Essential Summer Reading
Read your way through Maine this summer with our favorite books set in the Pine Tree State
Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches | by John Hodgman The stories in Vacationland seek to help readers understand and contextualize some of life’s great issues—death, family, and coming of age—all while being funny and highly readable. The actor-slash-writer is sincere and introspective as he sets out in pursuit of the truth.
Olive Kitteridge and Olive, Again | by Elizabeth Strout
Introduce yourself to Pulitzer Prize–winner Strout’s beloved busybody, Olive Kitteridge, of fictional Crosby, Maine, then follow up with her a few years later in Olive, Again. We also recommend the HBO mini-series for full immersion.
Maine | by J. Courtney Sullivan
Sullivan’s novel tracks three generations of Kelleher women as they all convene over one summer at their family home in Maine. Through the Kellehers, Sullivan unflinchingly shows how life can be paradoxically joyous and despairing.
The Guest Book | by Sarah Blake
Another story of a multigenerational retreat on the coast of Maine, Blake’s saga spans 80 years of life in the Milton family, as they reckon with a changing world and a past that proves impossible to fully disentangle from.
The Cider House Rules | by John Irving
This poignant tale of a physician at an orphanage, Dr. Wilbur Larch, and the protégé he raised, Homer Wells, takes the reader on a long journey of post–World War II America, ill-advised romance, and the families we create for ourselves. The 1999 film adaptation won Best Screenplay at the Academy Awards.
Bag of Bones | by Stephen King
It’s nearly unthinkable to choose only one recommendation from the King arsenal of mysteries set in the fictional Castle Rock, Maine. This story of a writer suffering from writer’s block and living in isolation four years after the death of his wife is one of our favorites, though. For bonus points, pick up Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, which served as a major inspiration.
The Maine Woods | by Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau made three trips over the course of three years to traverse mostly unexplored expanses of the Maine woods. His musings and reflections shed light on a part of America that was largely unknown to the rest of the world and ignited generations of new adventurers.
The Weight of Water | by Anita Shreve
This work of historical fiction follows the homicides of two Norwegian-born women living on Smuttynose Island, off the coast of Maine and New Hampshire. More than 100 years after their deaths and the hanging of the presumed murderer, photojournalist Jean Janes reopens the case. The film adaptation stars Elizabeth Hurley and Sean Penn.
The Beans of Egypt, Maine | by Carolyn Chute
In her first novel, Chute presents the riotous and boisterous Bean clan. With her unsparing portrayal of poor, rural Maine, Chute captured a loyal audience and went on to write several novels set in her cherished Egypt.
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm | by Kate Douglas Wiggin
This time-honored classic may be found in the young adult section, but the story of intrepid and imaginative Rebecca Rowena Randall, along with her stern aunts, is for anyone who has ever navigated the challenges of growing up.
Lost on a Mountain in Maine | by Donn Fendler
When on a Boy Scout trip, 12-year-old Fendler briefly stepped away from his troop, leading to what would become a nine-day solo survival journey on Mount Katahdin. This miraculous story is a welcome reminder of the human courage and resolve that can be summoned when needed most acutely.
Empire Falls | by Richard Russo
Another recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Empire Falls follows the life of protagonist Miles Ruby, the manager of the Empire Grill diner, and his family and acquaintances in this fictional Maine mill town. Not long after, it was adapted in an HBO miniseries.