I’ve always been a reader, a lover of books. When I visit someplace new, I like to seek out books about that area or–better yet—set in the region or city. For me, nothing brings a place more to life than such a book. Most of the time, the books I read about a place are fiction, although occasionally a story-drive nonfiction will also do. It’s all about the atmosphere.
If you’re planning a trip to New England, or if you’d just like to travel there through the power of books, I’ve got you. This list of 25 books set in New England will transport you. The selections range from dark mysteries and nature-driven poetry to seafaring voyages and modern dramas. I’ve read the vast majority of the books on this list, and I promise, they are great.
Ready to add to your to-be-read list? Get your pen ready.
Nothing says "New England" to me better than this book, one of my personal favorites. This dark tale set on the campus of a fictional New England college follows Richard, an outsider from California who becomes part of an elite group of classics students.
Eventually, they cross borders of morality and descend into what can only rightly be described as evil.
This book will take you into a cold Vermont night and quickly draw you right in.
This classic novel of four sisters is one of the iconic New England novels. Written by Louisa May Alcott, this is an essential read for books set in Massachusetts. Follow the March sisters as they grow and change during the 1860s.
History and literature buffs will want to visit Concord, MA, and see Orchard House, Alcott's childhood home and the setting on which Little Women was based.
This play reenacts the events of the infamous Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s, using accurate characters, but taking license with the action. Despite the lack of perfect historical accuracy, this is an awesome piece of drama. I think it is essential reading for those visiting Salem.
Written in the 1950s, the play is said to be a commentary on the "witch hunts" of the McCarthy era. The parallels certainly are fascinating.
This 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is set in a small mill town in Maine. Focusing on Miles Roby, who has worked in a neighborhood restaurant for more than 2 decades, the novel is filled with heart, humor, and certainly those New England vibes. Expect tales of a blue-collar town and its residents.
This 1911 book is just 99 pages long, but it packs a lot into a slim volume. According to Goodreads, this is "the classic novel of despair, forbidden emotions, and sexual undercurrents set against the austere New England countryside."
Edith Wharton is another major New England writer who set much of her work in the region. You can visit her house, The Mount, in Lenox, MA.
This highly-rated crime novel is definitely on my list of books to read. If you're searching for thriller books set in Boston, you should definitely check out Mystic River.
The story begins in 1970s Boston, when three young boys are set upon by child molesters who are posing as cops. 25 years later, the three boys, now men, find their lives intersecting once again in the wake of a brutal crime.
If you didn't catch this novel in high school, now's a great time to read it. The Scarlet Letter is SO New England, not just because it was written by homeboy Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Mostly, it's because of the intense Puritan atmosphere of the tale, which highlights the impact one single passionate act has on the lives of three colonists: the outcast Hester Prynne, the tortured Reverend Dimmesdale, and the obsessed, vengeful Chillingworth.
A Separate Peace is set at a boys boarding school in New Hampshire during the early years of World War II. Following the relationship between two boys who are both best friends and very different in personality, this coming-of-age story explores some of humanity's dark side.
Author Howard Frank Mosher has earned significant critical acclaim for his works, many of which are set in fictional Kingdom County, Vermont.
A Stranger in the Kingdom focuses on a brutal murder that takes place in a small Vermont town in the 1950s. Suspicion falls upon the town’s new Presbyterian minister, a black man. The ensuing tale of racism and murder in a small New England town will no doubt bring to mind the famous novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
Mark Twain is another New England author whose home you can visit (in Hartford, Connecticut). During the 17 years he lived in CT, Twain wrote many of his classic novels.
For that New England flavor, consider picking up this one: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. This funny, satirical novel follows a Yankee mechanic is knocked out during a brawl, and wakes to find himself in Camelot, A.D. 528, in King Arthur's Court. Hilarity ensues.
The name Pollyanna has grown synonymous with optimism and joy. Well, that idea originated here in the novel Pollyanna.
Following the death of her father, Pollyanna Whittier goes to Vermont to live with her curmudgeon of an Aunt. Her commitment to being joyful, using her cheerful "glad game," earns her the love and attention of the townsfolk she meets. When a terrible injury befalls her, the townsfolk work to help Pollyanna continue to seek gladness in the face of adversity
This is an excellent non-fiction novel set in New England. I have read this one and it is fascinating. You'll discover the true events which eventually inspired the tale of Moby Dick: the tragedy which befell the whaleship Essex, which set sail from Nantucket in 1819.
Gillian and Sally are two sisters from Massachusetts. For over 200 years, the women in their family have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their town, which has made the girls outsiders.
All Gillian and Sally ever wanted to do was to escape, but it seems that the bonds they share will bring them back, almost by magic...
What happens when an accomplished midwife makes a snap decision that may have cost a mother her life? This drama follows Sibyl Danforth, an accomplished Vermont midwife, and what happens when she performs an emergency C-section to save a newborn. You'll definitely be left guessing 'til the end.
You can't talk about books of New England without paying homage to Robert Frost. Although he is a poet and not a novelist, Frost is one of the most famous writers to ever emerge from New England.
You likely know him from his popular poem, "The Road Not Taken," but he is the creative genius behind hundreds of poems, many of which bring the nature, beauty, and community of New England into stark life.
This collection of his poems is the perfect companion for a snowy evening and a cup of tea.
Ah, yes. Mr. King. The horror writer known world-wide for his bestselling novels like The Shining, Carrie, and The Stand. With the vast majority of his novels set in Maine or other parts of New England, one could almost include any Stephen King work on this list of books set in New England.
But 'Salem's Lot is one of my favorites; one that I think is one of King's most iconic, and most atmospheric. And it's very, very creepy.
Other notable King books set in Maine and New England: It, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and Pet Sematary.
Set in Maine in 1947, this story follows Grace, a wife and mother. When fires ravage her coastal New England town, she finds her life irrevocably changed. Discoveries of freedom, loss, and love round out this book.
With her debut collection of short stories, author Jhumpa Lahiri won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, among numerous other awards.
The Namesake takes the same and similar themes even further: "the immigrant experience, the clash of cultures, the conflicts of assimilation, and, most poignantly, the tangled ties between generations."
Following an Indian family who settles in Cambridge, MA and their sun Gogol, a first-generation American, this is one of the newer books set in Massachusetts on this list.
Centered around retired schoolteacher Olive Kitteridge, the stories in this Pulitzer Prize-winning book bring Maine vividly to life. (One Goodreads reviewer even said he "breathed in the saltiness of the Maine coast, practically."
As the small town Maine residents around her struggle with problems large and small, Olive is brought to a more profound understanding of herself and of her own life.
This young adult historical fiction is set in an early Puritan settlement, Connecticut Colony. Kit, an orphan who has come here from the Caribbean to live with relatives, finds friendship with an old Quaker woman who is known as "the Witch of Blackbird Pond." Will this friendship spark suspicion and fear (and even accusation) among the local Puritans?
I read this Newbury Award-winner back in middle school, but the plot sounds intriguing to me, so I may give it a second read.
Finally, one last great piece of nonfiction set in New England. If you've ever seen the film The Perfect Storm, wait til you read the book. A captivating portrayal of a coastal tragedy, this book delves into the stories of each of the men who were lost at sea onboard a lobster boat in the 1990s. You'll also hear how the events devastated the town of Gloucester, MA. This is an amazing book that is both hard to read and incredibly rewarding.
Amy is the founder of New England with love. A proud Vermonter, she hopes to share her love of New England and help you find the best adventures in the region. Amy is also blogger/founder at Two Drifters, where she writes alongside her husband about romantic and couples travel, relationships, honeymoons, and more. When not working on websites, Amy is probably reading, cuddling with her husband, son, and cats, & drinking a maple latte.