Reading New England: A 2016 reading challenge

Posted November 15, 2015 by Lory in challenges / 58 Comments


For the official sign-up post and more information, click here

Today I’m excited to announce the launch of an idea I’ve been mulling over for some time: Reading New England, a year-long challenge intended to draw attention to the wonderful writers and books of the six New England states, along with publishers, booksellers, literary locations, and more. Each month will have a special focus, and readers will be encouraged to choose books from those twelve categories if they wish, but there are no requirements other than to read at least one title that falls within the general theme.

Why “read New England”? I was born and grew up far to the west, but since moving back to the land of my fathers (literally — my father’s hometown is 1 hour away and he went to school and summer camp in my state) I’ve been inspired to learn more about the past and present of this beautiful, historic region. Whether you live in the United States or elsewhere, I hope you’ll find that focusing our attention on the authors and books of New England can be a fascinating window into a place with a long and proud literary history.

Some possibilities for your reading consideration:

An official sign-up post will go up on December 1st, with further information. Since a giveaway is always a fun incentive for challenge participants, I can assure you that there will be one or more — details to come!

I’ll also be hoping to incorporate posts from guest bloggers who live in or have a connection to the various New England states and would love to hear from you if you’re interested. I’d also love to gather suggestions of books and authors that you think should be included on our reading lists. Use #ReadNewEngland on Twitter, feel free to grab the button, and start getting ready!

Are you as excited for this event as I am? Any reading plans, ideas for guest posts, or other suggestions?

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58 responses to “Reading New England: A 2016 reading challenge

  1. Sounds like fun! I spent three summers in Vermont at a wonderful 8-week-long summer camp, and the smells and sights of the mountains there are part of me. I even keep a small balsam fir pillow around just to be able to inhale the scent and return there in my mind. Looking at your list of books, I’ve already read a few: Nightbirds on Nantucket, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Understood Betsy, and Our Town. And don’t forget Louisa May Alcott’s books! Plus there are a number of mystery series set in New England. I don’t know whether I can commit to this for the whole year, but I will try to pop in and participate when things aren’t too crazy at my house!

    • That list is just for starters! I’ll be putting more suggestions together (including LMA) and hope that readers will discover many more. I do hope you can find some way to participate!

  2. This is a really unique theme for a reading challenge. I really like the idea.

    I will try to join in.

    Out of your suggested books I have only read The Witches of Eastwick which I would highly recommend.

    I would also suggest the stories of H.P. Lovecraft which many of which took place New England and really connected with the region.

  3. As always I need to extend my reading spheres and this sounds a novel (no pun intended!) way of doing it so, yes, I’m very interested, especially if it’s to run through 2016. The Aiken Nantucket book is already on my list to read next year, but I have to complete Moby Dick first! Brian’s Lovecraft suggestion appeals — haven’t read any since my early 20s — though really if there’s a varied choice (and I am an ingenue in this regard) I’m happy to go with what’s on offer.

    • I think you can count Moby Dick because of the Nantucket section, even though most of it takes place on the ocean. 🙂 Nightbirds on Nantucket will be an excellent followup.

  4. Gret idea! There are so many terrific books set in New England. (I’m a Massachusetts native now living in the Midwest, but I’ve also lived in Rhode Island and New Hampshire.) Just a few suggestions off the top of my head — many of Anita Shreve’s books (The Weight of Water, etc.) are set in NH. Jhumpa Lahiri uses RI settings. We Were Liars, A.J. Fikry take place on MA islands. A big chunk of Orphan Train happens in Maine. Elinor Lipman, who writes the BEST comic novels, put The Inn at Lake Devine in Vermont. Well, that’s just a few!

  5. What an interesting idea! Incidentally, I just added The Country of Pointed Firs to my list of possibilities for the Women’s Classic Literature event. And I found a bunch of books about Salem in one of my boxes the other day. There’s two states down right there…

  6. I am very excited about this! I am doing a Louisa May Alcott year for the Women’s Literature Event at the Classics Club and look forward to learning more here! Great idea!!

    • A Louisa May Alcott year sounds wonderful. Maybe we can do a guest post exchange or something? I hope to visit Orchard House at some point too.

  7. Aaaaahhhh! You would do this to me. I am trying to severely cut down on challenges in 2016, but this is sooo tempting. I’ve heard the New England states are so beautiful, but I especially am tempted because you pick such good books and some of the choices are children’s novels. What to do, what to do? I’m thinking ……… 😉

  8. I love this idea! I live in Ohio now but was born and raised in Massachusetts. I am a New England girl to my core! I completely miss what life is like when you live in NE. It’s wicked awesome! 😆

  9. Not sure if I can read anything by Stephen King, but yes to We Were Liars (or The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks). Don’t forget Hawthorne; I’m about ready to dig into House of 7 Gables again. And as a partner for Moby Dick, how about Holling Clancy Holling’s Seabird?

    • The above suggestions are just for tasters — I’m compiling a more complete list and Hawthorne is definitely on it! I’ll add We Were Liars (I confess I had thought it was set in New York) and Seabird. Thanks!

  10. Jui Navare

    This is. Super idea!! I live in boston and I am a big fan of Lois Lowry. You should include some on her books like ‘The Giver’ , Number the stars and a summer to die. They are YA books but I enjoy them and am sure other adults will too.

    • I forgot all about Lois Lowry! I also love the Anastasia books. I’ll definitely add them to the list. (This challenge is for books actually set in New England, not just New England authors, so Number the Stars and The Giver wouldn’t count, although they are excellent books.)

  11. Ooh, so tempting. I was born and raised in Maine, though I live in Virginia now. So glad you have The Country of Pointed Firs on there. Don’t think anyone has yet mentioned Richard Russo’s Empire Falls, also set in Maine. I believe a number of John Irving’s books are set in New England and he himself is from NH. If people are going the thriller route, there’s Dennis Lehane for Boston.

    • Good suggestions, I’d already found Empire Falls when compiling my longer reading list (to be published December 1 along with the linkup). I will add Dennis Lehane — mystery/thriller recommendations are particularly welcome because that’s an area where my knowledge is quite lacking.

  12. This is a great challenge. By coincidence I just acquired The Country of the Pointed Firs by SARAH ORNE JEWETT and have a review copy of Maine Stories by Anne Beattie. I live in S E Asia am am looking forward to joining in this event

    • I’ve had the Jewett on my list forever and hope to finally get to it this year. I’ll add Maine Stories to the New England reading list. Welcome to the challenge!

  13. This looks really fun. I have several novels that would be appropriate. (I actually own a copy of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House but have never read it! ) I’ll look forward to participating!

  14. Terrific idea. I am a native Northwesterner, but went to both college and grad school in Vermont. Understood Betsy played a major, if subconscious, role in that decision. When I think of New England lit, I think of John Irving, Blueberries for Sal, Nathanial Hawthorne, Robert Frost, and Anne Tyler. Laura Lippman writes a great series and many stand-alone mysteries set in Baltimore, in which Baltimore is nearly as important of a character as the detective.

    • Baltimore is an interesting place (though not part of New England) that seems to have quite a literary presence. Vermont is harder to find books for, in case you have any other suggestions.

  15. Hi, I’d like to do this one. Even though I’m from California 🙂 It still sounds fun. I’ve been doing a southern Literature challenge the last few years and now want to do this one as well. I’m actually planning on reading “I Know this Much is True.” And I read “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” this past summer.
    Here is my signup post:

    And I’m also hosting a challenge next year. Please take a look:

    • Great Jamie! There’s no need to be from or to even have visited New England in order to participate. Armchair travel can be the best!

  16. I’m from New England (CT) but live in The Netherlands.
    I almost feel obliged to join this challenge and support my ‘roots’ !
    Mayflower was an excellent non-fiction read ( 2007 finalist Pulitzer Prize History) and Wapshot Chronicle is a modern classic that we don’t see on many reading lists.
    I will put my thinking cap on….and see if I can make a list to read in 2106. Great challenge!

  17. […] I like to give myself some wiggle room, and it’s hard for me to commit when I’m not sure what awesome books I might come across that are either not already on my TBR list or shelves, so I’m going with 12 books, Pike’s Peak level, for the Mount TBR Challenge and 11-20 books (“pat your shelves on the back”) for the Shelf Love Challenge. […]

    • Fantastic, Dana! I’d be happy to put you down for a guest post on Massachusetts books to be posted in July, if that seems agreeable. Email me at lory / emeraldcitybookreview / com (insert at sign and dot at the slashes) and we can work out the details.

  18. I am so doing this challenge. Now that I am a New Englander, I am all about New England’s history. Here are a few more authors I found:
    Nathaniel Hawthorne born in Salem, Massachusetts- The Scarlet Letter, Twice-told Tales, and The House of the Seven Gables
    Edgar Allen Poe- born in Boston, Massachusetts
    Mark Twain lived in Hartford, Connecticut- Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, The Prince and the Pauper, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
    Henry David Thoreau born in Concord, Massachusetts- Walden, or Life in the Woods
    H.P. Lovecraft born in Providence, Rhode Island
    Herman Melville lived in Pittsfield, Massachusetts- Moby Dick
    Robert B. Parker born in Massachusetts- Spenser series
    and last but not least…Stephen King!
    Here are a few books I found:
    Mystic River by Dennis Lehane, The Crucible by Arthur Miller, House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III, Sophie’s Choice by William Styron, Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman, Girl Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen, The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
    Sorry, I got carried away.
    Thanks for hosting this challenge.

  19. Mari

    I’m in! I’ve lived in the Boston area and summered in Maine for years, and love reading about the New England region. For mystery/suspense possibilities, look for William Martin, who wrote”Back Bay,” “Harvard Yard,” and “Cape Cod, ” among others. And Robert Parker’s series about P.I. Spenser is set in a very gritty, realistic Boston — great fun.