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The Bestselling Book That's Set in Your State

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Hometown Reads

Sometimes people read books to transport themselves into distant cities and countries they’ve only dreamed about. Other times, they’re hoping for an adventure just a little bit closer to home. If you’re in the mood for a hometown read, take a look through our selection of bestselling books set in each state, many of which have left lasting impressions on the communities brought to life within their pages. 


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Alabama: “To Kill A Mockingbird”
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Alabama: “To Kill A Mockingbird”

Harper Lee

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Published in 1960, Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “To Kill A Mockingbird” about racial injustice in the South is a modern American classic. Though it takes place in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, Lee based the setting and its events — which follows 6-year-old Scout and her lawyer father, Atticus Finch, as he defends a Black man falsely accused of rape — on her hometown of Monroeville, a small town in southwest Alabama. Visitors to Monroeville can stop by the Monroe County Heritage Museum, which features an in-depth exhibit on the novel, Lee, and the local landmarks that helped the late author shape this seminal work. 


Also read: “The Wife Upstairs,” by Rachel Hawkins

Alaska: “Alaska”
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Alaska: “Alaska”

James A. Michener

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James A. Michener’s historical novel is an epic tale about Alaska told over generations, from the formation of the North American continent and details of the early Eskimos to the Alaskan gold rush and transition into statehood. Though many of the characters and places referenced in the novel are fictional, “Alaska” also recalls factual people and settings, including the Tlingit people, the Battle of Sitka, and Kodiak Island. 


Also read: “Into the Wild,” by Jon Krakauer


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Arizona: “The Bean Trees”
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Arizona: “The Bean Trees”

Barbara Kingsolver

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Barbara Kingsolver’s bestseller follows Kentucky native Taylor Greer who, along with a 3-year-old Native American girl named Turtle, settles into a new life in Tucson, Arizona. Kingsolver delves into the state’s vast and varied landscape, and Tucson residents will recognize references to the city’s Chinese grocery stores and tire repair shops. 


Also read: “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” by Edward Abbey

Arkansas: “ I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”
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Arkansas: “ I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”

Maya Angelou

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Writer and poet Maya Angelou wrote this 1969 autobiography as a coming-of-age tale, illustrating how perseverance and a love of the written word helped free herself from the effects of trauma and racial injustice. Angelou and her older brother, Bailey, are sent to live with their paternal grandmother and uncle in Stamps, Arkansas, a small town where her grandmother runs a store. While the book also takes place in St. Louis and San Francisco, Stamps serves as a pivotal setting during her childhood, and one that leaves a lasting mark.


Also read: “Summer of My German Soldier,” by Bette Greene


California: “The Joy Luck Club”
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California: “The Joy Luck Club”

Amy Tan

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“The Joy Luck Club” is arguably Oakland author Amy Tan’s most famous work, though the best-selling writer has also found success with “The Kitchen God’s Wife,” “The Hundred Secret Senses,” and others. Published in 1989, the book tells the story of four Chinese American immigrant families living in San Francisco, who start the Joy Luck Club and meet each week at San Francisco’s First Chinese Baptist Church to eat and play mahjong. Tan’s rich descriptions of the city — and, in particular, Chinatown — seep through the pages; one of the characters, Waverly Jong, is named after Waverly Place in Chinatown.


Also read: “A Gambling Man,” by David Baldacci

Colorado: “The Shining”
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Colorado: “The Shining”

Stephen King

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True, this 1977 Stephen King bestseller mostly takes place in a fictional hotel, but it’s based on a real hotel — The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. After accepting a position as an off-season caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, struggling writer Jack Torrance begins to slowly unravel, while his son, Danny, sees visions and ghosts through his own psychic abilities. Today, guests at The Stanley Hotel can take day and night walking tours that touch on King’s novel inspired by the Colorado landmark.


Also read: “Plainsong,” by Kent Haruf


Related: 21 Horror Movie Locations Across America


Connecticut: “On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous”
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Connecticut: “On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous”

Ocean Vuong

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An instant New York Times bestseller and winner of the 2019 New England Book Award for Fiction, Vuong’s debut novel tells the story of Little Dog, a Vietnamese American who narrates his life through letters to his illiterate mother, Rose. Rose and her mother immigrated to Hartford, Connecticut, where they raised Little Dog. The city serves as the vibrant backdrop for Little Dog’s upbringing, one where he struggles with and defines his identity as both a gay man and the child of a refugee. 


Also read: “Dune Road,” by Jane Green

Delaware: “The Book of Unknown Americans”
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Delaware: “The Book of Unknown Americans”

Cristina Henríquez

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A story about immigration and the search for a better life, “The Book of Unknown Americans” is about the Rivera family making the difficult decision to move from Mexico to Newark, Delaware, after Maribel Rivera suffers a severe head injury. A focal setting within the novel is the apartment complex where the Riveras live — and where they meet the Toro family, who become intimately connected to theirs. 


Also read: “The Saint of Lost Things,” by Christopher Castellani

Florida: “The Nickel Boys”
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Florida: “The Nickel Boys”

Colson Whitehead

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This 2019 bestseller garnered plenty of praise when it was released, winning the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and landing on Time’s best books of the decade list. Oscillating between the 2010s and the 1960s, the novel is based on the true story of the Dozier School, a reform school in Florida. In “The Nickel Boys,” the school is reinvented as Nickel Academy in Eleanor, Florida, where students — particularly Black students — are treated abysmally, and where a murder transforms the life of the novel’s main protagonist.


Also read: “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” by Zora Neale Hurston

Georgia: “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”
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Georgia: “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”

John Berendt

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Savannah, Georgia is as much of a character in John Berendt’s 1994 non-fiction book as the tale’s key players. Based on real-life events in the 1980s, the plot revolves around the shooting of Savannah prostitute Danny Hansford, who was killed by his employer and respected antiques dealer, Jim Williams. Visitors to the Southern city can tour the Mercer Williams House, where Hansford died, and the Telfair Academy, which houses the book’s famous Bird Girl statue. 


Also read: “Gone With the Wind,” by Margaret Mitchell


Hawaii: “Honolulu”
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Hawaii: “Honolulu”

Alan Brennert

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Published in 2009, Alan Brennert’s “Honolulu” delves into the life of Jin — originally named Regret — who moves from Korea to Hawaii in 1914. Along with three other young “picture brides,” Jin gets to know her new home as it grows into a thriving city. The story touches on Hawaii’s pineapple farm workers, conflicts between white and native residents, and how the Great Depression affected the state. 


Also read: “Unfamiliar Fishes,” by Sarah Vowell


Related: The Best of Hawaii on a Budget

Idaho: “Educated”
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Idaho: “Educated”

Tara Westover

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An instant New York Times bestseller, “Educated” is a memoir set in rural Idaho. Tara Westover tells the story of her upbringing in Buck’s Peak, a mountainous region where she fights to leave her survivalist Mormon family and the sheltered life she knew to attend college and receive a formal education. Westover returns to her family’s settlement in Idaho multiple times throughout the book even after she escapes, eventually realizing that she no longer feels at home there. 


Also read: “Indian Creek Chronicles: A Winter Alone in the Wilderness,” by Peter Fromm


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Illinois: “The House on Mango Street”
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Illinois: “The House on Mango Street”

Sandra Cisneros

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Born in Chicago, Mexican-American author Sandra Cisneros pays tribute to the city in her 1983 bestselling novel, “The House on Mango Street.” Cisneros drew from her own childhood to tell the story of Esperanza Cordero, a 12-year-old growing up in Chicago’s Hispanic Quarter. While there isn’t a real Mango Street in Chicago, there is a Mango Avenue, and it is said that one of Cisneros’ own childhood homes was an inspiration for the titular house. 


Also read: “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” by Audrey Niffenegger

Indiana: “A Girl Named Zippy”
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Indiana: “A Girl Named Zippy”

Haven Kimmel

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This New York Times bestselling memoir takes the reader on a wild ride through Mooreland, Indiana, where author Haven Kimmel — also known as Zippy — grew up. Through vivid and humorous descriptions of her childhood, Kimmel brings to life a sleepy community in small-town America, one where readers get to know her family, neighbors, and other adults (and animals!) that played a pivotal role in Zippy’s life. 


Also read: “The Fault in our Stars,” by John Green


Iowa: “The Bridges of Madison County”
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Iowa: “The Bridges of Madison County”

Robert James Waller

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In search of some Midwestern romance? “The Bridges of Madison County,” a bestselling novella published in 1992, follows National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid and farmer’s wife Francesca Johnson during a whirlwind romance in Iowa’s Madison County while Johnson’s husband and children are away at the state fair. Saucy! Visitors hoping to recreate some of the plot’s pivotal moments can stop at the Roseman Covered Bridge in Winterset, Iowa, a bridge prominently featured in the book and one that is on the National Register of Historic Places.


Also read: “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid,” by Bill Bryson

Kansas: “In Cold Blood”
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Kansas: “In Cold Blood”

Truman Capote

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This non-fiction book is based on the 1959 murders of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas, but Truman Capote’s rich storytelling skills will have you feeling like you’re reading a fictional thriller; to date, “In Cold Blood” is the second best-selling true crime book in history. Capote, along with fellow author and friend Harper Lee, arrived at the Holcomb farm shortly after the murder took place, eventually writing a vivid reconstruction of the crime and the effect it had on Holcomb’s small farming community. The book’s first sentence depicts just how small: ''The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call 'out there.''' 


Also read: “Dark Places,” by Gillian Flynn


Kentucky: “Icy Sparks”
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Kentucky: “Icy Sparks”

Gwyn Hyman Rubio

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Gwyn Hyman Rubio’s debut, “Icy Sparks,” brings to life the story of its titular character and narrator, a 10-year-old girl living in Eastern Kentucky. The author drew from her own experience living in Kentucky for the past two decades to set the scene, in which Icy has to battle her own hardships living with Tourette’s Syndrome while she imagines a life beyond her Appalachian community. 


Also read: “The Patron Saint of Liars,” by Ann Patchett


Louisiana: “Interview with the Vampire”
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Louisiana: “Interview with the Vampire”

Anne Rice

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Is it any wonder that New Orleans serves as a main backdrop to one of the most famous gothic horror novels of our time? With atmospheric graveyards and a roaring nightlife, the city plays host to the vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac, who, along with his companion Lestat de Lioncourt and their vampire “daughter” Claudia, make New Orleans their home — and hunting ground. A film adaptation was released in 1994, and fans can visit a handful of Louisiana locales featured in the movie, including the Destrehan Plantation and Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. Author Anne Rice, a New Orleans native, died at the end of 2021.


Also read: “A Flicker in the Dark,” by Stacy Willingham


Related: Best Cheap or Free Things to Do in New Orleans


Maine: “Maine”
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Maine: “Maine”

J. Courtney Sullivan

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This bestselling novel, the second from J. Courtney Sullivan, is set against the summer beaches of Maine. Published in 2011, “Maine” follows three generations of women in the Kelleher family as they congregate at their beachfront cottage one summer. Don’t be misled by the ocean vista: This isn’t a lighthearted beach read, but a drama-filled tale rife with sibling rivalry, old grudges, and secrets kept for decades.


Also read: “The Cider House Rules,” by John Irving

Maryland: “The Accidental Tourist”
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Maryland: “The Accidental Tourist”

Anne Tyler 

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Set in Baltimore, “The Accidental Tourist” became a New York Times bestseller when it was published in 1985, going on to become an award-winning film in 1988. Though the novel’s protagonist, Macon Leary, is a travel guide writer, the death of his son and separation from his wife have caused him to become somewhat of a recluse before meeting a woman who draws him out of his shell. In the movie, the various homes Leary lives in were shot in Roland Park, an affluent Baltimore suburb. 


Also read: “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” by Rebecca Skloot


Related: 20 Beautiful Libraries Around the World

Massachusetts: “It Ends With Us”
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Massachusetts: “It Ends With Us”

Colleen Hoover

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A current New York Times bestseller, Colleen Hoover’s newest novel is set in Boston, where recent graduate Lily Bloom opens a flower shop on Park Plaza. Some reviewers have pointed out that a number of the book’s details seem suspect (opening a storefront in a ritzy neighborhood fresh out of college is … unlikely), but Hoover knows the city well enough to mention the local “Best of Boston” awards as well as “Boston purgatory,” which is when “the tourists treat you like a local; the locals treat you like a tourist.”


Also read: “Little Women,” by Louisa May Alcott


Michigan: “Station Eleven”
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Michigan: “Station Eleven”

Emily St. John Mandel

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You may have watched the television series, but did you know “Station Eleven” was a book first? The post-apocalyptic novel about a pandemic that ravages the globe (sound familiar?) is primarily set in Northern Michigan, where a traveling Shakespearean theater troupe makes its way from town to town, attempting to bring joy to those who are left. Some of the Michigan cities featured in “Station Eleven” include Traverse City, East Jordan, and Petoskey, as well as the Great Lakes that surround the state.


Also read: “Middlesex,” by Jeffrey Eugenides 

Minnesota: “Freedom”
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Minnesota: “Freedom”

Jonathan Franzen

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Dubbed “the Great American Novel” by critics when it was first published in 2010, “Freedom” is a look into the complicated lives of a suburban family living in Minnesota, and the heart wrenching dissolutions of long-held relationships. While the reader initially meets the Berglund family in St. Paul, the story follows them to other state settings, including the University of Minnesota and a lakeside family home in rural Minnesota. 


Also read: "Future Home of the Living God," by Louise Erdrich


Mississippi: “Dispatches from Pluto”
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Mississippi: “Dispatches from Pluto”

Richard Grant

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Author Richard Grant is not from Mississippi — far from it. The English travel writer was living in New York City with his girlfriend when they made an impromptu decision to buy an old plantation house in Pluto, a tiny community in the Mississippi Delta. This book, which debuted in 2015 and won the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, chronicles their time spent exploring the area, meeting catfish farmers and other local characters, and growing their own food, all while exploring the complexities of race relations in the South. Mississippi grew on Grant — he wrote another book about the state, titled “The Deepest South of All.”


Also read: “The Help,” by Kathryn Stockett

Missouri: “Bettyville”
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Missouri: “Bettyville”

George Hodgman

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This New York Times bestselling memoir is set in Paris — no, not that one. It’s the one in northeast Missouri, the author’s hometown and the place he returns to in order to care for his aging mother. Paris is a far cry from the glitzy New York City literary scene Hodgman has been living in, and the book delves into what it was like growing up as a gay man in a town where the population barely creeps past 1,000.


Also read: “Gone Girl,” by Gillian Flynn

Montana: “Montana Sky”
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Montana: “Montana Sky”

Nora Roberts

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Family drama, romance, and breathtaking scenery? It has all the makings of a Nora Roberts novel, this time set on a sprawling farm in Montana. After their father dies, three half-sisters are only able to inherit their father’s wealth after fulfilling his wish to live on the farm together for a year. If it reminds you of a Lifetime movie, you wouldn’t be wrong — the film adaptation debuted on Lifetime in 2007.


Also read: “The Big Sky,” by A. B. Guthrie

Nebraska: “The Lincoln Highway”
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Nebraska: “The Lincoln Highway”

Amor Towles

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Though much of this book is about getting out of Nebraska, the state still plays a grounding role in this 2021 bestselling novel by Amor Towles. Emmett Watson has just served 15 months at a juvenile work farm for involuntary manslaughter when he is sent back home to Nebraska. There isn’t much left for him — his mother left long ago, his father is dead, and the bank foreclosed the family farm — so Watson intends to pick up his 8-year-old brother and head to California. But his friends have another plan for Watson — one that points more in the direction of New York City.


Also read: “Eleanor & Park,” by Rainbow Rowell

Nevada: “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream”
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Nevada: “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream”

Hunter S. Thompson

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This chaotic, drug-fueled novel is Hunter S. Thompson’s most famous book, a blend of fact and fiction that kicked off a style of writing known as gonzo journalism. Initially published in 1971 as a two-part series in Rolling Stone magazine, the novel follows Raoul Duke and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo, into Las Vegas in pursuit of the American Dream — and an obscene amount of drugs. Want to retrace some of Duke and Dr. Gonzo’s steps, many of which were filmed in the 1998 movie? Visit the Circus Circus Hotel & Casino, in which Thompson described as “all manner of strange County-Fair/Polish Carnival madness is going on up in this space;" the Neon Boneyard at the Neon Museum; and, of course, the Las Vegas Strip.


Also read: “Beautiful Children,” by Charles Bock


New Hampshire: “A Separate Peace”
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New Hampshire: “A Separate Peace”

John Knowles

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A bestseller for over 30 years, Knowles' debut novel is set at Devon, a boy’s boarding school in New Hampshire inspired by Knowles' alma mater, Phillips Exeter Academy. The coming-of-age story takes place from 1942 to 1943, highlighting the tumultuous relationship between friends Gene and Finny. The 1972 film adaptation of “A Separate Peace” was filmed at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, as well as Salisbury Beach and Newfields.


Also read: “A Prayer for Owen Meany,” John Irving

New Jersey: “Born to Run”
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New Jersey: “Born to Run”

Bruce Springsteen

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Bruce Springsteen is New Jersey, period. Natives of The Garden State and fans of The Boss get to see Jersey through Springsteen’s eyes in his 2016 memoir, which details his childhood growing up in Freehold, New Jersey, and his musical trajectory featuring local landmarks. Convention Hall on the Asbury Park boardwalk still stands (Springsteen paid tribute to the venue on his debut album, “Greetings from Asbury Park”), and readers will hear about The Stone Pony, an Ocean Avenue venue where Springsteen frequently performed.


Also read: “In the Unlikely Event,” by Judy Blume

New Mexico: “The Wives of Los Alamos”
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New Mexico: “The Wives of Los Alamos”

TaraShea Nesbit

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The winner of two New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards, “The Wives of Los Alamos” is a story about women who settled in a small New Mexico town in 1943 as their husbands worked in a nuclear lab to create the atomic bomb. Amidst the vast, barren landscape of the desert, these women must start new lives in what is, to them, a foreign land. Nesbit writes her story in the collective first person “we,” making it easier for the reader to transport herself into the hastily constructed suburb, a couple hundred miles away from Trinity Site and the detonation of the world’s first atomic bomb.


Also read: “The Crossing,” by Cormac McCarthy


New York: “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”
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New York: “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”

Betty Smith

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This coming-of-age tale is heavily based on the author’s own life, and follows a teenage girl, Francie Nolan, and her impoverished family living in Brooklyn during the early 20th century. Nolan would often escape to Williamsburg’s Leonard Library, and in 2018, the library was designated a literary landmark. Ten years prior, Smith’s family collaborated with the library and the parks department to plant a tree outside the library in the author’s memory. 


Also read: “Harlem Shuffle,” by Colson Whitehead

North Carolina: “Cold Mountain”
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North Carolina: “Cold Mountain”

Charles Frazier

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Winner of the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction and adapted into an Academy Award-winning film in 2003, “Cold Mountain” immerses the reader in a rural mountain community near Cold Mountain, North Carolina. W. P. Inman, a deserter from the Confederate Army, is making his way back to his love, Ada Monroe, who lives in the titular town. The book goes back and forth between Inman’s journey and Monroe’s life in North Carolina on a farm, which is as much of a character as the book’s protagonists. Author Charles Frazier is a native of Asheville, North Carolina, roughly 35 miles south of the real Cold Mountain, which is part of the Blue Ridge Mountains within the Appalachian Mountain range.


Also read: “Where the Crawdads Sing,” by Delia Owens


North Dakota: “The Grass Dancer”
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North Dakota: “The Grass Dancer”

Susan Power

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Susan Power’s 1994 novel “The Grass Dancer” is set on a North Dakota reservation, and skips around in time as it unveils themes of relationships, Native American traditions, and magical realism through the eyes of multiple characters. Power drew from some of her own background while writing the novel: She is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, and one of the book’s chapters, “The Medicine Hole,” is based on her experience as a teenager searching for Medicine Hole — a historical landmark near Killdeer, North Dakota, and where members of the Sioux Nation reportedly escaped to in 1864 during the American Indian Wars.


Also read: “Peace like a River,” by Leif Enger

Ohio: “Little Fires Everywhere”
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Ohio: “Little Fires Everywhere”

Celeste Ng

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Celeste Ng, a former Ohioan, set her second novel in the town of ​​Shaker Heights, Ohio, where Ng grew up. The wildly popular book was on the The New York Times fiction best-seller list for three weeks, and was adapted into a television series on Hulu in 2020. The book highlights two Shaker Heights families in the 1990s, and the events that lead them to upset the status quo of their suburban lives. The town had a profound effect on Ng. “I appreciated more all the ways Shaker Heights is unusual, and I wanted to try and write a story that would explore some of those facets of the community,” she told the Los Angeles Review of Books. “The truth is, I loved growing up there: It was a great place to be a kid, and it shaped so much of who I am and how I think.”


Also read: “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison


Related: Fun and Thoughtful Gifts for Women Who Love to Read

Oklahoma: “Where the Red Fern Grows”
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Oklahoma: “Where the Red Fern Grows”

Wilson Rawls 

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Causing readers to bawl their eyes out since 1961, “Where the Red Fern Grows” is a children’s novel that still tugs at the heart strings of adults everywhere. Based on Rawls’ own childhood growing up in the Ozark Mountains in Oklahoma, the book follows Billy Colman as he develops a relationship with two Redbone Coonhounds, and the adventures they have while hunting. Much of the story takes place in the mountains of Oklahoma, where “the land was rich, black, and fertile,” Rawls writes.


Also read: “True Grit,” by Charles Portis

Oregon: “Stubborn Twig: Three Generations in the Life of a Japanese American Family”
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Oregon: “Stubborn Twig: Three Generations in the Life of a Japanese American Family”

Lauren Kessler

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Forget the Oregon Trail: In this novel, Masuo Yasui makes a harrowing journey from Japan to Oregon in 1903, eventually settling in the small town of Hood River. The novel spans three generations of the Yasui family as they break racial barriers in Oregon, and deal with the fallout of Pearl Harbor and the Japanese internment camps. “Stubborn Twig” won an Oregon Book Award, and was chosen by the Oregon Library Association to celebrate Oregon’s 150th birthday.


Also read: “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” by Ken Kesey


Pennsylvania: “The Lovely Bones”
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Pennsylvania: “The Lovely Bones”

Alice Sebold

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The narrator of this bestselling book is an unlikely one: Susie Salmon, a teenage girl who was murdered in a cornfield in Norristown, Pennsylvania, on her way home from school. While Salmon looks down from her own personal heaven, the reader sees her family and friends fall apart in the wake of her murder. Sebold was born in Wisconsin but grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia, and the film adaptation was largely shot in towns around Pennsylvania, including Chester County, Montgomery County, King of Prussia, and Delaware County.


Also read: “Juliet, Naked,” by Nick Hornby


Rhode Island: “Theophilus North”
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Rhode Island: “Theophilus North”

Thornton Wilder

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Set in Newport, Rhode Island, in the 1920s, this book tells the story of Theophilus North reflecting on his time spent spent working in the opulent mansions along Ocean Drive — a nod to Thornton Wilder’s own experience working within Rhode Island’s most upscale communities. Visitors and residents of Newport will recognize particular landmarks in the novel, including Castle Hill, which is now a luxury hotel, and Fort Adams. 


Also read: “My Sister’s Keeper,” by Jodi Picoult


South Carolina: “The Secret Life of Bees”
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South Carolina: “The Secret Life of Bees”

Sue Monk Kidd

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This coming-of-age tale was a New York Times bestseller for more than 125 weeks, and was made into a film in 2008. Though it’s set in the fictitious town of Sylvan, South Carolina, the novel delves into the very real issues saturating the civil rights era in the American South, as the plot follows Lily Melissa Owens and her maid, Rosaleen, while they take refuge in the Boatwright residence. The film was shot in the real North Carolina towns of Lumberton and Watha. 


Also read: "Brown Girl Dreaming," by Jaqueline Woodson


South Dakota: “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse”
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South Dakota: “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse”

Peter Matthiessen

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Published in 1983, this book chronicles the true story of Leonard Peltier, an American Indian activist who was convicted of murder in 1977 and sentenced to life in prison for the killing of two FBI agents. Matthiessen delves into the politically violent environment at South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation at the time. Wondering about the title? Crazy Horse was an Oglala Lakota leader who participated in the American Indian wars; while the Crazy Horse Memorial is still under construction, you can visit the gargantuan tribute in the Black Hills of southwestern South Dakota.


Also read: “A Long Way from Home,” by Tom Brokaw

Tennessee: “Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley”
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Tennessee: “Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley”

Peter Guralnick

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In this thoroughly researched biography, Peter Guralnick takes readers on a trip through Elvis Presley’s life, from his childhood living in Lauderdale Courts in Memphis, Tennessee, to his meteoric rise in American pop culture. Until the pandemic ceased tours, visitors to Memphis could stop by the Lauderdale Courts to get a peek at Presley’s old apartment. Of course, you can still visit Graceland — Presley’s expansive Memphis estate that attracts more than ​​650,000 visitors a year.


Also read: “The Firm,” by John Grisham


Related: Elvis' Pet Chimp Wasn't the Only Unusual Thing About Graceland

Texas: “The Gates of the Alamo”
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Texas: “The Gates of the Alamo”

Stephen Harrigan

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The fall of the Alamo in 1836 was a pivotal moment in Texas history, detailed in this novel that follows three characters intricately linked to the San Antonio fort. Historical players — including James Bowie, David Crockett, and William Travis — also find their way into the plot, and author Stephen Harrigan, who lives in Austin, paints a vivid picture of the Texas landscape at the time. Want to see the historic Alamo for yourself? The landmark is open to tourists year-round.


Also read: “Remember Me Like This,” by Bret Anthony Johnston


Related: 50 Tourist Traps That Locals Still Love

Utah: “The 19th Wife”
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Utah: “The 19th Wife”

David Ebershoff

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This gripping novel contains two stories running alongside each other: that of Ann Eliza Young, the 19th wife of the Mormon leader Brigham Young, and one narrated by Jordan Scott, the son of a modern-day 19th wife, BeckyLyn Scott, who has been charged with killing her husband, one of the leaders of the fictional fundamentalist community Mesadale. The story nods to polygamous sects and communities in Utah, with various Salt Lake City landmarks mentioned, including Temple Square and the Church History Museum.


Also read: “Under the Banner of Heaven,” by Jon Krakauer

Vermont: “Songs in Ordinary Time”
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Vermont: “Songs in Ordinary Time”

​​Mary McGarry Morris

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Marie Fermoyle is a lonely, single mother living in a small Vermont town in 1960 where she raises her three children. A con man traveling through town takes advantage of her, but the story doesn’t revolve solely around Fermoyle — it’s also about the neighbors and characters that make up this tiny pocket of Vermont, and the misdoings of its everyday residents. Author Mary McGarry Morris was raised in Rutland, Vermont, and beautifully paints a picture of New England living.


Also read: “Midwives,” by Chris Bohjalian


Virginia: “The Kitchen House”
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Virginia: “The Kitchen House”

Kathleen Grissom

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Set on a plantation in Southern Virginia, “The Kitchen House” revolves around a dark family secret that affects members of the entire estate, including the book’s two protagonists: Lavinia, an indentured servant, and Belle, the house master’s illegitimate slave daughter. Bestelling author Kathleen Grissom has set her story in the decades before the Civil War, deftly describing a Virginia that is about to become a prominent battleground.


Also read: “Prodigal Summer,” by Barbara Kingsolver

Washington: “The Art of Racing in the Rain”
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Washington: “The Art of Racing in the Rain”

Garth Stein

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A book narrated by a dog? We’re in. This novel follows race car driver Dennis Swift, who also works as a customer representative at a Seattle BMW dealership, and his dog Enzo, who believes he’ll be reincarnated as a human. The author based the tale on his own experience racing cars in the Pacific Northwest (which ended after he crashed while racing in the rain). A 2019 film adaptation featured Pacific Raceways near Kent, Washington.


Also read: “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” by Jamie Ford

West Virginia: “Rocket Boys”
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West Virginia: “Rocket Boys”

Homer Hickam

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NASA engineer Homer Hickam’s bestselling memoir details his time growing up in Coalwood, a harsh West Virginia coal mining town. The coming-of-age story went on to inspire the movie “October Sky.” Until 2020, the town of Coalwood (and, later on, Beckley, West Virginia) hosted the Rocket Boys Festival, which celebrated Hickam’s books and the rocket launches he and his friends carried out in high school.


Also read: “The Glass Castle,” by Jeannette Walls

Wisconsin: “Shotgun Lovesongs”
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Wisconsin: “Shotgun Lovesongs”

Nickolas Butler

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Little Wing, Wisconsin, is the locale of this 2014 novel, a small town where four of the book’s main characters were born and raised. While the town is fictional, author Nickolas Butler said he drew inspiration from towns scattered throughout Wisconsin. Butler knows the state well — he was raised in Eau Claire and currently lives near a buffalo farm in rural Wisconsin.


Also read: “The Art of Fielding,” by Chad Harbach

One Step Too Far:
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Wyoming: “One Step Too Far”

Lisa Gardner

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A recent newcomer on the New York Times’ best sellers list, “One Step Too Far” is Lisa Gardner’s second book in the Frankie Elkin series. The thriller follows Elkin — a middle-aged woman hell-bent on finding the missing people that society has forgotten — to the wilderness of Wyoming, where she searches for Timothy O’Day, who went missing during a bachelor party camping trip. Mystery! Intrigue! The vastness of Wyoming’s Shoshone National Forest! What’s not to love?


Also read: “The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend,” by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin