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Are you looking for a 50 States Books reading list? Take our American Reading Challenge and discover some of the best books set in every state.
Whenever I travel, I love to read books set in that destination to get a feel for a place, people, and culture. Typically, I read books both before and after a trip to compare and enhance my wanderlust feelings.
While we spend a lot of time traveling the globe, our goal in upcoming years is to see more of the United States, both through novels and road trips. That means reading at least 50 books set in the 50 States.
What are some of the best books set in every state? How do you even begin to choose from the great American classics? I know that I couldn’t pick just one U.S. book per state.
Travel around America with us with these books from all 50 States. I’ve selected some of my favorite titles as well as critically acclaimed and iconic books set in each state. Find indie titles, YA, Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction, and nonfiction, too.
Take our American Reading Challenge, and get ready for a long one with our 50 States Books reading list:
What 50 States reading list would be complete without Pulitzer Prize-winning classic To Kill A Mockingbird? I highly recommend the audiobook. Also deemed The Great American Read, follow along with Scout Finch as she navigates a highly politicized childhood. Set in Maycomb, Alabama Scout’s father, Atticus, is a lawyer during the Great Depression–an extremely racist time in American history. Atticus defends a black man accused of raping a white woman. Through it all, Scout learns about overcoming prejudice, empathy, and that love prevails over hate. Read More→
Whether you’ve read the book, watched the movie, or dined at Bubba Gump’s, Forrest Gump is a classic comedy and commentary on life, love, and friendship. Forrest’s life changes when the University of Alabama drafts him for their football team. From the Vietnam War to ping-pong, fall in love with Forrest Gump.
Born in Tuscumbia, Alabama, Helen Keller infamously suffers from a severe illness that leaves her both blind and deaf. Originally published in 1903, The Story Of My Life follows along with the extraordinary journey of one of the most inspirational women of the 20th century.
I promise that this 50 States reading list will also include some of my favorite YA books, like Looking For Alaska by John Green. Winner of the Printz Award, Miles meets Alaska at boarding school. He is looking for excitement. Commence quite a bit of mischief, drinking, and romance. Looking For Alaska is also a PBS Great American Read selection and a bestselling YA novel.
Other 50 States Books Set In Alabama:
Find even more 50 States Books on our Southern Novels Reading List.
A contemporary romance, The Tourist Attraction is a novel that pits locals against tourists. Set in Alaska, Graham runs a hole-in-the-wall but now infamously famous dive restaurant called The Tourist Trap. He breaks his own rules, though, as he begins to fall for a very cute and clumsy tourist. The Tourist Attraction is one of my favorite escapist Spring 2020 book releases and 50 States books. Read More→
I both love and get highly frustrated by the tale of Into The Wild. Chris McCandless is an infamous and deceased young hitchhiker. Descended from a well-off family, McCandless decides to give up his possessions and money. Heading to Mount McKinley in Alaska, McCandless ditches his car and hikes on foot, meeting new friends along the way. An eccentric and somewhat naive soul, four months after starting his journey, McCandless is found dead after a fatal mistake.
Uncover Even More 50 States Books Set In Alaska:
In true TUL spirit, you will also find a few indie books set in the 50 States on this American Reading Challenge book list. Arthur D. Hittner is one of my favorites, and Four-Finger Singer spans across Tucson, Arizona and Boston, Massachusetts. A mix of romance and sports fiction, Jake loses a finger, an accident that threatens his promising career. Now haunted by his ex-wife, watch Jake attempt to make a comeback. You can see TUL’s review of Four-Finger Singer And His Late Wife, Kate here.
In Kingsolver’s first novel, The Bean Trees, Taylor Greer wants to move away from rural Kentucky (and not get pregnant). While successful, she inherits a native-American girl, Turtle, on her journey west. Landing in Tucson, Arizona, Taylor must build a good life for herself and Turtle.
Additional Arizona Books To Read:
A modern American classic, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings takes place in the 1930s and ’40s in the midst of the Great Depression and World War 2. An autobiography, Maya Angelou is raised by her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. This coming-of-age story showcases the story of a promising young woman overcoming racism, abuse, and poverty. This is one of the not-to-miss 50 States books on this reading list.
Based on his own childhood that Grisham spent in rural Arkansas, Luke Chandler lives in the cotton fields in a house that has never been painted. When migrant workers arrive, a murder leaves accusations flying. Luke quickly matures after witnessing the events.
Discover More 50 States Books Set In Arkansas:
If you love psychological thrillers this books around America reading list has just the 2020 contemporary novel for you: Pretty Things by Janelle Brown. Lachlan and Nina are the typical Robin Hood story: they steal from the rich to give to the poor–including Nina’s sick mom. You don’t care for them, but you don’t hate them, either. When Nina tries to con an Instagram influencer from her childhood, she learns that even con artists get scammed. Read More→
The Bill Bryson of the United States, Cheryl Strayed’s world falls apart. At 22, her mother dies and her marriage falls apart. Strayed decides to conquer the Pacific Crest Trail alone, and yes, a shoe is chucked over the cliff. Watch a woman searching for herself, redemption, and forgiveness. If you are looking 50 States books about redemption and growth, Wild is for you.
Four Asian women flee China in the 1940s. They now meet up in San Fransisco, CA in a social group they call “The Joy Luck Club.” When one of the women dies, her modern-day, American daughter takes her place. The Joy Luck Club is a beautiful story about mother-daughter relationships and female friendships.
Books To Spark Your California Dreamin’:
Find more memoirs like Wild on my Favorite Famous Travel Writers book list.
If you are looking for seriously spooky 50 States books, The Shining will take you to the Colorado Rockies and home to the Overlook Hotel. Jack Torrence is a recovering alcoholic and writer who moves into the hotel as a caretaker with his family. Jack’s son, Danny, possesses ‘special’ abilities unbeknownst to his parents along with the Chef. Weird and deadly occurrences start happening at the hotel.
A National Book Award finalist and another American classic, Plainsong is a novel set in Holt, Colorado about grief and abandonment. Tom Guthrie is a high school teacher raising two teenage boys on his own since his depressed wife moved out. Readers not only learn about their hardships but also follow their mother’s attempt to reconcile her past along with two elderly brothers that know nothing except the land that they work on each day.
A Few More 50 States Books Set In Colorado:
A powerful book set in the United States that is sure to make you think, Small Great Things takes place in my childhood state, Connecticut. Ruth Jefferson is a black nurse facing white supremacist patients. When their baby goes into sudden cardiac arrest, Ruth–who was taken off of their case the previous day–must make a decision whether or not to intervene. Her hesitation lands her in a trial about race, which everyone tries to deny. Read More→
Growing up in Connecticut, you can bet that I read Ann Martin’s The Babysitter’s Club. Did you know that like your The Uncorked Librarian, Martin was also a Smithie? Kristy Thomas and her best friends decide to start a little babysitting business in Stoneybrook, CT. They each have club roles, and readers watch as they solve mysteries, stay out of trouble, and essentially grow-up in the sweetest way. This is one of my favorite 50 States books for kids.
I am not going to lie: My husband and I always feel like Reese Witherspoon is cast in Stepford Wife-like roles, especially for her parts in Little Fires Everywhere and The Husband’s Secrets. I also couldn’t have a 50 State reading list without The Stepford Wives. Books set in Connecticut always seem to land in the suburbs: Joanna and Walter move to the seemingly perfect town of Stepford, Connecticut. Nothing is as straight-edged as it appears, though, and the creepy beautiful town is hiding a horrific secret.
Check Out These Connecticut Based Novels, Too:
Find 50 State Books & Books Around The World on TUL’s Books That Make You Think Reading List.
The Riveras move to America from Mexico in the hopes of helping their daughter, Maribel, recover. They want a shot at a better life with more opportunities for her. This is the American Dream, after all. Through stories of hardship, migration, and romance, learn what it truly means to be American.
Most likely set in Delaware and with the film shot in Wilmington, Flight Club is a well-known American novel about an underground fighting group where men take out their aggression in the boxing ring. A dark satire, watch as this flight club transforms into a more fanatical ‘cult.’
Looking For Books Set In Every State? Here Are A Few More 50 States Books Set In Delaware:
From Eatonville to Miami and the Everglades, if you are looking for one of the best southern and American classic novels of all time, you cannot miss Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Janie Crawford is a strong woman who wants to choose who she loves. Stuck in abusive relationships and terrible marriages, Janie constantly finds herself trapped in the town gossip. Watch Janie fight until the end against men, prejudices, and the circumstances of her time. Read More→
Swamplandia! is a Pulitzer Prize Finalist set in the Florida Everglades. A Southern Gothic novel, meet the Bigtree family. They have transformed their backyard into a gator-wrestling tourist attraction. As Ava’s mother has cancer, the family starts to fall apart. Read More→
Paper Towns is the perfect 50 States book that offers commentary on gated communities and standing out in a sea of sameness. Margo Roth Spiegelman fascinates socially awkward Quentin. When she grabs Q in the middle of the night for a revenge-filled mission, he’s pretty much head over heels. Beautiful, mysterious, and with a pained soul, though, Margo suddenly disappears. Read More→
50 States Books Set In Florida You May Also Like:
Don’ miss our complete Florida Reading List here.
An Oprah Book Club selection set in Georgia, readers follow along with newlyweds Celestial and Roy. Their honeymoon ends early when Roy is arrested and sent to jail for a crime he did not commit. Celestial loses her husband for what she thinks will be over a decade. During this time, Celestial seeks comfort in Roy’s best friend just as his sentence is shortened. When circumstances are out of our hands, will the institution of marriage, love, and vows prevail? This is one of the most popular 50 States books of 2018, for good reason!
Winner of the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize, our 50 States Reading Challenge couldn’t skip over The Color Purple, one of the most famous books about the south. Readers follow along with Celie’s impossibly hard life over the course of 40 years, focusing on the bigotry and prejudice of the time in rural Georgia and later Tennessee. Forced into a loveless marriage, Celie finds love elsewhere while reconciling a relationship with her sister who she thought had died years ago. Read more→
A famous novel set in Savannah, Georgia, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a popular true-crime murder mystery. Meet a vibrant and eccentric cast of characters with a southern flair. Determine if the shots fired on May 2, 1981 were a murder or self-defense.
A 50 States book set in Atlanta, this YA novel about the Black Lives Matter movement and racism is a must-read for both adults and teens. Justyce writes letters to Dr. Martin Luther King; he is trying to navigate his life as a young Black man in a very white private school system. Time and time again, Justyce witnesses firsthand racist police brutality and even murder. How can he rise up in a system so determined to maintain white supremacy? Book Information→
Already Read These Books Set In Georgia? Try These Georgia-Based 50 States Books:
Headed out on the open road? Don’t miss these Audiobooks For Road Trips with something for everyone.
I’m so excited to add a new Lois Lowry novel to this 50 States books reading list. Published in April 2020, On The Horizon takes place in both Hawaii and Japan, portraying WW2 in two parts, the bombing at Pearl Harbor and the atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima. Find illustrations, poems, and prose that gives voice and humanity to the many affected or killed on those fateful days. Read More→
If you are looking for books set in Hawaii, try The Descendants, which is also a movie starring George Clooney. Matthew King’s family is nothing short of a mess: kids out of control and into drugs and a mother in a fatal coma after a tragic accident. As Matt gathers the family to say goodbye to his wife, Matt decides to find the man that his wife was having an affair with.
A novel set in Honolulu based on true historical accounts, Moloka’i follows the story of Rachel Kalama, a girl diagnosed with leprosy at seven-years-old. Sent to a leprosy colony on the island of Moloka’i, Rachel must create her own family and channel inner love, dignity, and strength.
More 50 States Books Set In Hawaii:
When looking at books set in every state, I’m not going to lie: Idaho slightly baffled me. I’ve only read one or two books that I know of. Set in Fingerbone, Idaho, Housekeeping follows the story of two orphans passed along to their grandmother, aunts, and finally a remote sister of their deceased mother. Homecoming was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
More American Reading List Idaho Selections:
One of the most inspiring books across the United States, I loved Michelle Obama’s Becoming. We all know the former First Lady–or do we really? Follow Michelle Obama from her childhood growing up in the South Side of Chicago. Battling race, her own hardcore work ethic, and even fertility issues, discover a different side to one of America’s most well-spoken and sweetly impactful women. And yes, you get to learn a little more about her budding romance with Barack Obama.
If you are looking for dystopian YA set in Chicago, Illinois, Veronica Roth’s Divergent series will provide you with a fast-paced thriller similar to The Hunger Games and Maze Runner series. Society is divided into five factions, and everyone has a role to play. When Beatrice picks Dauntless, she sets the course for a wild rebellion.
If you are looking for a historical romance from an indie press, A Girl Like You has been described as a “Downton Abbey meets Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” series. Set in the 1930s in Chicago, Henrietta Von Harmon is left to care for her mother and siblings. When a murder occurs on the job, Henrietta goes undercover while falling for the handsome Inspector. Book Information→
Don’t Miss These 50 States Books Set In Illinois:
Maybe one of the most cliche 50 States books on this reading list that I still love, The Fault In Our Stars is one of my favorite audiobook titles. A YA book set in Indianapolis, Indiana, Hazel and Augustus meet at a cancer support group. They live with cancer and fall in love, attempting to rewrite their stories. Have the tissues ready. Read More→
Other 50 States Books Set In Indiana That We’ve Read:
A memoir set in Des Moines in the 1950s and 1960s, The Life And Times of The Thunderbolt Kid demonstrates a pivotal time in U.S. history through the eyes of a daydreaming, rambunctious kid–who dons a towel cape and imagines himself as a superhero. Bill Bryson is a hilarious travel writer, and his tales of growing up when smoking was considered ‘good for you’ will make you chuckle.
We have a quite a few Pulitzer Prize winners on this 50 States reading list, including A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley. A 20th-century reimagining of one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, King Lear, a rich Iowa farmer divides his land between his three daughters. Like King Lear, find themes of love and pride.
A Few More 50 States Books Set In Iowa Suggestions For You:
Another American classic as well as a true-crime story, Capote investigates the murder of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. In 1959, Hickock and Smith rob and murder all four members of the Clutters, leaving the police baffled. Eventually caught, Capote attempts to reconstruct what happened on that day while trying to understand the two murderers. Read More Here→
Gillian Flynn is a must for any 50 States Books reading list–whether you love or hate her dark novels. Set in Kansas, Dark Places is about the “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas” that killed Libby Day’s mother and sisters. Libby testifies that her brother is the killer, but 25-years-later, a secret society wants to free him.
Kansas Isn’t All Doom & Gloom. Read These Cheerful 50 States Books Set In Kansas:
A Pulitzer Prize Winner, Beloved is an American classic. Born into and eventually escaping slavery in Kentucky, Sethe finds freedom in Ohio. Is she really free, though? Sethe can never fully escape her memories or past, including the death of a child. Read More →
Honor Girl is a YA LGBT book set at an all-girls camp in Kentucky. A unique graphic memoir, Thrash recalls back to her summer at an all-girls came in Appalachia where she falls in love with one of the counselors. Camp Bellflower isn’t about tolerance as a Christain camp. Both girls begin to develop feelings and find themselves navigating unchartered and ‘forbidden’ territory.
Other 50 States Books Set In Kentucky:
Set in the small fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana, I’ve read all of the Sookie Stackhouse series. Find a fantastical world-building plot filled with vampires, werewolves, and shapeshifters that is *very* adult. Add in some romance, murder, and endless danger, and you’ll get sucked into Sookie’s little world, too. Read More →
Set in the French Quarter of New Orleans and a Pulitzer Prize winner, A Streetcar Named Desire is a famous American play. Blanche is pushed into a complete mental breakdown by her cruel and abusive brother-in-law. She cannot believe her sister stays with him.
One of the best 50 States books of summer 2020, The Vanishing Half is thought-provoking and an intensely poignant and authentic novel about race and racism. Follow along with two Black twin sisters who separate in their teens and go on to lead very different lives. While one sister moves back to her Black community in Louisiana with her daughter, the other passes as white, disavowing her heritage, family, and identity to become someone new and unrecognizable. Set in the 1950s to 1990s, readers see just how deeply these mothers’ choices and feelings affect their children. Book Information→
A Few More 50 States Books Set In Louisiana For You:
One of my all-time favorite books on this books across America reading list is Richard Russo’s Empire Falls. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, witness the working-class, blue-collar, and decaying town of Empire Falls, Maine. Miles runs the local burger dive, is getting a divorce, and wants a normal life for his daughter. An American novel about wealth, love, and disappointment, watch as Mile’s family fights to earn a living in America.
Are you looking for a boozy coming of age indie novel set in Maine? Check out Blood and Sand by Jennifer M Lane. Logan Cole is a Yale graduate who has it all until her father is sent to jail for corruption. With a mother gallivanting off to Paris, Logan finds herself completely abandoned and broke. With less than $10,000 in her savings account, she hops a bus to a bar in Ramsbolt, Maine looking for a fresh start.
Every 50 States book list should have a plethora of gothic romance, right? Add in some Poe, a murder mystery, and a book set in Maine, and you have Hester Fox’s The Widow Of Pale Harbor. Sophronia Carver lives at the eerie Castle Carver overlooking the cliffs of Pale Harbor. Widowed and a woman accused of murdering her wealthy husband, she sits trapped in self-imprisonment until a mysterious Trandescendalist minister rolls into town. With a slew of gruesome murders, the towns, of course, blame her.
Reading Books Set In All 50 States? Here Are More Novels Set In Maine To Choose From:
Read The Full Review of Blood and Sand by Jennifer M. Lane.
Set partially in Bethesda, Maryland (and even in Greece), I love The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants. Don’t troll me for dropping this one into Maryland… Imagine one pair of pants that is shared between 4 best friends in 4 different summer locations. Filled with stories of love, friendship, and a little heartbreak, these little pants speak to what binds us together as women and friends.
In this poignant memoir, Coates discusses what it is like growing up as a black man in America. His father was a Vietnam War veteran who helped guide them through their adolescence in Baltimore, Maryland.
Other 50 States Books Set In Maryland:
Conversion is one of the YA books set around America that is also a modern-day Salem Witch Trials story. Set in Danvers, MA, the girls at St. Joan’s Academy are reading Arthur Miller’s The Crucible when strange things start happening. Tics, seizures, and hair loss plague the school, causing rumors, accusations, and of course, mass panic. Read More About Conversion→
At age 12, Augusten Burroughs finds himself being raised by his mother’s psychiatrist. He stops attending school and there are certainly no rules. A true story, learn how Augusten survives his unusual circumstances. Running With Scissors is set in Northampton, MA where I went to college.
One of my favorite new books set in Massachusetts includes Writers & Lovers by Lily King. Casey Peabody is a writer trying to overcome the loss of her mother and pay her bills. With two possible love interests, how can Casey possibly choose the right man when she can barely love herself? Writers & Lovers is a poignant and slow-paced novel about overcoming loss and the creative process. Book Information→
Enjoying Our American Reading List? Here Are Even More 50 States Books Set In Massachusetts:
Continue Your American Reading Challenge with these Books Set In Salem.
One of the books on this 50 States reading list that is sure to make you think more deeply is Eugenides’ Middlesex. Set partially in Detroit, Michigan this Pulitzer Prize winner, uncovers a world of family secrets, gender fluidity, and how we battle social constructs. There are also themes of migration from a tiny Greek village and assimilation to Detroit. Oprah featured Middlesex in her Book Club, and this stunning title has been deemed “The Great American Novel.”
One of my favorite new books of 2020, Beach Read is set in ‘North Bear Shores,’ Michigan. A romantic comedy, January Andrews and Augustus Everett are two authors of opposing genres trying to write their next great novel before funds dry up. In a dare, they switch from their norm of rom-com (January) and American lit (Augustus) to see if the change gets their juices flowing.
In order to do research for their books, they spend more and more time together, landing in one sexy love story of their own. For a book set in Michigan, you will find yourself oddly craving a MI summer. Who knew?! Henry’s imagery is stunning. Book Information→
Discover More 50 States Books Set In Michigan:
Nickel and Dimed is a book that spans many of the 50 States, including Minnesota, Florida, and Maine. In 1998, Ehrenreich explores what it means to live off of low-income wages under the poverty level. Demonstrating the impossibility of surviving in lower working-class America–even when you hold three jobs–Ehrenreich exploits a system that still plagues America today. Nickel and Dimed will change the way you think about the income gap and assumptions people make about the poor.
Looking For Even More Books Set Every State? Don’t Miss These Minnesota Novels:
If you are looking for a newer novel set in the deep south that examines race, poverty, prison, and, drug abuse, try Mississippi novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing. Winner of the National Book Award in 2017, watch as Jojo struggles to learn what it is like to become a man against all odds.
Although set in the fictional town of Garden Heights, many believe this setting is the Georgetown neighborhood of Jackson, Mississippi. I couldn’t leave The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas off of my American Reading Challenge book list–it’s an essential U.S. novel that published at a pivotal time in our history.
The Hate U Give discusses the Black Lives Matter movement. As a young black woman, Starr is trapped between two worlds: her preppy white school and her home in Garden Heights, a poorer neighborhood. When her unarmed cousin is shot and killed by a white police officer, Starr has to make a decision: Does she fight or remain silent?
A 50 State book set in Jackson, Mississippi, The Help follows three women who come together to advocate against the circumstances and discrimination of their time.
Even More Fabulous 50 States Books Set In Mississippi:
A New York Times bestseller, Gone Girl has been named one of the best novels of the decade. Set in a fictitious town in North Carthage, Missouri, Nick’s wife mysteriously disappears on their wedding anniversary. In what appears to be a crime scene, there is much more than meets the eye. …Although there is a killer on the loose.
At first, Missouri stumped for a books set in all 50 States reading list. Then, I remembered Laurell K. Hamilton’s adult vampire series starring Anita Blake. Guilty Pleasures is set in St. Louis, Missouri where Anita falls for a dangerous vampire, Jean-Claude. As an animator, Anita can awaken the dead and destroy them. Jean-Claude seeks Anita’s help to solve a murder mystery.
More 50 States Books Set In Missouri:
No 50 States Reading Challenge would be complete without a YA vampire book series, Vampire Academy. St. Vladimir’s Academy is more like a bitchy and grownup Hogwarts that trains teenage vampires. Half-human creatures guard and teach students and danger lurks in the shadows. Watch relationships bloom amidst the usual boarding school drama and life-threatening vamps.
Expand Your 50 States Reading List With These Books Set In Montana:
Set in Omaha, Nebraska, Eleanor and Park is an American YA novel about family, dating, and growing up. Written in dual narratives, Eleanor and Park are misfit teenagers who don’t quite fit into their bodies, heritage, or high school. Park loves Eleanor, but Eleanor has a lot on her plate. With messages about body image and bullying, readers enter a world of physical and mental abuse that is emotionally taxing but also offers glimmers of hope and inspiration.
My Ántonia by Willa Cather is an American classic about Nebraskan pioneers. Set in the fictional town of Black Hawk, Nebraska, orphaned Jim Burden shares his memories of Bohemian immigrant, Antonia Shimerda, who lived on a farm with her large family. My Ántonia is a story of European settlement in the American midwest.
Other 50 States Books Set In Nebraska:
Set in Nevada in 1885, The Ox-Bow Incident is a U.S. Western novel that examines frontier life along with mob mentality and violence. Three innocent men are lynched when the town decides to ignore all rules and take justice into their own hands. The repercussions and truths that then follow lead to more deaths.
Our 50 States Reading List Wouldn’t Be Complete Without These Books Set In Nevada:
One of the classic WW2 books for young adults, A Separate Peace isn’t my most favorite novel but one that we had to read as part of the school curriculum. Gene and Finny are attending a New England prep school in New Hampshire. Their friendship is a mostly playful rivalry. Unfortunately, one of their daredevil traditions leads to an accident that changes Finny’s life. As the young boys begin to enlist in World War 2, they witness more than they can understand, which takes a toll on their minds and friendships.
A Walk In The Woods is a hilarious tale of Bill Bryson and his boozy friend, Katz, attempting to hike parts of the Appalachian Trail. While only a part of the book takes place in New Hampshire, you’ll enjoy watching these two very out of shape men traipse across the American landscape. Read More→
Enjoying These Books Set In Each State? Here Are More New Hampshire Selections:
One of my favorite book series, you cannot skip over Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series for your 50 States reading challenge. Set in New Jersey, Stephanie is a bounty hunter who is pretty terrible at her job. Thankfully she has two very different hunks helping her manage. Add in her former prostitute sidekick, a saucy grandmother who loves funerals, and a hamster named Rex, and you have a hilarious and formulaic junk food series about love, friends, and catching the bad guys.
Set in New Jersey, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is a United States ‘banned book’ that I read for my MLIS. I dare you to finish this teenage coming of age novel without chanting, “I must, I must, I must increase my bust.” Twelve-year-old Margaret moves from NYC to the NJ suburbs where she begins to learn about boys, bras, and her period. She decides to confide in and ask all of her questions to…’God.’
Read Even More Books Set In New Jersey For This American Reading List:
A 2012 National Book Awards finalist for Young People’s Literature, Bomb is the story behind the Atomic Bomb. Spanning across the world, Bomb follows the stories of the scientists hidden away in Los Alamos desert, Soviet spies in both the U.S. and Great Britain, and a commando force in Norway.
Don’t Forget These 50 States Books Set In New Mexico:
One of my favorite books of 2020, The Sun Down Motel, is perfect for fans of the My Favorite Murder podcast. Back in 1982, Carly Kirk’s Aunt Viv mysteriously disappears from the Sun Down Motel in upstate New York. With her mother’s recent death and a love for true crime, Carly heads off to the little cursed town of Fell to investigate her aunt’s disappearance from 30 years ago. Is the same fate awaiting Carly? Read More→
If you are looking for nonfiction wine books set around the US, head to New York’s finest restaurants in Bianca Bosker’s Cork Dork. Bosker is downright hilarious and taught me just how much training goes into becoming a sommelier–even for Level One. Gain a better appreciation, understanding, and possibly obsession from wine, Bosker also addresses the age-old question: Is wine tasting sometimes just BS?
You cannot have a 50 States books list without The Great Gatsby. Welcome to lavish America in the 1920s, home to West Egg and the East Egg. No 50 States reading list would be complete without attending a Jay Gatsby party. As we all know, though, sometimes shiny appearances hide ugly insides.
Named one of the best books of 2019, Ask Again, Yes will emotionally wreck you and put you back together in a new way, piece by piece. A book set heavily in NYC (like Queens), its suburbs, and Saratoga, meet two families who immigrated from England and Ireland. Peter and Kate have grown up together, and just as their romance begins, Peter’s mother shoots Kate’s father.
A heartbreakingly intense novel, follow both families for the next 40 years in a tribute to love, forgiveness, memories, and mental health. Also a beautiful book club book and one that will change you, don’t skip Ask Again, Yes on our massive 50 States books reading list. Book information→
Even More American Classics Set In NY:
For our 50 States reading challenge, don’t miss one of the most talked about North Carolina novels of 2018, Where The Crawdads Sing. Set in the North Carolinian marshes, you’ll get drawn into this sleepy coming of age story and southern murder mystery. Kya Clark, the “marsh girl,” is accused of the murder of Chase Andrews. Can Kya overcome a prejudice society and the loneliness from its isolation? Read More→
Published in 1929, Look Homeward, Angel is an American classic with a little truth. Wolfe infamously writes about all of the people he meets growing up in Asheville, North Carolina, including his large and messy family. Look Homeward, Angel is a coming of age story about a passionate young boy struck with restlessness and a sense to do more academically.
One of my favorite Asheville, North Carolina nonfiction reads, learn all about the Biltmore and the Vanderbilts in Denise Kiernan’s The Last Castle. Kiernan is a famous historian known for uncovering in-depth histories. Learn about the love, debt, and community behind the Biltmore, Asheville’s iconic legacy. Watch Edith take part in politics, and see the Vanderbilts’ legacy on forestry. Read More→
Check Out These 50 States Books Set In North Carolina:
Don’t miss even more books around America with this North Carolina Novels reading list.
Set on an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota, The Round House won the National Book Award for fiction. A Native American woman is raped in a sacred round house with the accused being a non-Native, white man. Questionable if the man can be even be charged, the woman’s teenage son pursues his own quest for justice.
Continue Reading Around America With These North Dakota Books:
Head to Shaker Heights in Cleveland, Ohio on our 50 States book list with Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. Elena Richardson embodies this Stepford Wives, yuppie town filled with rich and dysfunctional families. With the arrival of Mia Warren, a mysterious black single mother and artist, and her beautiful daughter, Pearl, the town is sometimes inappropriately drawn to them. These relationships are combustible along with haunting pasts and digging up truths. Read More→
Hillbilly Elegy is a #1 New York Times Bestseller also turned into a major motion picture. Set in Middletown, Ohio, this is an American story about the working class and upward mobility. Discussing the heart and problems with working and middle-class America, Vance tackles and brings to light issues with the current plight of the American Dream. This one of the 50 States books hitting the big screen.
Next, head to Dryfalls, Ohio on our Best Books Set In Every State reading list. Fat Angie introduces a strong and darkly comedic protagonist. Overweight and struggling through high school, Fat Angie crushes on a new girl in town. Winner of the 2014 Stonewall Book Award, Fat Angie also faces criticism about stereotyping overweight girls and the end goal of losing weight. Like Angie, the language is rough, and this title won’t be for everyone.
Discover More 50 States Books With These Novels Set In Ohio:
Oklahoma, unfortunately, doesn’t have any 50 States books that I love, including Where The Red Fern Grows, which I read in 5th grade. Of course, you know me and animal stories… Where The Red Fern Grows is brutal and why you’d make elementary school kids read this one is beyond me. However, a classic novel set in Oklahoma, Billy remembers his days with his two hunting dogs. They brave dangers, bond, and um, die. Just a warning… But people love it, sigh, and I didn’t want to be biased.
Add These Books Set In Oklahoma To Your 50 States Reading List, Too:
In If I Stay, seventeen-year-old Mia’s family gets into a horrific car accident outside of Portland, Oregon. Mia has an out-of-body experience as she lays in a coma in the hospital, having no idea the fate of her other family members. With flashbacks to everyone’s earlier lives, Mia has a decision to make: will she wake up and stay on this earth? With a love for music, Mia also learns that has been accepted into her dream school. Is it enough, especially after her grandfather has given her permission to join her family on the other side?
More 50 States Books Set In Oregon:
Once diagnosed with terminal cancer, Randy Pausch decides to give his last lecture about the merits of life at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, PA. Some of his advice: Seize every day and every moment because it is true that life goes by too quickly. Help others, move on, and dream big.
If you are looking for YA books set in every state, don’t miss The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. An ALA most challenged book for its open discussion of sexuality and sexual abuse, discover a classic coming of age story about surviving high school, family drama, sex, and drugs. YA readers will appreciate and relate to this mature LGBT+ themed book as Charlie navigates being a teenager. A wallflower, Charlie witnesses it ALL in Pittsburgh, PA.
One of the most talked-about books of 2019 into 2020, if you are looking for a book set in Philadelphia, PA, don’t miss Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid. Every 50 States reading list should include this novel for its brilliant discussion of racism, classism, and privilege. Witness more complicated insight into white liberal racism and the savior complex.
Alix hires 26-year-old Emira to take care of her daughter, Briar. When a grocery store security guard stops Emira late at night and questions her as to why she has a white child in tote, Alix becomes more and more obsessed with forming a relationship with Emira. Book Information→
Read These Pennsylvania Books Already? Try These:
Set in the fictional town of Upper Darby, Rhode Island, My Sister’s Keeper is a heart-wrenching Picoult novel about living with cancer and family bonds. Two-year-old Kate has leukemia. The only chance to help her is by having a second child with the goal to use that child’s body to save Kate’s life.
While Kate and her sister Anna are close, Anna is forced to do whatever it takes to keep Kate alive. Meanwhile, the family’s only son is practically pushed into the background while their father is a passive player to this morally wrong experience. What happens when Anna is old enough to decide that she wants a say in all of this? What happens when she says ‘no more.’
The Namesake is one of my favorite novels, and Pulitzer Prize-winning Lahiri is known for her stories that reflect on ethnicity, home, and generations of family. Set in Rhode Island and India, The Lowland chronicles the lives of two inseparable brothers, Subhash and Udayan Mitra. Subhash leaves for America to pursue scientific research while Udayan stays in India to join a rebellion against poverty. Subhash returns home to devastation as his family falls into shambles over the brothers’ opposing life choices.
Head To Rhode Island With These 50 States Books:
Head to Charleston, South Carolina in The Invention of Wings. A southern novel Inspired by a historical figure, Sarah Grimke is ‘gifted’ Hetty, a slave, when she is 11-years-old. Over the next 35 years, we watch as Sarah and Hetty shape each other’s lives. A novel about friendship, morals, and freedom, readers witness a discriminating time in American history.
If you need the perfect American summer beach read, head to Edisto, South Carolina in YA indie novel, As Much As I Ever Could. Imagine a sweet race car driver with a crush on a girl who was the sole survivor in a family car accident. Sent to live with her sassy grandmother, CJ must overcome self-blame and heartbreak.
Add Even More Books Set In South Carolina To Your American Reading List:
If you are looking for reflections on America, Tom Brokaw’s A Long Way From Home has been described as a love letter to the people and his experiences of growing up in Pickstown, South Dakota. Brokaw notes that he had a “Tom Sawyer” childhood. When his father accepts a job for the Army Corps of Engineers, their move to South Dakota begins his own initiation into the American Dream, including a career in journalism, marriage, and education.
More 50 States Books Set In South Dakota:
If you are looking for an indie book set in Tennessee, don’t miss Poke Sallet Queen & The Family Medicine Wheel by Shana Thronton. A contemporary coming of age story set in and around Nashville, Robin Ballard is learning more about her family history for her college writing seminar. Robin uncovers more about her homeless father as well as dysfunctional family members through stories, recipes, superstitions, and lost journal pages dating back to the 1920s.
Flight Behavior is set in rural Tennessee and focuses on climate change. Dellarobia Turnbow discovers that the valley behind her house filled with monarch butterflies. Of course, this happens on her way to have an affair in the woods. Learn more about Appalachian life and find a message relevant to today.
The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II is a nonfiction novel set in Oakridge, Tennessee. During WWII, meet the women who helped build the atomic bomb and later dealt with its aftermath. Much of this history remained a secret at the time, and we learn about the government’s mysterious and obscure ongoings in a city that no one knew about.
Even More Tennessee Novels For You:
We love 50 States Books reading lists. If you need more books set in and around the south, try these Books Set In Tennessee.
Head to Houston, Texas with LGBT romance, The Gravity Of Us. Cal dreams of becoming a world-renowned journalist with an upcoming BuzzFeed internship and a huge social media following. With plans on hold as his parents move the family from Brooklyn to Houston to work on a NASA mission to Mars, Cal sees his dreams smashed apart. However, Cal finds himself falling head over heels for an astronaut’s son and with a new story to share with millions of young followers. As for 50 states books, this is one of my favorite newer YA titles.
Head to the Texas-Mexico border in No Country For Old Men. Llewellyn Moss finds a pickup truck stuffed with money and heroin that is surrounded by dead men. Taking the money, Llewellyn sets off a dangerous set of life-changing events.
Set in El Paso, Texas, Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of The Universe is a sweet and slow-paced LGBT YA romance. Aristotle and Dante are best friends and loners who have to sort through their confusing feelings for each other. This Printz Honor Book has won numerous awards such as the Lambda Literary Award and Stonewall Book Award.
A Read With Jenna and BOTM selection, Valentine is a book set in Odessa, Texas in the mid-1970s. There are trigger warnings for animal cruelty, racism, and assault. This rural fiction, women’s novel alternatives perspectives of 5 women affected by the brutal attack of Gloria, a young Mexican girl.
Atmospheric, Valentine is one of the titles on this 50 States reading list where the setting has the most prominence. Watch poverty, racism, abandonment, and a failed justice system at its worst. Book Information→
Find Even More Great 50 States Books Set In Texas:
Josh Hanagarne was officially diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome in the 9th grade. As he grew older and taller, his tics became unmanageable. A Mormon determined to live life to its fullest and conquer his tics through strength training, John ultimately married, had a son, and became a librarian for Salt Lake City. The World’s Strongest Librarian is Josh’s journey to live with and beyond Tourettes and is perfect for librarian lovers and fitness gurus.
Looking For More 50 States Books? Continue Reading With These Books Set In Utah:
Published in 1913, Pollyanna is a children’s American classic about optimism. Pollyanna Whittier is an orphan who lives in Beldingsville, Vermont with her stuffy and rich Aunt who really doesn’t want her. Pollyanna plays a game that her father taught her, “The Glad Game,” where you always try to find the good in life. Of course, Pollyanna’s cheerful attitude is contagious.
50 States Books Set In Vermont You May Also Enjoy:
Living in North Carolina, we love the Blue Ridge Mountains which is where Fair and Tender Ladies transports readers. An epistolary novel set in Virginia, Ivy’s hardships exemplify an Appalachian upbringing during the middle part of the 20th century.
Looking for unique YA books set in every state? The Vampire Diaries take place in Mystic Falls, Virginia and Convington, Georgia. When hunky Stefan ignores the interests of Elena Gilbert, she cannot figure out why. Of course, like Edward in Twilight, Stefan is a vamp with a bad boy brother. Find suspense and high school drama.
Don’t Miss These 50 States Books Set In Virginia:
One of the most famous 50 States books that people love to hate is Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight. Set in Washington, Bella falls into a love triangle with a vampire and a werewolf. Who will Bella choose, and what will be the consequences of these interspecies dating? Read More→
Head to Seattle, Washington in Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Bernadette Peters is a hot mess who is allergic to Seattle and people. She is also a mom, best friend, opinionated wife, and an amazing architect. When her daughter Bee earns a trip to Antarctica, Bernadette mysteriously disappears, putting Bee on the hunt for Bernadette.
Looking For Different 50 States Books Set In Washington? Try These?
If you are looking for some of the best books set in each state that have also been made into movies, try The Glass Castle. Set in Welch, West Virginia, Walls faces a childhood of misguided neglect. With a father who has outlandish dreams, she spends her childhood having nothing except the love of her irresponsible family. The siblings ban together to care for each other. Walls ultimately succeeds as an adult while her parents choose to live homelessly.
Rocket Boys is a coming of age American memoir set during the 1960s in Coalwood, West Virginia. In a town where only football and coal mining matter, Sonny and his friends decide to build their own rockets inspired by the U.S. space race. These boys have their eyes on the future outside of their little hometown.
We Are Winding Down Our Books From All 50 States Reading List. Don’t Miss More 50 States Books Set In West Virginia:
An old school Oprah Book Club book, A Map Of The World follows the Goodwins, who live on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. When their neighbors’ daughter drowns in their pool, Alice descends into darkness. Soon after, she is accused of sexually abusing a child at her elementary school and is arrested. With a community that is already suspicious of her “hippie” ways, she must find herself to overcome these hardships and judgments.
Don’t Forget These Wisconsin Books:
One of the 50 States books set in Wyoming, Brokeback Mountain tells the story of two male ranch hands and sheepherders that start falling for each other. Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar are both married to women, but over the course of 20 years, they start to realize that they have different feelings, leading to affairs and a tumultuous relationship.
More 50 States Books Set In Wyoming:
What Are Some Of Your Favorite 50 States Books?
What are some of your favorite books in every state? Are there some U.S. novels on this book list that you don’t love?
Do you read books from one state more than another and why? I know the Dakotas and anything out West were harder for me.
What books do you think we are missing on our 50 States reading list?
Please let us know in the comments.