One of the first books I read that involved the history of Buffalo, that caught my attention and kept it, was actually a work of fiction. City of Light by Lauren Belfer takes place in the setting of the Pan American Exposition in 1901 and radiates throughout the City of Buffalo. It was my first introduction to historical figures such as Mary Talbert and Louise Bethune, among many others.
I wanted to know more, but I know my attention span. It may be a form of heresy, but I really don't care about the architecture. What gives the buildings life, in my opinion, is the people that occupied them and the events that took place.
During the past year I have finally gotten around to reading a few books on varying aspects of the history of Buffalo. While I will look at books of photographs, I won't buy them, except for the one about Forest Lawn. It helps tracking down the monuments to know what they look like (and why the person was important).
In no particular order, here are Buffalo books I've read and recommend (via links to previous posts mostly):
City on the Edge by Mark Goldman - Covers the time from 1900 to present and explores the development of the culturals and and the growing pains of City government, including the ever present need to demolish and build something new (preferably funded by federal dollars). Goldman has written 2 other books that I know of, High Hopes and City on the Lake, but I started here. For some reason or other I never wrote about it (but I meant to!), so you'll have to make do with Amazon.
America's Crossroads by Michael Vogel, Edward Patton, and Michael Redding - Out of print / available only through the library or on someones bookshelf; I also did a preliminary writeup when I first learned about it.
The Last Fine Time by Verlyn Klinkenborg
Coming of Age in Buffalo by William Graebner
I Never Looked For My Mother by Joe Ritz
998 by Mike Rizzo, who also wrote Through the Mayors' Eyes (City of Buffalo 1832-2005)
Hooded Knights on the Niagara by Shawn Lay
Inventing Niagara by Ginger Strand - Niagara Falls history, but it's interesting; close counts.
On deck, Shades of Justice by Paul Krehbiel (also available at the History Museum) - a coming of age memoir which takes place in Buffalo during the late 60's, early 70's.
This took longer than I thought, and I haven't even touched sports history, or the tons of books I haven't read yet. I probably forgot some too. Check out the Buffalo Historical Society bookstore, BuffaloBooks, any old bookstore, or even the library. Happy reading!