Reading, Traveling,Writing New England

511aJGH353LNot only do I write guidebooks, but I buy them. And whenever I book a trip, I always purchase a couple of up-to-date travel guide books to help me with the travel planning process.

But I also always choose a pre- vacation read based on where I’m traveling. A good novel, biography, or work of historical fiction really helps me better understand the culture of a place.

My book club just finished reading  A Piece of the World: A Novel by Christina Baker Klein. One look at the cover of the book-  the field of long, golden grass with a weathered grey farmhouse in the distance – and you would be right to think that the scene is familiar.  And it is. The cover is inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s iconic 1940’s painting Christina’s World, one of the most recognizable pieces of American art. The book is a fictional account of the life of Christina Olson, the subject of the painting and Wyeth’s neighbor and is set in mid-coast Maine in the remote town of Cushing  during the  pre and post-World War II era. Today, the Olson homestead is a National Historic Landmark,  and part of the Farnsworth Art Museum in nearby Rockland.  The museum has a significant collection of paintings by Andrew Wyeth as well as works by N.C. Wyeth, Andrew’s father, and Andrew’s son Jaime Wyeth. I am definitely putting the Farnsworth Museum  on my must-visit list for this summer.

Reading the book, I was struck by the Klein’s description of  life in rural Maine: the rugged and unforgiving coast, farming’s never-ending work and the simple pleasures of sewing circles and church socials .

Over the years, the essence of Maine hasn’t changed. Drive north along the coast from Portland to Brunswick and Rockland and you will find the same starkly beautiful landscape of pine forests, meadows and rocky beaches that inspired Wyeth.

As a book lover and avid traveler, I often cross off my reading list and my bucket list at the same time.  I read Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls before last year’s trip to Spain.  The year before I was in Italy and read the more contemporary Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters.  And for a trip to Ireland, I picked up James Joyce’s Dubliners.

The list of books set in New England is long indeed. You could reconnect with books from your high school required reading list. Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick  are classic New England reads.  More contemporary New England-inspired page turners that I have read recently include  Boston Girl by Anita Diamant, Bunker Hill by Nathaniel Philbrick and Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks.

Do you have a favorite book set in New England?  I always have a list of books to read next. Let me know!


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