The best books on New England’s forgotten conflict

The Books I Picked & Why

Caleb's Crossing

By Geraldine Brooks

Book cover of Caleb's Crossing

Why this book?

When Caleb’s Crossing came out I couldn’t wait to read it. Not only was it written by one of my favorite authors, it was inspired by a true story and set in the same place and time period as the novel I was working on. Brooks’ depiction of the love between a Puritan minister’s daughter and the son of a Wampanoag leader is fraught with tension as two very different cultures collide. The novel brings to life the forces driving the conflict through the characters of Bethia and Caleb as they struggle to navigate a perilous time and the looming prospect of war.


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Mayflower: Voyage, Community, War

By Nathaniel Philbrick

Book cover of Mayflower: Voyage, Community, War

Why this book?

Mayflower is a brilliant and comprehensive account of the first fifty years of Puritan settlement in New England, culminating in King Philip’s War, the bloodiest war, per capita, in American history. That conflict effectively marked the end of the English effort to live amicably with Native peoples and initiated a policy of subjection, domination, and erasure that continues to this day. In readable prose permeated with fascinating historical information, Mayflower presents a riveting account of the English colonization of New England.


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The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity by Jill Lepore

By Jill Lepore

Book cover of The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity by Jill Lepore

Why this book?

When I was researching my novel, I read many books on King Philip’s War, and Jill Lepore’s The Name of War is the best by far. Written in a readable prose style, and filled with detailed descriptions of events, the book riveted me from the first page. I also found myself returning to it time after time for clarification and specific information. I love the way it takes a deep dive into the origins and unfolding of the hostilities as well as looking at its long-lasting aftermath. It also includes a compelling account of Mary Rowlandson’s captivity and release as well as tracing James Printer’s activities.


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Our Beloved Kin: A New History of King Philip's War

By Lisa Brooks

Book cover of Our Beloved Kin: A New History of King Philip's War

Why this book?

Our Beloved Kin is a unique account of King Philip’s War that centers on the history of Native resistance and their experience of the conflict. Drawing on early documents and information often overlooked in previous studies, the author, a member of the Missisquoi Band of Abenaki, presents an in-depth chronicle of the war and the events leading up to it. I wish this book had been in print when I was researching my book. While it wouldn’t have changed the basic arc of the novel, it would have given me a more complete understanding of James Printer’s perspective.


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The Sovereignty and Goodness of God: A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson

By Mary Rowlandson

Book cover of The Sovereignty and Goodness of God: A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson

Why this book?

Mary Rowlandson’s narrative of her captivity experience with Native Americans during King Philip’s War was one of the first bestsellers in the English colonies. And it’s the first published “captivity narrative” in what was to become a popular American literary genre. Rowlandson’s book is a fast-moving and dramatic account that describes in detail the attack that destroyed her home and culminated in her capture. She includes a harrowing account of carrying her fatally wounded daughter on an arduous journey, her despair when her daughter dies, her struggles to survive among people she’s been taught to revile, and her eventual ransom and release. This book has long been one of the most important primary sources documenting Native culture in New England at the time of English colonization.


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