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.
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.
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)?