Though in its topography it’s the flattest of the New England states, Rhode Island is a place of contrasts. It’s the smallest in area of all the fifty states, but has the longest official name (“State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations”). In spite of its small size it contains the third most populous city in New England, Providence, and is also the second most densely populated state in the nation after New Jersey. It was the first state to declare independence, but also a major center of the North American slave trade during the colonial period. Struggling fishing towns and wealthy resorts rub shoulders along its convoluted coastline, which covers 384 miles in a state only 37 miles wide.
By my count, there are relatively few books to be found set in the Ocean State, but there are definitely some standout titles that should be on many a reading list. These include one of my favorite novels of all time, Theophilus North by Thornton Wilder; John Updike’s supernatural satire The Witches of Eastwick; and some of the bizarre horror tales of HP Lovecraft, including his only novel, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.
A number of popular contemporary writers have chosen a Rhode Island setting for their recent novels: The Vineyard by Barbara Delinsky, A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams, and Moonlight Becomes You by Mary Higgins Clark, are a few examples. All sound like good choices for your next beach vacation.
Nonfiction titles are even harder to find, but a couple that look interesting are The Great Hurricane, 1938, about the infamous meteorological event that hit the state especially hard, and The Prince of Providence, story of the “longest-running lounge act in American politics.”
As for my personal reading list, I’ve also already mentioned Swim That Rock, a coming-of-age novel I’m excited to start; and I may take a crack at The Witches of Eastwick, even though I doubt I will enjoy it. I feel like I ought to read something by Updike at some point.
What would you like to read from Rhode Island? Do you have any other recommendations for our list?