Reading New England: Maine

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For my second state in the Reading New England Challenge, I’ve chosen to go to Maine, the largest and northernmost of the New England states. As you may remember from American history class, Maine was claimed by Massachusetts in Colonial days; it became an independent state only in 1820 as part of the notorious “Missouri compromise,” by which Missouri was allowed to become a slave state if Maine became a free state, thus keeping the balance in the senate.

Acadia National Park, By Plh1234us [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
So it should come as no surprise that peaceful as the Maine woods and mountains may appear, there lurk everywhere both human and natural conflicts, which form a rich ground for literature. Perhaps the most famous Maine author writing today is Stephen King, who has set several of his wildly popular horror novels in his home state, including his debut novel Carrie. For some equally compelling drama without the supernatural touch you might choose Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, Empire Falls by Richard Russo, or Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.

Nature and the wilderness form a strong presence in Maine fiction and nonfiction: a couple of titles that have caught my eye are Henry Beston’s Northern Farm and Trevor Corson’s The Secret Life of Lobsters. And there’s an especially rich vein of children’s books to be found here, with classics like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Calico Bush, and The Sign of the Beaver succeeded in recent years by intriguing new titles like Small as an Elephant and The Water Castle.

Sarah Orne Jewett in the doorway of her house in South Berwick, via Wikimedia

As well as sampling many of these topics and authors (except Stephen King — I don’t like scary books), I’ve already read and am planning to post about Sarah Orne Jewett’s novella The Country of the Pointed Firs, a true American classic and my introduction to a wonderful new-to-me author. Jewett’s house in South Berwick is open to visitors, and I would love to make a trip there once the weather warms up — I’ll be sure to share it if I do. Watch also for a feature on independent Maine publisher Tilbury House, which has some lovely books on offer.

Do you have favorite Maine books or authors to recommend? What are you planning to read this month (from this or any other state)?

12 thoughts on “Reading New England: Maine

  1. Superb post Lory.

    I like the idea of centering a discussion on books around a particular state or region. One does not hear enough about Maine and literature.

    Of the books that you mentioned I have only read Carrie. I really want to read The Country of the Pointed Firs.


  2. I remember loving Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm was I was young. I wonder what I would think of it now? And, The Secret Life of Lobsters sounds good!
    Looking forward to hearing about The Country of the Pointed Firs!


  3. Look forward to your review of The Country of Pointed Firs. I plan on reading Ruth Moore’s Spoonhandle. She was very popular in her day, but is kind of relegated as a “regional” author now. Though my family did not personally know her, when I was in my first decade of life and Moore was in her last, we lived five minutes away from each other.


  4. Even though I’ve read my Maine book already, I’d still like to give Olive Kitteridge a try, and Orphan Train sounds good, too. Who knows, I might return to Maine more than once this year. 🙂 This is such a great challenge! Thanks for doing it.


    1. I’m certainly reading multiple books from each state, even though I don’t post about all of them. There are just too many excellent choices, I can’t pass them up.


  5. I’m sure I have read books set in Main [Stephen King has several!] but I haven’t reviewed them yet 😦
    but since you said ‘any other state” 🙂 I just posted my review of <a href="; Sanctum (Guards of the Shadowlands #1), by Sarah Fine which is set in Rhode Island! excellent book! dark, gothic.. so New England! about the place where suicidal souls go! CAN’T GET BETTER THAN THAT! 🙂
    “Welcome to Suicide Gates!”


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