Are you looking for books set in North Carolina to inspire your southern travels? Find mysteries, historical fiction, and YA books about North Carolina with this reading list.
I couldn’t imagine a better way to prep for a trip to Asheville, Raleigh, the Blue Ridge Mountains, Biltmore, or the Outer Banks than reading books set in North Carolina. For me, Asheville is a literary blogger’s dream.
Did you know that many of the scenes from The Hunger Games and The Last Of The Mohicans took place across Asheville waterfalls and in one of North Carolina’s abandoned villages?
Plus, Asheville is home to a champagne bar and bookstore, Thomas Wolfe’s childhood home, and all of the used and new bookstores Belle could desire. Do you see where I am going with this?
In honor of celebrating that this boozy and bookish blogger moved to Asheville, NC, be sure to check out this eclectic reading list filled with books about North Carolina from bookstagrammers, book and travel bloggers, librarians, and authors.
In addition to these classic, mystery, and young adult books set in North Carolina, don’t miss our Asheville travel blog, Uncorked Asheville filled with books set in Asheville and famous Asheville authors.
What are the best books about North Carolina to take you there via your armchair? Let’s get started!
Afterward, Read Across America Here.
Looking for more great southern and North Carolina books? Head this way:
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4. As a member of Amazon Prime, don’t miss Amazon First Reads — early access to Kindle books.
Fictional & Contemporary Books Set In North Carolina
One of the most powerful North Carolina books for deep thinkers, A Good Neighborhood is a Romeo and Juliet meets Little Fires Everywhere retelling. When the wealthy and privileged white Whitman family moves into Oak Knoll, North Carolina — building an excessive house and killing Valerie’s historic tree — no one can predict the tragic outcome of this story. Or, can they?
Told via the perspective of an omniscient neighbor(hood), racism, corruption, and vile men with too much power own this heartbreaking narrative. From the start, readers are aware of the imminent tragedy creeping up on the Black Alston-Holt family.
The story carries you there until the crushing end. A Good Neighborhood would make a fantastic book club selection. Read more→
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Submission by bookstagrammer, Jennia.
In Wiley Cash’s debut novel, A Land More Kind Than Home, the opening pages introduce minister Carson Chambliss. Chambliss is a man who has more in common with the snakes he regularly handles in his church services than he does with any of his parishioners.
Preaching in a small town nestled deep in North Carolina, Chambliss uses his authority and sway over the community to bend and shift the goings on to his advantage.
Jess and Christopher “Stump” Hall, two local boys, set off on a cataclysmic snowballing of events after spying on who they think is their mother and father. With Chambliss now aware of what they have witnessed, the reader sees the haunting religious underworld that the town’s inhabitants allowed to grow and fester.
Early on, the story percolates with a looming dread, culminating in a denouement worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy. Cash writes with unflinching honesty, creating something both beautiful and tragic.
Travel around the United States with our Massive 50 States Booklist.
If you are looking for seriously spooky books that take place in North Carolina, don’t miss NC mystery and thriller, The Girl From Widow Hills.
In an attempt to start over from a haunting past filled with suspicious and unwanted fame, Olivia moves to North Carolina. Her mother is also recently deceased from a drug overdose, and Olivia is dreading the 20-year anniversary of her famous sewer drain rescue.
When Olivia trips over a body in her yard during a sleepwalking episode, her precarious glass bubble smashes to pieces. Is someone trying to hurt her? Read more→
Submission by indie author, Jennifer Ann Shore.
The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen is called “magical realism” by some reviewers — but I like to call it a southern, contemporary romance with bright-pink sprinkles on top.
Our protagonist is a lonely and semi-bored Josey. She lives at her mother’s house in North Carolina, spending her time eating as many sweets and reading as much as she can devour. This North Carolina novel is a light, cute story of Josey’s self-discovery.
While Allen’s Garden Spells (another book set in North Carolina) is a fan-favorite, I think this novel could be the sugar on top of your to-be-read pile.
If you love these books based in North Carolina, don’t miss some of the Best Southern Novels.
Which Nicholas Sparks book should you pick? It is no secret that Sparks lives in NC and writes all of his books set in North Carolina.
The Notebook, Sparks’ classic, is the perfect introduction to this junk-foody, sap of a novelist. Sparks will leave you in tears, and his stories all have the same type of romance, death, and destruction-to-your heart vibe.
Returning from WWII, Noah Calhoun cannot stop thinking about his pre-war love, Allie Nelson. Allie is now engaged to Noah’s antithesis, a socialite lawyer. Will love prevail? Can Noah win Allie back? The ending is heartbreaking; have the Kleenex ready.
**A fair warning that after compiling this book list, Nicholas Sparks demonstrated intolerant comments and actions aimed at the LGBT+ community. His novels also lack people of color.
Thrillers & Mystery Books Set In North Carolina
A psychological thriller set in small-town North Carolina, meet Rachel Krall, a true-crime podcaster. Rachel is a lot like Scooby-Doo and the gang — a ‘meddling’ mystery solver that you love. Responsible for freeing a man, though, she isn’t the most beloved public figure for lawyers and judges.
Recruited into a new trial, a young woman seeks out Rachel to uncover the truth behind another mysterious disappearance and murder. Rachel lands caught up in the deadly drama.
Travel to Tennessee next with our Books Set In TN Reading List.
Submission by Gigi, a retired children’s librarian
Witches and Werewolves and Retirement, Oh My! Spell Booked is the first in a supernatural cozy mystery series about three witches nearing retirement in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Olivia, Elsie, and Molly find that both their memories and spell powers are declining. They decide that it would be best to move to Boca Raton, Florida where, apparently, witches go to retire. Who knew?
But before they can hit the beach, they need to find three replacement witches. Their plan is barely in action before Olivia is murdered and their spell book is stolen. Now they have to find new recruits AND solve a murder.
What to do? Go to the library, of course! They recruit a new librarian and with the help of various characters, finally figure it all out.
P.S. One of the restaurants mentioned in the book, Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn, is still in existence. If I ever visit Wilmington, I will definitely stop in.
One of the historical fiction and mystery books set in North Carolina and Biltmore Estate that I cannot wait to read (and grabbed as part of Amazon’s First Reads program) includes Under A Gilded Moon – a story about money and power.
With the finishing touches happening at Biltmore, Kerry MacGregor heads to the Blue Ridge Mountains to help her family. Her family’s land is one of the final pieces required to complete Biltmore. A battle of the rich versus the poor entraps Kerry.
Are you Biltmore-obsessed? We are annual passholders and love Biltmore’s library and winery. If you are traveling to Asheville, see How To Get The Most Out Of Your Biltmore Ticket Here.
Submission from North Carolina author, Kim Beall
Woodley, USA is a quirky, small Southern town you will not find on any map. Author Callaghan McCarthy stumbled into it in the middle of the night in search of inspiration for a sequel to her once-famous ghost story.
Callaghan got more inspiration than she bargained for. Now, the ghosts and other spirits of Woodley are some of her best friends.
Seven Turns is the story of Cally’s arrival at the haunted Vale House B&B in Woodley, and of how she meets Ben, a mysterious man who is not, technically, quite 100% human, himself.
Moonlight and Moss follows Cally’s struggle to accept her role as the liaison between the human world and that of the faerie kingdom on the other side of the meadow gate.
Women’s & Historical Fiction Books Set In North Carolina
Hayley is a well-traveled book blogger for Backpacking Bookworm.
Necessary Lies is a North Carolina book about family, love, and secrets.
North Carolina, 1960: 15-year-old Ivy lives on Mr. Gardiner’s tobacco farm with her sister, baby nephew, and grandmother. She dreams of running away with her boyfriend Henry Alan, Mr. Gardiner’s son. Although they are intimate, she is smart enough not to get pregnant, unlike her sister.
22-year-old Jane is newly married to her physician husband. She begins a job as a social worker (much to her husband’s disagreement).
Jane is passionate about helping people, but her manager tells her she can’t get emotionally involved in her client’s lives. When told to fill out a petition to get Ivy sterilized against her wishes, she fights for Ivy’s basic human rights.
Jane finds herself wrapped up in the case, and ends up putting not just her job, but Ivy’s future on the line.
In a moving indie North Carolina novel about growing up poor in Appalachia, head to working-class Bryson City, North Carolina. It’s the 1960s when a night on the train tracks shapes Barbara Parker’s life forever.
Flash forward to the present where Barbara’s daughter, Carole Anne, is caught in the same brutal cycle of poverty, wretched men, and corrupt leaders abusing their power.
In a The Connors like narrative, readers learn about hope, second chances, and the difference between having money vs welfare and trudging through the city dump. Hard work and brains can only get you so far when you need money for college. Read more→
Submission from Sheree of Keeping Up With The Penguins.
Diane Chamberlain is the best-selling author of 26 novels, and her newest – Big Lies In A Small Town – might be her best yet. This North Carolina book is set in the small town of Edenton, where two parallel stories unfold, eight decades apart.
In 1939, burgeoning artist Anna Dale wins a government-sponsored competition to paint a mural for the town’s post office, beating out a beloved local portrait painter. She tries to ingratiate herself to the disgruntled community, and completes the mural… but it is never installed. She disappears shortly thereafter, under mysterious circumstances.
In 2018, Morgan Christopher has made a series of bad decisions that have landed her in prison. Her salvation comes in the form of a famous artist’s daughter and a fancy lawyer, who offer to get Morgan released just one year into her three-year sentence – on the condition that she restores Anna Dale’s mural so that it might finally be displayed in a public gallery.
As she begins her new life, Morgan becomes obsessed with the mystery of Anna Dale’s disappearance – and you will too. The battered old mural has many secrets and surprises just waiting to be uncovered.
But this is more than just a historical mystery or domestic drama: it’s also a carefully constructed examination of race, gender roles, and social politics in North Carolina.
Ron Rash — a South Carolina native — is famous for his stories about Appalachian life set in the Carolinas. Serena follows George and Serena Pemberton, newlyweds, looking to start a timber business in the late 1920s.
Serena is a strong and powerful woman, but she cannot bear children. George has a child from an affair, and Serena sets out to kill her ‘son.’ Find themes of betrayal and industrial development’s cruel effects on the environment.
Submission from Rachael of Booklist Queen.
If you are looking for the best books set in North Carolina, look no further than the top of the New York Times bestselling list.
For years, Kya Clark has survived alone in the marshes of the North Carolina coast. Dubbed “The Marsh Girl” by the locals, she was abandoned by her family and has been raised almost by nature itself.
Now, as she comes of age, Kya begins to yearn for something more than her lonely existence – maybe even a connection with one of the local boys. But when one of the local men ends up dead, Kya is the lead suspect. Can Kya ever find acceptance with the local town, or will she always be forced to live in the fringes of society?
An exquisitely written tale that quickly became one of 2018’s bestselling books, Where the Crawdads Sing is a must-read. If you are looking for the perfect book club pick, you can’t go wrong with this one. Read More→
Don’t miss our Where The Crawdad’s Smash literary cocktail.
For historical fiction books set in North Carolina, don’t forget about Guests On Earth. Infamous F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald would summer in Asheville, NC.
Zelda was said to have suffered from bipolar disorder and resided at Highlands Hospital for her mental health. For that time period, Highlands offered nontraditional and progressive healthcare practices to ensure the wellbeing of its clients.
Inspired by the events of the Highlands Hospital fire in 1948, which killed nine women including Zelda, follow the historical fiction story of one woman who befriends Zelda.
Submission by Tori of Tori-Leigh.
If you’re not obsessed with the Outlander series, you know someone who is.
Claire, a British nurse, time travels to 18th century Scotland where she falls in love with a handsome warrior, Jamie. Set against the backdrop of the gorgeous Scottish Highlands, Outlander begins as a series full of history, fantasy, romance, and adventure. How could this series not have a bit of a cult following?
The first three books follow Jamie and Claire through Scotland and other parts of Europe, while the fourth, fifth, and sixth novels focus on their life in the American colonies.
Claire and Jamie build their home in the North Carolina foothills. Amidst the onset of the American Revolution, Jamie forms a militia to stop the citizens who took up arms against corrupt colonial officials.
Historians consider the rebellion as a catalyst for the American Revolution. Jamie is torn between his loyalty to the British crown and his hopes for a free world while trying to live peacefully in North Carolina.
Claire and Jamie’s home is located on Fraser’s Ridge in the North Carolina mountains. Gabaldon herself has said that Fraser’s Ridge would be near Boone, NC and Blowing Rock.
The scenery closely resembles the Scottish Highlands. It’s impossible to visit the area and not imagine Jamie and Claire’s cabin tucked in the woods.
In fact, many Scottish settlers made a home in North Caroline during the mid-1700s. Like Jamie and Claire, they arrive at Wilmington and settled closer to the Appalachian mountains. Today, you can visit the mountains surrounding what would be Fraser’s Ridge in protected National Parks. Read More→
Young Adult Books Set In North Carolina
Submission by Jennifer of Jennifer Mitchell, Bibliolater.
There is something so magical about the summertime especially when you are young and carefree. The season feels like a new beginning: The warmth of the sun, the lure of the beach, and the potential of new love.
Jenny Han’s The Summer I Turned Pretty Series captures the magical essence of a North Carolina summer perfectly. This series includes, The Summer I Turned Pretty, It’s Not Summer Without You, and We’ll Always Have Summer.
Belly and her family along with the Fishers have spent every summer of her life at a beach house in Cousins Beach (a fictional town said to resemble the Outer Banks in North Carolina along with Cape Cod and the Hamptons). But, this summer for Belly feels different. It is the summer where she feels pretty for the first time ever.
I’ve always taken Belly’s declaration that she feels “pretty” as more of a declaration of confidence and not of a declaration of physical appearance. She has grown into her own person and is no longer a little girl. With this newfound confidence, Belly’s world opens, and life begins.
The Summer Series is a fantastic North Carolina read. It captures the pure innocence of a first crush, a first love, the heartbreak of losing a dear friend, and the shattering realization that there is more to the world than what our adolescent selves have always believed.
One of the most popular tween historical fiction books about North Carolina and Biltmore, Serafina And The Black Cloak by Robert Beatty promises a magical NC experience. Serafina lives hidden in Biltmore’s basement since her father works there.
When children start disappearing on the grounds, Serafina and Braeden Vanderbilt decide to solve the mystery, heading into the enchanted forest.
From hipster librarian Kelly of Lost Between The Pages.
Colie Sparks didn’t want to spend her summer in the small town of Colby, North Carolina. When her famous mother ships off to Europe, she has no choice but to hang out for the next few months with her Aunt Mira.
While Colie’s there, she decides to get a job at the nearby diner. She meets Morgan and Isabel, who befriend her and take her under their wing.
And then there’s Norman. He wants Colie to pose for one of his paintings, which really throws her because back home, she’s called a loser and made fun of.
Things are different in Colby. New friends help Colie realize her inner beauty; she’s not really the misfit she thinks she is.
Written in her usual realistic style, Sarah Dessen has yet again crafted a relatable coming-of-age story that both teens and adults will find engaging.
NC Literature & Nonfiction Books About North Carolina
After touring Thomas Wolfe’s childhood home in Asheville, I had to read the most famous book set in North Carolina…
If you are looking for classic books set in North Carolina, read local Asheville author Thomas Wolfe.
Published in 1929, most unique about Look Homeward, Angel is that the book is sneaky classic fiction. Deceiving because although Look Homeward, Angel is technically fiction, Wolfe infamously writes about all of the people he met in Asheville, North Carolina.
Wolfe barely changed their names. Most of the town’s regulars could easily pick out themselves in rather unflattering depictions. Originally poorly received, once the townspeople (and more so Wolfe) became famous, Asheville took pride in their young author.
Look Homeward, Angel is a coming of age story about a passionate young boy struck with restlessness and wanderlust. Wolfe is also famous for later noting that “you can never go home again.”
Travel back in time to the building of Biltmore. Denise Kiernan is an amazing historian known for uncovering obscured histories and sometimes hidden truths. Learn about the love, debt, and community behind the Biltmore, Asheville’s iconic legacy.
Deemed the largest home in America, Biltmore is more than just its grandiose walls. Watch Edith take part in politics, and see the Vanderbilts’ legacy on forestry. You’ll appreciate Biltmore so much more in this transformative revealing. Read More→
An autobiographical slave narrative set in North Carolina, scholars debate whether Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl is historical fiction or nonfiction. Harriet Jacobs wrote her story under the name Linda Brent.
Born into slavery in 1813, Jacobs chronicles her life as a slave. From a female perspective, Jacobs emphasizes what it is like to be separated from your children and the abuse she suffered.
Which of these North Carolina books have you read? Did you find a new NC book to read?
I’d love to know everything about NC, especially since we live here now. Please send along any recommendations, book-wise or travel-related. Don’t forget to drop by our sister blog, Uncorked Asheville.