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If you’re joining us for our 2023 Read Around the USA Challenge, welcome! If you simply found your way to our website researching books set in your home state or your next travel destination, you’ve still come to the right place!
Below you’ll find a list of some of the best books set in New England, including Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Connecticut books will be included on June’s list.
What Kind of Books are Included On This List?
New England immediately conjures images of fall leaves and covered bridges. But for the challenge, we’ve compiled a wide range of reading options that dive deeper into life in each state. Our curated recommendations strike a good balance between historical fiction books, contemporary novels, and nonfiction books about New England.
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Book Set in New England
On the list below, we’ve grouped the books by state, and also indicated the time setting of each. Connecticut books will be included on June’s list.
Books Set in Maine
Situated in the far northeastern corner of the United States, Maine is known for its rocky coastline, frigid waters, and lobster fishing. In addition, Portland, Maine, is home to a vibrant art scene, making it a destination for artists and visitors.
One of Maine’s most famous residents is author Stephen King. He was born in Portland, raised in Durham, and now lives and writes in Bangor. Most of his horror novels are set in fictional Maine towns - some of which, like Derry and Castle Rock, appear in multiple books. We haven’t listed any Stephen King titles on our list below, but you’re certainly welcome to read one for the challenge this month if you’d like.
by Richard Russo
Setting: Maine, 2000/2001
This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel takes a deep look at the blue-collar heart of Maine. For the past 20 years, Miles Roby has been slinging burgers in Empire Falls, Maine - a town filled with abandoned mills and lifelong friends and neighbors.
Miles isn't sure what kept him in his hometown all these years - he didn't intend to end up here. He even left for a short time before being called back. Two decades later, he's divorcing his high school sweetheart and raising his teenage daughter. This novel is less about the plot and more about the character development as we get to know a wide cast of residents of Empire Falls.
Night of the Living Rez
by Morgan Talty
Setting: Penobscot Indian Island Reservation, Present Day
The Penobscot Tribe of Maine long inhabited the area between present-day Old Town and Bangor, and still occupy tribal land on the Penobscot Indian Island Reservation. This series of twelve fictional short stories examines what it means to be Penobscot in the 21st century as they grapple with a painful past and an uncertain future.
Each story centers around David’s life, but they are told in a nonlinear order. We meet David’s family and see their struggles through the years. His mother is in an abusive relationship with an alcoholic medicine man. His sister deals with mental illness. David and others become dependent on methadone, and his grandmother suffers from Alzheimer's.
The Book Girls Say… This book addresses many difficult topics and potentially triggering issues. Readers say that the stories are told matter-of-factly, but include a balancing dose of wit and humor.
The author is a citizen of the Penobscot Indian Nation, where he grew up. He is an Assistant Professor of English in Creative Writing and Native American and contemporary Literature at the University of Maine.
A Piece of the World
by Christina Baker Kline
Setting: Cushing, Maine, 1890s-1940s
This atmospheric novel takes place in a small coastal town in Maine, and is inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s iconic painting, Christina’s World.
Christina Olson was born at the austere home on a barren hill in Cushing, Maine that her family had inhabited for generations. After nearly dying as a child and being incapacitated by ongoing illness, Christina could never venture beyond her small community. an austere house on a barren hill in Cushing, Maine.
For twenty years, the farm played host to painter Andrew Wyeth during the summers. Many of his paintings feature the family’s farm, but Christina herself would inspire his most iconic painting.
While Wyeth makes some appearances in the novel, this historical fiction focuses on Christina as it vividly imagines her life on the farm through the changing Maine seasons.
The Book Girls Say… Our readers have loved several of the author’s other novels, including Orphan Train and The Exiles, so we’re excited to add this to our TBRs.
by Virginia Hume
Setting: Maine Coast, 1944, 1970, 2008
This novel introduces us to three generations of a family that spends summers in a seaside town on Maine’s rocky coastline.
Maren Larsen grew up in a small farming community in Minnesota, but in 1944, amid WWII, she was determined to do her part in the war effort. While working as a nurse at Walter Reed Medical Center, she’s swept off her feet by a doctor named Oliver, whose family summers yearly on the coast of Maine.
Twenty-six years later, in 1970, as the conflict with Vietnam rages, Maren and Oliver are at odds with their fiercely independent teenage daughter. Seventeen-year-old Annie has fallen for a man her parents disapprove of. By the end of the summer, the family has suffered a terrible tragedy, and Annie vows never to return to Haven Point, Maine.
In 2008, Maren’s grandaughter, Skye, arrives in Haven Point to help scatter her mother’s ashes. Skye has inherited her mother, Annie’s, view of Maine. Rather than seeing the coast's beauty and enjoying the regattas, clambakes, and sing-alongs, Annie believes the people to be snobbish and petty. But Annie never told Skye the full story of what happened during the summer of ‘70.
The Book Girls Say… This story is told from the perspectives of Maren and Skye and jumps around between the three timelines. Readers say it’s not hard to keep the timelines straight, but you might want to consider a different option if you don’t enjoy novels that go back and forth in time.
Saving Mrs. Roosevelt
by Candice Sue Patterson
Setting: Maine, 1942-1946
Shirley lives in Maine and is frustrated by her limited ability to assist the war effort. When she learns about an opportunity for single women to join SPARs, the first female branch of the Coast Guard, she rushes to sign up despite objections by her father.
After rigorous training, she’s singled out for a special mission back home in Maine. The intelligence community has uncovered a plot against the first lady, and they need Shirley’s help to stop it.
The Book Girls Say… A few reviewers on Goodreads have tagged this book as Christian Fiction, so if you prefer G-rated books, this may be a good choice. It’s listed as the third book in the Heroines of WW2 series, but the books are all totally separate and even have different authors, so don’t feel like you need to read them in order.
The Singing Trees
by Boo Walker
Setting: Portland, ME 1969-1970s
While this book starts in 2019, it soon goes back to 1969 and chronologically tells the story of Annalisa’s life until the end of the 70s. She is a passionate and talented young artist trying to find her voice as the country is affected by the Vietnam War.
Annalisa leaves her grandma and small town and moves to the thriving art scene in Portland, Maine. While her primary pursuit is art, she meets Thomas, an Ivy-league student with a much different background than her own. He up-ends her quest to become a museum artist in ways she didn’t expect. But her unexpected love may be unraveled by an unforgivable lie.
The Book Girls Say… Readers say that this coming-of-age book is both heartbreaking and uplifting. The fashion and food will transport you back in time to the art scene of Maine in the 1970s. The author started his career as a songwriter, which becomes apparent through lyrical writing and the inclusion of references to the musicians of the era.
This book is included with Kindle Unlimited as of 11/30/22.
by Alice Elliot Dark
Setting: Coast of Maine, spanning decades
Agnes and Polly have been best friends for generations. They are also part owners of a land trust for a peninsula of land on the Maine coast known as Fellowship Point.
The two friends have led very different lives. Agnes is a celebrated author of children's books, plus she wrote a series of novels under a pseudonym. Polly has three adult sons and is married to a professor with an inflated sense of ego.
Now in her eighties, Agnes wants to ensure that Fellowship Point will be permanently protected by donating the land to a trust. But doing so requires dissolving the generations-old partnership among the shareholders. Polly finds herself torn between the wishes of Anges and those of her sons.
When a book editor tries to convince Agnes to write her memoirs, long-buried secrets have repercussions for all of them.
The Book Girls Say… This is a long book (nearly 600 pages), but readers say that the payoff is worth it if you are able to dedicate your attention to the story. It’s said to be a beautiful, slow-moving novel that you’ll want to savor.
Books Set in Massachusetts
The history of Massachusetts is inextricably intertwined with the history of the US. As one of the 13 original colonies, it was the landing place of the Mayflower and the Pilgrims in 1620, the site of the Salem witch trials in the late 17th century, and then the colonists protested with the Boston Tea Party in 1773.
This long history has left its mark on modern-day Boston. The landscape varies from the gas lights along the brick-lined streets of Beacon Hill to Harvard's Cambridge campus, which dates back four centuries.
The quaint islands off the Atlantic coast are a vacation destination for those living on the east coast and are the setting of numerous books on the list.
The Boston Girl
by Anita Diamant
Setting: Boston, MA, 1915-1985
Addie Baum was born to a Jewish family at the turn of the 20th century. Her immigrant parents were very concerned about America’s effect on their three daughters. Growing up in Boston’s North End, Addie is introduced to a progressive world of short skirts, movies, and celebrity culture. She also sees a new world of opportunities for young women, so she dreams of college and a career.
At 85 years old, Addie Baum’s 22-year-old granddaughter asks her how she became the woman she is. Her story begins in 1915, when teenage Addie lived in a one-room tenement apartment that she shared with her family.
The Book Girls Say… Readers say that the story of Addie’s life is told with compassion, a wicked sense of humor, and great attention to historical detail.
For another book set in Massachusetts that illustrates the immigrant experience later in the 20th century, consider The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri.
by Geraldine Brooks
Setting: Martha’s Vineyard and Cambridge, MA, mid-1600s
In this novel, the author has spun a vivid tale based on a true historical event. In 1665, a young man from Martha’s Vineyard became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College.
The narrator, Bethia Mayfield, is growing up in the settlement of Great Harbor amid pioneers and Puritans. She yearns for education and opportunities that are closed off to her as a woman in the 17th century. At every opportunity, she sneaks away to explore the island’s beaches and observe the native Wampanoag inhabitants.
This is where, at the age of 12, she meets Caleb, the son of a chieftain. The two form a secret friendship that introduces them to each other's world. Bethia’s minister father begins guiding Caleb’s education, ultimately leading him to Cambridge to study Latin and Greek among the colonial elite. At the same time, Bethia is forced to work as a housekeeper in Cambridge. This puts her in a position to observe the convergence of cultures that Caleb is encountering.
The Book Girls Say… Geraldine Brooks is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Horse and The People of the Book (which was a popular choice among our readers in our Book Voyage Challenge).
The Hotel Nantucket
by Elin Hilderbrand
Setting: Nantucket, MA, 1922 and Present Day
If winter has you dreaming of relaxing days summering on Nantucket, you can grab any of Elin Hilderbrand’s books. But for this list, we selected her newest, The Hotel Nantucket, because the back of the novel includes a detailed travel guide to Nantucket with hotel and restaurant recommendations.
The story takes place at a recently restored hotel with quite a history. In 1922, the hotel had a tragic fire, which killed a 19-year-old chambermaid, Grace. It degraded from a gilded gem to an abandoned eyesore in the following years. Thankfully, it has finally been restored by a billionaire from London.
He hires Nantucket native Lizbet as the general manager. She’s in charge of restoring the reputation of the hotel. This job can be complicated since it involves ensuring the staff gets along with each other, the guests, and the ghost of Grace. Grace is determined to keep up her shenanigans until someone acknowledges that her death in 1922 wasn’t an accident.
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
by Gabrielle Zevin
Setting: Cambridge, MA, 1990s; Venice Beach, CA, Present
Beginning in the 1980s and spanning 30 years, this story follows the lives of Sam and Sadie as they continue to reconnect at various points in their lives. Their first meet as children in the hospital - Sadie is visiting her sister, and Sam is recovering from a terrible car accident. They bond over their love of video games, and their instant friendship helps pull Sam out of his depression. But eventually, they have a falling out, and they don’t meet again until Sam’s junior year of college at Harvard (she is a student at MIT). He’s exiting a subway car when he sees Sadie across the platform.
This unexpected reunion soon begets an incredible collaboration as Sam and Sadie create a legendary video game before they’ve even graduated from college. They are young, brilliant, rich, and successful, but none of these characteristics can protect them from their creative ambitions, future betrayals, and inevitable failures.
The Book Girls Say… This unique novel touches on many different themes for discussion - including race, identity, technology, disability, and much more! While only a portion of the story is set in Cambridge, we wanted to include a novel that provided a look at life on the campuses of Boston’s elite universities.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is from the author of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, but besides being well-written narratives, the two books have almost nothing else in common. Reviewers caution not to let the topic of gaming push you away from this book. While it provides interesting insights into the gaming industry's history and business, this is a character-driven story about the human experience.
by Laurie Lico Albanese
Setting: Salem, MA, early 1800s
This novel reimagines the story of the woman who inspired Hester Prynne from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter.
In the early 1800s, young seamstress Isobel sailed to the New World from Scotland. Her husband, Edward, has become addicted to opium, so they are trying to leave their secrets and debts behind. However, shortly after arriving in Salem, Edward leaves Isobel alone when he joins a ship as a medic.
When Isobel meets Nathaniel Hawthorne, they grow close. One is a muse, and one is a dark storyteller, but which is which?
The Book Girls Say… Salem’s place in history is closely tied to the witch trials of the 1600s. If you are interested in reading more about the witch trials, we also recommend reading The Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian (although the witch trial in his historical thriller is set in Boston).
Things You Save in a Fire
by Katherine Center
Setting: Boston, 2017
Cassie Hanwell was a firefighter in Austin and loved her job. But when her mother asks her to move to Boston despite their strained relationship, Cassie's experience at the new fire house couldn't be more different.
With a lack of funding, poor facilities, and an old-school hazing culture, the firehouse is not happy to have a woman join their crew.
The Book Girls Say… Katherine Center became one of our favorite authors over the past two years, and Things You Save in a Fire is one of her best! Some consider this book a simple romance, but we believe the other aspects of the story are more important.
This book is available with Kindle Unlimited as of 11/30/22.
by William Martin
Setting: Back Bay Boston, MA, 1700s-1900s
This historical fiction mystery tells the story of six turbulent generations of the Pratt clan - all the way back to Horace Taylor Pratt, a founding father of Massachusetts.
The Pratt family has a secret that dates back to the time of George Washington and Paul Revere. Through the years, the family is searching for a stolen tea set that they believe is hidden somewhere in the Back Bay section of Boston. In the modern timeline, historian Peter Fallon stumbles upon the Pratt’s secret while researching some old family papers. He begins asking questions about the tea set and the Pratt family history.
This novel goes back and forth in time, telling the story of the Pratt’s through the years, along with the story of Peter Fallon’s search for answers.
The Book Girls Say… Back Bay is the first in the Peter Fallon thriller series, though it reads as a stand-alone. This novel was originally published in 1979, but recent reviewers say that this mystery story stands the test of time and paints a vivid picture of how the geography and culture of Boston evolved from the 18th to the 20th century.
Books Set in New Hampshire
New Hampshire was the first of the 13 original colonies to declare independence from England. Upon adopting its own constitution in January of 1776, New Hampshire became the first free constitutional government in the world.
Since those early days, New Hampshire, despite its small size, has maintained a position of great importance in national politics. For the past century, it has been the first state to hold its presidential primary every four years (although this could be changing in 2024).
Beyond its place in politics, New Hampshire is known for its beautiful landscape and quaint small towns. It is the second most forested state in the US and has the shortest coastline of any coastal state (just about 18 miles).
Vote First or Die: The New Hampshire Primary
by Scott Conroy
Setting: Throughout New Hampshire, 2016 and historical
Since 1920, the residents of New Hampshire have been the first to cast their votes in each presidential primary. History has shown that a successful presidential run must start with a win, or at least a strong showing, in New Hampshire. On the flip side, NH is also the graveyard of failed political ambitions when candidates can't figure out how to win over the voters in this state.
For a year and a half leading up to the 2016 Primary Day, reporter Scott Conroy followed the 2016 campaigns throughout New Hampshire. He got up close and personal with the candidates and voters. As a result, this book is filled with local insights and entertaining anecdotes from far-flung towns like Dixville Notch to the “big cities” like Manchester and Portsmouth.
The Book Girls Say… Reviewers say that this non-fiction is an entertaining read, but there is some lighthearted ribbing of the people and places of New Hampshire. In addition to looking at the modern primary process in New Hampshire, it also provides a lot of historical information. It jumps back and forth between the past and present throughout.
by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan
Setting: New Hampshire, Present Day
Olivia has been raising her son, Asher, as a single mom ever since she fled her seemingly perfect marriage that was not as it appeared from the outside. When she left her abusive marriage to protect her son, she brought him to her small hometown in New Hampshire. Once home, she moved into her childhood house and took over her father’s beekeeping business.
Like Olivia, Lily is also familiar with starting over. She and her mom recently relocated to New Hampshire to give Lily a fresh start in her final year of high school.
Olivia and Lily’s lives cross paths when Asher begins dating and falls in love with the new girl in town. A few months later, Olivia is shocked to receive a phone call from Asher that he’s at the police station and Lily is dead. Asher is the only suspect in the case, but he insists he didn’t do it. Olivia is willing to give up everything she has to defend her son. But as the case moves toward trial, and as she discovers that Asher has hidden more from her than she realized, Olivia begins to question what traits her son may have inherited from his father.
The Book Girls Say… Keep in mind that this story does not follow a linear timeline, instead jumping back and forth between the present and various points in the past. Be sure to pay attention to the beginning of each chapter, which tells you where that chapter’s events take place along the timeline.
The Hotel New Hampshire
by John Irving
Setting: Derry, New Hampshire, 1980s
The Hotel New Hampshire centers around the eccentric Berry family, including husband and wife, Win and Mary, and their five children. Win and Mary grew up in Derry, New Hampshire, but they met and fell in love while working at a hotel in Maine one summer.
Years later, back in Derry, Win purchases an abandoned school to convert into a hotel. And so begins the Dickensian-style tale. This coming-of-age story is narrated by the middle child, John, who chronicles the lives of his family members through good times and bad.
The Book Girls Say… This 520-page novel was nominated for the National Book Award in 1982. John Irving's novels are perfect for those who love character-driven stories.
Heads Up: This book includes several challenging issues, including abortion and rape, among others, but readers say that each of these topics are addressed with sensitivity.
The Good Daughters
by Joyce Maynard
Setting: New Hampshire, Boston, and British Columbia, 1950s-present
Ruth and Dana were born at the same small New Hampshire hospital on the same day. But the families they were born into couldn’t be more different, and neither feels they belong.
Ruth is an artist with an imaginative spirit. She’s the youngest of five girls in a farming family, but she yearns to break free from the confines of the farmland. Dana is a scientist and a realist, being raised by drifter parents. She yearns for stability that her family cannot offer.
This novel spans more than fifty years, and we see the ways that the lives of these “birthday sisters” parallel and intersect through the years. From childhood and adolescence to marriage, parenthood, and divorce.
by Beth Labonte
Setting: New Hampshire, Present Day
Amy Fox is a horror novelist with a major case of writer's block. She's heartbroken after recently calling off her fall wedding.
When she receives a call that her grandfather broke his wrist driving through a Dunkin Donuts (literally right through the front of the store), she has to return to her hometown of Autumnboro, New Hampshire, to care for him. But returning home runs the risk of bumping into Kit Parker - her childhood best friend and first love.
The Book Girls Say... This book is light and sugary sweet, but it will transport you to small-town New Hampshire. If you’re looking for a quick and cute romance, this book fits the bill. True to a Hallmark-style romance, this book is a clean read.
If you enjoy it, you can continue to spend time in New Hampshire via the sequel, Maple Sugar Crush.
Both books are available with Kindle Unlimited as of 11/30/22.
Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God
by Joe Coomer
Setting: New Hampshire
Just nine weeks after losing her husband, Charlotte escapes to a wooden motor yacht in New Hampshire. There, she meets her unlikely shipmates - an aging blue-haired widow, an emotional 17-year-old, and one very ugly dog. Charlotte develops a genuine bond with the other two women.
When she’s not in her new floating home, Charlotte - an archaeologist - joins a local excavation to uncover an ancient graveyard. As she digs up and reconstructs the past, she tries to bury her own recent history.
Books Set in Rhode Island
Rhode Island is the smallest state in the US, but it boasts more than 400 miles of coastline.
During the Gilded Age of the late 19th century and early 20th century, many of America’s wealthiest families summered in the seaside town of Newport, Rhode Island. They built extravagant mansions that have been historically preserved, and now draw a million tourists a year. It’s no surprise that many of the books about Rhode Island are set in Newport, or other islands, including Block Island.
The Lost Summers of Newport
by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White
Setting: Newport, Rhode Island
Spanning the Gilded Age to the present day in three different timelines, this novel is set among the summer mansions of Newport, Rhode Island.
In the present day, you’ll meet Andie, the producer of a reality show called Mansion Makeover. She’s in Newport to renovate the once fabulous, but now slowly crumbling Sprague Hall. However, she has more than construction problems. The mansion comes with a reclusive heiress who still lives in the house, but insists that no one speaks to her and that no one touches the boathouse.
In 1958, you’ll meet Lucia, aka Lucky, Sprague, who fled Mussolini’s Italy with her grandmother. They return to her Nana’s Newport house, which she hasn’t seen since 1899. One night in the boathouse, she uncovers a shocking truth that changes everything she thought she knew.
In 1899, mining heiress Maybelle Sprague was taking singing lessons from Ellen, who had been hired to help polish Maybelle for her entrance into society. Maybelle's stepbrother has just purchased a home among Newport’s elite and hopes to marry Maybelle off to an Italian prince. However, Ellen has a checkered past that the family doesn’t know about.
Down City: A Daughter's Story of Love, Memory, and Murder
by Leah Carroll
Setting: Rhode Island, 1980s-2000s
This true crime memoir paints a vivid portrait of Rhode Island, where the ghosts of mafia kingpins live alongside a community of stubborn people working hard every day to get by.
Leah Carroll’s story is that of a resilient young woman’s determination to learn the truth about the mother she never knew and the troubled father who raised her. Leah’s mother, a talented photographer, was murdered by two drug dealers with Mafia connections when Leah was just four years old. Her alcoholic father - a man she describes as “both my greatest champion and biggest obstacle” - died when Leah was just eighteen.
This memoir documents Leah’s life from her earlier years in the 1980s through the age of 32.
by Meg Mitchell Moore
Setting: Block Island, Rhode Island
Anthony is a rising literary star, but he's struggling! He borrows a friend's crumbling beach house on Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island, hoping that the quiet solitude will be just what he needs.
Joy came to Block Island a decade ago after her divorce to build a new life for herself and her young daughter. She now owns the island's beloved whoopie pie cafe, but a new-to-town food truck is threatening her business.
Lu and her surgeon husband spend the summer on the island with their sons while he commutes to the mainland hospital. A former-corporate lawyer turned stay-at-home mom, Lu is quietly working on a new project that is increasingly demanding of her time.
Throughout one summer on Block Island, the lives of three strangers become intertwined through romance, well-meaning lies, and secrets - but as June turns to August, the truth will eventually come out.
The Book Girls Say... This Rhode Island book is a delicious read perfect for fans of Elin Hilderbrand-style novels.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐
100% Would Recommend to a Friend
by Peter Pezzelli
Setting: Providence, Rhode Island, 2000s
This is the funny and moving story of a big Italian-American family living in Rhode Island, where they share love, life, advice, and above all, food.
For years, Francesca Campanile was the queen of her home, where she stirred tomato sauce and dished out advice to her growing son and two daughters. But now that her children are grown with their own homes, she is lonely and needs to find a new purpose. That’s why she answers an ad in the Providence newspaper for a part-time nanny position.
Loretta is a single mom looking for help with her kids for a few hours each day, but Francesca can see right away that the mother and kids need much more than that - including some guidance and some lasagna. So it’s time for Francesca to work her motherly magic, starting in the kitchen.
The Edge of Winter
by Luanne Rice
Setting: Rhode Island
When Neve is unable to salvage her relationship with her teenage daughter’s father, she and Mickey must find a way to make a new life for themselves. The mother and daughter share a love of the windswept landscape of Rhode Island’s South County.
Mickey becomes captivated by a wildlife sanctuary where she meets a lonely boy who shares her connection with the creatures of the RI coast. And Neve is drawn to a man who is dealing with loss and pain of his own. As the seasons turn from winter to spring and then summer, a decades-old secret buried just offshore will emerge.
The Book Girls Say… This book is part romance, part mystery, and part family drama. Readers from Rhode Island say that the author does a wonderful job of illustrating the beauty of the beaches and towns. Additionally, this story sheds light on the lesser-known history of WWII battles on the US shore.
Heads Up: This book deals with difficult topics, including military PTSD.
Books Set in Vermont
The Green Mountain state is home to numerous elite boarding schools and liberal arts colleges. While researching books about Vermont, a major theme that emerged was dark academia and cold-weather thrillers, so you'll find a few of these on the list.
Poet Robert Frost moved from New Hampshire to Vermont in 1920 and lived there for more than four decades. He became the official poet laureate of Vermont, writing from his log cabin.
The Winter People
by Jennifer McMahon
Setting: West Hall, VT, 1900s - 2000s
If you love thriller books set in winter, don't miss this paranormal horror story! The town of West Hall, Vermont, has a dark past, including the 1908 death of Sara Harrison Shea and her daughter in separate incidents.
About a hundred years later, 19-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara's old farmhouse. One morning, she wakes up to find that her mother, Alice, is missing. As she tries to find clues about her mother's disappearance, she finds Sara's diary and learns about the town's past. Will Ruth be the person who can finally solve the mysteries of West Hall?
The Book Girls Say… If you love the thriller genre, you may also want to consider What Remains of Her and Before Familiar Woods. Both are mystery/suspense novels set in rural Vermont.
A Stranger in the Kingdom
by Howard Frank Mosher
Setting: Vermont, 1952
This novel, first published in 1989, tells the story of a brutal small-town murder in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. The town hires a new minister after a phone interview. The Black minister arrives in town to find racial tension and religious strife. Soon the minister finds himself on trial more for who he is than for what he might have done.
The minister’s 16-year-old son befriends the son of the local newspaper editor. The story is told through the eyes of the editor’s young son as he looks back on that fateful summer nearly thirty-five years later.
The Book Girls Say… The area known as the Northeast Kingdom represents 2,000 square miles of Vermont, including some of the state's most scenic and untouched locations. The author writes about this region as only a local can, and readers from the area say that he truly captured the spirit and culture of the Kingdom during the mid-fifties.
The murder trial in this book is said to be incredibly well written, making it perfect for fans of legal dramas. If you prefer coming-of-age novels, the author also wrote another book titled Northern Borders, which is set in the same region.
The Broken Girls
by Simone St. James
Setting: Vermont, 1950 and 2014
In the 1950s, Idlewild Hall was the place for girls deemed troublemakers - those who were too smart for their own good and unwanted. Rumors swirl through the small town that the boarding school is haunted. After four roommates bond over their whispered fears, one of them disappears.
Six decades later, in 2014, journalist Fiona Sheridan learns that an anonymous benefactor is restoring Idlewild Hall. She can’t stop thinking about the night twenty years earlier when her older sister was found dead in a field near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. Then, a shocking discovery during renovations links her sister's death to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past.
The Book Girls Guide… This book is part dark academia and part ghost story. If you are looking for other books with a dark academia vibe, consider Home Before Dark and Truly Devious.
Count the Ways
by Joyce Maynard
Setting: Vermont and New Hampshire, 1970s and following decades
Eleanor and Cam met at a crafts fair in Vermont in the early 1970s - she was an artist and writer, and he made wooden bowls. Within four years, they were married with three children and living on a New Hampshire farm. Their life is exactly what Eleanor always dreamed of.
But then a terrible accident occurs, and Cam’s negligence causes it. Eleanor is unable to forgive her husband. As the decades pass, the five members of this family deal with discoveries and tensions - including a gender transition - that bring them together and tear them apart.
The Book Girls Say… In addition to descriptively portraying New England, this book also traces the history of the late 20th century, including the computer age, the Challenger explosion, the AIDS epidemic, the early awakenings of the #MeToo era, and beyond.
Black Diamond Fall
by Joseph Olshan
Setting: Middlebury College, Vermont, 2008-2010
This literary mystery is based on two actual events at Middlebury College - the disappearance of a student during winter break and the vandalism of Robert Frost’s former home on one of the outer campuses.
Luc Flanders left to retrieve a lost item after finishing a game of pond hockey with his roommates, but he never returned. The police investigate his disappearance, but with no definitive conclusion. Some think he doesn’t want to be found, while others believe foul play was involved.
As the investigation intensifies, several people become suspects, including Luc’s ex-girlfriend and Sam Solomon, an older man with whom Luc had a secret relationship.
The Secret History
by Donna Tartt
Setting: Vermont, 1980s
This classic novel is set at Hampden College, a small, elite Vermont liberal arts school. Richard, an out-of-state student from California, gets pulled into a close-knit community of the classics department.
Narrator Richard tells the events that led to the death of a fellow student. He recounts the influence that a professor exerted over a group of undergrads, and the dark path of secrets and corruption that the students went down, changing all of their lives forever.
Author Donna Tartt spent her undergrad years at Bennington College in Vermont, which is speculated to be the influence for the fictional Hampden College.
The Book Girls Say… Shortly after we selected this book for our Vermont reading list, it was announced that Jenna Bush Hager selected it as a Read With Jenna pick in honor of its 30th publishing anniversary. Jenna’s description of the book as one of her favorites of all time makes us even more excited to add it to our TBRs.
Radio Free Vermont
by Bill McKibben
Setting: Vermont, Present Day
This political fiction novel imagines a movement in which a band of Vermont patriots decides that their state might be better off as its own republic.
Seventy-two-year-old Vern Barclay hosts Radio Free Vermont, broadcasting from an “undisclosed and double-secret location.” With the help of a young computer prodigy, he uses his radio show to advocate for the idea of an independent Vermont.
He empowers an eccentric group of activists who carry out their version of guerilla warfare. This includes dismissing local middle school children early in honor of 'Ethan Allen Day' and hijacking a Coors Light truck to replace the stock with local brew.
But even as Vern’s idea gains traction, he must remain in hiding. In addition to being a political activist, he’s a fugitive from the law.
The Book Girls Say… When we think of Vermont, we think of the state’s history as a pioneer in legislative issues, such as gay rights and environmentalism. While we generally try to steer clear of specifically political books, this one is a humorous work of fiction that vividly portrays the small but mighty state of Vermont. This book is certainly not for everyone, but it’s a short read we wanted to throw into the mix for those interested.
You are welcome to choose any book that you’d like to read for the challenge, but we hope that this list of books has given you a good starting point.
Members of our email list and Facebook group, Read with the Book Girls can log ratings for their monthly challenge reads. The logs provide us with data for the “BGG Reader Ratings” that are added to descriptions for future years. We’d love you to contribute your rating after you’ve finished your read this month.
Join the Read Around the USA Challenge
Book Recommendations for Other Regions of the USA
We’re publishing a book list for a new group of states each month throughout 2023. You’ll find a schedule of upcoming regions in this post.
- Books Set in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware
- Books Set in Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Nebraska
- Books Set in the U.S. Territories
- Books Set in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and Tennessee
- Books Set in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming
- Books Set in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont
Can you send me a printable list with the book titles but not descriptions?
This was a big request last year that we weren’t able to add to our plates in 2022. New for 2023, readers who support Book Girls Guide through our Buy Me a Coffee membership site will receive special monthly printable journal pages as a thank you bonus. The voluntary members (we call them our BFFs) help cover the cost of running the challenges so we can keep them free for everyone.
We’re so excited to be able to offer this fun perk this year!
The new pages will be pre-filled with every book title for each state, and include space for you to mark your interest level, make notes about whether you’ve requested the book from the library (or any other notes you’d like), and then fill in your rating. We’ll also include blank lines in case you have other books on your TBR (to be read) list that meet the prompt. We’d love you to sign up here!
That said, you’ll always find the most updated version of our recommendations with descriptions each month at no cost on our website. We do update the list and descriptions regularly based on reader feedback. But, we know some of you wanted to print the list to take to the library or bookstore, and we hope this helps.
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Books Set in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware
Thursday 18th of May 2023
[…] Below you’ll find a list of highly-rated books featuring some of the northeastern US states. This month includes Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. If you are looking for books set in the northernmost New England states, you’ll find those on this booklist. […]
Wednesday 1st of February 2023
Just joined the group and I love the selections. Helps me to get out of my habit of reading the same type of books and explore so much more.
Thursday 5th of January 2023
Hester is only available for pre-order via your link. It does not come out until October of this year. ☹️
Thursday 5th of January 2023
Our link goes to the Kindle version, which is available now, as is the audiobook and the hardback. Hester has not yet been released in paperback (that's what is available for pre-order). Quite a few of our readers have already checked out Hester from their local libraries, as well!
Monday 2nd of January 2023
I’ve picked 11……. what a great list of books!!!!
Sunday 1st of January 2023
First time in this group and I can’t wait to start reading! Seriously all of the books sound so good!