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Alabama: To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
The “tired old town” of Maycomb, Alabama, reigns supreme in this ultimate Southern Gothic novel.
Alaska: Into the Wild
by Jon Krakauer
In September 1992, Christopher McCandless’s body was found inside an abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilderness. In this haunting nonfiction book, journalist Jon Krakauer retraces his final steps.
Arizona: Tony Hillerman’s Navajo series
This supernatural mystery series set in Arizona’s Navajo country is crazy-compelling. And the stunning Southwest setting is practically its own character.
Arkansas: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Angelou’s memoir of overcoming trauma and racism in Arkansas is just as relevant now as it was when it was published in 1969. We’ll love you forever, Maya!
California: Slouching Towards Bethlehem
by Joan Didion
California is tricky. There’s John Steinbeck. There’s Dashiell Hammett. But we’re going with Joan Didion and her amazing essay collection about traveling through the Golden State in the 1960s.
Colorado: The Shining
by Stephen King
OK, so maybe The Shining doesn’t make you want to run off to the Rockies. But if you are there, we highly recommend a visit to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park (i.e., the real--and haunted--hotel on which the Overlook was based).
Connecticut: The Stepford Wives
by Ira Levin
Yes, Revolutionary Road is a better book about social breakdown in the conformist midcentury suburbs. But we have to admit to loving Ira Levin’s 1972 satirical thriller about submissive housewives who turn out to be robots.
Delaware: Fight Club
by Chuck Palahniuk
The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is that it’s set in Wilmington, home to all the major credit-card companies!
by Karen Russell
This 2011 novel about a family of alligator wrestlers off the coast of Southwest Florida is funny, bizarre and thoroughly unique. We’re a long way from Boca, baby.
Georgia: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
by John Berendt
“If you go to Atlanta, the first question people ask you is, ‘What’s your business?’ In Macon they ask, ‘Where do you go to church?’ In Augusta they ask your grandmother’s maiden name. But in Savannah the first question people ask you is ‘What would you like to drink?’” Yeah, the first line from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil just about sums it up.
Hawaii: The Descendants
by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Before the George Clooney movie there was Kaui Hart Hemmings’s funny and heartbreaking novel about a down-on-his-luck family man (and descendant of Hawaiian royalty) getting to know his children while his wife is in a coma.
by Marilynne Robinson
Set in the fictional town of Fingerbone, Idaho, this Pulitzer Prize-nominated novel is dark, dreamy and full of good rural longing.
Illinois: The Devil in the White City
by Erik Larson
The Second City gets the royal treatment in this fantastic nonfiction book about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair--specifically the serial killer who terrorized the town by luring his victims to a World’s Fair-themed house of horrors.
Indiana: God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
by Kurt Vonnegut
This 1965 satirical novel takes place in an economically depressed Indiana county and focuses on one philanthropist’s misguided quest to help the poor. It’s no Slaughterhouse-Five, but it is classic, biting Vonnegut. (And as far as we can tell, one of the only books set in egregiously underrepresented Indiana!)
Iowa: The Bridges of Madison County
by Robert James Waller
Call it schmaltzy if you like. We still love this lyrical novel about a four-day romance and its aftermath--all set against the Iowa countryside and its famous covered bridges.
Kansas: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
by L. Frank Baum
Yes, we know the bulk of the story is set in Oz, but we’re still counting this as an archetypical Kansas story.
Kentucky: In Country
by Bobbie Ann Mason
The swamps of Hopewell, Kentucky, and the jungles of Vietnam merge in this terrific, true-to-life novel about a teenage girl coming to terms with the father she never met.
Louisiana: Interview with the Vampire
by Anne Rice
Tons of books are set in atmospheric Louisiana, but few are as iconically New Orleans as this tale of vampires in the Crescent City. (Side note: The Tom Cruise movie is also worth a re-watch.)
Maine: Empire Falls
by Richard Russo
With a nod to Stephen King and John Irving, we’re going with Richard Russo’s Pulitzer-winning novel about a blue-collar town in Maine and the people who make it wonderful.
Maryland: The Accidental Tourist
by Anne Tyler
Nobody does Baltimore like Anne Tyler. Not even The Wire.
Massachusetts: Little Women
by Louisa May Alcott
Jo! Beth! Amy! Meg! Little Women might be our favorite book ever. And the family homestead in Concord, Massachusetts, will always remain close to our heart.
by Jeffrey Eugenides
The bulk of Eugenides’s 2002 bildungsroman is set in Detroit, where intersex narrator Cal (formerly Callie) finds his way within a deeply conservative Greek-American community.
Minnesota: Lake Wobegon Days
by Garrison Keillor
Keillor’s first novel (based on his wildly popular radio program, “A Prairie Home Companion”) is more Minnesotan than walleye and snow banks. Dontcha know.
Missouri: Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn
You didn’t think you’d get through this list without seeing Gone Girl, did you? Gillian Flynn’s breakout thriller is set in the small town of North Carthage, Missouri.
Montana: A River Runs Through It
by Norman Maclean
Montana = fly-fishing. And fly-fishing = A River Runs Through It, Maclean’s autobiographical novella about his early life on the Blackfoot River (and the subject of that sultry Brad Pitt flick you remember from 1992).
Nebraska: O Pioneers!
by Willa Cather
The first installment of Cather’s Great Plains trilogy, O Pioneers! focuses on a family of Swedish immigrants in the fictional farm town of Hanover, Nebraska.
Nevada: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
by Hunter S. Thompson
Thompson’s psychedelic pseudo-autobiography brings to mind a seedy Las Vegas from before the Cher era.
New Hampshire: A Separate Peace
by John Knowles
We’re betting you haven’t read A Separate Peace since middle school. So you probably don’t remember that it’s set at a New Hampshire prep school--a not-so-veiled portrayal of Knowles’s alma mater, Phillips Exeter Academy.
New Jersey: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
by Junot Díaz
With due respect to Philip Roth and Judy Blume, we’re going to deem Oscar Wao--about a dorky Dominican teenager growing up in Paterson--our favorite Garden State saga.
New Mexico: Tiger Eyes
by Judy Blume
Luckily, Judy Blume still gets her due! In the racy Tiger Eyes, a teenage girl goes to live with her aunt and uncle in Los Alamos. To this day we have visions of that New Mexico canyon where she first meets sexy boy-crush, Wolf.
New York: Breakfast at Tiffany’s
by Truman Capote
Trying to pick a favorite New York book might be the hardest thing we’ve ever done. But after much agonizing, the PureWow team settled on Truman Capote’s classic novella about an Upper East Side society gal living beyond her means. Holly Golightly, you are our Manhattan.
North Carolina: Cold Mountain
by Charles Frazier
There is a lot of walking through 1860s North Carolina in Frazier’s epic about a wounded Civil War soldier trying to get back to his home in the rural mountains.
North Dakota: The Round House
by Louise Erdrich
If you’ve never read (or heard of) Louise Erdrich, we implore you to give the acclaimed Chippewa writer a try. Her National Book Award winner, The Round House, is set on a North Dakota reservation in the wake of a terrible crime.
Ohio: The Bluest Eye
by Toni Morrison
Your Toni Morrison education probably stopped in high school, so you might not remember that her fantastic first novel is set in Lorain, Ohio, against the backdrop of the Great Depression.
Oklahoma: Where the Red Fern Grows
by Wilson Rawls
Do you like dogs? Do you like the Ozarks? Good, then you’ll love the 1961 children’s novel Where the Red Fern Grows.
Oregon: The Ramona series by Beverly Cleary
Our childhood was inexplicably intertwined with that of Ramona Quimby, lovable pest and resident of Portland, Oregon.
Pennsylvania: Good in Bed
by Jennifer Weiner
We’ll shout it from the rooftops: We love Jennifer Weiner. The best-selling “chick lit” author sets many books in her hometown of Philadelphia, but her first novel, Good in Bed, is definitely our favorite.
Rhode Island: The Witches of Eastwick
by John Updike
Rhode Island in the 1960s. Witches who acquire special powers after leaving their husbands. John Updike at his very best. Have we sold you yet?
South Carolina: The Prince of Tides
by Pat Conroy
Pat Conroy pretty much defines “contemporary Southern writer.” His most famous book takes place on a small island off the coast of South Carolina.
South Dakota: Little Town on the Prairie
by Laura Ingalls Wilder
We’d be remiss if we didn’t include something from the Little House series in this list! This seventh book is set in De Smet, South Dakota, and follows pioneer girl Laura as she becomes a schoolteacher.
Tennessee: The Firm
by John Grisham
The Firm, which is set in Memphis, is as good a legal thriller as they come. If you’ve never read it, bring it on your next beach vacation.
Utah: The 19th Wife
by David Ebershoff
This sweeping epic moves back and forth between a contemporary Utah murder mystery and the story of a 19th-century woman who deigns to separate herself from the Mormon church. Totally un-put-down-able.
by Eleanor H. Porter
Little Pollyanna might simultaneously be the most annoying and inspiring character in all of literature. When the plucky orphan is sent to live with her cranky aunt in Beldingsville, Vermont, she embarks upon a life of turning lemons into lemonade.
Virginia: All the President's Men
by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
OK, so the bulk of this seminal Watergate takedown is set inside the Beltway. But as far as we're concerned, the most compelling scenes are the secret 2 a.m. meetings between investigative journalist Bob Woodward and "Deep Throat". These went down at a Rosslyn, Virginia, parking garage.
Washington: Where’d You Go, Bernadette
by Maria Semple
We’re still smitten with this quirky, funny 2012 novel about a Seattle architect who goes missing. The scenes set at Microsoft are particularly spot-on.
West Virginia: Shiloh
by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Do you like dogs? Do you like Appalachia? Good, then you’ll love the 1991 children’s novel Shiloh.
Wisconsin: A Sand County Almanac
by Aldo Leopold
This 1949 collection of essays (with accompanying illustrations) about Wisconsin wildlife has long been considered a landmark work in the American conservation movement.
Wyoming: Brokeback Mountain
by Annie Proulx
OK, it’s a short story. But we still love Proulx’s quiet, sad tale of two men who form a special bond in 1963 Wyoming. (The Jake Gyllenhaal/Heath Ledger film ain’t bad, either.)
At PureWow Books, we love a healthy dose of patriotism--which is why we've gone ahead and rounded up our favorite books set in every single U.S. state.
From Alabama (To Kill a Mockingbird) to Wyoming (Brokeback Mountain), check out the books that make us proud to be Americans.
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