The best books to reveal the truth about the Pilgrims

Who am I?

In researching the next book in my Kindred Spirit series I intended to tell the story of the “Angel of Hadley,” which occurred in my hometown. As I researched the topic, I fell into more, and more convoluted rabbit holes. For example, the Indian who led King Philip's War was Metacom, son of the great sachem Massasoit who signed the mutual defense treaty with Governor Carver of Plymouth Plantation when they first met in 1621. The rapid descent from 40 years of peace into the proportionally bloodiest war to take place in what is now America, was spellbinding. And my research continues.


I wrote...

All Is Still And Quiet

By Craig Lancto,

Book cover of All Is Still And Quiet

What is my book about?

On February 29, 1704, during Queen Anne's War, about 150 Mohawks from New France (Canada) and their allies joined with 50 French soldiers in launching a pre-dawn attack on the Deerfield settlement at the northwest frontier of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay. Forty-eight villagers were killed in the raid and 109 captives were taken for ransom or prisoner exchange and forced to march about 300 miles to Quebec.

Using journals, letters, and books by the erstwhile captives and other sources, this account relates actual events, focusing on the family of the Rev. Mr. John Williams, pastor and community leader.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Of Plymouth Plantation

Craig Lancto Why did I love this book?

The best source of information about the Pilgrim journey from their origin as Puritan/Dissenters in Scrooby, England. Bradford, who would serve multiple terms as governor of Plymouth Plantation, gives the lie to many of our commonly held beliefs about the Pilgrims and their experiences fleeing England, living in Holland, and coming to New England. He is detailed, candid, and very readable. Seeing the story from his first-person point of view helped me to see the Pilgrims as flawed individuals, whether appropriating a tribe's entire cache of seed corn on their first day on Cape Cod, Bradford's being upended in a snare set to trap animals, or their first Indian guest entering the settlement and asking for beer, it is not, ironically, the traditional Pilgrim story.

By William Bradford,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Of Plymouth Plantation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In August 1620, 102 English Separatists set off in the Mayflower for New England.

These men, women and children, who became known as the Pilgrims, would found the Plymouth Colony.

They had to survive harsh winters, poor harvests, disease and famine in the early years of their new settlement.

These struggles were only exacerbated by conflicts they had with other English settlements, French settlers and against Native Americans.

But they persevered in what has become one of the most iconic periods in the history of the United States.

William Bradford, who was Plymouth Colony Governor five times for a period…


Book cover of Saints and Strangers

Craig Lancto Why did I love this book?

Historian George Willison has published an account of the Pilgrims, who called themselves Saints (or Saincts) and the Strangers, or non-Puritan workmen who filled out their company, in a conversational style that sets the record straight on many of the Pilgrim “facts” we always have accepted. For example, not only is there no evidence that the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, no one even suggested the idea until the son of a colonist who arrived several years after the original Pilgrims, mentioned it in passing when he was in his 90s. Willison's narrative has the quality of listening to Grandpa telling stories from his childhood and wonderfully complements primary documents. 

By George F. Willison,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Saints and Strangers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Cover and book are very clean, and appear little-used. Pages are bright and unmarked. Ships fast from Northern California.


Book cover of This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving

Craig Lancto Why did I love this book?

Historian Daniel Silverman tells the story of the Pilgrims amid recounting the experience of the Massasoit's Wampanoags who signed a defense treaty with Plymouth Governor John Carver that endured throughout the great chief's lifetime, about 40 more years. For me, one of the more telling vignettes in his account is that of the young Indian child forced to sing “This Land is Your Land” at a school Thanksgiving celebration on land that once had belonged to his people. His subtitle, "The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled Story of Thanksgiving" is appropriate to the history he relates, if not an understatement. Silverman's book provides a compassionate view of the complex path the Native Americans had to navigate with the Europeans who were pushing them out of the land they had inhabited for more than 12,000 years.

By David Silverman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked This Land Is Their Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ahead of the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving, a new look at the Plymouth colony's founding events, told for the first time with Wampanoag people at the heart of the story.

In March 1621, when Plymouth's survival was hanging in the balance, the Wampanoag sachem (or chief), Ousamequin (Massasoit), and Plymouth's governor, John Carver, declared their people's friendship for each other and a commitment to mutual defense. Later that autumn, the English gathered their first successful harvest and lifted the specter of starvation. Ousamequin and 90 of his men then visited Plymouth for the “First Thanksgiving.” The treaty remained…


Book cover of The Story of America: From the Very Beginning Up to the Present

Craig Lancto Why did I love this book?

Not often does a history text make me guffaw. Hendrik van Loons writing is an exception. His scholarship is serious, his delivery casual and delightful. In 1922, Van Loon won the first Newberry Prize for his children's book, The History of Mankind.

The Story of America is not a linear history; it is more like an explanation, of putting it all together, around a campfire. Van Loon assumes the reader's familiarity with the events of history, and he makes value judgments and simplifies the complex with no loss of significance. It is more an explanation of history and motivation than a history of events.

Book cover of Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth

Craig Lancto Why did I love this book?

Sub-titled “A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth,” this first-person account of the Pilgrims' early years includes detail not found in Bradford's account. As Winslow's purpose was to attract new immigrants to support Plymouth Plantation, he tends to paint a much rosier picture than the more straightforward Bradford. This book's advantage is that it was written contemporaneously.

By Jordan D. Fiore,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mourt's Relation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This great work is in the Second Printing 2006. The first printing was 1985. Mourt's Relation was originally printed in 1622 and is the first-hand published account of the coming of the Pilgrims to the New World. It is an invaluable primary resource for Pilgrim history and provides the first documented report giving an account of the harvest feast that we know as the First Thanksgiving. A must for educators and every home.


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Unsettled

By Laurie Woodford,

Book cover of Unsettled

Laurie Woodford

New book alert!

What is my book about?

At the age of forty-nine, Laurie Woodford rents out her house, packs her belongings into two suitcases, and leaves her life in upstate New York to relocate to Seoul, South Korea. What begins as an opportunity to teach college English in Asia evolves into a nomadic adventure.

Laurie spoon-feeds orphans in Ethiopia, performs 108 bows at a Buddhist mountain temple, walks shelter dogs in Peru, milks goats in Fuerteventura, and gets lost in Mexico, all the while navigating dating at midlife.

After four years of traveling, Laurie’s return “home” becomes an unexpected adventure of its own when she ends up in Arkansas and meets Bruce, a bird-loving, bearded Quaker, and then struggles to reconcile her need for freedom with her longing to feel settled.

Unsettled

By Laurie Woodford,

What is this book about?

At the age of forty-nine, driven by an urgent restlessness, Laurie Woodford rents out her house, packs her belongings into two suitcases, and relocates to Asia. What begins as an opportunity to teach college English overseas, evolves into a nomadic adventure as Laurie works and volunteers in South Korea, Ethiopia, Peru, Spain, and Mexico. After four years of traveling, Laurie's return "home" to the U.S. becomes an unexpected adventure of its own when she ends up in Arkansas and meets Bruce, a bird-loving, bearded Quaker, who challenges her to reconcile her life of fierce independence with her longing to feel…


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Interested in the pilgrims, Massachusetts, and Plymouth Colony?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the pilgrims, Massachusetts, and Plymouth Colony.

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Plymouth Colony Explore 9 books about Plymouth Colony