“Out of this Furnace” – Thomas Bell
Buy it at:
University of Pittsburgh Book Center
4200 5th Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
Originally published in 1941, Bell’s most famous work became more famous when the University of Pittsburgh Press reprinted it in the 1970s. Since then, it has been a book on the syllabus of nearly every Pittsburgh-themed college class at Pitt. Bell wrote what he knew: he was born in the Braddock neighborhood of Pittsburgh as a first-generation American and the son of Russian and Eastern European immigrants who went to work in the mills of Pittsburgh. His book chronicles the lives of three generations of a steel-working family from their first days of work up to their first efforts to form a union at the mill in the 1880s, and all the way through the continued struggle to unionize into the 1930s. Themes of immigration, classicism, racism, poverty and social injustice weave their way into the story that, at its core, is about a family’s struggle to survive in a new country. Pick up a copy at the University of Pittsburgh Book Center. Bonus: A movie adaptation of the book is being filmed in Braddock this summer starring Christian Bale.
“The Mysteries of Pittsburgh” – Michael Chabon
Buy it at:
Mystery Lovers Bookshop
514 Allegheny River Blvd
Oakmont, PA 15139
Though not officially from Pittsburgh, Michael Chabon is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and wrote his first novel using well-known and loved landmarks as the backdrop for his story. “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh” is the story of a recent college graduate who’s father is a member of the mafia. The plot follows the main character and friends as the Pitt grad searches for answers about his father’s past. The novel is a mystery, but finding a copy for yourself won’t be. Published in 1988 and an instant bestseller, you can get your own copy of this novel at the fabulous, independently-owned Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont.
“3 Rivers on 2 Wheels: An Explorer’s Guide to Urban Pittsburgh” – Louis Fineberg
Find it at:
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
4400 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Most summer reading lists include primarily fiction, but Louis Fineberg’s guide book is still the perfect summer read. A guide to riding your bike in and around our fine city, Fineberg’s book will get you out of the house during the warm months with its self-guided tours of Pittsburgh neighborhoods that focus on stopping to take in the city’s architecture, character and history. This book might be hard to track down, so browse online book retailers and keep checking the Bike Pittsburgh website’s “Buy Stuff” section which occasionally stocks Fineberg’s book. He’s Bike Pittsburgh’s Program Director so you can bet that the book will be available now and then. Want it now? Head to the Carnegie Library in Oakland and read it for free.
“Silent Spring” – Rachel Carson
Buy it at:
Barnes and Noble
100 W Bridge St
Homestead, PA 15120
Essential reading for any Pittsburgher and nature lover, Pittsburgh-area native Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” was the first book of its kind – a scathing review of the bad things humans do to their environment for the sake of convenience. Exposing the public to the drawbacks to the indiscriminate use of DDT and other pesticides was Carson’s goal, and 50 years later, readers can still learn something from her book. Available through Barnes and Noble in a special 40th anniversary edition republished in 2002, “Silent Spring” belongs on your must-read or must-reread list. Carson’s work is credited for launching the environmental movement. Even if you don’t fancy yourself an environmentalist, Carson’s descriptions of nature in western Pennsylvania make the book worth a look. Head to the Barnes and Noble in Homestead so you can make Rachel proud by taking a nature walk on the nearby Great Allegheny Passage trail after your purchase.
“Ten Days in a Mad-House” – Nellie Bly
Buy it at:
Born in Pittsburgh in 1864 and later transplanted to New York City, Bly began her writing covering working conditions for women in local mills but was later assigned to style, theatre and arts stories for the leading Pittsburgh newspaper of the time, The Pittsburgh Dispatch. Unfulfilled by the superficial stories she was made to write, Bly left Pittsburgh for New York and won acclaim for her investigation into women’s mental-health institutions. Her reporting was later turned into the book “Ten Days in a Mad-House,” and led to numerous reforms and better funding for mental-health institutions. Hard to find and a little bit obscure, getting Bly’s book from an online retailer is your best chance to get your hands on this haunting piece. It is a worthwhile read and was a springboard for other female investigative writers.