8 Quintessential Books Set in Miami
It’s no wonder some of the best writers have placed their characters in our beautiful, complicated city. In no particular order—they’re too different to rank—here are eight great Miami books that everyone who lives here needs to read.
Birds of Paradise by Diana Abu-Jaber
This haunting family drama centers around Felice Muir, a teenager who ran away from home at 13, to the heartbreak of her parents. After five years of scrounging for food, drugs and shelter in Miami Beach, 18-year-old Felice is forced to reckon with the consequences of her actions and decide what matters to her the most.
Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard
You caught us—this one isn’t exactly set in Miami. The tale goes down in West Palm Beach, but it’s worth the exception considering the book was adapted into the 1997 Quentin Tarantino film Jackie Brown. Long story short, this captivating thriller will enthrall you with the story of a not-so-blameless flight attendant on the run.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
A beautiful coming-of-age tale, this Southern love story chronicles a young girl named Janie Crawford as she journeys to learn about life and identity in 1930s Florida. (The book is a favorite of Ms. Oprah Winfrey.)
15 Views of Miami edited by Jaquira Diaz
A beautifully written literary collection centered around the Magic City, these 15 loosely linked stories (all written by 15 award-winning authors) span from Hialeah to Homestead and Wynwood to Stiltsville. The poems, essays and short fiction pieces cover Miami’s melting pot of cultures, languages and lives in an often misunderstood city.
Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel
In a decision that changes her life forever, Atlanta native Frances Ellerby accepts an invitation to visit Stiltsville, where she falls in love and forges a new life in Miami. The book—set between the ’60s and ’90s—follows the couple through the growing pains of life, from marriage and romance to drugs, hurricanes and tragedy.
Miami Babylon: Crime, Wealth and Power—A Dispatch from the Beach by Gerald Posner
Now this is what we call a juicy beach read: an exhaustive history of Miami Beach—neon, cocaine and all. Posner details the city’s seedy past (bootleggers! mobsters!) and charts the fascinating way it reinvented itself to become the glamorous hub it is today.
Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capó Crucet
The daughter of Cuban immigrants in Miami, Lizet Ramirez is the first in her family to graduate from high school and the only to receive admittance to a ritzy private college up North. What follows is a moving portrait of a young woman’s struggle with identity.
Miami by Joan Didion
Beyond the sun and sand, this tome by literary godmother Didion digs deeper into the Magic City’s past. Her 1980s best seller covers everything from immigration and exile to politics and violence. The result is a riveting (and oftentimes controversial) account about Miami’s Cuban community.