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What to Watch and Read Before You Visit New England

In New England, giants walk among the trees and lurk beneath the water ...

Picturesque beachside retreats. Rolling, copper and gold-hued mountainsides. Quaint towns that are transformed into Christmas cards by a dusting of snow. Is it any wonder that so many artists, writers, and filmmakers have used one part of New England or another as the backdrop for their work? From beloved coming-of-age stories to tales of terror (and some that are one and the same!) here are the books and movies you should check out before exploring America’s six northeasternmost states.

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Lobsterman by Dahlov Ipcar

Dahlov Ipcar, a native New Englander, is best remembered as the writer and illustrator of children’s books, many of which took place in her home state of Maine. One such classic is Lobsterman, which portrays the day in the life of a lobsterman and his son as they work along the coast of Maine.

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IT by Stephen King

While you won’t find Derry, Maine on any map, you can visit (if you dare) the fictional town via a number of chilling tales courtesy of horror writer Stephen King, including his 1986 novel It, which follows a group of friends as they search for a way to a shapeshifting monster that terrorizes their town.

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We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Merricat Blackwood lives on her family’s estate with her sister Constance and their infirm Uncle Julian. They live in isolation, with only Merricat venturing into their small Vermont town where she is faced with hatred and speculation. When an estranged cousin arrives, the already uneasy state of the Blackwood home is thrown into disarray.

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Published in 1868, the book has remained a beloved coming of age story loosely based on the author own life. The story follows four sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy—and their mother after the family patriarch, having lost all of his money, must leave their Massachusetts’s home to act as a pastor during the Civil War.

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The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Richard leaves his working-class, California home behind in order to attend a liberal arts college in Vermont. Once there he falls in with a privileged group of classics students. But beneath the group’s veneer of charm and sophistication is a dark, violent secret.

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The movie that singlehandedly invented the summer blockbuster also happens to be the reason you jump out of your skin when a bit of seaweed brushes against your leg at the beach. In this all-time classic, the resort town of Amity Beach (filmed on Martha’s Vineyard) is terrorized by an insatiable, man-eating great white shark.

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The Iron Giant

This charming animated film tells the story of Hogarth, a young boy who befriends a giant robot after it crash lands off the coast of Maine. When a paranoid government agent is determined to destroy the giant Hogarth enlists the help of a local beatnik to save the gentle-hearted automaton.

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The Departed

Martin Scorsese’s remake of Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s Infernal Affairs is a twisty crime drama set against the backdrop of Boston’s criminal underworld. The Boston police assign one of their own to insinuate himself into mob boss Frank Costello’s inner circle, but when both the police and the mob discover they have a rat among them the infiltrators have to race against the clock in order to uncover the other’s identity.

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Good Will Hunting

Will Hunting is a mathematical genius with a troubled past. An MIT professor offers to help him avoid jail time if he studies mathematics and starts seeing a therapist. Through his therapy sessions with Dr. Sean Maguire, Will comes to terms with the trauma of his past and learns how to keep himself from sabotaging his future.

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White Christmas

This holiday classic, brimming with good cheer and the iconic music of Irving Berlin, follows a song and dance team and a pair of performing sisters as they travel to a Vermont inn where they’ve been booked to perform over Christmas. The inn, owned by their old army commander, is on the verge of failure so they stage a nationally televised yuletide extravaganza in order to save the inn.

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