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Books Set in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware

Whether you’re participating in our 2023 Read Around the USA Challenge, or simply found your way to our website researching books set in the northeastern states, you’ve come to the right place!

Three angled book covers. The center book is New York: A Novel

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.

What Kind of Books Are Included On This List?

Our curated recommendations strike a good balance between historical fiction, contemporary novels, and even one memoir set in the northeast. The list is broken down by state. You’ll also find a brief description of each state’s characteristics before the corresponding books.

Books That Take Place in the Northeastern States

Books Set in Connecticut

Connecticut, the third smallest state in the U.S., is located in the New England region. While the other states in this region were included on a book list earlier in the year, we opted to group Connecticut together with New York because more than 25% of the state’s population lives in Fairfield County, which is considered part of the New York metropolitan area.

Native American tribes, including the Mohegan and Pequot, originally inhabited Connecticut. The English Puritans settled here in the 1630s, establishing the Connecticut Colony. Among its many nicknames, Connecticut became known as “the Provision State” during the American Revolution because of its significant role in supplying the Continental Army.

With the Industrial Revolution, the state transformed into a manufacturing hub, renowned for its innovations in weaponry and machinery. Connecticut was one of the first states to push for the abolition of slavery and played an active part in the Civil Rights movement.

From The Stepford Wives to The Baby-Sitters Club, Connecticut has been famously portrayed in a number of classic books. Of course, as huge Gilmore Girls fans, it's the fictional town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut, that is always at the front of our mind when we think of this state. Gilmore Girls showcased Connecticut’s idyllic and quaint small towns, four distinct seasons, prestigious prep schools, and Ivy League university. Of course, we know that none of these fictionalized portrayals encompass the diversity and complexity of the entire state.

Books Set in New York

New York state was originally inhabited by Native American tribes, including the Iroquois and Algonquin. The Dutch established New Amsterdam, today's Manhattan, in 1624, before the English seized control in 1664, renaming it New York. The state played a pivotal role in the American Revolution, with key battles fought on its soil.

New York City became a hub of immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries. Gifted by France in 1886, the Statue of Liberty symbolizes freedom and democracy, serving as a beacon of hope to millions of immigrants arriving in the United States. Ellis Island operated as the nation's busiest immigrant inspection station from 1892 to 1954, processing approximately 12 million newcomers. Today, the city continues to embody the American melting pot, fostering a rich tapestry of cultures, cuisines, languages, and traditions.

NYC is the largest city in the US with over 8 million residents across five boroughs—Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island. It is also one of the most influential urban centers globally and plays a dominant role in commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, and entertainment. Wall Street, in Lower Manhattan, is the heart of the global financial industry, while Broadway represents the pinnacle of the theater scene. Skyscrapers, diverse neighborhoods, and iconic landmarks like Times Square and Central Park define the landscape.

New York City and Upstate New York are two distinct regions within the state that offer contrasting lifestyles and experiences. The term Upstate New York is generally used to describe all of New York State outside the metropolitan area of NYC. The pace of life Upstate is generally slower, with smaller cities and towns dotting the landscape, providing a stark contrast to the urban intensity of NYC.

The economy of Upstate New York ranges from agriculture and manufacturing to education, with several esteemed universities such as Cornell (in Ithaca) and the University of Rochester. Stretching all the way north to the Canadian border, Upstate New York is known for its natural beauty, including the Adirondack and Catskill mountains, Finger Lakes, and Niagara Falls.

There are endless wonderful books that we could recommend for New York - from classics like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, to contemporary novels like Pineapple Street, to non-fiction like The Only Plane in the Sky. It was nearly impossible to narrow our list down to just a few choices for this challenge while balancing stories set in the city and elsewhere in the state.

Books About New Jersey

New Jersey, one of the original 13 colonies, has a rich and storied history. Its first inhabitants were the Lenape people, and the Dutch arrived in the 1500s. In 1664, the English seized control from the Dutch, and New Jersey became an English colony. Its location between New York and Philadelphia made it a strategic site during the American Revolutionary War. After the war, New Jersey rapidly industrialized, becoming a major hub for manufacturing and innovation. The state saw an influx of immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries, contributing to its cultural diversity.

New Jersey is a popular place to live for people who work in NYC because of its close proximity to Manhattan the robust transportation network linking the two. More than two-thirds of New Jersey's population reside within the counties that are considered part of the New York Metropolitan Area. These residents enjoy a lower cost of living compared to many parts of NYC, more spacious housing, and access to good schools and suburban communities.

Despite its relatively small size (it’s the 4th smallest in the US) and high population density, New Jersey also has a significant number of farms. This state produces a wide array of fruits, vegetables, and other agricultural products, earning its nickname as the "Garden State."

The New Jersey Shore, spanning 130 miles of Atlantic coastline, is a vital part of the state's tourism industry. Renowned for its beautiful beaches, boardwalks, and lively resort towns, it attracts millions of visitors each year. From the Victorian charm of Cape May to the vibrant boardwalk of Atlantic City, the shore offers diverse experiences for every type of visitor.

When asked to vote for their favorite Garden State author, New Jerseyan’s ranked Judy Blume at the top of the list. Since much of her writing is aimed at a middle-grade audience, we didn’t put any books on our list below. But if you want a quick blast from the past, consider picking up Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret, about a preteen whose family relocates from New York to New Jersey.

Books Set in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania, one of the original 13 colonies, has a rich and diverse history. Originally inhabited by the Lenape and the Susquehannock tribes, the colony of Pennsylvania was founded in 1681 by William Penn. It began as a haven for religious freedom and a refuge for Quakers. The state played a pivotal role in the American Revolution.

Pennsylvania witnessed the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia in 1776, making it the birthplace of American democracy. A decade later, the Constitutional Convention assembled at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia (now renamed Independence Hall). The Liberty Bell, which originally hung in the steeple of the State House, and is now housed across the street, remains a lasting symbol of American Independence.

The state's industrial might grew in the 19th century, fueled by coal, iron, and steel, transforming cities like Pittsburgh into industrial powerhouses. Pennsylvania also became a center of abolitionist and Underground Railroad activity, contributing to the fight against slavery. Today, Steel City is known for its modern technology industry and its stunning skyline nestled between three rivers.

Pennsylvania is recognized for its natural beauty, with picturesque landscapes ranging from the Pocono Mountains to the Great Lakes region. This state is also well known for its large Amish population, particularly in Lancaster County. While the Amish primarily interact within their own communities and limit contact with modern society, tourism is an essential aspect of the local economy in Lancaster County. They have found ways to accommodate and engage with visitors while preserving their way of life. Visitors to Lancaster County can explore Amish farms, experience horse-drawn buggy rides, and witness skilled craftsmanship in the form of handmade furniture and quilts. If you are interested in reading Amish romance - a popular fiction subgenre - this list is a good starting point.

Books Set in Delaware

Delaware is known as "The First State" because it was the first to ratify the U.S. Constitution in 1787. Originally inhabited by Lenape and Nanticoke tribes, the Dutch claimed the region in 1609. It was a part of Pennsylvania until 1704, when Delaware was granted its own assembly, leading to its separate governance. Delaware played key roles in both the American Revolution and the Civil War, and today it maintains a rich cultural heritage by preserving many colonial landmarks.

Despite being the second smallest state in the US, Delaware is the legal home for a majority of U.S. publicly traded companies. Business-friendly laws, the court system, and tax policies make it a corporate haven.

Delaware is also a popular tourist destination. Each year, millions of visitors flock to its charming beaches, including Rehoboth, Bethany, and Lewes, as well as the nearby tax-free shopping outlets.

Joe Biden, the 46th President of the United States, moved to Delaware with his family at age 10. He represented the state in the U.S. Senate from 1973 to 2009, famously commuting from Delaware to D.C. by train so he didn’t miss out on family dinners and events.

Though it is small in size, Delaware's influence is widely felt in corporate, cultural, political, and historical contexts.

You are welcome to choose any book you’d like to read for the challenge. But, we hope 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. You can find the links to the logs in your Friday emails each week throughout the month of the challenge.

Join the Read Around the USA Challenge

Photo of the read around the USA reading challenge printable with text about how to join the challenge. Clicking the image takes you to our reading challenge page with all of the text instructions

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!

We pre-filled the journal pages with every book title for each state. The printable also includes 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. Blank lines are included 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!

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.

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.



Angela & Melissa

The Book Girls are best friends who jointly read over 200 books per year. We started Book Girls' Guide in 2019 to help others de-stress and find joy through the power of a great book. We do in-depth research on thousands of novels and non-fiction titles each year to provide curated book lists covering a variety of genres.

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