Are you looking for books set in North Carolina to inspire your Southern travels? Find mysteries, historical fiction, YA books, and more – from a local North Carolinian.
We 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. Plus, 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 Western NC’s 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. It’s one of the many reasons we moved to Asheville.
Keep reading for North Carolina books in all genres for adults and teens from our favorite bookstagrammers, book and travel bloggers, librarians, locals, and authors.
In addition to classic, mystery, and romance books set in North Carolina, explore fiction and nonfiction books about North Carolina to teach you more. So, what are the must-read books that take place in North Carolina? Let’s get started!
Read even more books set in the South.
Table of Contents
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 upon 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 one of the most beautiful and tragic novels set in North Carolina.
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.
For books set in North Carolina, this is a light, cute story of Josey’s self-discovery.
While Allen’s Garden Spells (another novel set in North Carolina) is a fan-favorite, this story could be the sugar on top of your to-be-read pile.
Workaholic Nora and her pregnant sister Libby travel to small town Sunshine Falls, NC for a month-long vacation.
Nora works as a publisher, and her successful client’s latest book – that Libby adored – is set here. Hello, bibliotourism.
When Nora runs into a brooding editor from her past, they work together to make her author’s newest novel soar. He’s also pretty cute and distracting…
Libby is hiding a few secrets of her own and also has a bucket list for Nora to complete. Did we mention they spend lots of time in a bookstore?
Romance books set in North Carolina don’t get any more devour-worthy or engrossing than this.
Find themes of family, overcoming trauma and death, and finding the people who see us – and love us – for who we are. This is the ultimate soulmate story.
And, for books that take place in North Carolina – you might recognize Asheville. As Henry notes, the airport is indeed “dinky,” and we most certainly recognize that rooftop bar they visit as Hemingway’s Cuba.
Read even more fantastic books about books, bookstores, and publishing.
Which Nicholas Sparks book should you pick? It is no secret that Sparks lives in the state and writes all of his books set in North Carolina.
The Notebook, Sparks’s classic – and adapted into a classic romance movie – 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. However, Allie is engaged to Noah’s antithesis, a socialite lawyer.
Will love prevail? Can Noah win Allie back? The ending is heartbreaking; have the Kleenex ready.
Many of his bestselling books were made into movies that were filmed in Wilmington, NC, including A Walk To Remember.
*A fair warning that after compiling this book list, Nicholas Sparks made inappropriate, hurtful, and harmful 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.
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.
For historical fiction and mystery books set in North Carolina and at Biltmore Estate, be sure to check out 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.
P.S. 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
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.
Necessary Lies is one of the best books that takes place in North Carolina about family, love, and secrets.
If you are looking for indie novels set in North Carolina, try Winchester’s Outbound Train, a story 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 one of the most carefully constructed books about North Carolina with a thorough examination of race, gender roles, and social politics.
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.’
For North Carolina books, find themes of betrayal and love as well as a story that shares 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 too.
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. The books are perfect for time travel lovers.
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 Mitchell
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 when she feels pretty for the first time ever.
(Belly’s declaration that she feels “pretty” is more of a declaration of confidence and not 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 are fantastic books that take place in North Carolina-inspired destinations.
They capture 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.
In 2022, the first novel was made into a TV series. Find even more series and movies filmed across North Carolina.
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 within 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.
Explore even more books set in Asheville, NC.
From hipster librarian Kelly from 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 and one of the North Carolina books on this reading list that both teens and adults will find engaging.
Best Nonfiction Books About North Carolina
If you are looking for classic books set in North Carolina, pick up one of the most well-known Asheville authors, Thomas Wolfe.
After touring Thomas Wolfe’s childhood home in Asheville, we had to read the most scandalous creation on this list.
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 untrue, 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.
First 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.”
We can’t promise that this is the most riveting of North Carolina books, but Wolfe paints a clear picture of the time.
Travel back in time to the building of Biltmore Estate.
Denise Kiernan is a fantastic 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.
The Last Castle is truly one of the best books about North Carolina and Asheville’s transformation into the destination it has become. 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.
Save Your Favorite Books That Take Place In North Carolina:
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Which of these North Carolina books have you read?
What are your favorite novels set in North Carolina? How about NC authors?
Which books about North Carolina have taught you more, and which should we add to our growing TBR pile?
Please visit our sister blog, Uncorked Asheville, when you are in town and in need of local recommendations. Experience Asheville like a local with our food, drinks, and things to do articles.
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Christine (she/her) is the owner, lead editor, and tipsy book sommelier of The Uncorked Librarian LLC, an online literary publication showcasing books and movies to inspire travel and home to the famed Uncorked Reading Challenge.
With a BA in English & History from Smith College, an MLIS from USF-Tampa, and a U.S. Fulbright Fellowship in Christine's back pocket, there isn't a bookstore, library, or winery that can hide from her. Christine loves brewery yoga, adopting all of the kitties, and a glass of oaked Chardonnay. Charcuterie is her favorite food group.