The best books that capture Cape Cod and the islands

Adrienne Brodeur Author Of Wild Game: My Mother, Her Secret, and Me
By Adrienne Brodeur

Who am I?

I grew up spending summers on Cape Cod, where I studied its storied history, explored its various ecosystems -- kettle ponds, shorelines, scrub pine forests, and sand dunes -- and harvested its bountiful offerings – littlenecks, oysters, lobster, bluefish, wild blueberries, rosehips, beach plums, and more. After college, I spent twenty years in the literary world of publishing in New York City. But a few years ago, I moved back to Massachusetts where the flavors, smells, and landscape are written into my bones. Cape Cod is home. 

I wrote...

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Secret, and Me

By Adrienne Brodeur,

Book cover of Wild Game: My Mother, Her Secret, and Me

What is my book about?

On a hot August night on Cape Cod, when Adrienne was 14, her mother Malabar woke her at midnight with five simple words that would set the course of both of their lives for years to come: Ben Souther just kissed me. Adrienne became her mother’s confidante and helpmate; from then on, Malabar came to rely on her daughter to help orchestrate what would become an epic affair with her husband’s closest friend. The affair would have calamitous consequences for everyone involved, impacting Adrienne’s life in profound ways, driving her into a doomed marriage of her own, and then into a deep depression. 

This is a book about the lies we tell in order to justify the choices we make. It’s about mothers and daughters and the nature of family. And ultimately, it's a story of resilience, a reminder that we need not be the parents our parents were to us; that moving forward is possible.

The books I picked & why

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The Paper Palace

By Miranda Cowley Heller,

Book cover of The Paper Palace

Why this book?

Set in the physical and psychic landscape of Cape Cod, The Paper Palace is a fever dream of a novel, luminous with love and shot through with humor and heartbreak. It is a book that explores the indelibility of childhood, what it means to be shaped by place, and all that is unpredictable about the human heart. I couldn’t put it down.

The Movement of Stars

By Amy Brill,

Book cover of The Movement of Stars

Why this book?

Read one page of this gorgeous novel and be transported to the streets and sand dunes of 19th-century Quaker Nantucket back when it was still a whaling town. The Movement of Stars is a brilliantly researched work of historical fiction that explores timeless themes: ambition, love, women’s rights, closed-faith communities, and race. I fell in love with the quiet protagonist, Hannah Price, who charts her own course in this unlikely love story.

Upstream: Selected Essays

By Mary Oliver,

Book cover of Upstream: Selected Essays

Why this book?

Mary Oliver’s writing is so arresting that it’s impossible not to underline phrases and write comments in the margins. Though not every single essay in this stunning collection is about Cape Cod, they are all a testament to Oliver’s boundless curiosity, profound ability to pay attention, and relationship to the worlds of nature and literature. 

The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod

By Henry Beston,

Book cover of The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod

Why this book?

Fair warning: The Outermost House has no plot. Long hailed a classic of American nature writing (along the lines of Henry David Thoreau’s “Waldon), the book is essentially a meditation comprised of detailed observations made by the author over the year he spent alone in a remote Cape Cod beach house. Rachel Carson claimed it as the sole book of influence on her writing.

Seating Arrangements

By Maggie Shipstead,

Book cover of Seating Arrangements

Why this book?

Seating Arrangements is a smart, summery romp of a read set on the fictional island of Waskeke off of New England. The novel takes place in the days building up to Winn Van Meter’s eldest daughter’s wedding and takes a satirical look at the habits of a certain social class – the drinking, clubbing, and ancient social conflicts. Like a frothy cocktail, it goes down easy and packs a wallop.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Cape Cod, romantic love, and nature?

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