Escape from Lucania: An Epic Story of Survival by David Roberts
Escape from Lucania: An Epic Story of Survival by David Roberts (2012) is a gripping tale of two talented mountaineers and Harvard classmates, Bob Bates and Brad Washburn and their expedition in the Yukon Territory through unbelievable conditions and obstacles. Bates is interred on Amethyst Path.
August – The Story of a Bad Boy by Thomas Bailey Aldrich
The Story of a Bad Boy (1870) is a semi-autobiographical account of the childhood of Thomas Bailey Aldrich. We will read and discuss this humorous tale of “not such a very bad, but a pretty bad boy.” Aldrich is buried on Grapevine Path.
September – Instant: The Story of Polaroid by Christopher Bonanos
Many local residents will remember the Polaroid Company based in Cambridge and the genius founder of the company, Edwin Land. Instant: The Story of Polaroid by Christopher Bonanos (2012) shares the history of the rise and fall of instant cameras. Land is buried on Aronia Path.
October – The Nature of Sacrifice – A Biography of Charles Russell Lowell Jr.1835 – 1864by Carol Bundy (2005)
October 19 marks the anniversary of the Battle of Cedar Creek where Charles Russell Lowell Jr. was mortally wounded. As we come towards the end of the Civil War Sesquicentennial we will read The Nature of Sacrifice – A Biography of Charles Russell Lowell Jr.1835 – 1864 by Carol Bundy (2005). Charles Russell Lowell Jr. is buried in his family lot on Fountain Avenue.
November – Gideon’s Trumpet by Anthony Lewis (1964)
First published 50 years ago Gideon’s Trumpet (1964) by Mount Auburn resident Anthony Lewis is now a classic legal history. It follows a landmark case that brought about the 6th Amendment, guaranteeing criminal defendants the right to counsel.
December – Pollyanna Grows Up by Eleanor Porter (1913)
Pollyanna Grows Up by Eleanor Porter (1913) is the first Pollyanna sequel of many but the only one to be written by Eleanor Porter. Join us for a fun discussion of this young reader’s book by the best-selling author who is buried on Cuphea Path on Halcyon Lake.
January – The Great Wave: Gilded Age misfits, Japanese eccentrics, and the opening of Old Japan by Christopher Benfey (2003)
The Great Wave: Gilded Age misfits, Japanese eccentrics, and the opening of Old Japan by Christopher Benfey (2003) explores the cultural exchange between Japan and the United States in the period following the US Civil War. There are many intriguing connections to Boston’s elite including Mount Auburn resident William Sturgis Bigelow.
February – American Afterlife: Encounters in the Customs of Mourning by Kate Sweeney (2014)
Roadside memorials, green burials and the history of embalming are just some of the topics covered in American Afterlife: Encounters in the Customs of Mourning by Kate Sweeney (2014).
March – March by Geraldine Brooks (2005)
Two characters in the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, March by Geraldine Brooks (2005), were loosely based on writings by or about residents of Mount Auburn, Chaplain Arthur Buckminster Fuller and escaped slave Harriet Jacobs.
April – Collected Poems of Robert Creeley 1945 – 1975 (1982) or 1945 – 2005 (2006)
The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley 1945 – 1975 (1982) or 1945 – 2005 (2006) showcases the body of work by one of the most significant American poets of the twentieth century. Creeley is buried on Tulip Path.
May – Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy by Diane Preston (2002)
This month marks the centennial of the torpedoing and sinking of the RMS Lusitania by a German U-boat. The Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy by Diane Preston (2002) recounts this pivotal event. One victim and one survivor are buried at Mount Auburn.
June – Harvard’s Secret Court: The Savage 1920 Purge of Campus Homosexuals by William Wright (2005)
We will discuss Harvard’s Secret Court: The Savage 1920 Purge of Campus Homosexuals by William Wright (2005) a history of the tragic scandal during which Harvard University put a dozen students on trial for homosexuality. Leading the purge was Mount Auburn resident Abbott Lawrence.
July – Operation Manual for Spaceship Earth by Buckminster Fuller (1968)
In this short book first published in 1968 Buckminster Fuller presents the idea of Earth flying through space like a spaceship. Operation Manual for Spaceship Earth is an important text on humanity and our ecological crisis. Buckminster Fuller is buried on Bellwort Path.
August – Time and Tide: A Walk through Nantucket by Frank Conroy (2004)
Frank Conroy’s Time and Tide: A Walk through Nantucket (2004) is a mix of history, travel and memoir. He is buried on Honeysuckle Path.
September – Harvard Yard by William Martin
The students return this month to the city and we will read Harvard Yard by William Martin (2003). This mystery historical novel centers on the University and other well known and beloved places in Cambridge including references to Mount Auburn and Cemetery residents.
October – Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory (2015) by Caitlin Doughty is an unusual memoir of working in a crematory in California. This funny but heartfelt book helps us to discuss and comes to terms with death.
November – Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to the War in Vietnam by Gordon Goldstein
We will read Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to the War in Vietnam (2009) by Gordon Goldstein. Bundy was the National Security Advisor in the Kennedy administration and was a major influence on all foreign policy during that time. This month marks the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Vietnam War. Bundy is buried on Pyrola Path.
December – Magic Barrel by Bernard Malamud
Bernard Malamud’s collection of short stories, The Magic Barrel, was the 1959 winner of the National Book Award for Fiction. The stories depict New York and the immigrant experience. Malamud is buried overlooking Willow Pond.
January – Toward a Psychology of Being by Abraham Maslow
We will discuss noted psychologist Abraham Maslow’s 1962 classic Toward a Psychology of Being. His theories of self-actualization and the hierarchy of human needs are the cornerstone of humanistic psychology. Maslow is buried on Amethyst Path.
February – Red Tails in Love: Pale Male’s Story – A True Wildlife Drama in Central Park by Marie Winn
In advance of Valentine’s Day we will discuss a wildlife love story that takes place in Central Park: Red Tails in Love: Pale Male’s Story – A True Wildlife Drama in Central Park by Marie Winn. Mount Auburn has also had its share of urban wildlife couples over the years including Great Horned Owls and Red-tailed Hawks. In addition to hawk behavior this book provides an inside look at the lives and habits of bird-watchers.
March – Gyn/ecology by Mary Daly
In Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism (1978) Mary Daly writes about the patriarchal practices that oppress women. It is considered an important book on feminist theory, although not without its critics. Daly is buried on Elm Avenue.
April – The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
In celebration of National Poetry Month we will read the 1855 epic poem, The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. This classic poem combines Native American folklore and nature. Longfellow is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery on Indian Ridge Path.
May – Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott
First published in 1863, Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott was dedicated to Hannah Stevenson (buried on Yarrow Path), a friend who had helped Alcott secure her position as a volunteer nurse during the Civil War. May 6 – 12 is National Nurses Week.
June – Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston by Michael Rawson
Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston by Michael Rawson explores the topics of providing drinking water to residents, establishing a network of parks and greenways and other aspects of city life that we now take for granted in Boston. Many of the people involved with these grand initiatives are buried at Mount Auburn.
July – The Family Vault by Charlotte MacLeod
The classic mystery novel, The Family Vault by Charlotte MacLeod will have you guessing “whodunit” until the end. The book opens with a burial set for Mount Auburn Cemetery that is suddenly switched to the family vault in a historic Beacon Hill Cemetery.
August – Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach
From the acclaimed author who previously wrote on the subject of corpses, comes a book on what happens when we die. Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach includes a mix of science, mystical and humor to explore this eternally debatable topic.
September – The Proper Bostonians by Cleveland Amory
The Proper Bostonians by Cleveland Amory is a satirical look at the upper crust of Boston Society. The book is filled with anecdotes about the Cabots, Appletons and other prominent Boston families now interred at Mount Auburn Cemetery.
October – Ether Day: The Strange Tale of America’s Greatest Medical Discovery and the Haunted Men Who Made It by Julie M. Fenster
This month marks the 170th anniversary of the first public demonstration of the use of Ether as anesthetic. Several people claim to be the discoverer of this medical advancement and two are buried at Mount Auburn: William T. Morton and Charles Jackson. Ether Day: The Strange Tale of America’s Greatest Medical Discovery and the Haunted Men Who Made It by Julie M. Fenster (2001) tells the story of this contentious discovery.
November – War and the American Presidency by Arthur M. Schlesinger
Following the 2016 presidential election we’ll discuss a timely historical analysis on foreign relations and the executive office: War and the American Presidency by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (2004). Schlesinger is buried on Narcissus Path.
December – Christmas Bells by Jennifer Chiaverini (2015)
We will read the historical fiction novel, Christmas Bells by Jennifer Chiaverini (2015). Christmases past and present are intertwined as the novel moves between Civil War era Boston and the Longfellow family and a modern day teacher in Watertown.
January – The Examined Life: Philosophical Meditation by Robert Nozick
We’ll start the new year with a book that explores a wide variety of musings on what matters most, The Examined Life; Philosophical Meditation by Robert Nozick (1989). Nozick is buried in the Harvard Corporation Lot.
February – The Good Death: An Exploration of Dying in America by Ann Neumann
Following the death of her father, journalist and hospice volunteer Ann Neumann sets out to examine what it means to die well in the United States. The Good Death: An Exploration of Dying in America by Ann Neumann (2016) will inform our conversation on Death and Dying.
March – The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe by Elaine Showalter
The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe by Elaine Showalter (2016) is the first biography to reveal Julia Ward Howe—the author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic—as a feminist pioneer who fought her own battle for creative freedom and independence. Howe is buried on Spruce Avenue.
April – The Appletons of Beacon Hill by Louise Hall Tharp
Join us to discuss The Appletons of Beacon Hill by Louise Hall Tharp (1973). In honor of Fanny Appleton Longfellow’s 200th birthday in 2017 we will learn about the history of the Appleton family and Boston during the 18th and 19th centuries. Fanny Appleton is buried on Indian Ridge Path. Co-sponsored by Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site.
May – Halfway Heaven: Diary of a Harvard Murder by Melanie Thernstrom
In 1995 a roommate murder-suicide shocked the Harvard campus. In Halfway Heaven: Diary of a Harvard Murder (1997) author Melanie Thernstrom investigates the tragic story. Victim Trang Phuong Ho is buried on Vesper Path.
June – Hogan’s Goat by William Alfred
The critically acclaimed blank-verse play, Hogan’s Goat (1965), concerns a mayoral contest between Irish Americans in Brooklyn, New York, in 1890. Playwright William Alfred is buried on Harvard Hill in Mount Auburn.
July – Lost Among the Birds: Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big Year by Neil Hayward
Local birder Neil Hayward shares the story of his big year – a race to find the most birds in one year – in his engaging book Lost Among the Birds: Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big Year (2016).
August – The Technologists by Matthew Pearl
The Technologists by Matthew Pearl (2012) is a historical thriller that takes place in the early years of MIT. Featured in the novel is the school’s founder William Barton Rogers. He is buried on Walnut Avenue.
September – Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment by Anthony Lewis
Anthony Lewis’ Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment (2007) is a look at the history of freedom of speech and press in America. Lewis is buried on Azalea Path.
October – Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
In Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End Atul Gawande (2014) explores ways of improving quality of life at the end of a life.
November – The Bicycle Runner: A Memoir of Love, Loyalty and the Italian Resistance by G. Franco Romagnoli
We will discuss The Bicycle Runner: A Memoir of Love, Loyalty and the Italian Resistance (2009) by G. Franco Romagnoli. It is a coming of age story of growing up in fascist Italy. Romagnoli has a cenotaph on Azalea Wall.
December – The Assistant by Bernard Malamud
Bernard Malamud’s second novel, The Assistant (1957), is the story of Morris Bober, a grocer in postwar Brooklyn, who wants better for himself and his family. Malamud is buried on Azalea Path.
January – Bulfinch’s Mythology by Thomas Bulfinch
Bulfinch’s Mythology is a collection of prose recounting of myths and stories from three eras: Greek and Roman mythology, King Arthur legends and medieval romances. Written by Thomas Bulfinch and named after him, it was published after his death in 1867. Bulfinch is buried on Bellwort Path.
February – Harriet Jacobs: A Life by Jean F. Yellin
In this biography, Harriet Jacobs: A Life (2003), Jean F. Yellin recounts the years Jacobs spent hiding in her grandmother’s attic from her sexually abusive owner as well as her escape to freedom and her later years in Cambridge. Harriet Jacobs is buried on Clethra Path.
March – The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency by Kathryn Smith
In celebration of Women’s History Month we will read the new biography The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency (2016) by Kathryn Smith. LeHand is buried on Central Avenue.