A living, breathing list of books about moving to the country and making the most of it. Essays, memoirs, guides, histories, even some fiction. Most links go through the terrific independence book shop source Bookshop.org, with whom I’m an affiliate and love supporting anyway. Please share additional ideas or quotes for specific books through the Contact form so I can keep this fresh, fun and candid.
Tune into Episode 76 for a special episode with bookseller recommendations, including several of the below.
MEMOIR AND ESSAYS
The Rural Life, Verlyn Klinkenborg (2003). Gorgeous month-by-month journal upstate. You see, feel and are moved through each one.
Country Matters: The Pleasures and Tribulations of Moving from a Big City to an Old Country Farmhouse, Michael Korda (2002). Best-selling author Michael Korda describes his family’s move to a town in Dutchess County, New York.
Elegy For An Appetite , Shaina Lowe-Banayan (2022). "The story of a young cook's tumultuous relationship with their body and eating." Recommended by The Chatham Bookstore.
Woodsqueer, Gretchen Legler (2022). Two women’s story about moving to western Maine and not just surviving, but thriving in the solitude and on the land. A candid story from an LGBTQ point of view, I also learned more than I ever imagined about how to build a goat fence.
100 Miles from Manhattan, Guillermo Fesser (2014): A radio host quits his job in Madrid and moves with his family to Rhinebeck, NY. A fun and funny portrait of moving to a small town in upstate New York. This is the first book I read when we moved to the Hudson Valley.
If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home By Now: Why We Traded The Commuting Life for a Little House on the Prairie, Christopher Ingraham (2019). Christopher Ingraham, a data reporter for the Washington Post, picked up and moved from a Baltimore suburb to rural Minnesota and makes an argument for why you should.
How to Leave: Quitting the City and Coping with a New Reality, Erin Clune (2018). Funny story of a woman moving with her son from the city back to her small home town in Wisconsin.
Ditch the City and Go Country: How to Master the Art of Rural Life From A Former City Dweller, Alissa Hessler (2017). A no-nonsense guide including chapters on location, getting settled, neighbors and community, gardening, food, friends and embracing the seasons. It’s funny, I cover a lot of the topics on the Cidiot podcast in my own way.
Fifty Acres and a Poodle: A Story of Love, Livestock, and Finding Myself on a Farm, Jeanne Marie Laskas (2002). Recommended by a Cidiot listener, a personal story of a woman and her boyfriend fulfilling their dream of living in the country.
Pastoral Song: A Farmer’s Journey, James Rebanks (2020). A profile of the author’s family farm in England’s Lake District through multiple generations. Gorgeous writing.
Knocked Down: A High-Risk Memoir, Aileen Weintraub (2022). From Brooklyn to the country with a woman who takes risks in life, location and choices.
Back to the Prairie, Melissa Gilbert (2022). You know here from Little House on the Prairie. This book captures her story moving to a cabin in New York’s Catskills Mountains with her husband actor and producer Timothy Busfeld.
Rural Diaries: Love, Livestock and Big Life Lessons Down on Mischief Farm, Hilarie Burton (2020). Actress and actor couple discover life in upstate New York, and with friends Paul Rudd and his wife, buy (and save) a local candy store.
This list will certainly grow. Be sure to check back or send in ideas.
- Rhinebeck, Michael Frazier (2012)
- Kingston, Edwin Millard Ford (2004)
- The Story of Historic Kingston, Stephen Blauweiss and Karen Berelowitz (2022). Available at Rough Draft Bar & Books and the authors' website.
- Diamond Street: The Story of the Little Town with the Big Red Light District, Bruce Edward Hall (1994). About Hudson, NY. Recommended by The Chatham Bookstore.
- Woodstock, Janine Fallon-Mower (2002)
HISTORY & ART
The History of the Hudson River Valley: From the Civil War to Modern Times, Vernon Benjamin. This, to me so far, is the most comprehensive history of the region, and quite a big book. Good coffee table or guest room material too.
Life Along the Hudson: The Historic Country Estates of the Livingston Family, Pieter Estersohn (2018). Focus on architecture and design of 35 magnificent estates.
Sanctified Landscape: Writers, Artists, and the Hudson River Valley, 1820-1909 Collections, David Schyler (2012). Learn about the painters who captured “America’s first iconic landscape” and writers such as Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper who were grounded here.
Hidden History of the Mid-Hudson Valley: Stories from the Albany Post Road, Tatiana Rhinevault and Carney Rhinevault (2011). A cute collection of histories of the Mid-Hudson Valley area.
Hudson Valley History and Mystery, Michael Adamovic (2020). Get to know the region through a collection of past stories covering the geography, events, and characters.
Our Country Friends, Gary Shteyngart (2021). A story of eight friends in one house during a pandemic upstate. Recently out in paperbook, recommended by Rough Draft Bar & Books.
This Poison Heart, Kalynn Bayron (2021). Recommended by Oblong Books, a contemporary fantasy about a girl with a unique and deadly power.
The Blade Between, Sam J. Miller (2022). "An uncanny ghost story about a rapidly changing city in upstate New York and the mysterious forces that threaten it." Recommended by The Chatham Bookstore.
Gods of Deception, David A. Cleveland (2022). Historical fiction about an attorney who defended Alger Hiss in the famous Cold War trial retreating to the Catskills.
Horseman: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow, Christina Henry (2021). Horror story taking place 30 years later after the original.
A Ship Made Out of Paper, Scott Spencer (2009). Recommended by a friend and listener, a relationship started during a blizzard.
Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1999). Recommended by a listener, a National Book Award finalist.
Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout (2008). This short story collection won the Pulitzer Prize and I love its pictures and characters of a small town in Maine. Was also made into a HBO mini-series starring Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins.
Please Wait To Be Tasted: The L'il Deb Oasis Cookbook (2022), Carla Perez Guyardo, Hannah Black and Wheeler. Recommended by Oblong Books.
Thanks to Oblong Books in Rhinebeck and Millertown, Rough Draft Bar & Books in Kingston, The Chatham Bookstore in Chatham, Cidiot listeners and Hudson Valley Magazine for the suggestions. Visit the Cidiot bookshop on Bookshop.org for these and additional books as it grows.