The best books about New England

39 authors have picked their favorite books about New England and why they recommend each book.

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Entertaining Satan

By John Putnam Demos,

Book cover of Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England

While researching and writing My Enemy’s Tears, I found Entertaining Satan on the shelves of a bookstore in New York City. Sure enough, there was a chapter on Mary Bliss Parsons titled Hard Thoughts and Jealousies. A prominent historian studied my 8th great-grandmother’s case and wrote about it. Local gossip was the author’s first subject for exploration—right on, because gossip is what led to Mary’s imprisonment and trial. Demos explores the lives of many accused of witchcraft and the culture that accused them. Anyone interested in the history of women’s lives and the reasons behind the centuries-long belief in witchcraft will love this book.

Entertaining Satan

By John Putnam Demos,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Entertaining Satan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the first edition of the Bancroft Prize-winning Entertaining Satan, John Putnam Demos presented an entirely new perspective on American witchcraft. By investigating the surviving historical documents of over a hundred actual witchcraft cases, he vividly recreated the world of New England during the witchcraft trials and brought to light fascinating information on the role of witchcraft in early American culture. Now Demos has revisited his original work
and updated it to illustrate why these early Americans' strange views on witchcraft still matter to us today. He provides a new preface that puts forth a broader overview of witchcraft and…


Who am I?

After living in, while restoring, an old farmhouse built in the late 17th century or very early in the 18th, it was impossible for me not to want to know the history of the house and the people who lived there. Combine that with the stories my grandmother told me about our ancestor, the suspected witch Mary Bliss Parsons of Northampton, and I felt destined to know her story. That led to many years of research and writing. At the moment I am writing another 17th century New England historical fiction. I love this period of history and so few write about it. 


I wrote...

My Enemy's Tears: The Witch of Northampton

By Karen Vorbeck Williams,

Book cover of My Enemy's Tears: The Witch of Northampton

What is my book about?

Based on the lives of Mary Bliss Parsons and Sarah Lyman Bridgeman My Enemy's Tears: The Witch of Northampton, takes us back to 1630s Puritan settlements along the Connecticut River. Amid Puritan superstition and religious piety, Mary’s father struggles to feed his large family, while Sarah’s father is well off. They spend their married lives in the villages of Springfield and Northampton. Sarah marries a carpenter and Mary’s husband becomes one of the richest men in the territory. Sarah’s babies die and Mary’s thrive. Jealousy festers into a reason to hate and then to fear. Sarah believes Mary’s good fortune is an act of witchcraft.

This fictional account of a true story describes two lives in conflict--one cursed and one blessed.

Book cover of The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England

A ground-breaking work, which demonstrates how the theoretical witch was embodied by real women, and how a seemingly bizarre fantasy was plausible in among the shapes and rhythms of daily life. This influential study is as much a social, economic and cultural history of seventeenth-century New England as it is strictly speaking a history of witchcraft – indeed, Karlsen demonstrates clearly that the latter cannot be assimilated with an appreciation of the former. Context is everything, and without it we just fall back on stereotypes and tired assumptions.

Witches and neighbours were two-sides of the same coin, the former a projection of the hostile emotions of the latter, and, as Karlsen explains, this fraught relationship was fundamentally gendered. To appreciate how some people were accused of witchcraft, we need first to explore relationships between people in the community, including relations between women. Honour, reputation, age, status and so on, were…

The Devil in the Shape of a Woman

By Carol F Karlsen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Devil in the Shape of a Woman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Confessing to "familiarity with the devils," Mary Johnson, a servant, was executed by Connecticut officials in 1648. A wealthy Boston widow, Ann Hibbens was hanged in 1656 for casting spells on her neighbors. The case of Ann Cole, who was "taken with very strange Fits," fueled an outbreak of witchcraft accusations in Hartford a generation before the notorious events at Salem.

More than three hundred years later, the question "Why?" still haunts us. Why were these and other women likely witches-vulnerable to accusations of witchcraft and possession? Carol F. Karlsen reveals the social construction of witchcraft in seventeenth-century New England…


Who am I?

I am an Emeritus Professor of Early Modern History at the University of East Anglia and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. I taught history for many years at several UK universities, and I was the Director of Studies in History at Churchill College, Cambridge. I am the author of six books, including Hellish Nell: Last of Britain’s Witches and Witchcraft: A Very Short Introduction. His latest book, The Ruin of All Witches: Life and Death in the New World, will be published in November by Penguin. I live in Cambridge, England, and I am married with three children.


I wrote...

Book cover of The Ruin of All Witches: Life and Death in the New World

What is my book about?

In the frontier town of Springfield in 1651, peculiar things begin to happen. Precious food spoils, livestock ails, property vanishes, and people suffer convulsions as if possessed by demons. Disturbing dreams and visions proliferate. Children sicken and die. As tensions rise, rumours spread of witches and heretics, and the community becomes tangled in a web of distrust, resentment, and denunciation. The finger of suspicion falls on a young couple with two small children: Hugh Parsons the prickly brickmaker and his troubled wife, Mary. It will be their downfall.

This book tells the dark, real-life folktale of witch-hunting in a remote Massachusetts plantation, where dreams of love and liberty, of a 'city upon a hill', gave way to paranoia and terror, rage and violence. Drawing on unique, previously untapped source material, Malcolm Gaskill brings to life a frontier past in which lives were steeped in the divine and the diabolic, in omens, curses, and enchantments.

The Perfect Storm

By Sebastian Junger,

Book cover of The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea

This is one of the nonfiction books I read as a teenager that convinced me to become a professional writer. The author, Sebastian Junger, doesn’t just describe the titular storm (which hit the U.S. East Coast in 1991) in terrifying detail—he also manages to assemble all of the weather-driven chaos into a real, gripping narrative. We don’t know a lot about what actually happened to the Andrea Gail, the fishing boat at the center of the narrative, but Junger recreates its final hours in a way that feels bracingly real—and heartbreaking.

Even if you don’t like nonfiction books, The Perfect Storm has the pacing and heart of a novel. I consider it one of the finest—maybe the finest—disaster narrative ever written, and it’s a perfect choice of book if you’re trapped inside by a raging storm.

The Perfect Storm

By Sebastian Junger,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Perfect Storm as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It was the storm of the century, boasting waves over one hundred feet high-a tempest created by so rare a combination of factors that meteorologists deemed it "the perfect storm." In a book that has become a classic, Sebastian Junger explores the history of the fishing industry, the science of storms, and the candid accounts of the people whose lives the storm touched. The Perfect Storm is a real-life thriller that makes us feel like we've been caught, helpless, in the grip of a force of nature beyond our understanding or control.

Winner of the American Library Association's 1998 Alex…


Who am I?

I’m a crime and horror author based in New York City. I’ve lived through a couple of direct hits from mega-storms and other natural disasters, including Hurricane Sandy, which plowed through my neighborhood in 2012. Those kinds of experiences leave a psychological mark I’ve tried to process through both fiction and non-fiction. This writing has also allowed me to explore how people and cities could potentially survive the calamities that await us, especially in coastal regions vulnerable to climate change.  


I wrote...

Hell of a Mess

By Nick Kolakowski,

Book cover of Hell of a Mess

What is my book about?

The heist should have been a simple one: infiltrate the top floor of a New York City penthouse, steal a server with compromising data from under the noses of the unsuspecting guards, and slip back out. Fiona, master thief, has pulled off similar jobs. But with a massive hurricane bearing down on the East Coast, the timing is tight and the escape routes are limited—and that’s before she discovers something horrific in the penthouse.

Now Fiona’s on the run, trying to stay one step ahead of the floodwaters and hired assassins. Her husband Bill, the finest hustler between Florida and Maine, can’t help her: he’s been kidnapped by a group of dirty cops who want the secret millions left by his former employer.

Clueless in New England

By Michael C. Dooling,

Book cover of Clueless in New England: The Unsolved Disappearances of Paula Welden, Connie Smith and Katherine Hull

Dooling's nonfiction account of the searches for a girl and two women who disappeared in New England in the 1940s and 1950s is another good example of weaving together true crime and historic context. Only one of the victims' remains have been found, but all of the victims may have met up with the still-unknown killer. In addition to covering the missing person searches as they were conducted in their times, Dooling provides new hope by looking back on these cases with twenty-first-century eyes.  

Clueless in New England

By Michael C. Dooling,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Three young women, all seen hitchhiking, all disappeared. Two of these unsolved disappearances are the oldest cold cases in their respective states. Paula Welden, a resident of Stamford, Connecticut and student at Bennington College in Vermont disappeared in 1946 after hitching a ride to walk a portion of the Long Trail. Her disappearance sparked the largest search in Vermont's history. She was never found. Two states away, Connie Smith of Wyoming left a Lakeville, Connecticut summer camp in 1952 and was seen trying to catch a ride to the village center...and then she was gone. A nationwide search resulted in…


Who am I?

Years ago, I stumbled upon the gravestone of an unidentified murder victim from 1954. Then I entered into a partnership with my local sheriff and with forensic experts to successfully determine the young woman's identity. At the time, I was (and still am) a historical researcher, newspaper columnist, and author. The Jane Doe case, however, gave me the opportunity and insight to investigate and research the young woman's murder, allowing me to dig into the context of the times. Now, as a researcher and writer of historical true crime, I've found a niche, allowing me to combine my investigative skills and interests with a deep passion for the past.


I wrote...

Cold Case Chronicles: Mysteries, Murders & the Missing

By Silvia Pettem,

Book cover of Cold Case Chronicles: Mysteries, Murders & the Missing

What is my book about?

Cold Case Chronicles tells the stories of victims – some missing, some murdered, and some with changed identities. All are true, and each are mysterious in their own ways. The cases in this nonfiction narrative date from 1910 through the 1950s and include evolutions in forensics, as well as the historical context in order to view the men, women, and children through the lens of time. 

Included are recent theories on the cases of Judge Joseph Crater and film director William Desmond Taylor. Other chapters help to unravel the mystique of individuals with changed identities, along with a case of aerial sabotage, the "Boy in the Box," and the disappearances of four adventurers –– Everett Ruess, Joseph Halpern, and Glen and Bessie Hyde. Readers are encouraged to draw their own conclusions, consider how detectives would handle these and other cases today, and learn how genetic genealogy brings new hope for the future.

Float

By JoeAnn Hart,

Book cover of Float: A Novel

A wry tale of financial desperation, conceptual art, insanity, infertility, seagulls, marital crisis, jellyfish, organized crime, and the plight of a plastic-filled ocean, JoeAnn Hart’s novel takes a smart, satirical look at family, the environment, and life in a hardscrabble seaside town in Maine. I am proud that Ashland Creek Press (which Midge Raymond and I founded in 2011) published this amazing novel.

Float

By JoeAnn Hart,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When everything around you is sinking, sometimes it takes desperate measures to stay afloat

When Duncan Leland looks down at the garbage-strewn beach beneath his office window, he sees the words God Help Us scrawled in the sand. While it seems a fitting message-not only is Duncan's business underwater, but his marriage is drowning as well-he goes down to the beach to erase it. Once there, he helps a seagull being strangled by a plastic six-pack holder-the only creature in worse shape than he is at the moment. Duncan rescues the seagull, not realizing that he's being filmed by a…


Who am I?

Travels to the Arctic and Antarctic and time spent alongside researching counting Magellanic penguins in Argentina have inspired not only The Tourist Trail but a life spent advocating for animals. The oceans may appear vast and impenetrable but they are fragile, and we need to act now to protect the many species who call these waters home. The books here not only expose the crisis we face but highlight those people and organizations who have dedicated their lives to protecting our planet and its many residents. It’s not too late to make a difference and I hope these books inspire you to lend your voice and energy to the fight.


I wrote...

The Tourist Trail

By John Yunker,

Book cover of The Tourist Trail

What is my book about?

The Tourist Trail is an environmental thriller about endangered species in the world's most remote waters and the people who put their lives on the line to protect them. Against the backdrop of the Southern Ocean, the novel weaves together the stories of Angela, a penguin researcher based in southern Argentina, Robert, an FBI agent in pursuit of an anti-whaling activist known as Aeneas; and Ethan Downes, a computer tech whose love for a passionate animal rights activist draws him into a dangerous mission among the icebergs of Antarctica.

Good Wives

By Laurel Thatcher Ulrich,

Book cover of Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750

Ulrich, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for A Midwife's Tale, first wrote this ground-breaking study of women in early New England. With her characteristically elegant prose and inspired organization, she details the varied roles women played in family, community, and religious life. An illuminating work, and a page-turner.

Good Wives

By Laurel Thatcher Ulrich,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This enthralling work of scholarship strips away abstractions to reveal the hidden--and not always stoic--face of the "goodwives" of colonial America. In these pages we encounter the awesome burdens--and the considerable power--of a New England housewife's domestic life and witness her occasional forays into the world of men. We see her borrowing from her neighbors, loving her husband, raising--and, all too often, mourning--her children, and even attaining fame as a heroine of frontier conflicts or notoriety as a murderess. Painstakingly researched, lively with scandal and homely detail, Good Wives is history at its best.


Who am I?

Jenny Hale Pulsipher is a professor of history at Brigham Young University and the author of numerous articles and two award-winning books, Subjects unto the Same King: Indians, English, and the Contest of Authority in Early New England and Swindler Sachem: The American Indian Who Sold His Birthright, Dropped Out of Harvard, and Conned the King of England.


I wrote...

Swindler Sachem: The American Indian Who Sold His Birthright, Dropped Out of Harvard, and Conned the King of England

By Jenny Hale Pulsipher,

Book cover of Swindler Sachem: The American Indian Who Sold His Birthright, Dropped Out of Harvard, and Conned the King of England

What is my book about?

Swindler Sachem tells the story of an ingenious and complicated 17th century Native American man--John Wompas. Wompas's life upends common wisdom about Native Americans in the colonial era. He was a Harvard-educated scholar who became a sailor; he called the Nipmuc village of Hassanamesit his home but spent his adult life living among the English of Boston and London; he cheated his kin by selling their lands, then bequeathed all of Hassanamesit to them in his will; he secured an audience with the king of England, who called him his "loyal subject," and he was denounced by Massachusetts officials, who threatened him with foreign slavery.

In Swindler Sachem, Pulsipher uses the life of John Wompas to examine Indian-English struggles over Native land and sovereignty during an era of political turmoil in the English empire and reveals how one remarkable man navigated those perilous waters for the benefit of himself and his people.

Little Women

By Louisa May Alcott,

Book cover of Little Women

As one of four sisters, I fell in love with the March sisters instantly. However, even though I was the eldest of my own sisters, I identified most with Jo—the rebel writer. A sister herself, Louisa May Alcott understands that sisters are complex. We may fight, disagree, get endlessly frustrated by our differences…but we are sisters and we stand together when it counts.

As a budding writer, I definitely felt misunderstood by my own family. I knew they always had my back, even if I would rather read a book than swim, play tennis, or throw a softball. The March sisters' struggles, triumphs, and tears taught me that life’s challenges are much better with sisters at your side…no matter how annoying those sisters may happen to be.

In retrospect, it seems inevitable that the first series I published was a Victorian historical romance about an elder sister trying desperately to…

Little Women

By Louisa May Alcott,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Little Women as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Louisa May Alcott shares the innocence of girlhood in this classic coming of age story about four sisters-Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.

In picturesque nineteenth-century New England, tomboyish Jo, beautiful Meg, fragile Beth, and romantic Amy are responsible for keeping a home while their father is off to war. At the same time, they must come to terms with their individual personalities-and make the transition from girlhood to womanhood. It can all be quite a challenge. But the March sisters, however different, are nurtured by their wise and beloved Marmee, bound by their love for each other and the feminine…


Who am I?

I’ve made a study of being the “big sister” since I was three. I remember standing up in the back seat (pre-seatbelt days), pelting my father with questions as he drove me to my Aunt Florence’s house. The memory is cloudy (maybe faulty, although I can smell that old car and feel the rattle of my dad’s nerves). My little sisters shaped me more than my parents (why did they demand I always be the teacher, no matter my protests of fairness?). Sisterhood was everywhere, from my mom and her twin sister to my dad’s two younger sisters. And so, my fiction often explores the sister bond.


I wrote...

The Fairy Tale Bride

By Kelly McClymer,

Book cover of The Fairy Tale Bride

What is my book about?

Miranda Fenster believes in happily ever after for everyone, but especially for her twin brother and her five little sisters. Unfortunately, her new husband, the Duke of Kerstone, is determined to show her the folly of believing in fairytales.

Harvest Home

By Thomas Tryon,

Book cover of Harvest Home

Sure, most people might like to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, and move to a quaint village in the countryside where folkloric tradition is woven into modern life and the locals wax poetic about corn and harvest festivals. But if you do, don’t ignore the foreshadowing.

This book is an old-fashioned traditional horror story with a slow build and a New England cadence to its voice. It’s widely credited with inspiring Stephen King’s Children of the Corn and was adapted into a miniseries starring Bette Davis. I love its timeless style and milieu, with shades of The Wicker Man and Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. There aren’t any real surprises in this novel, after years of internet children-of-the-corn memes and the like, but it’s an old comfy sweater of horror; not flashy, but it does its job.

It’s easy to identify with the classic theme of leaving…

Harvest Home

By Thomas Tryon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A family flees the crime-ridden city-and finds something worse-in "a brilliantly imagined horror story" by the New York Times-bestselling author (The Boston Globe).

After watching his asthmatic daughter suffer in the foul city air, Theodore Constantine decides to get back to the land. When he and his wife search New England for the perfect nineteenth-century home, they find no township more charming, no countryside more idyllic than the farming village of Cornwall Coombe. Here they begin a new life: simple, pure, close to nature-and ultimately more terrifying than Manhattan's darkest alley.

When the Constantines win the friendship of the town…


Who am I?

I think of reading horror stories as perfect armchair adrenalin-thrill-seeking. I prefer horror on the quiet side, dark and thematic, with any depiction of blood and gore in measured quantities. My favorite is historical horror with a moral edge, or underlying theme that explores who we are—good, bad, or in-between—as human beings, and how societal norms have changed from one era to another. The monsters of our imaginations are scary, but for true terror, there's nothing more frightening than the things we've done to each other throughout history. Dress society’s ills or expectations in monster clothes and write a story about them, and I’ll want to read it.


I wrote...

Bittersharp

By K.D. Burrows,

Book cover of Bittersharp

What is my book about?

In 2018, Rachel Shepherd finds her father dead in the haunted mansion he had been renovating into a B&B. Something is wrong at Hollister House. Rachel has dreams and nightmares of a dark-haired man. After she sees the apparition of a woman who has haunted her memory for years, Rachel becomes convinced that exposing the truth about a death in 1927 holds the key to freeing Hollister House of its past. She enlists the help of her first love from a decade ago, and together they discover a mysterious mosaic mural, an album of disturbing photos, and Eve Boland’s diary.

As secrets are revealed, Rachel is about to learn that the worst horror of all may be living with the ghosts of the past.

Ghosts of the Northeast

By David J. Pitkin,

Book cover of Ghosts of the Northeast

Pitkin writes in a very accessible style. What drew me into this book, in particular, is that he starts the book off with a personal experience. He writes of the incident that turned him from a skeptic into a believer in the paranormal. Intriguing stuff, to be sure ... but this revelation also changed his attitude towards teaching, making him more tolerant of other cultures, and more open to sharing different worldviews with his students. Whereas prior to this experience, he had been dismissive of what he saw as "primitive" beliefs (regarding African belief in witchcraft and the afterlife), he was now more willing to explore alternative belief systems with his students.

Ghosts of the Northeast

By David J. Pitkin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Book by Pitkin, David J.


Who am I?

I've been a paranormal investigator (a paranormal reporter, actually) for over a decade. One of the very best parts of my job is that I get to gorge myself on books of true accounts of the paranormal. It's exciting to see what else is out there, and what other people have experienced – both historically, and personally. I'm so grateful for the chance to add to this body of work; there are many renowned investigators and writers out there, and I'm thrilled to be counted among them. And someday, someone will read about my experiences and be terrified and intrigued and inspired by them.


I wrote...

Days of the Dead: A Year of True Ghost Stories

By Sylvia Shults,

Book cover of Days of the Dead: A Year of True Ghost Stories

What is my book about?

Are you brave enough to spend every day of the year with ghosts?

Paranormal reporter Sylvia Shults has collected 366 ghost stories, one for every single day of the year, and has detailed them in this ambitious work. There's a story for your birthday. There's a story for your pet's birthday. There's a story to make every day spooky. Open the cover and peek inside - if you dare.

Our Beloved Kin

By Lisa Brooks,

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

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.

Our Beloved Kin

By Lisa Brooks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Our Beloved Kin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2019 Bancroft Prize: A compelling and original recovery of Native American resistance and adaptation to colonial America

"By making what we thought was a small story very large indeed-Ms. Brooks really does give us 'A New History of King Philip's War.'"-The Wall Street Journal

"Provides a wealth of information for both scholars and lay readers interested in Native American history."-Publishers Weekly

With rigorous original scholarship and creative narration, Lisa Brooks recovers a complex picture of war, captivity, and Native resistance during the "First Indian War" (later named King Philip's War) by relaying the stories of Weetamoo, a…


Who am I?

I write historical fiction set in New England and based on the lives of real people. My New England roots go back to the 1630s when my English ancestors first came to the region so I’m steeped in its traditions and literature. I love doing the research for my books, especially when my characters lead me in new directions. I spent ten years digging into the conflict between the Puritans and the indigenous Natives and in the process discovered a largely forgotten story that has long-lasting implications for our day.


I wrote...

Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America

By Amy Belding Brown,

Book cover of Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America

What is my book about?

In the midst of King Philip’s War, Mary Rowlandson is captured and sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, where she becomes a pawn in the bloody struggle between English settlers and natives. As she battles cold, hunger, and exhaustion, she witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. She’s drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life and disturbed by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native.

All her life, Mary has been taught to fear God, submit to her husband, and abhor Indians. Now, having lived on the other side of the forest, she questions the edicts that have guided her, torn between the life she knew and the wisdom she’s discovered among the Natives.

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