Books about Maine?
August 31, 2009 7:59 AM   Subscribe

Suggestions for books on Maine history and culture, non fiction preferred but not a necessity. This would be for a person traveling to Maine in the near future, will be spending time on the coast and in the great north woods.
posted by flummox to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
In Table of Contents, John McPhee has an extended essay about Northern Maine called North of the C.P. Line. I'm not a Maine expert, but I liked the essay a lot when I read it.
posted by OmieWise at 8:18 AM on August 31, 2009

If you can track down a copy, I suggest

The Salt book: Lobstering, sea moss pudding, stone walls, rum running, maple syrup, snowshoes, and other Yankee doings

It's a folklore book, in the spirit of the Foxfire books and has a lot of interesting folklore, downhome traditions and stories about rural life, both on the sea and on the land. It's fun to flip through and gives you a sense of traditional life and customs in Maine.
posted by jessamyn at 8:19 AM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Start with Louise Dickinson Rich's We Took to the Woods, then read all her other stuff. She's considered one of Maine's best-known writers. Her book on the history of Maine is particularly good.
posted by Melismata at 8:27 AM on August 31, 2009

Though most of it involves the White Mountains in New Hampshire, I'm pretty sure Forest and Crag, by the Watermans, covers the Maine mountains as well.

Laura and Guy Waterman have written extensively about the history of New England mountains. They've also led fascinating (and tragic) lives and are worth looking into.
posted by bondcliff at 8:35 AM on August 31, 2009

For history, you might try A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 . It won a Pulitzer Prize.
posted by cushie at 8:35 AM on August 31, 2009

Seconding A Midwife's Tale. It was compelling and awe-inspiring!
posted by luazinha at 9:06 AM on August 31, 2009

Carolyn Chute's The Beans of Egypt, Maine and Letourneau's Used Auto Parts are fiction, but essential for an outsider who wants to understand Maine.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:08 AM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'll second the works of Louise Dickinson Rich. We Took to the Woods is fantastic.
posted by one_bean at 9:33 AM on August 31, 2009

I liked Colin Woodward's The Lobster Coast. Non-fiction, more about Maine history than about lobsters.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 9:40 AM on August 31, 2009

Good one, jessamyn! My family (my aunt, uncle and cousins + various family friends) are in the Salt book somewhere -- mom & I just tracked down some secondhand copies recently.

Ditto-ing Colin Woodard's The Lobster Coast, I've read and reread that a dozen times. I also like Trevor Corson's The Secret Life of Lobsters, though not absolutely Maine-specific, it is good when you're on vacation.

A Year in the Maine Woods by Bernd Heinrich is good.

The Lobster Gangs of Maine is a little dry, but interesting.
posted by at 10:18 AM on August 31, 2009

One Man's Meat by E.B. White
posted by Daily Alice at 10:21 AM on August 31, 2009

Thoreau's "The Maine Woods" isn't as dense as "Walden," but is still an interesting look at Maine's wilderness from a preeminent American writer.
posted by paulsc at 10:27 AM on August 31, 2009

Seconding Bernd Heinrich's A Year in the Maine Woods (1996) and the EB White essays, and adding

Linda Tatelbaum's Carrying Water as a Way of Life: A Homesteader's History (1997), which describes her two decades of experience as a homesteader in rural Maine

Linda Greenlaw's The Lobster Chronicles: Life on a Very Small Island (2002)

Elizabeth Peavey's essays, Maine & Me (2004) - I haven't read it but her Down East essays are usually excellent

Maine's Golden Road: A Memoir (1995) by John Gould, about his 32 summers spent in the Maine woods with his daughter's father-in-law, fishing, camping, picking wild raspberries, observing lumber and paper company activities, etc. He was a funny and intellectual writer.

Sometimes adults appreciate kids' books, too. Good classics about Maine are Robert McCloskey's picture book One Morning in Maine, set on a Maine island; Barbara Cooney's picture book Miss Rumphius, about lupines; and Donn Fendler's book for older kids, Lost on a Mountain in Maine (1939), based on his true story of being lost at age 12 for nine days on Mt. Katahdin.

The Mirror of Maine list -- 100 books chosen because they 'reveal the history of the state and life of its people" -- may give you more ideas. (Most of the books already suggested are on it.)

What your friend will really need, though, is the Maine Atlas & Gazetteer :-)
posted by mmw at 11:44 AM on August 31, 2009

nonfiction: Seconding Lost on a Mountain in Maine. It's a classic.

fiction: Cathie Pelletier's Allagash books are good for a chuckle, snort and guffaw.
posted by initapplette at 11:53 AM on August 31, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, this is great!
posted by flummox at 5:27 PM on September 1, 2009

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