The most recommended books about Colonial America

Who picked these books? Meet our 60 experts.

60 authors created a book list connected to Colonial America, and here are their favorite Colonial America books.
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Book cover of Relation of Virginia: A Boy's Memoir of Life with the Powhatans and the Patawomecks

Seth Mallios Author Of The Deadly Politics of Giving: Exchange and Violence at Ajacan, Roanoke, and Jamestown

From my list on alternate perspectives on Jamestown.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was Site Supervisor at the Jamestown Rediscovery Project in the late 1990s and early 2000s. My fondness for the people involved with the archaeological excavations is only rivaled by my love for the subject matter that involves the collision of cultures as Chesapeake Algonquians, Spanish Jesuits, and English colonists first encountered one another during the 16th and 17th centuries. Though I have been fortunate to write many books, my first book was on Jamestown, and this topic will always hold a special place in my scholarly heart (there is such a thing, I swear!).

Seth's book list on alternate perspectives on Jamestown

Seth Mallios Why did Seth love this book?

Finally, Henry Spelman gets his own book! There is no shortage of Jamestown literature on John Smith, Pocahontas, John Rolfe, and Chief Powhatan, but Karen Ordahl Kupperman’s Relation of Virginia: A Boy’s Memoir of Life with the Powhatans and the Patawomecks offers the intriguing account of Henry Spelman, a 14-year-old English boy sent to live with the Chesapeake Algonquians during highly volatile times between Virginia’s indigenous population and the Jamestown colonists. 

I find this book particularly compelling for multiple reasons: it reverses traditional narrative roles and details a member of colonial society who was placed in servitude to the Indigenous population, it was one of very few examples of first-hand historical testimony from an adolescent (none survive from 1580's Roanoke, and only Alonso de Olmos offered an eyewitness account of the annihilation of the Ajacan Jesuits in 1570), and it has often been glossed over by Jamestown scholars.

By Karen Ordahl Kupperman (editor), Henry Spelman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A memoir of one of America's first adventurers, a young boy who acted as a link between the Jamestown colonists and the Patawomecks and Powhatans.
"Being in displeasure of my friends, and desirous to see other countries, after three months sail we come with prosperous
winds in sight of Virginia." So begins the fascinating tale of Henry Spelman, a 14 year-old boy sent to Virginia in 1609. One of Jamestown's early arrivals, Spelman soon became an integral player, and sometimes a pawn, in the power struggle between the Chesapeake Algonquians and the English settlers.
Shortly after he arrived in the…

Book cover of Jane-Emily: And Witches' Children

Kathryn Knight Author Of Ghost Moon

From my list on romantic ghost stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a fan of all things spooky! I especially love ghost stories, which is probably abundantly clear from my own novels. I’ve been known to frequent old graveyards, seek out haunted places, and sneak into abandoned buildings for inspiration—and the adrenaline rush! This fascination started when I was a young girl and my dad brought me a YA ghost mystery home from the library—every week, he would have the librarian help him pick out books for me, and I would devour the stack immediately, then re-read until the next library day! My favorite ghost stories have a mix similar to what I write—a tension-filled romance combined with a spooky, suspenseful haunting. 

Kathryn's book list on romantic ghost stories

Kathryn Knight Why did Kathryn love this book?

Jane-Emily is a YA classic, both a sweet romance and a spooky ghost mystery, set in the early 1900s. 

It’s also the book I described in my introduction as the one that made me fall in love with this genre! I first read it when I was about ten, and I immediately recommended it to my best friend, who was also an avid reader. To this day, we are both still scared of those mirrored gazing balls people display in gardens.

When my own children were young, I bought an old paperback on eBay and read it to them, savoring the story that I’ve re-read so many times once again. Even after all these years, Emily’s ghost still delivers chills as she unleashes her wrath on the innocent nine-year-old Jane, and the romance developing between Jane’s young aunt and an old friend of the family plays a part.

One exciting…

By Patricia Clapp,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Jane-Emily as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Emily was a selfish, willful, hateful child who died before her thirteenth birthday. But that was a long time ago.

Jane is nine years old and an orphan when she and her young Aunt Louisa come to spend the summer at Jane's grandmother's house, a large, mysterious mansion in Massachusetts. Then one day . . . Jane stares into a reflecting ball in the garden—and the face that looks back at her is not her own.

Many years earlier, a child of rage and malevolence lived in this place. And she never left. Now Emily has dark plans for little…

Book cover of Out Front the Following Sea

Margaret Pinard Author Of The Keening

From my list on to hear forgotten voices of resistance.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve devoured historical fiction ever since that first Johnny Tremain paperback, but I started writing historical fiction after a Master’s in International Economics helped me to better understand world events. What gives those historical events relevance today are the stories we tell about the negotiation of power. I am all for revisiting the power dynamic to win better quality of life for those most marginalized. I’ve been digging into labor history for my latest work in progress and it is fascinating and inspiring. I may write about 19th-century Scottish peasants and Chicago printers, but I also want today’s marginalized populations to see their struggles similarly celebrated.

Margaret's book list on to hear forgotten voices of resistance

Margaret Pinard Why did Margaret love this book?

Pre-revolution America is not usually my era for historical fiction but when I tell you that this novel grabs you with visceral detail, I mean it. Smells, textures, glares—everything is so vividly told! The resistance in this novel is really simple survival, as the whole New England village seems to have it in for our heroine Ruth. But she stubbornly holds out, trying to forge a path forward for herself. We get treated to some local politics, some ship lore, run-ins with Indigenous Nations (some good, some bad) and local brigands, and always anchored in Ruth’s evolving notions of right and wrong. The ending was also delicious. Think Last of the Mohicans meets Cold Mountain, but with a surprise for our heroine.

By Leah Angstman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Out Front the Following Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Out Front the Following Sea is a historical epic of one woman’s survival in a time when the wilderness is still wild, heresy is publicly punishable, and being independent is worse than scorned—it is a death sentence. At the onset of King William’s War between French and English settlers in 1689 New England, Ruth Miner is accused of witchcraft for the murder of her parents and must flee the brutality of her town. She stows away on the ship of the only other person who knows her innocence: an audacious sailor—Owen—bound to her by years of attraction, friendship, and shared…

Book cover of Search Out the Land: The Jews and the Growth of Equality in British Colonial America, 1740-1867

David S. Koffman Author Of No Better Home?: Jews, Canada, and the Sense of Belonging

From my list on Canadian Jewish life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born and raised as both an anglophone Canadian and a diaspora Jew. After living in Montreal, Jerusalem, and New York for a total of about 15 years, I returned to my hometown of Toronto and took up the position of the J. Richard Shiff Chair for the Study of Canadian Jewry at York University, where I work as a professor of history. I teach undergraduate students, graduate students, fellow academics, community leaders, and the wide public about all sorts of dimensions of this very religiously diverse, culturally diverse, socio-economically diverse, and politically diverse community of 400,000+ souls, with its 260+-year-old history. 

David's book list on Canadian Jewish life

David S. Koffman Why did David love this book?

I love this book’s choc-a-block presentation of actual archival fragments from Jewish life in the British colonies that would eventually become Canada.

I also like that the book’s husband-wife, antiquarian, author team aimed to fuse together two objectives in one book: on the one hand, to paint a relatable picture of what Jewish life looked like during this period when Upper Canada was still being formed, and on the other hand, to account for the step-by-step process of Jews gaining civil rights in the new world.

When I teach Canadian Jewish history, I not only read this book with my students but also bring them into the archives that contain Godfrey’s trove of archival fragments of early Jewish Canadiana, which they collected before and while writing the book.

By Sheldon J. Godfrey, Judith C. Godfrey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Search Out the Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mapping the history of Canadian Jews from the arrival of the first settlers before 1750 through to the 1860s, Search Out the Land introduces a new set of colourful players on Canada's stage. Ezekiel Solomons, John Franks, Jacob Franks, Chapman Abraham, Rachel Myers, Moses David, Samuel Hart, Elizabeth Lyons, and a host of others now take their appropriate place in Canadian history. Focusing on the significant role played by Jews in British North America in the fight for civil and political rights, the authors compare the development of Canadians' rights with that in other British jurisdictions of the time and…

Book cover of The Old American

Tim Weed Author Of Will Poole's Island

From my list on Early Colonial New England.

Why am I passionate about this?

Many of my English ancestors came to New England during the so-called Great Migration of the 1630s. I also have Native American ancestors, and as I researched both groups I couldn’t escape the feeling that something important was missing from our contemporary understanding of the period. In the novel that became Will Poole’s Island, I was in a sense driven to recreate the age, or at least to complicate our received mythologies about it. A central theme of the book is the collision of two radically opposed worldviews that had in common a preoccupation with the visionary and the unseen; this is also a theme of the five narratives described below.

Tim's book list on Early Colonial New England

Tim Weed Why did Tim love this book?

This novel, published in 2000 by the University Press of New England, has in my opinion never gained the readership it deserves. It’s a rich, funny, deeply humane captivity tale based on the true story of Nathan Blake, who was taken by Algonkian-speaking people from his home in Keene, New Hampshire, in 1746, and brought up to Canada, where he was held for three years as a slave. The novel weaves a defamiliarized but extremely plausible-feeling tapestry of early colonial America that complicates the stereotypes established by Cooper’s influential novel set in the same period, and Hebert’s main character, Caucus-Meteor—an elderly, multilingual Indian and the last survivor of his band—is by my lights one of the great characters in literature.

By Ernest Hebert,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Old American as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1746, Nathan Blake, the first frame house builder in Keene, New Hampshire, was abducted by Algonkians and held in Canada as a slave. Inspired by this dramatic slice of history, novelist Ernest Hebert has written a masterful new novel recreating those years of captivity.

Set in New England and Canada during the French and Indian Wars, The Old American is driven by its complex, vividly imagined title character, Caucus-Meteor. By turns shrewd and embittered, ambitious and despairing, inspired and tormented, he is the self-styled"king" of the remnants of the first native tribes that encountered the English. Displaced and ravaged…

Book cover of France and England in North America

Jason Born Author Of Quaker's War

From my list on the war that made America.

Why am I passionate about this?

Jason has written over twenty historical novels on topics ranging from the Roman Empire to the Islamic invasion of Spain and to the spread of the Viking Age into North America. His latest series, The Long Fuse, follows a young man as he navigates the deadly conflicts of the French & Indian War and the Revolutionary War in Eighteenth-Century America.

Jason's book list on the war that made America

Jason Born Why did Jason love this book?

When the deities dedicated to the history of the French and Indian War got together to recommend their own list of the best books on the war that made America, they made Francis Parkman’s multi-volume work required reading. And the good news is that even if they had not, it is worth diving into headfirst.

The French and Indian War is often overshadowed by the American and then French Revolutions that followed on its heels. Yet, neither of them would have ever happened without the completely lopsided British victory in the first. Parkman, writing in the Nineteenth Century, was among the first scholars to shed light on the immense impact wrought by the fight for control over North America in the 1750s. His work is massive as it digs into the very origins of both countries’ humble beginnings and rapid growth in the New World. But fear not! If his…

By Francis Parkman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked France and England in North America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This Library of America volume, along with its companion, presents, for the first time in compact form, all seven titles of Francis Parkman’s monumental account of France and England’s imperial struggle for dominance on the North American continent. Deservedly compared as a literary achievement to Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Parkman’s accomplishment is hardly less awesome than the explorations and adventures he so vividly describes.

Pioneers of France in the New World (1865) begins with the early and tragic settlement of the French Huguenots in Florida, then shifts to the northern reaches of the continent and…

Book cover of A Place Called Freedom

Eddie Price Author Of Rebels Abroad

From my list on the unquenchable Irish spirit of freedom.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a retired history teacher with 36 years of teaching experience in high school and college. I am also a passionate world traveler and for over four decades led students on overseas tours.  In 2012 (the year I retired from teaching) I released my first novel, Widder’s Landing set in Kentucky in the early 1800s. One of my main characters came from a family of Irish Catholics—and he is featured in Rebels Abroad. Ireland has always fascinated me and in my nine trips to the country, I smelled the peat fires, tasted the whiskey, listened to the music and the lyrical tales told by the tour leaders—and came to love the people.

Eddie's book list on the unquenchable Irish spirit of freedom

Eddie Price Why did Eddie love this book?

A Place Called Freedom attracted me instantly because of its multiple settings (Scotland, London, and Virginia) and the theme of ordinary people struggling against adversity. 

The novel provides vivid insight into governmental repression of religion and the denial of basic human rights. As a historian, I enjoy reading historical fiction. Follett is a master of his craft, blending human interest stories with accurate history. Through his characters, he shows how people lived and reacted to historical events.

A Place Called Freedom transports the reader into the years prior to the American Revolution, and his vivid geographical descriptions made me feel like “I was there!”  

By Ken Follett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Place Called Freedom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Set in an era of turbulent social changes on both sides of the Atlantic, A Place Called Freedom is a magnificent historical fiction novel from the undisputed master of suspense and drama, Ken Follett.

A Life of Poverty
Scotland, 1767. Mack McAsh is a slave by birth, destined for a cruel and harsh life as a miner. But as a man of principles and courage, he has the strength to stand up for what he believes in, only to be labelled as a rebel and enemy of the state.

A Life of Wealth
Life feels just as constrained for rebellious…

Book cover of Drums of Autumn

Jeanie Nicholson Author Of Gone to the Dogs

From my list on people who love dogs.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m passionate about dogs. Besides being a novelist, I write and blog about dogs for a living. Save a few grief-filled months here and there, there’s never been a time in my life when I didn’t have at least one dog, each one just as special and beloved as the last. My current special beloved is a German shepherd named Dixie, a big, goofy girl who loves belly rubs and tug-of-war almost as much as food and cuddles. Dogs also make the stakes feel higher when there’s an element of danger involved. Sure, go ahead, kill off the main character. Just don’t harm the dog and everything will be fine.

Jeanie's book list on people who love dogs

Jeanie Nicholson Why did Jeanie love this book?

The fourth book of the series that spawned the hit TV show Outlander is notable for a number of things, not the least of which is the debut of Rollo, a wolf/Irish wolfhound hybrid who’s won in a game of dice by the Frazers’ nephew, Ian Murray.

Quickly becoming Ian’s shadow, Rollo goes on to be a constant presence throughout the series, sometimes intimidating, sometimes exasperating, and often comforting to those under his watch.

Rollo is a very good dog and a definite highlight of this dramatic series that’s a wild mash-up of historical and science fiction.

By Diana Gabaldon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


How far will a woman travel to find a father, a lover a destiny? Across seas, across time - across the grave itself.

It began in Scotland, at an ancient stone circle. Claire Randall was swept through time into the arms of James Fraser whose love for her became legend - a tale of tragic passion that ended with her return to the present to bear his child. Two decades later, Claire travelled back again to reunite with Jamie, this time in frontier America. But Claire had left someone behind in her…

Book cover of Hour of the Witch

Ellen Baker Author Of The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson

From my list on books with quirky, strong women at their heart.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved reading novels about strong, quirky women since childhood (Nancy Drew, Ramona Quimby, Harriet the Spy, the heroines of Judy Blume novels, just for starting examples!). As I grew into writing my own stories, I also started studying women’s history. I merged these two interests to begin writing historical novels with strong women protagonists. I love the challenge of researching to figure out the details of women’s day-to-day lives–so many unrecorded stories!–and I love to advocate for the idea (fortunately not as revolutionary as it once was) that a woman can be the hero of her own story and that each woman’s story is important to tell.  

Ellen's book list on books with quirky, strong women at their heart

Ellen Baker Why did Ellen love this book?

I loved this book for being historical fiction at its finest, and I loved the main character, Mary Deerfield, for being a woman who did not fit within her own time.

It’s 1660s Boston, and Mary is married to an abusive man. Determined not to die at his hand, she must fight against everything in her society to free herself from her marriage.

I loved how this book so insightfully explored the dynamics of an abusive relationship while also bringing to vivid life a distant time and place. 

By Chris Bohjalian,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Hour of the Witch as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • From the acclaimed author of The Flight Attendant: “Historical fiction at its best…. The book is a thriller in structure, and a real page-turner, the ending both unexpected and satisfying” (Diana Gabaldon, bestselling author of the Outlander series, The Washington Post).

A young Puritan woman—faithful, resourceful, but afraid of the demons that dog her soul—plots her escape from a violent marriage in this riveting and propulsive novel of historical suspense.

Boston, 1662. Mary Deerfield is twenty-four-years-old. Her skin is porcelain, her eyes delft blue, and in England she might have had many suitors. But…

Book cover of In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692

Laurie Lico Albanese Author Of Hester

From my list on female magic, witches, potions and spells.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love historical fiction because it brings history and people from the past to life, showing us their struggles and their secrets—especially the women! Since my first historical novel, The Miracles of Prato, I've been paying attention to the women whose stories haven't been told. When I realized Hester Prynne is our first American historical feminist heroine—indeed, our American Eve and our original badass single mom—I knew I had to let her tell her story.  

Laurie's book list on female magic, witches, potions and spells

Laurie Lico Albanese Why did Laurie love this book?

A fascinating exploration of the Salem witch trials that illustrates how the New England girls whose accusations lead to the wrongful execution of thirteen innocent women and imprisonment of some two hundred more were victims of war trauma in the Maine woods. During the so-called King Phillip’s War, Puritan immigrants who seized land as part of their Massachusetts Bay Colony Charter waged horrific, brutal battles with Native Americans defending their land from coveters and invaders. Their wives and children were there to witness and suffer it. This book was a key to my greater understanding of the land seizure and other events that led to and fueled the Salem Witch trials. 

By Mary Beth Norton,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked In the Devil's Snare as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Award-winning historian Mary Beth Norton reexamines the Salem witch trials in thisstartlingly original, meticulously researched, and utterly riveting study.

In 1692 the people of Massachusetts were living in fear, and not solely of satanic afflictions. Horrifyingly violent Indian attacks had all but emptied the northern frontier of settlers, and many traumatized refugees—including the main accusers of witches—had fled to communities like Salem. Meanwhile the colony’s leaders, defensive about their own failure to protect the frontier, pondered how God’s people could be suffering at the hands of savages. Struck by the similarities between what the refugees had witnessed and what the…