Cape Cod Books

Books Set on the Cape and Surrounding Islands
If you liked the Cape Cod setting in our Junior Lifeguards series, check out some other books set on Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.
Kids, Tweens & Teens
The Cods of Cape Cod (Shankman & O’Neill) by Ed Shankman:
A colorful, rhyming story about a family of fish on Cape Cod, this is a fun picture book.
Nest by Esther Erlich:
Set on the Cape in the ’70s, this is a tween novel about a girl named Chirp whose mother faces a health crisis. The focus on nature makes this book noteworthy even though the family tragedy is a serious one.
Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker:
A tween novel about two foster children who must find a way to work together in order to survive. Eleven-year-old Stella misses her (unreliable) mom, but she loves it at great-aunt Louise’s house on Cape Cod. The only problem? Angel, the foster kid Louise has taken in. The two girls live together but there’s no way they’ll ever be friends.Then Louise suddenly passes away one morning—and Stella and Angel decide not to tell anyone. Now they have to depend on each other for survival as they trust each other with the biggest secret ever.
The Callahan Cousins: Summer Beginsby Elizabeth Doyle Carey:
Written by our own Liz Doyle Carey, this sweet series is about four cousins who spend the summer having adventures on Gull Island with their grandmother. A fun and refreshing series that’s age appropriate and highlights family and self-discovery.
Returning to Shore (Fiction – Young Adult) by Corinne Demas:
After her mother gets married for the third time, Clare is sent to ancient cottage on a tiny marsh island on Cape Cod to spend the summer with her father—a man she hasn’t seen since she was three. Clare’s biological father barely talks, and when he does, he obsesses about endangered turtles, but there’s something undeniably magical about the marsh and the island—a connection to Clare’s past that runs deeper than memory. Even her father’s beloved turtles hold unexpected surprises. As Clare’s father begins to reveal more about himself and his own struggle, Clare’s summer becomes less of an exile and more of a return.
Clarity (Clarity Novel) by Kim Harrington:
This paranormal murder mystery will have teens reading on the edge of their seats. Clarity “Clare” Fern sees things. Things no one else can see. Things like stolen kisses and long-buried secrets. All she has to do is touch a certain object, and the visions come to her. It’s a gift. And a curse. When a teenage girl is found murdered on Cape Cod, Clare’s brother—who has supernatural gifts of his own—becomes the prime suspect, Clare can no longer look away.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart:
Cadence Sinclair Easton’s grandfather owns a private island off of Cape Cod, where the extended family gathers every summer. Cadence and her friend Gat and her two cousins, Johnny and Mirren, are the four inseparable “Liars”—friends since they were 8 years old. The mystery driving the book surrounds an accident Cadence had during the summer she turned 15, but she’s unable to remember much of it. The book takes place two years after that fateful summer, with Cadence trying to piece together exactly what happened to her.
Fiction & Non-Fiction
The Giant’s House: A Romance by Elizabeth McCracken:
An unlikely love story about a lonely Cape Cod librarian and a younger man forced into loneliness because of his monstrous size. Peggy Cort and James Carlson Sweatt are two misfits who share a unique connectedness.
That Quail, Robert by Margaret Stanger:
The beloved, classic story of a Cape Cod family who adopts a quail that becomes part of the family.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova:
A realistic portrait of early onset Alzheimer’s disease, this is a must-read for anyone with a loved one struggling with the same diagnosis. Alice, a Cambridge professor, quickly finds her life unraveling when she is unexpectedly diagnosed with the condition.
The Outermost House: A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod by Henry Beston:
A classic in American nature writing, this is a chronicle of the author’s solitary year in his Cape Cod house.
Remember Me by Mary Higgins Clark:
A Mary Higgins Clark classic, this page-turner is about a young family who rents Remember House, an eighteenth century Cape Cod landmark and gets pulled into mysterious circumstances.
The Condition: A Novel (P.S.) by Jannifer Haigh:
Gwen McKotch was diagnosed with Turner’s syndrome during the family vacation on the Cape in 1976, and this book covers the lives of Gwen and her family in the twenty years following the diagnosis.
Land’s End: A Walk in Provincetown by Michael Cunningham:
An ode to P-Town, beautifully written by a Pulitzer prizewinning author.
The Widow’s War: A Novel by Sally Cabot Gunning:
Set in colonial Cape Cod, Lyddie Berry needs to forge a new life when her whaling husband drowns at sea.
Absolute Certainty: A Crime Novel by Rose Connors:
Martha Nickerson is the D.A. in Barnstable County investigating a possible serial killer.
The Chatham School Affair by Thomas H. Cook:
A psychological thriller about a controversial tragedy that destroyed five lives and the peace in the small Cape Cod village of Chatham, this book won an Edgar Award.
The Beach House by Jane Green:
After the suicide of her husband, sixty-five year old Nan discovers she is in danger of losing her beloved Nantucket house. She solves the problem, and creates a few more, by turning it into a bed and breakfast.
Dying to Sea by Frank Heavey:
Three friends in Chatham stumble across a clue to a Confederate ship’s lost cargo of gold.
The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home by George Howe Colt:
Winner of the National Book Award, this book is a tribute to the Cape Cod house that served as the backdrop for five generations of family events.
Tough Guys Don’t Dance: A Novel by Norman Mailer:
Tim Madden, an unsuccessful writer living on Cape Cod, wakes up with a hangover, a tattoo, a severed head in his marijuana stash and no memory of the night before.
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick:
In 1820, the whaleship Essex was rammed and sunk by an angry sperm whale, leaving the desperate crew to drift for more than ninety days in three tiny boats. Nathaniel Philbrick uses little-known documents and vivid details about the Nantucket whaling tradition to reveal the chilling facts of this infamous maritime disaster.
A Beautiful Place to Die (Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries (Avon Books)) by Philip R. Craig:
This is the first book in the Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries about a retired Boston cop named J.W. Jackson. J.W. retired to Martha’s Vineyard, but local mysteries pull him back into solving crimes.
Summer Sisters: A Novel by Judy Blume:
In the summer of 1967 on Martha’s Vineyard, Victoria and Caitlin become best friends: “summer sisters.” But when their friendship is shattered as teens, they drift apart until Caitlin invites Vix to be her maid of honor at her island wedding.
Caleb’s Crossing: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks:
Bethia Mayfield is growing up in Martha’s Vineyard in the 1660s amid a small band of pioneering English Puritans. When she meets Caleb, the young son of a chieftain, the two forge a secret bond that draws each into the alien world of the other. Bethia’s father is a Calvinist minister who seeks to convert the native Wampanoag, and Caleb becomes a prize in the contest between old ways and new, eventually becoming the first Native American graduate of Harvard College. Inspired by a true story.
The Rumor: A Novel by Elin Hilderbrand:
Madeline King and Grace Pancik are best friends and the envy of Nantucket for their perfect marriages, their beautiful kids, their Sunday night double dates with their devoted husbands. But this summer, something’s changed, and if there’s anything Nantucket likes better than cocktails on the beach at sunset, it’s a good rumor. As the gossip escalates, and they face the possible loss of the happy lives they’ve worked so hard to create, Grace and Madeline try to set the record straight–but the truth might be even worse than rumor has it.
Seating Arrangements (Vintage Contemporaries) by Maggie Shipstead:
The fictional island of Waskeke stands in for Nantucket here, and it’s the site of a three day wedding weekend for Winn Van Meter’s daughter, an event described as “a family reunion and missile launch and state dinner all rolled into one.” There’s humor, wit and drama supporting a nuanced view of family relationships, yet for some readers, the faux-despair of the lucky Waspy set was too much of a cliché.
Luckiest Girl Alive: A Novel by Jessica Knoll:
Ani’s perfect life is a perfect lie. As a teenager at the prestigious Bradley School, she endured a shocking, public humiliation that left her desperate to reinvent herself. Now, with a glamorous job, expensive wardrobe, and handsome blue blood fiancé and an upcoming Nantucket wedding, she’s this close to living the perfect life she’s worked so hard to achieve.
The Island House: A Novel by Nancy Thayer:
Courtney Hendricks will never forget the magical summers she spent on Nantucket with her college roommate, Robin Vickerey, and Robin’s charismatic, turbulent, larger-than-life family, in their gorgeous island house. Now a college English professor in Kansas City, Courtney is determined to experience one more summer in this sun-swept paradise. Her reason for going is personal: Courtney needs to know whether Robin’s brother James shares the feelings she’s secretly had for him.
Time and Tide: A Walk Through Nantucket (Crown Journeys) by Frank Conroy:
Frank Conroy recounts Nantucket’s history from the glory days of the whaling boom to the present, when tourism dominates. He vividly evokes the clash of cultures between the working class and the super-rich, with the fragile ecology of the island always in the balance. But most fascinating of all, he tells his own story–of playing jazz piano in the island’s bars; of raising a barn in the early ’60s with the help of a bunch of hippie carpenters; of leasing an old, failed bar with two island pals and turning it into the Roadhouse, a club “that was to be ours, the year-rounders, and to hell with the summer people.”
Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty by Ramona Ausubel:
Labor Day, 1976, Martha’s Vineyard. Summering at their beach house along this moneyed coast of New England, Fern and Edgar—married, with three children—are happily preparing for a family birthday celebration when they learn the unimaginable has occurred: there is no more money. Quickly, the once-charmed family unravels. This book looks to be an entertaining take on American wealth, class and family.
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley:
On a foggy summer night, a private plane on its way to Martha’s Vineyard plunges into the ocean. There are only two survivors: a last minute addition to the flight—a down-on-his-luck painter, and the four year old son of the media mogul who owned the plane. Why did the plane crash, and was someone on board a target? A brilliant, suspenseful story.
Split Rock: A Novel by Holly Hodder Eger:
After losing her favorite aunt, inheriting a house on Martha’s Vineyard, and finding herself alone there with three young children, Annie Tucker must confront her past when an unresolved love tests whether she has the courage to resist the pull of seduction and reclaim her true self. Both poignant and funny, this story is about forgiveness, acceptance, and the power of love and family.