A Famous Book for Every State

“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
― L. Frank Baum

My son sent me a compilation of the “most famous books” set in each of the fifty states. Nothing invites challenge and controversy quite as quickly as saying you have designated THE Most Whatever of Anything. I scanned the list (as I hope you will) to see what had been selected and whether I could think of more likely winners.

Some of the Most Famous books were obvious, no-questions-asked winners. To Kill a Mockingbird, and Gone With the Wind far outstrip any other books I can think of for Alabama and Georgia respectively. Many fine books have been set in New York but certainly The Great Gatsby has appeared on more required reading lists than any other New York tale.

There are states for which I would be very hard put to name any books. For example, I am glad that the writers found Tom Brokaw’s memoir set in South Dakota.

In some cases the book is very well known but who knows where it is set? It has been a long time since I read Uncle Tom’s Cabin. If pushed to guess I might have remembered the drama around the frozen Ohio River – which is the northern boundary of — Kentucky. Oh right!

Other books are pretty well known but place is not a major factor in the story. But if we need a book for every state (plus Washington DC) there are bound to be smaller stars in the mix.

In many cases I would read the title and think, “Well, okay, but….” I want to at least raise a few alternates for consideration.  I will insert my nominations in parentheses after those suspect “winners.”

I would love to hear your comments on what you would substitute for the weaker “winners.” Keep in mind we are looking for Most Famous, not most literary or favorite or even most widely read. Enjoy!

AL – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee  (No contest!)

AK – Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

AZ  – The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

AR – A Painted House by John Grisham

CA – East of Eden by John Steinbeck (Can you suggest another? Surely there must be competitors for the Golden State.)

CO – The Shining by Stephen King

CT – Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

DE – The Saint of Lost Things by Christopher Castellani

FL – To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway (Nothing else for Florida?)

GA – Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (Another obvious choice)

Michener HawaiiHI – Hawaii by James Michener (Of course.)

ID – Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

IL – The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

IN – The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington

IA – A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

KS – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (Except most of it takes place in NOT Kansas)

KY – Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Welcome to New Orleans!

Welcome to New Orleans!

LA – Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

ME – Carrie by Stephen King

MD – Dinner in the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler (I would nominate Tyler’s Accidental Tourist.)

MA – Walden by Henry David Thoreau (Famous and on many reading lists. There’s Little Women, of course, but does anyone read that anymore?)

MI – The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

MN – Main Street by Sinclair Lewis

MS – The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

MO – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (Why not The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?)

MT – A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean

NE – My Ántonia by Willa Cather

NV – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

NH – The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving (I would prefer A Separate Peace by John Knowles.)

NJ – Drown by Junot Diaz

Tony Hillerman did an excellent job presenting the Native American cultures of New Mexico.

Tony Hillerman did an excellent job presenting the Native American cultures of New Mexico.

NM – Red Sky at Morning by Richard Bradford   (I don’t know this one but would argue that any of the Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee mysteries by Tony Hillerman would be better known. Within NM, Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya is also in the running.)

NY – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

NC – A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks  (Oh please. I nominate Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier.)

ND – The Round House by Louise Erdrich  (I really liked Love Medicine, part of a trilogy by Erdrich.)

OH – The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace  (Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson used to be a reading list staple.)

OK – Paradise by Toni Morrison

OR – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

PA – The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold  (I haven’t read Bones but Michael Shaara’s Killer Angels about Gettysburg is widely known.)

RI – My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

SC – The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

SD – A Long Way From Home by Tom Brokaw

TN – The Firm and The Client by John Grisham

TX – No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy  (Why not Giant by Edna Ferber. Or am I showing my age here?)

UT – The 19th Wife by David Evershoff

VT – Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter (Who knew – Vermont?)

VA – Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

WA – Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (And the sequels too.)

DC – The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

WV – Shiloh by Phillis Reynolds Naylor

WI – Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

WY – The Laramie Project (play) by Moises Kaufman

Boundaries divide. Travel unites.

1 May 2014

About Travel Unites

A travel agent since 1994, I want people to get together for greater understanding across boundaries.
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