The best books about Cape Cod

6 authors have picked their favorite books about Cape Cod and why they recommend each book.

Soon, you will be able to filter by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to explore books.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

The Outermost House

By Henry Beston,

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

I love Cape Cod and I was fortunate to live on the edge of the sea between 1997-2003. Skillfully written by one of America’s greatest writers of the natural habitat, it transports you to a place. It reminds me of what it felt like to live far out in Cape Cod on the North Atlantic at its furthest reach on the east coast of the United States. Living there for several years and spending time in nature with the sea, beach, dunes, and my bicycle, I learned to love its moods, wildlife, and great sense of mystery. I totally identified with this man’s extraordinary experience and how it was years ago. A wonderfully descriptive book that helps you experience with all your senses what it’s like to live next to the sea alone. 


Who am I?

I’m a storyteller. I studied graphic design, animation, and film and became the title designer of Yorkshire Television’s game show 3*2*1 and directed an art-directed film and animation for British television and cinema. I was the Project Designer of the original Jorvik Viking Centre (1984). By 2008 I designed and built 25 award-winning cultural heritage centres and completed 150 international consultancies, producing and directing my exhibition documentaries. I learned how important writing was to my work. When it came down to it, whatever technique I used in the telling, there was always the story behind it as the way to transport the audience into a mentally immersive experience.


I wrote...

On My Way to Jorvik: a humorous memoir of how a boy with a vision became a radical designer

By John Sunderland,

Book cover of On My Way to Jorvik: a humorous memoir of how a boy with a vision became a radical designer

What is my book about?

Why can’t museums be more like films?' thought 11-year-old John Sunderland. He was a truant in a West Yorkshire grammar school, a maths failure, a great respecter of art and history and loved films. He created the iconic British TV cartoon character Dusty Bin and made films with the zany comedian Kenny Everett. He was the perfect person to solve the quandary of the British archeologists who wanted to bring the 10th-century finds of Viking York to life for the public. 

You’ll romp chortling through this uproarious, incredible behind-the-scenes account of the creation of the original Jorvik Viking Centre that changed the way Britain’s cultural heritage would be presented from then on, told with the unremitting Yorkshire wit of its Project Designer, John Sunderland. 

That Quail, Robert

By Margaret Stanger,

Book cover of That Quail, Robert

Originally published in 1966, this charming illustrated tale continues to sell briskly. Written by the neighbor of a Cape Cod doctor who finds a quail egg abandoned in his yard and warms it with a table lamp until it hatches, it tells of how Robert, as the bird (later discovered to be female) is dubbed, imprints on “his” adopted family, who quickly realize that “far from having a bird in captivity, we were helplessly and hopelessly ensnared and enamored.” What follows is an interspecies love story between the “highly sociable,” housetrained, telephone-answering, sauerkraut-devouring fluffball and the humans she never ceases to beguile.


Who am I?

I never had a particular interest in birds until I heard about David Wingate and the cahow; I’m just a reporter who was smitten by a compelling story. I often write about science and the environment, as well as travel and other topics, for publications including the Boston Globe, Archaeology, and Harvard Medicine, and while working on Rare Birds I got hooked on these extraordinary creatures and the iconoclastic obsessives who have become their stewards in the Anthropocene era. You don’t have to care about birds to love their stories — but in the end, you will.


I wrote...

Rare Birds: The Extraordinary Tale of the Bermuda Petrel and the Man Who Brought It Back from Extinction

By Elizabeth Gehrman,

Book cover of Rare Birds: The Extraordinary Tale of the Bermuda Petrel and the Man Who Brought It Back from Extinction

What is my book about?

Rare Birds is a tale of obsession, of hope, of fighting for redemption against incredible odds. For more than 300 years the cahow, or Bermuda petrel, was believed extinct, but by the early 1900s, tantalizing hints of the birds’ continued existence began to emerge, and in 1951, two naturalists mounted a last-ditch effort to find them, bringing 15-year-old David Wingate along for the ride. When the stunned scientists pulled a blinking, docile cahow from deep within a rocky cliffside, it made headlines around the world—and showed Wingate what he was put on Earth to do.
 
Starting with just seven nesting pairs of the birds, Wingate devoted his life to giving the cahows the chance they needed in their centuries-long struggle for survival, battling hurricanes, invasive species, DDT, the American military, and personal tragedy along the way. It took six decades of ardent dedication, but Wingate has seen his dream fulfilled as the birds have reached the 100-pair mark and returned to Nonsuch, an island habitat he hand-restored for them, plant by plant, in anticipation of this day. His story is an inspiring celebration of the resilience of nature, the power of persistence, and the value of going your own way.

The Paper Palace

By Miranda Cowley Heller,

Book cover of The Paper Palace

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.


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.

Seating Arrangements

By Maggie Shipstead,

Book cover of Seating Arrangements

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.


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.

Wild Game

By Adrienne Brodeur,

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

I read Wild Game in a weekend—and that’s unusual for me, but I just couldn’t put the book down. Brodeur brought me into a world of treachery, lies, and mother-daughter entanglement that I found absolutely compelling. The mother in this book, Malabar, is a larger-than-life character whose willingness to sacrifice her daughter’s well-being for her own ends was horrifying and believable. I rooted for the daughter all the way through this beautifully crafted book, but it was the mother I found unforgettable.

Who am I?

We all have obsessions in life and one of mine has been my mother and the great love and enmity that ricocheted between us for fifty-seven years. Throughout the decades, my mother went from protector to controller to betrayer to ogre to human to an elderly woman in my care. The love and hate, distance and intimacy, estrangement, and reconciliation that we experienced made me a lifelong student of the mother-daughter bond. I‘ve written about my mother for more than 30 years, and love reading mother-daughter stories, not saccharine sweet ones, but complex multi-layered dramas where there’s no villain and no hero—just two humans struggling to love and understand each other.


I wrote...

The Burning Light of Two Stars: A Mother-Daughter Story

By Laura Davis,

Book cover of The Burning Light of Two Stars: A Mother-Daughter Story

What is my book about?

When she published The Courage to Heal in 1988, Laura Davis helped more than a million women work through the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. But her decision to go public with her grandfather’s incest deepened an already painful estrangement with her mother, Temme.

Over the next twenty years, from a safe distance of 3,000 miles, Laura and Temme reconciled their volatile relationship and believed that their difficult past was behind them. But when Temme moves across the country to entrust her daughter with the rest of her life, she brings a faltering mind, a fierce need for independence, and the seeds of a second war between them. As the stresses of caregiving rekindle Laura’s rage over past betrayals, they threaten her intention to finally love her mother “without reservation.” Will she learn what it means to be truly open-hearted before it’s too late?

Bound

By Sally Cabot Gunning,

Book cover of Bound

Bound is set in the years prior to the American Revolution, and highlights the difficulties faced by girls and women indentured servants. Alice and her family set out for America from England, but when her mother and brothers die during the voyage, Alice’s father decides he cannot keep her and sells her as an indentured servant upon reaching Boston. Alice should have had a middle-class upbringing, but instead, she becomes chattel. The scenes of abuse in this book are stark, but it helps to shed light on the sufferings of the disenfranchised and the helpless. Alice’s determination will inspire.


Who am I?

I’ve always been fascinated by American history and have clear memories of celebrating America’s bicentennial as a child. I have twenty-two Revolutionary Patriots in my family history, and I am most proud of my 6x-great grandmother, Anna Asbury Stone, for her bravery and daring during the winter of 1778. I did extensive genealogical research to learn about her, her family, and her circumstances before writing Answering Liberty’s Call: Anna Stone’s Daring Ride to Valley Forge.


I wrote...

Answering Liberty's Call: Anna Stone's Daring Ride to Valley Forge: A Novel

By Tracy Lawson,

Book cover of Answering Liberty's Call: Anna Stone's Daring Ride to Valley Forge: A Novel

What is my book about?

In 1778, war is men's business. That doesn't stop Anna Stone from getting involved in the fight for liberty. When her soldier husband and brothers face starvation at Valley Forge, Anna is not content to pray and worry. She gets on her horse and strikes out alone over two hundred miles of rough roads to bring them life-sustaining supplies.

Eighty miles from her destination, Anna learns of a plot to overthrow General Washington and replace him with a commander who will surrender. With the fate of the American Revolution in her hands, she agrees to carry a message of warning and races to reach Valley Forge before one of the conspirators, who is in hot pursuit, can intercept her. Based on events in the life of the author's 6x great-grandmother.

Fools Rush in

By Kristan Higgins,

Book cover of Fools Rush in

This book was Higgins’ debut and holy moly does it deliver! It’s endearing but not in a sappy way, sweet but not to the point of annoyance, swoony but not in a “I need Lava Soap" way, and most importantly it’s laugh-out-loud funny! Just like her many other books since, her characters are perfectly flawed with makes them beyond relatable and oh-so addictive! A great book to get to know this author!

Who am I?

I love to laugh. Quite often it’s at inappropriate times or at someone else’s expense, but either way, it’s a huge part of who I am. Second only to prayer, I find laughter to be the best remedy for a difficult situation. It’s hard to be sad when you’re laughing, and as a writer who puts characters into very challenging positions, that’s always at the forefront of my mind. While readers may not always relate to the exact circumstance my characters are in, they may very well find common ground in the levity they seek when trying to survive it.


I wrote...

See Jane Snap

By Bethany Crandell,

Book cover of See Jane Snap

What is my book about?

Handsome, successful husband. Adorable daughter. Chairmanship on the PTA. Security for her ailing mom. Jane’s got everything life has to offer. Including the lie that could destroy it all.

See Jane Snap is a laugh-out-loud story of a woman who’s committed to faking it ‘til she makes it…or loses her mind trying.

The Movement of Stars

By Amy Brill,

Book cover of The Movement of Stars

Maria Mitchell, raised as a Nantucket Quaker, was the first woman to discover and name a new comet, no easy task in the 1840s when women were not meant to study astronomy, let alone when her only instrument was a small telescope on an island roof. Brill takes artistic license with Mitchell’s story, adding nuance and detail likely outside the scope of her research, and delivers a riveting tale of a woman determined to live her dreams, no matter how high the barriers to achieving them.  


Who am I?

I was never much of a history student. Facts and figures rarely stick in my brain until I have a character—their feelings, hopes, fears, and dreams—to pair them with, so I rely a lot on historical fiction to understand different places and times. I’m also a believer that our culture too often serves up the impression that marginalized people have forever hopelessly struggled, held back by those in power. But there are so many true stories that reveal the opposite, in this case, women fighting for their dreams and winning! I aim to bring these stories to light in a way that keeps the pages turning. 


I wrote...

Leaving Coy's Hill

By Katherine Sherbrooke,

Book cover of Leaving Coy's Hill

What is my book about?

Leaving Coy’s Hill is inspired by Lucy Stone, an abolitionist and the first woman to speak out on women’s rights in the US. While she was perhaps the most famous woman in the country in the mid-1800s, she was rather purposely erased from history by her own friend, Susan B. Anthony. In writing this novel I wanted to breathe new life into a woman driven to create change in a deeply divided nation and determined to stand on the right side of history despite painful personal costs. NY Times best-selling author Caroline Leavitt says, “What could be more timely than Sherbrooke’s gorgeously fictionalized and page-turning account of Lucy Stone?... A stunning look at timeless issues…all told through the lens of one extraordinary heroine.”

The Postmistress

By Sarah Blake,

Book cover of The Postmistress

There are a lot of World War II books out there, and in truth, I was growing tired of them until I read Sarah Blake’s. Partially located on my home turf of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the brush against our local history pre-World War II fascinated me. But Blake doesn’t stay local; she leaves the postmistress to do—or not doher job and flies off to London with a female war correspondent. How their stories cleverly intertwine is part of my fascination with this tale. Blake has a habit of dropping unforgettable characters on my doorstep, where they tease and tantalize long after I’ve turned the last page. 


Who am I?

 I’ve always loved history, and especially those small stories, so often about women, that never made the history books. No big surprise then that as an author I eventually gravitated to historical fiction, and that all of my novels have featured strong, independent women. Women were wonderful sources for the kinds of stories I wished to tell – they kept journals and diaries; they wrote voluminous letters; they were excellent chroniclers of their time; they were clever and witty and brave, and they bared their souls. To be able to bring some of these women to life has been a most rewarding experience for me. I hope reading my books proves as rewarding for you.


I wrote...

Painting the Light

By Sally Cabot Gunning,

Book cover of Painting the Light

What is my book about?

A rising, well-to-do 19th century Boston artist runs away from family tragedy by leaping into an impulsive marriage that lands her on a sheep farm on Martha’s Vineyard, where she must re-invent herself while sorting truth from lies and what matters from what doesn’t. 

Sargent's Daughters

By Erica Hirshler,

Book cover of Sargent's Daughters: The Biography of a Painting

Anyone who admires the portraits of John Singer Sargent is sure to know his gorgeous Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, the exquisite grouping of four girls in white pinafores emerging from the shadowy rooms of an elegant Parisian apartment. But do you know the girls, and how Sargent came to paint them? And what became of them all? Erica Hirshler, a curator at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, where the painting is on permanent exhibition, has written a book that reveals all in a stylish and richly nuanced historical detective story.  


Who am I?

I am the grown-up little girl who loved to read. I loved novels and children’s biographies—Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie, Annie Oakley. I imagined that if I could learn to write books that inspired readers and moved them to tears like my favorite books, I would have accomplished a great good. My first biography, The Peabody Sisters, took twenty years and won awards for historical writing. My second biography, Margaret Fuller, won the Pulitzer. But what matters more than all the prizes is when people tell me they cried at the end of my books. I hope you, too, will read them and weep over lives lived fully and well.    


I wrote...

Margaret Fuller: A New American Life

By Megan Marshall,

Book cover of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life

What is my book about?

Pulitzer Prize winner Megan Marshall recounts the trailblazing life of Margaret Fuller: Thoreau’s first editor, Emerson’s close friend, daring war correspondent, tragic heroine. After her untimely death in a shipwreck off Fire Island, the sense and passion of her life’s work were eclipsed by scandal. Marshall’s inspired narrative brings her back to indelible life.

Whether detailing her front-page New-York Tribune editorials against poor conditions in the city’s prisons and mental hospitals, or illuminating her late-in-life hunger for passionate experience—including a secret affair with a young officer in the Roman Guard—Marshall’s biography gives the most thorough and compassionate view of an extraordinary woman. No biography of Fuller has made her ideas so alive or her life so moving.

Or, view all 10 books about Cape Cod

New book lists related to Cape Cod

All book lists related to Cape Cod

Bookshelves related to Cape Cod