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14 Books Set In Massachusetts To Read Before You Go

Don’t miss some of the best books set in Massachusetts to inspire your travels. Explore fiction and nonfiction books about Massachusetts to read before you go.

I grew up in New England, and I attended Smith College in Northampton, MA.

I loved cities and destinations like NoHo, Deerfield (Yankee Candle anyone?!), the Berkshires, Cape Cod for summers, Cambridge, Salem for Halloween, and of course, the cultured city of Boston.

You can find some hidden gems in Springfield, too, and don’t forget about Martha’s Vineyard.

Plus, did you know that Massachusetts is literary traveler gold? The state is home to the Eric Carle Museum, The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, and Norman Rockwell Museum.

You can find homages to Louisa May Alcott, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. We even debated getting married at the elegant Boston Public Library.

There are also a plethora of books set in Massachusetts that you don’t want to miss.

So, let’s set the literary tone for MA and discover some of the best books about Massachusetts for adults and teens.

Hopefully, this selection of nonfiction and fictional novels set in Massachusetts will help you plan your bookish trip to MA or take you there via your reading chair.

What are the best books about Massachusetts? Let’s get started!

Read across America with the best books set in every state.

Best Books Set In Massachusetts with Boston, MA cityscape and State House
Don’t miss our Massachusetts books reading list perfect for armchair travelers, too.

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Books To Read Before Going To Massachusetts Pinterest pin with book covers for The Caroline Paintings, On Beauty, Writers and Lovers, and Don't Ask Me Where I'm From
Headed to MA this year? Save this books set in Massachusetts reading list for later on Pinterest.

New Books Set In Massachusetts

New books set in Massachusetts, Writers & Lovers by Lily King, book cover with pink table covered with fruits, presents, and flowers

Writers & Lovers by Lily King

Contemporary Women’s Fiction
March 2020

One of my favorite 2020 books set in Massachusetts, Writers & Lovers by Lily King is a humbling story about love, creativity, and overcoming loss.

I originally heard about Writers & Lovers from Jenna Bush’s Book Club series on the Today Show — and I am so thankful.

Casey Peabody is a writer trying to overcome the loss of her mother. Working as a waitress to pay the bills, Casey needs health insurance and a higher salary to pay off her college loans.

Casey reminds me of Hannah Horvath in Girls. The relationships she lands in mirror Bridget Jones: One suitor is handsome and well-off while the other is a free and hurting spirit.

Writers & Lovers is sure to give you small-town, New England vibes and leave your heart more open. Amazon | Goodreads | Book Information→


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Indie book set in Massachusetts, The Caroline Paintings by Arthur Hittner, book cover with artists studio and painting on an easel

The Caroline Paintings by Arthur D. Hittner

Indie Novel | Art Fiction
January 2020

If you are looking for indie novels set in Massachusetts, don’t miss one of my favorite lesser-known authors, Arthur D. Hittner and his title, The Caroline Paintings.

Although not strictly based in Boston, MA — armchair travel to Florida, too — this art fiction book depicts the perfect multi-dimensional, tempting young muse.

After winning a bidding war over a storage locker filled with junk, Florida snowbird and Red Sox fan, Jerry, thinks he might have uncovered a hidden gem or two. 

Unsigned paintings send Jerry around the United States to uncover the mysterious artist and his rather young and stunning muse.

With altering stories and timelines, meet the woman inside the painting and her not-so-tragic plight as Jerry ‘comes of age’ in his maturity. Amazon | Goodreads

Don't Ask Me Where I'm From by Jennifer De Leon book cover with young woman with curly brown hair wearing a pink shirt made of flowers and trees

Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De Leon

YA | Racism & Prejudice | Immigration
August 2020

One of the new 2020 books set in Massachusetts that actually let me down a tad is Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De Leon.

While the topics of racism and immigration are much needed in YA lit, the plot is more surface-level and stereotypical without any meat or quality writing.

Liliana Cruz is positioned in a Boston school system dynamic that resembles Starr’s in The Hate You Give. Her diverse inner-city high school is underfunded and a mess.

However, her father that abandoned her yet again signed her up for METCO, a desegregation program, before leaving.

This new school in Westburg is predominantly white, and as a half-Guatemalan and half-Salvadorian, Liliana stands out.

She begins to change, alienating herself from old friends. Even worse, Liliana learns that her father didn’t actually abandon her. He’s been deported back to Guatemala. Amazon | Goodreads | Book Information→

TUL’s Favorite Novels Set In Massachusetts

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Literary Fiction | Asian American Fiction
2003

One of my favorite books growing up in and after college, don’t skip The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. The Ganguli family moves from Calcutta to Cambridge and the Boston suburbs in the 1960s.

Ashoke is finishing his engineering degree at MIT while his new wife, Ashima, heartbreakingly pines for her family back in India.

When their first child is born, Indian custom dictates that the child is given an official name and then a second name from the great-grandmother.

However, this family name never arrives via the mail. Ashoke gifts his son a nickname, Gogol, after one of the most beloved Russian writers that influenced him more than you can imagine.

Readers learn about the meaning behind who we are, our home, and who we can become in both the present and through flashbacks.

I’ve read The Namesake at least twice, and after writing this Massachusetts reading list, I definitely want to reread the novel. Amazon | Goodreads

You can find more books by award-winning Jhumpa Lahiri on our Books Set In India Reading List.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin book cover with red storefront and window of a bookstore

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Contemporary Literary Fiction
2014

I already know that someone is totally going to grumpy annihilate/comment on my Pinterest pin for this one…

The Storied Life Of A.J Fikry is technically set on Alice Island — a remote New England location — which certainly resembles Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. I am going with it. Tough cookies, Pinterest haters.

Although not my absolute favorite book of all time, THERE IS A BOOKSTORE; the story is endearing AF. A.J. Fikry’s life is a tad sad and messy.

His wife died, his bookstore is failing, and someone has stolen his prized Poe poems. What do we do when we are hurting?

We tend to isolate people and ourselves, and Fikry does not like change. He’s kind of a Scrooge.

When a mysterious package lands at his door, A.J. slowly starts to transform into a new man. Book lovers may most enjoy this heartwarming Massachusetts-based novel. Amazon | Goodreads

Head to more islands, imaginary and real, via a good book.

Contemporary Novels Set In Massachusetts

On Beauty by Zadie Smith book cover with pink ornate decor

On Beauty by Zadie Smith

Contemporary Literary Fiction | Satire
2005

In the fictional college town of Wellington, set outside of Boston, Massachusetts, Zadie Smith introduces us to a British/American and interracial family living in the U.S. in her literary novel, On Beauty.

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2005 and winner of the 2006 Orange Prize for fiction, the Belsey family finds themselves at odds with Kipps. The liberal atheist Belsey’s clash with the ultra-conservatives Kipps.

The two families must navigate their differences along with the competitive college work environment, affairs, race, and debates over affirmative action. Amazon | Goodreads

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks book cover with Native American walking down the beach with cliffs

Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

Historical Literary Fiction
2011

Growing up in Martha’s Vineyard in the mid-1600s, Bethia Mayfield is stuck amongst the strict English Puritans. Her father is a minister hoping to convert the locals.

When Bethia meets Caleb, the son of a chieftain, they become friends against their greatest differences. Caleb goes on to become the first Native American graduate of Harvard College, balancing beliefs and cultures.

Inspired by a true story, Caleb’s Crossing is a poignant book set in Massachusetts about the land’s early development and the hardships sprouted from superstition and stereotypes. Amazon | Goodreads

Even More Great Books Featuring Massachusetts

Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
The Orphans Of Race Point by Patry Francis

Classic Books Set In Massachusetts

Walden by Henry David Thoreau book cover with forest and house set in the middle

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Classic | Nature
1854

Head to Walden Pond outside of Concord, Massachusetts in Walden by Henry David Thoreau. A piece of land owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson, in 1845, Thoreau built a cabin on the banks of the pond.

Many of our famous — and sometimes cliché — quotes come from Thoreau’s time at Walden, where he ‘religiously’ journaled everything that he observed, including the most minutiae of nature.

Walden is the product of two years of Thoreau’s time and offers reflections about society, our existence, and nature. Amazon | Goodreads

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott book cover with woman wearing white lace dress

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Coming Of Age | Women’s Fiction
1868

Another book set in Concord, Massachusetts, we all know Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. A classic coming-of-age story, follow along with Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, four very different March sisters as they grow into young women.

Set during the Civil War, the novel examines the role of women, ambition, society versus family obligations, and love and death. Amazon | Goodreads

Witchy Books Arthur Miller's The Crucible

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

American Classic | Drama & Plays
1953

One of the best classic books set in Salem, Massachusetts, don’t skip over Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, especially if you are interested in the Salem Witch Trials.

Similar to The Scarlet Letter, The Crucible takes place in 1692 during strict Puritan times. Along with illicit love affairs, extreme religious suppression, and prejudice, the townspeople scapegoat witchcraft for all of their own wrongdoings.  Condemning ‘witches’ to save themselves, the town falls under public scrutiny.

The Crucible is a poignant commentary about mob mentality and evil. Amazon | Goodreads | Book Information→

More Classic Books Set In Massachusetts:

The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

YA Books About Massachusetts

Witchy Books set in Salem, Massachusetts, Conversion by Katherine Howe, book cover with yellow bird sitting on a thorn branch

Conversion by Katherine Howe

Young Adult | Historical Mystery | Mental Health
July 2014

Conversion is a modern-day Salem Witch Trials YA novel set in Danvers, Massachusetts. I read this one back in the day for my MLIS and recommend it if you enjoyed Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.

Find a mix of mental health discussions and Mean Girls. If you enjoy books about witches, this one is also for you.

The girls at St. Joan’s Academy are reading Arthur Miller when strange things start happening. Tics, seizures, and hair loss plague the school.

Like the Salem witch craze, rumors, accusations, and of course, mass panic ensues. Amazon | GoodreadsBook Information→

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne book cover with the alphabet in white except for a red A

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Classic American Literature | Books Read In High School
1850

Set in Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 17th century, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is widely read as part of public high school curriculums.

While some criticize the details for being too ornate for Puritan Boston, you still get an overbearing sense of guilt-inducing and condemning Puritan society.

Hester Prynne wears a scarlet “A’ across her garb as her impish child, Pearl, bounces around the world. The townspeople imprison Hester for adultery; she had a child with another man even though her husband was presumed lost at sea.

Through her kind and charitable actions, Hester attempts to redeem herself in the eyes of the unforgiving community.

The Scarlet Letter begins with a narrator located in Salem, MA, and is an infamous novel set heavily in Boston, Massachusetts. Amazon | Goodreads

More YA Books Set In Massachusetts

Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials By Stephanie Hemphill
Witch Child by Celia Rees
A Break With Charity: A Story About The Salem Witch Trials by Ann Rinaldi

Nonfiction Books That Take Place In Massachusetts

Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom tan and red book cover with no pictures

Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom

Educator Biographies | Love & Loss
1997

An oldie but a goodie, Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays With Morrie is a nonfiction book set in West Newton, Massachusetts in 1995. Mitch and Morrie Schwartz meet every Tuesday to discuss the meaning of life. Morrie was Mitch’s college professor from twenty years ago.

Mitch rediscovered Morrie at the end of his life. Plagued with ALS, Morrie is dying, but before he does, he gives Mitch a few final life lessons. Amazon | Goodreads

Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs book cover with young kid wearing a cardboard box over his head

Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

Memoirs
2002

At age 12, Augusten Burroughs’ mother’s psychiatrist is raising him–sort of. He stops attending school and there are certainly no rules.

A true story, learn how Augusten survives his unusual circumstances. Running With Scissors is a famous nonfiction book set in Northampton, MA. Amazon | Goodreads

Books Set In Massachusetts Pinterest Pin with book covers for Little Women, Writers and Lovers, The Scarlet Letter Running with Scissors, Caleb's Crossing, On Beauty, The Namesake, The Storied Life of AJ Fikry, and Conversion
Want to add these Massachusetts books to your TBR pile? Save this book list for later on Pinterest.

Have You Read Any Of These Books Set In & About Massachusetts?

Have you visited Massachusetts and taken a literary tour on your own? Do you have favorite Massachusetts-based novels? Or, have you read any of the above books and not enjoyed them? What other books about Massachusetts do you recommend? Let us know in the comments.

More Northern U.S.-Based Book Lists You Might Enjoy:

Fascinating Witchy Books Set In Salem, Massachusetts
New York City & State Books
The Best Books Set In Every State
All of our North America Reading Lists
Books Across The World

justina wohlrab

Monday 23rd of November 2020

So I was online hunting for recommendations for books set in Massachusetts as I graduated from Smith last year and felt a little nostalgic and what do I find? - A list just like I had hoped for and it is by Smithie which makes it even better! Thank you so much for this list!

Christine

Tuesday 24th of November 2020

Haha, that is amazing! I'm a Smithie '06/Chapin House. Thank you!

CJ | A Well-Read Tart

Sunday 24th of May 2020

Love, love, LOVED Caleb's Crossing. Anything by Geradline Brooks is just fantastic, but I think Caleb is one of her best. She just brings the story to life with her beautiful writing.

This is a great list! I wish I'd had it a few years ago when I went to Boston for vacation. Some other books to put on your list: Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan. As. Smith grad, you've prob read it; and if not, you should! Sullivan is another fave contemporary writer of mine. I liked The Engagements and Saints for All Occasions, which is also set in Mass.

Christine

Sunday 24th of May 2020

OMG, how could I forget Commencement?!! Yes, yes, yes. AND YES, I did read it! Ahaha! I only read Commencement because of the Smith deal.

I also just finished Kevin Kwan's June 2020 book release, Sex and Vanity, and one of the main characters went to Smith. He even has a footnote talking about it. Totally gets me, EVERY TIME. We, Smithies, tend to have excessive pride.

Thank you so much for the reminder and book suggestions. I might update this list to include them ASAP.

Macey @ Brine & Books

Tuesday 5th of May 2020

Yessss, I neeeeeeded this list!! Boston is one of the top destinations that I'd like to visit in these gorgeous United States, and I especially want to see Boston as it's so rich in history. I'm glad Wicked Girls got a mention!! I really enjoyed reading that last year. Such a great list!!

Christine

Tuesday 5th of May 2020

I was actually thinking of writing a Boston reading list too... I loveeee Boston and miss it so much now that we live in Asheville. I know you'd love it since you also love history. When we lived in CT, it was an easy trip for the day (along with NYC). Thanks so much!