Some 400 years ago, the Pilgrims set sail from England on board the Mayflower in search of a new, more accepting land. Although not the first residents of the area they would settle—or even the first European visitors of the area—the Pilgrims have long captured the nation’s imagination as the first Americans.
From the mythologized Thanksgiving to the journey towards freedom of religion, the Pilgrims’ voyage and first years condense the ideals of America into a discreet narrative. These books about the Mayflower dig past the gloss and ideals into the daily lives of the Pilgrims aboard their craft and upon their arrival in the Americas, revealing a whole new side of the American vision.
Though aimed at young readers and teens, this collection of diaries and other primary sources are an ideal starting point for those seeking to immerse themselves in the Pilgrims’ journey. Peter and Connie Roop have assembled a narrative starting from the voyage aboard the Mayflower through the hard first winter of Plymouth Plantation. Read it alongside your children or as your first exposure to the real lives of the 102 individuals who set sail in 1620.
Nathaniel Philbrick has left a key mark in both histories of early America and in nautical history books. Mayflower, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, is his exploration of both the Pilgrims’ trip to Massachusetts Bay Colony and their effects on the “New World” after their landing through King Philip’s War. Philbrick also contextualizes the Pilgrims within the religious community of the day, and their impact on the history of the United States.
Of Plymouth Plantation
William Bradford penned this key narrative of the Pilgrims’ time in Plymouth. Although written in 1651, looking back at the years of struggle in Holland, England, and the New World, Bradford’s status as one of the respected leaders of the Pilgrims gives modern readers insight into the world as the immigrants encountered it.
Fraser frames her exploration of the Mayflower and the Pilgrims through one family’s story, making a well-trodden tale come newly alive. The Winslows, though perhaps less well-known than the Bradfords or the Standishes, were a prominent family within the Plymouth colony and experienced many of the things that have come to be known as hallmarks of the community.
In the first major exploration of Plymouth Colony, Stratton compiled compelling biographies of over 300 colonists between the years of 1620-1691. Especially meant to appeal to any genealogists, amateur or otherwise, this in-depth tale will charm any with a connection to the colonists or the Massachusetts area.
Making Haste from Babylon
Bunker, a British historian and writer, brings a British perspective to the tale of the Pilgrims. The author illuminates the Pilgrims’ voyage by exploring their lives before anyone dreamed of heading to the New World. Although religious freedom is the ideal that most associate with the Pilgrims, the group was also invested in creating a new form of government through republicanism. Their glorification of hard work, business, and entrepreneurship also was as responsible for shaping modern America as their religion, as Bunker deftly shows.
Colonial New England Curiosities
This pick isn’t just about the Puritans and the Mayflowers, but it is sure to entertain anyone with an interest in the colonial era of America. If you’re looking for a lighter read that will nonetheless teach you many fascinating facts about the birth of America, you’ve found the next book on your to-be-read list.
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