Canellos, Peter, Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009. Published by a team of writers from the Boston Globe just before his death, this is the definitive biography of Massachusetts’s longtime U.S. Senator, who was as beloved in New England as he was flawed.
Demos, John. The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America. New York: Vintage, 1994. A fascinating tale of the capture of Rev. John Williams and his family in the 1704 Deerfield Raid sheds light on the complicated relations between colonists and Native Americans. While Williams’s wife and two children were killed, one daughter actually ended up marrying one of her captors.
Fairbrother, Trevor. Painting Summer in New England. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006. From a recent exhibition of the same name at the Peabody-Essex Museum, this beautiful art book includes dozens of paintings by American Impressionists, along with stories about the artists.
Forbes, Esther Hoskins. Paul Revere and the World He Lived In. Boston: Mariner Books, 1942. The Pulitzer Prize–winning story of Boston ’s original Renaissance man is just as fascinating now as when it was written 50 years ago.
Hill, Frances. A Delusion of Satan: The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2003. A British novelist and historian, Hill has written the definitive account of the collective madness that overtook a small New England town in 1692.
Howard, Brett. Boston: A Social History. New York: Hawthorn, 1976. Detailing the impact of the city’s leaders and most prominent families over the centuries, Howard shows the impact Boston Brahmins have had on local politics and cultural landscape.
Jennings, Francis. The Invasion of America: Indians, Colonialism, and the Cant of Conquest. New York: Norton, 1975. A classic “revisionist” history of the settling of New England makes the Pilgrims into the bad guys, instigating war with Native Americans in a cynical bid for land.
Labree, Benjamin Woods. The Boston Tea Party. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1964. An exhaustive examination of the context and chronology of the single most important event leading up to the Revolutionary War.
Lager, Fred. Ben & Jerry’s: The Inside Scoop: How Two Real Guys Built a Business with a Social Conscience and a Sense of Humor. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999. If you just can’t get enough Chunky Monkey or Cherry Garcia, pick up this book detailing the history of the Vermont  local legends.
Lukas, J. Anthony. Common Ground: A Turbulent Year in the Lives of Three American Families. New York: Vintage, 1986. Written about the racially motivated busing crisis of the 1970s, this may be the best nonfiction book ever written about Boston.
McCullough, David. 1776. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005. Rather than writing a start-to-finish account of the Revolution, McCullough drills down to the pivotal year in which the fortunes of George Washington turned, from the tense stand-off of the siege of Boston  to the ultimate victories at Trenton and Princeton.
McCullough, David. John Adams. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001. The fascinating history of the least heralded of our nation’s founding fathers—who may have had more lasting effect than any of his “brothers”—doubles as a glimpse into New England during our country’s coming-of-age.
Miller, Perry. The New England Mind: From Colony to Province. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1983. A scholarly and vastly detailed look at a century that saw New Englanders go from Puritans in their thinking to true Yankees.
Paine, Lincoln P. Down East: A Maritime History of Maine. Gardiner, ME: Tilbury House Publishers, 2000. A look back at more than four centuries of pirates, privateers, lobstermen, and windjammers from a maritime historian and native Downeaster.
Rappeleye, Charles. Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. A fascinating journey into the heart of colonial America, told through the history of the most enlightened city in the New World—which nevertheless founded its fortune on the slave trade.
Schultz, Eric B., and Michael J. Tougias. King Philip’s War: the History and Legacy of America’s Forgotten Conflict. Woodstock, VT: Countryman Press, 2000. A detailed history of the early clashes between colonists and Native Americans that some believe indirectly caused the Revolutionary War a century later.
Scotti, R. A. Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938. Boston: Back Bay Press, 2003. New England’s original “perfect storm”—and one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history—is brought alive in suspenseful detail, from the first clouds gathering over Long Island Sound to the 180-mph winds that ripped through the Connecticut  coast.
Stanton, Mike. The Prince of Providence: The Rise and Fall of Buddy Cianci, America’s Most Notorious Mayor. New York: Random House, 2004. Thuggish demagogue or brilliant urban mechanic, Buddy Cianci never failed to elicit strong emotions in Rhode Islanders. Freelance journalist Stanton tells Cianci’s flamboyant story with wit and insight that sheds light on the insular culture of the smallest state.
Tourtellot, Arthur Bernon. Lexington and Concord: the Beginning of the War of the American Revolution. New York: Norton, 2000. This exhaustive and very readable account of the events leading up to the Revolutionary War brings alive the characters of Sam Adams and John Hancock with all of their gifts and foibles.
Woodard, Colin. The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators, and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier. New York: Viking, 2004. From early Scotch-Irish woodchoppers to 20th-century oil painters, this clearly written account populates the map of Maine  with colorful historical characters.
Vowell, Sarah. The Wordy Shipmates. New York: Riverhead, 2007. The popular essayist and National Public Radio contributor not only writes one of the most irreverent and entertaining histories of the early days of Puritan and Pilgrim New England, but she also makes those ancient times surprisingly relevant to our own America.
Zobel, Hiller B. Boston Massacre. New York: Norton, 2000. A thoroughly researched accounting of the misnamed event that helped precipitate the Revolution; it exposes Sam Adams as a cynical propagandist who skillfully incited an angry mob.