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The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators, and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  395 Ratings  ·  68 Reviews
“A thorough and engaging history of Maine’s rocky coast and its tough-minded people.”—Boston Herald

“[A] well-researched and well-written cultural and ecological history of stubborn perseverance.”—USA Today

For more than four hundred years the people of coastal Maine have clung to their rocky, wind-swept lands, resisting outsiders’ attempts to control them while harvesting t
Paperback, 384 pages
Published April 26th 2005 by Penguin Books (first published May 24th 2004)
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May 12, 2013 BookSweetie rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction

If you have ever hankered to learn more about Maine's history, fishing economy, and cultural characteristics, THE LOBSTER COAST by Colin Woodard may just be your ticket.

I was a bit lukewarm reading about Matinicus Island in the slow-starting, anecdote heavy journalistic style of Part One, but once I hit Part Two, the author had grabbed my attention with his vivid 1600s history involving contact between American Indians and the Europeans.

How had I learned so little history about a place I was
Jul 30, 2011 Greg rated it really liked it
An enjoyable, engaging read. A select history of Maine over the past 400 years of so written by a journalist. One of my favorite sentences, a description of a lobster: "In basic design, Homarus Americanus resembles a self-propelled Swiss army knife, with deployable appendages for every occassion."
May 02, 2016 Knitme23 rated it it was amazing
The Lobster Coast is a dense but fascinating study of coastal Maine and its history--cultural, economic, political, and environmental. It took a long time to read it, but it kept me interested, horrified, and attentive to the last page. Its clear eyed view of Maine and its realities present a welcome counterpoint to Maine Magazine and its expensively styled view of "the real Maine" composed of the wealthy self-employed. Every Maine citizen should read it, as should anyone considering moving here ...more
Mar 11, 2009 M marked it as abandoned
When I selected this book, I was hoping for a historical account of the development of the Maine coast: the story of how pioneers tore the land from Natives, then from England, then from Massachusetts, and staked themselves to this jagged coast to eke out a living. I wanted to read about fishing, smuggling, shipbuilding, lobster wars, and legacies. Unfortunately, I started in on some 100 pages of All Things Monhegan. It's written so anecdotally and chummy, and is exactly the sort of thing I hate ...more
Angie Malaier
Apr 15, 2014 Angie Malaier rated it really liked it
Who doesn't love Maine history? Colin Woodard is a fun, accessible historian. The author has roots in this part of the country, and you can tell he is very passionate about his subject. I kind of want to move to Maine now, but according to the author, they don't take too kindly to outsiders.

As with AMERICAN NATIONS, my favorite portions of this book are the historical chapters which have been meticulously researched. Fun fact, in early America, lobster was once considered undesirable and was fe
Aug 27, 2016 Daniel rated it really liked it
This one took a good bit to get through. This is the history of Maine and her people. It begins with the European occupation of the province, and the issues and trade that went on with the native Americans who had lived there for thousands of years. I don't think I need to go into what happened and always has happened in that situation. There is an island off the coast of Maine where lobster fishing was born. The 60 or 70 families who lived there were the industry fathers.
The British of course,
Dec 09, 2007 Michele rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: history buffs, people who like lobsters as food or critters
Shelves: history
A fascinating look into the history of Maine, starting and ending with lobsters, but including the "people of the dawn" (the Abenaki) and their encounters with at least two distinct breeds of Englishmen, the rise of tourism in Maine, and the economic patterns that make it a frustrating place to live for many. An often tragic story that still holds out hope for the future.
Bryan Mclellan
I grew up in a coastal Maine town, but its been a very long time since there was much activity on the waterfront there. This book explained a lot of cultural traits that I've taken for granted over the years. It also underscored the importance of knowing where we want to be going.
Kristine Stevens
Aug 13, 2014 Kristine Stevens rated it it was amazing
Shelves: usa
Read this book before I went to Maine on vacation. It gave me a really strong understanding of the background of the state and the influences that shaped it into today's Vacationland.
Lauren Csaki
Aug 24, 2014 Lauren Csaki rated it it was amazing
Woodard begins this entertaining tale by immersing us in the lives of modern lobstermen, but it soon develops into a broader history of the Maine seacoast. He goes back to the early days when English fishermen visited seasonally, through different waves of colonization, statehood, and the influx of summer people and other vacationers in the 19th and 20th centuries. He brings to life the fascinating stories of the people who eked out a living on the Maine coast, fought over control of the land an ...more
Jan 08, 2014 Nathaniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first book about an American Studies issue I've read that was both written by a journalist and actually good. A few of the typical "action journalist man on the street" segments of going out on fishing boats, especially the first 30 pages or so, can be a bit grating, but then he segues into the utterly fascinating history of Maine (and to a lesser extent New England generally - it's all part of the same 'family'), and finishes with extensive coverage of the New England and Maine fishing indu ...more
Feb 08, 2009 Kevin rated it liked it
Picked this book up from the library the other day. I just finished the first part and it is fantastic. It talks a lot about Maine and how its past shaped it present. Unlike history stories this is told through personal stories, visitations to towns, and observations. I love the "idea" of Maine and this book gives important background to it.

I struggles through the middle section which is a settlement history of the region. Not the most exciting part...actually quite boring. But the end talks ab
Michelle LaPointe
Mar 30, 2012 Michelle LaPointe rated it really liked it
I highly recommend this book if you liked the "Secret Life of Lobster," are a history buff, or are from Maine.

note: There is a LOT of overlap between this book and "The Secret Life of Lobster" (they even interview/follow some of the same people). But this book provides a bit more context and a much longer view of the history of Maine.

I was shocked by the colonial history of Maine. The book describes "the killing fields of Maine" - pretty gruesome. I think the book does a balanced job of describ
Turns out people from Massachusetts have always been Massholes (sorry Mass. friends!).

Anyway, I originally wanted a book about the history and culture of Maine overall, but apparently people don't really write about Maine as a whole. I decided to focus on its coast, which is HUGE.
I liked the modern-day information presented in this book, which included short snippets with locals that author interacted with. The middle chunk of this book is history from the past few hundred years, which isn't rea
Feb 17, 2008 Tony rated it really liked it
Okay, first off, a disclosure statement: I love Maine. Spent my honeymoon there and have been back since. I have driven and explored up and down the coast from Wells to Lubec and Prescott. So, I have a predisposition to love books about Maine history and society.
That said, read this book.
Lobster Coast is a character-filled history, from first contact to today, of community in the most independent community-driven state in the union. Woodard starts the reader off on modern day Monhegan Island, w
Aug 17, 2014 Du rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-govt
Overall, I really learned a lot and was exposed to new ideas and themes regarding the history of Maine and its people. Having lived in NH for most of my life I have some ideas of Maine and its heritage, and how it differs from NH.

The writing for the book is crisp and has some interesting divergent strings and tangents. I liked them for the most part, and overall found the pace and flow to be good. I thought the first person early sections dragged a bit, but the meat of the book was really well
Apr 06, 2011 Anne rated it it was amazing
I love Maine, my mother's family is from an island in Casco Bay and I have a long history there. I've long researched my genealogy from Casco Bay (back to Mayflower ancestry) and other places Downeast, particularly Deer Isle. So reading this book helped me put into prospective the lives of my ancestors in the context of Maine history. It was well written, organized and for me, enlightening, especially that of the colonial era until 1820 when Maine finally broke away from Massachusetts. I often d ...more
Marraine Kettell
Sep 30, 2014 Marraine Kettell rated it it was amazing
one of the best books I have read about Maine history. certainly most of the history is centered on the fishing industry, but it also provides background of the overall development of Maine that natives and "rusticators " alike should be familiar with. Maine ' s strong, independent character is deeply influenced by its history. Colin Woodward provided me (a transplant to Maine at the age of 5) with quite a few moments of increased clarity.
Oct 28, 2014 Kathleen rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Growing up in Southern New England, I was aware that Maine was culturally very different. The history in this book confirms and explains that. The information on lobsters and lobster fishing is interesting. There was also much that I was not particularly interested in, but that could just be me.
Sep 10, 2015 Steve rated it really liked it
I have spent time in Maine every summer for the past few years. I love it partly because the state has such a unique culture, but I didn't really have an understanding of that culture. This book helped me appreciate the culture and history of this great state. If you want to understand Maine today, just read the first and last chapters. The rest is certainly not filler; it's a great history of the state. But if you are short on time, just read the first and last.
Oct 06, 2010 Andrea rated it really liked it
Borrowed from Eliza and well... I JUST LOVED IT! So much so, that I'm begging Colby to have us rent a house on the Maine coast for next summer. I tend to gravitate towards this genre--a blend of history, painting social fabric and describing a complex environment. We all know that life is complicated and we also know about stereo-types of certain regions in the US... but do we really understand the underpinnings? Woodard did such a fab job in highlighting conditions and trends, you really feel a ...more
Feb 14, 2016 Joel rated it really liked it
I miss Maine. My heart and should never left. This book made me long for Veazie, Bangor, and the "Lobster Coast." My body is in Texas, but I will ever be tethered to it's a great read, and I loved every last word.
Jul 14, 2016 Ellen rated it really liked it
Loved the history. Entertaining up til last 40 pages. Damn, our seas are doomed. EXCEPT FOR THE MIGHTY LOBSTER.
R. Shurmer
Nov 11, 2007 R. Shurmer rated it really liked it
Did you know that Maine lobster constituted the first successfully canned food in the United States? Or that at the height of the industry over 22 million pounds of the yummy stuff was pulled up off the ocean floor off the Maine coast? How about what American war was the most destructive in proportion to the overall population? A fascinating historical account of a little-known (and let's keep it that way) corner of America. A fresh and quirky approach to historical writing that reads well but r ...more
May 27, 2009 Emily rated it really liked it
I bought this in Providence, RI 4 years ago almost to the day for absolutely no reason. But, I've held onto it and decided to give it a whirl to prepare myself for the big move to Maine.

I don't regret that decision at all. Woodard gives a pretty thorough (I think) history of the people, fishing habits and lobster-y things in coastal Maine starting in the early 17th century.

The only criticism I have is that he doesn't always go chronologically. He talks people history for a set of years then go
Jim Layman
Jan 06, 2016 Jim Layman rated it really liked it
Fascinating undertaking of the complex history of the Maine Coast. From blood-curdling warfare tales to measuring lobster tails, it's thorough and yet rapidly readable.
Aug 04, 2011 Ting rated it really liked it
A very readable account of the Maine coast portraying the struggles of the earliest colonists, the fishermen and lobstermen who made a go at the rugged lifestyle associated with Maine, and those who moved to Maine in search of the good life only to replicate their mundane suburban lives pushing out those who work the coast and driving up property values. It describes the plenitude of resources and how sprawl is threatening to turn the "Down East" into a veritable extension of greater suburban Bo ...more
Aug 14, 2011 Perrin rated it liked it
The first half of this book is definitely the better of the two. It covers the little known, or otherwise forgotten history of Maine. The early settlers lived hard hard lives and their story deserves to be read and shared. But the second half drags on as a too-in-depth discussion on the condition of the fisheries on the New England coast of the recent past and today, when this information could have taken half as many pages. I got to the point where I just wanted the book to end. But, when the e ...more
Marysue Hudson
A book for the history buff who wants to know more about the history of Maine and it's coast.
Jul 15, 2013 Karen rated it really liked it
Centuries of history are discussed, very interesting, and some interesting perspective on why Maine leans democrat politically. Having lived there during the '70s and into the '80s, I especially appreciated Woodard's writing of that time. He wraps up the book just coming short of arguing with himself about the job opportunities brought into the state from outsiders vs. the independence and autonomy the not-from-away Mainers so fiercely fight to retain.
And, by the way, a lot of information on lo
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