The Essential Maine Reading List

Because we needed some entertainment (and to temporarily back away from the constant news alerts popping up on our screens), we polled our editors to create the ultimate set-in-Maine reading list. Below you’ll find classics like Lost in a Mountain in Maine and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm; selections by some of Maine’s greatest living authors, including Elizabeth Strout and Stephen King; coastal-set escapism in the form of Maine and The Guest Book; and work by one of the great advocates for finding peace and tranquility alone in nature, Henry David Thoreau. Enjoy, and please let us know in the comments if we’re missing any of your favorites.

Olive Kitteridge and Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Introduce yourself to Pulitzer Prize-winner Strout’s beloved busybody, Olive Kitteridge, of the fictional Crosby, Maine, and then follow up with her a few years later in Olive, Again. We also recommend the HBO miniseries 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. The Kellehers unflinchingly show how life can be paradoxically joyous and despairing.

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

Another story of a multi-generational 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 protégée 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 by Shreve 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.

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.

The Beans of Egypt, Maine by Carolyn Chute

In the Beans of Egypt, Maine, her first novel, Chute presents the riotous and boisterous Bean clan. Known for 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, twelve-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 (and the HBO miniseries treatment), 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

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