Ten Reasons Why New England Is Better Than Everywhere Else: The Definitive List

Full disclosure, there’s nothing new on this list. If you’re not a Irving-King-Russo fan, you’re welcome to quickly move on – no hard feelings.

I’ve moved around quite a bit. I’ve lived in Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Virginia, Florida, and have finally settled in Colorado. My family has continued to move around since I’ve left home and I think it’s truly a pity they didn’t decide to stay in Hawaii, Jamaica, or Seattle. I might have visited more often.

Despite the frequent moves, I consider my hometown to be a little city just over the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border (it’s essentially a Boston suburb these days). A considerable portion of my life was spent within the confines of those city limits (or on the train to Boston) and I generally have fond memories. There are several regional distinctions within the US and New England is definitely…distinct. However, the sense of humor can’t be beat. To quote someone who says it better: “Our humor can be very disarming, if you’re not from New England.   We use everything; the oxymoron, puns (very disposable humor, but I love ‘em), exaggerations, understatement, subtle references to Greek mythology… everything.   You name it; we use it.” Where do you think my love of puns comes from? So it’s not that New Englanders don’t have a sense of humor, it’s just that 44 of the 50 states don’t get their humor. Urban Dictionary has some good New England definitions for those of you who didn’t have the privilege of growing up the right way, with the best pizza, the best duck boats, New Kids on the Block, and the understanding of the proper use of ‘wicked’.

This week’s top ten list is favorite books set in “place of your choice” (as hosted by The Broke and the Bookish). I’m choosing New England. It’s still one of my favorite places to visit and, thank god, no one tries to hug me. They know how weird that it.

That’s my hometown, yo.

Frankly, I’m amazed that this list isn’t entirely made up of Stephen King and John Irving. Because it could’ve been and quite possibly should’ve been… In no particular order:

10. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I should love this book; I want to love this book. I don’t always. However, I do recognize its greatness and you’ll get quite the tour of Boston while reading it.

9. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Every list needs one outlier.

8. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. My hometown plays a small role in this novel. I’ve pushed this novel quite a bit this year. Even if you think horror isn’t your thing, I would advise giving this one a chance.

7. The Bostonians by Henry James. I’m really branching out this week: John Irving, Stephen King, Richard Russo, Joe Hill, and Henry James. Something new and different for me…

6. Empire Falls by Richard Russo. As you may have read in my Book Q&A, this is possibly the book I push most on people. It’s been nearly universally loved.

5. A Separate Peace by John Knowles. This novel actually determined a significant part of my personal life.

4. The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving. It has a little bit of everything in it. In New Hampshire (and Vienna).

3. Bag of Bones by Stephen King. One of my all-time favorite novels…

2. Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving. New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Colorado. The last sentence was inspired by Bob Dylan’s Tangled Up in Blue. My world is a small, small place sometimes.

1. The Stand by Stephen King. Always a classic choice, a large part of the novel occurred in Maine and Vermont. The most horrifying scene (the tunnel) occurred in New York, as it should. And all of the best people ended up in Boulder, which is essentially where I went after leaving New England. I’ll leave it to you to make all the proper inferences.

So which setting did you choose? Or, if you didn’t write a list, which setting is your favorite? Please realize that most of this post was written tongue-in-cheek. Although I was serious about the pizza. And New Kids on the Block.


52 thoughts on “Ten Reasons Why New England Is Better Than Everywhere Else: The Definitive List

  1. I love the title of your list this week! 😀 Great list, I honestly haven’t read any of these titles and of course there’s Empire Falls that I really need to get back to one of these days and finish. The Hotel New Hampshire sounds interesting setting-wise, will have to check it out on GoodReads.

    I just had pizza this past weekend but I could use with some…again…lol

    I considered choosing my usual favourite settings (England, Italy, Spain, etc, etc.) but decided to go with a time period this week, lol: My TTT


    1. That pizza looked SO good. Was it the best in the city?

      I love New England, but I can’t help but think my list was a bit of a cop out. How many times have I recommended John Irving, Stephen King, and Richard Russo. Too many to count, I should’ve been more creative. But, then again, I am truly passionate about making people read the novels by those authors – so maybe I’m being true to myself.

      That above is fine self-justification at work. I would applaud my own persuasive reasoning if I didn’t think it would be misconstrued as my having an ego the size of Texas. 😉


      1. I’d say it was probably in the top 3, if not yes, it was (sadly my favourite place closed down this past year; their Napolitano pizza was amazing, it was like being in Italy again). My brother says there’s an even better one somewhere downtown so now I’ve been bothering him to take us there. For, you know, comparative purposes 😀

        Hehe, not a cop out at all choosing New England for this week’s TTT; being true to oneself and spreading the love of some of these authors and titles are important for these lists 😉 I must’ve recommended and repeated some of my favourite authors/titles often enough on my lists too, lol. We just do it in creative ways *thumbs up*


    1. That’s…fine. As long as you don’t tell me you like the Yankees, that type of pomposity is hard to stand.

      New England is the best. Four seasons, dry humor, fresh seafood – you can’t ask for much else.

      Florida wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t have spiders that required serious weaponry to kill. Not to mention the cockroaches…


  2. Okay I won’t mention the Yankees (or the navy and white caps I bought my kids when I went to a baseball game in NYC two years ago…).

    New England is much like Melbourne (although we have less seafood and more wine and cheese, which is okay as well). Except we also have spiders. In fact, you can’t go anywhere in Australia without coming across spiders. They don’t bother me but mice on the other hand…. eeeeeekkkkkk!


    1. Nearly every poisonous thing decided to live in Australia. I don’t know how you step outside. 😉

      Mice. Yuck. Colorado has serious mice and bed bug problems (neither are in my house, thank whatever’s holy), but the mice issue cause an outbreak of the bubonic plague last year.


      1. Bed bugs not an issue in Australia (yet) – friend had them in the US and it was a NIGHTMARE – took so long to be rid of them. We had a mice plague about six years ago and ever since then I’ve been paranoid, to the point where I get the exterminators in every year regardless of any rodent activity. I’d be happy to never see another mouse as long as I live.


  3. I want to go to Boston. I feel like I would love it there. Although in all fairness, I can imagine fitting in a lot of places. And I had family in Hawaii too, and they came back! They were from Missouri, went to Hawaii, and CAME BACK. That makes no sense to me. I didn’t even get the chance to visit 😦

    I need to read Infinite Just but it’s SO giant! And I read The Stand for the first time this year (also giant), so yay there. Clearly I really need to read Joe Hill, I’ve been hearing such fantastic things about this books lately. Lovely list!


    1. Joe Hill is a must.

      I love and miss Boston, nearly everything about it. I never feel like I fit in anywhere, though I suppose Colorado is as good a fit as any place. And my family moved back from Hawaii too. Why? WHY? Infinite Jest is a challenge, but one I recommend even if I don’t always love it myself. It’s one of those ‘worthwhile’ books.


  4. Confession: I’ve always been WICKED jealous of New Englanders. (New Englanders…is that right? I’m going with it.)


    1. New Englanders is right. And you should be wicked jealous of us. 😉

      There’s are days where I do nothing but fantasize about moving back. Usually in autumn. My fantasies take an abrupt break December through March. I can’t imagine why…


  5. I love New England with all my heart. There are so many places in NE where I’d love to live…if it weren’t for the snow. That’s seriously the only thing holding me back (well, and Eric’s job, of course) from moving farther north.


    1. I miss it! The snow is a pain, but you do get used to it. We had a super snowy winter this year here in Colorado, so I feel like if I’m going to get hit with snow, it might as well be where I can have three other glorious seasons.

      At any rate, until some plant and/or archive job opens up in Vermont, I’m staying put. What would be ideal: a job where I could work exclusively from home. I currently put in about 12 hours a week from home as is, but full time would be the best (of course).


      1. I grew up in the Finger Lakes region in NY, and I never got used to the snow and cold. I live in PA now and I still hate it, even though we get far less here. Snow and I just don’t get along. At all. Haha! I will be retiring to Costa Rica someday.


      2. I LOVE snow, as long as I don’t have to drive and/or commute in it. Other than that, bring it on.

        My family has a cabin in the Adirondacks and on occasion we’ve made our way into the Finger Lakes region of the state. It always looks pretty, but I imagine the winters are bitterly cold. I grew up in NH, which is also very cold, but coastal enough not to get quite as much snow.


  6. The Midwest seems so bland in comparison to New England! All the cool historical stuff is there too. I’ve never read any Russo, and now that you said “WORLD, read Empire Falls” I’m taking that as “Katie, Rory thinks you should read this book.” So I’m gonna READ IT! (And PS- Little Women!!!!!! <3)


    1. That is exactly what it means.Get on that, would you? 🙂

      Everything has such history there, my home town was founded in 1623. My town now was founded in 1859. I suppose it’s all relative in comparison to Europe anyway.


  7. I’ve barely been up to New England at all! My in-laws live in upstate New York, but I don’t think that counts… when I was 10 my mom and I (with a couple friends) did a really long driving trip up to Vermont. I remember going to the Ben & Jerry’s…! LOL. Otherwise, I’m hoping to tag along on my husband’s trip to Boston in the fall—he is attending a conference. I’ve never been to Boston! Great list 🙂


  8. I’ve only read your outlier. 🙂

    That said, I keep meaning to try more of Henry James. I’ve been considering Portrait of a Lady but maybe The Bostonians will be an even more interesting choice.


    1. Washington Square is my favorite, but I felt The Bostonians was particularly appropriate for this list. I do love Portrait of a Lady as well.


  9. Ahh, New England looks so beautiful! Now I really want to go there! I haven’t read any of the books you’ve listed (not even Little Women — I know!) but if they’re set in that lovely place, maybe I should add some of them to my to-read list. You have peaked my interest 🙂


    1. It’s such a beautiful place, although I’m biased because I grew up there and am incredibly nostalgic about the area in general. If you ever get the chance, you should go. The coast is amazing during the summer and the interior is gorgeous during the fall.


    1. Autumn is far and away my FAVORITE season.

      Infinite Jest. My relationship is love/hate. I think it’s an important book and the author has (had?) my utmost sympathy. My mind tends to be a dark place, but it’s never gotten unbearable. If you want to read something by DFW, his short stories are much easier on the brain (and timeline).


    1. Bag of Bones isn’t particularly scary, more of a haunted love story. I highly recommend it if you’re ever looking for a gateway into King’s books.


  10. i am not as big a King fan as you appear to be (ha), but I loved Gerald’s Game & Delores Claiborne & how they were kind of companion novels. also, Little Women, FTW.


    1. No, not a King fan at all…

      I have read A LOT of King, but one of the scenes that haunts me most is from Gerald’s Game. The handcuff scene truly disturbed me and has never left the literature portion of my mind.


  11. I’ve been to NYC, but nothing north. One summer I’d love to stay in some quaint, idealistic town in, say, Maine with a lighthouse. While I do love the West Coast, there is something a little more rustic about New England.


  12. Best blog post ever! I especially liked these bits:

    I think it’s truly a pity they didn’t decide to stay in Hawaii, Jamaica, or Seattle. I might have visited more often.

    It’s still one of my favorite places to visit and, thank god, no one tries to hug me. They know how weird that is.


    1. Thanks! It’s nearly entirely meant in jest, but I think they (whoever ‘they’ might be) say something like 50% of things said in jest are secretly true. So…

      I really did think it was a shame that they only lasted 7 months in Hawaii! They weren’t even there long enough for me to visit once. Although even if they were there a year, I was flat broke at the time and couldn’t have afforded to visit.

      After 11 years in Colorado, the hugging is still odd to get used to. It’s an actual greeting here, like ‘hey, I’ve known you for three minutes, I’m going to hug you goodbye now’. Um, what?!?


      1. Could be more of a “We’re so happy to meet you!” before they know you. And then they get to know you and don’t even like you. You meaning me, of course. It’s happened to me once or twice.


  13. I like how you made the Top Ten your own. Bravo.

    My New England experiences are limited to cross-border shopping trips made with my New Brunswick family. Calais, Bangor, Freeport. I need to go to Boston one day. Or, like, at least Portland.

    So… I take it you’re a Henry James fan? Me too 🙂 My son Henry isn’t actually named after him, but I like to pretend he is sometimes.

    I’m glad you are serious about NKOTB. Proper thing.


    1. Thank you! Portland was where I lived in Maine and attended early school. I liked it. I liked it even more in comparison to Bangor and waaay more than Orono. If someone ever says hey, lets take a day trip to Orono be very afraid. And definitely visit Boston! I’m not biased or anything.

      And as he’s your son, if you want him to be named after Henry James, then he’s named after Henry James. Carrying a baby is a lot of work, naming is one of the perks. So if a total stranger asks you how Henry got his name, feel free to utilize your fabulous author taste and say “he was named after Henry James”.

      Yep, totally serious about NKOTB. I think I still have my sheets floating around somewhere. I don’t have a twin bed anymore, but that’s not the point. I take Aerosmith pretty seriously too.


  14. I would love to visit New England, especially as I come from the old one.

    I’ve only read Little Women on your list, a forever favourite of mine.


  15. Visiting New England someday is a definite “must do” in my life. I laughed out loud at your comment: “It’s still one of my favorite places to visit and, thank god, no one tries to hug me. They know how weird that it.” LOL


  16. What a great post! We have a lot in common, geographically speaking. I was born in a Boston suburb (just south), grew up in Florida, summer’d in Boston, and now live in Colorado. And you’re right – Bostonians have a very distinct and caustic sense of humor that, while sarcastic, may sound rude to those who don’t understand it. Frankly, that’s their problem, not mine. Like you, I grew up on NKOTB, sat on the littlest duck every summer, and wicked (which I recently used in a post title) is in my vocabulary. But….. you forgot about Dunks and Mary Lou’s coffee. Unlike you, I was commuting to the north (usually Nashua) to see some friends who were in a band and played that way almost every weekend.

    Good choice of setting 🙂


    1. I don’t think people realize Dunkin’ Donuts is practically a cultural institution. It just there, I really believe it’s part of the cultural landscape. I miss Boston so much sometimes. When I do, I try to remember the winters. I was born in Nashua/Manchester and we lived there for quite a while before we moved to Dover/Portsmouth. Then we headed down to Tampa, Florida, followed by Portland, Maine, than Jamestown, Rhode Island. After RI, we settled in Virginia Beach, Virginia for a few years before I moved out to CO (for UCB). I ended up staying here after graduation, I worked for a few years and then went to grad school at DU. I now work at a museum in Denver and love it. I try to get back east as often as I can though. I actually have a job interview there next week (so excited, so nervous).

      And yes, this exactly. -> ‘Frankly, that’s their problem, not mine.’


  17. Good luck with your interview! I’ve lived in S. Weymouth, Gainesville, and am now in Centennial. Like you, I moved here for school and start grad school at DU this week 😀 Sometimes I think that I will drive to Colorado Springs to grab some Dunks but, even though it’s the only one in the state, I know it won’t be the same because non-New England DD’s are NEVER as good.


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