Best of America

The Most Iconic Book Set in Every State

Literature is often a source of state pride, with a vast array of novels set in and around each of the great 50 states. With this list, you can tour the entire country—without ever leaving home.

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Alabama: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

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Set in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930s, Harper Lee’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel is a staple in middle and high school reading lists across the country. Even though it was published more than 50 years ago, the novel’s themes of race, justice, morality and compassion are as relevant as ever. Here are 19 things you never knew about Harper Lee.

Alaska: ‘Into the Wild’

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This is Jon Krakauer’s harrowing tale of Chris McCandless, who hitchhikes to Alaska and then into the woods—alone—north of Mt. McKinley. This young man, who came from a wealthy family, had donated a large sum of money and abandoned his earthly possessions prior to his pilgrimage. Four months later, a moose hunter found his body in the woods. In this nonfiction tale, Krakauer explores themes of survivorship and materialisms, and searches for answers as to why McCandless yearned to start a new life.

Arizona: ‘Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West’

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Cormac McCarthy’s epic novel tells the story of a young runaway—aptly named “the kid”—who encounters a gang of outlaws that massacres Native Americans for bounty along the U.S.-Mexican border. This is a grim, violent novel, but one that taps into the mythology and history of the “Wild West.”

Arkansas: ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’

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This autobiography of American writer and poet Maya Angelou delves into gritty themes like racism and overcoming adversity as well as timeless topics like self-identity, love, and sexuality. Written in 1969, the book hearkens back to Angelou’s childhood, starting when she was three years old, and ends after she gives birth as a teen. As the book progresses, readers bear witness to Angelou’s transformation from an a victim of racial and social prejudice to a strong, independent woman. You’ll want to memorize these Maya Angelou quotes.

California: ‘East of Eden’

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Like other John Steinbeck novels, East of Eden is set in the Salinas Valley in northern California. In this novel, Steinbeck tells the story of two brothers, Adam and Charles Trask, and their tumultuous, competitive relationship. Widely considered Steinbeck’s magnum opus, East of Eden reimagines the book of Genesis, complete with themes of jealousy, betrayal, and innocence lost.

Colorado: ‘The Shining’

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The Shining was Stephen King’s first bestseller, and it’s easy to see why. This 1977 novel tells the story of the Torrance family, including Jack, Wendy, and their five-year-old son, Danny, and their fateful stay at a haunted hotel in Colorado. Following in the footsteps of horror masters like Edgar Allan Poe, The Shining blends supernatural and psychological terror into one, spine-tingling plot. Read more these scariest books of all time.

Connecticut: ‘The Stepford Wives’

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The cultural term “Stepford wife,” used to describe an overly obedient, subservient wife, has its origin in this 1972 satirical novel by Ira Levin. The novel tells the story of Joanna and Walter Eberhart, who move with their two children to the Connecticut suburbs. Joanna, a photographer, soon becomes suspicious of the flawless, idyllic women in their neighborhood. When she investigates, she learns that these picture-perfect women are not women at all; rather, they’re androids, created by the husbands in the neighborhood as replacements for their aging, defiant human spouses.

Delaware: ‘Fight Club’

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This 1996 novel by Chuck Palahniuk spawned both a cult-classic movie and the infamous quote: “The first rule of Fight Club is: You don’t talk about Fight Club.” It tells the story of an anonymous narrator who is battling insomnia when he meets another young man, Tyler Durden. The two start a bare-knuckle “fight club” as a form of psychotherapy, which leads to an awakening—as well as acts of civil disobedience and violence—in the narrator’s life.

Florida: ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’

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This 1937 novel by Zora Neale Hurston tells the story of Janie Crawford’s transformation from a quiet, disadvantaged teenage African-American girl into a woman who is in charge of her own destiny. While the novel was not well received when it was first published, today it is regarded as a critical piece of African-American literature, particularly because of its themes of race, gender, love, jealous and fate versus free will.

Georgia: ‘Gone with the Wind’

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Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell’s sweeping 1936 epic about the Civil War, remains one of most famous novels in all of American literature. Set in both Clayton County and Atlanta, Georgia, it introduces feisty teenager Scarlett O’Hara, who is secretly in love with her neighbor, Ashley Wilkes. The quintessential Georgian novel, the book follows a family who watches its dreams turn to dust through a series of tragedies. Gone with the Wind is also one of these movies you should watch to ogle the clothes.

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