It was back in November 2011 that I formed a plan to read a book from every state in the USA.
I wrote two posts in fairly quick succession:
My first post.
My second post.
By the second post I'd had loads of suggestions, had sorted out a few of my own books and taken some photos and was ready to begin. I actually meant to post some updates along the way but somehow that never happened. What did happen was that I slowly but surely worked my way through 25 states, plus one book from New York City and a handful of 'multi-state' books.
It was this post from Robin at A Fondness For Reading that finally woke me up again and made me check on my progress.
So, a list of what I've read:
Walking Home - Lynn Schooler
A Cold Day For Murder - Dana Stabenow (and others in the series)
These Is My Words - Nancy Turner
Dog On It - Spencer Quinn
Desert Noir - Betty Webb
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou
True Grit - Charles Portis
Ill Wind - Nevada Barr
Blindsighted - Karin Slaughter
Kisscut - Karin Slaughter
The Little House on the Prairie - Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Virgin Of Small Plains - Nancy Pickard
The Neon Rain - James Lee Burke (and several others by him)
Presumed Guilty - Tess Gerritsen
Dark Hollow - John Connolly (and many more)
The Cycle Of The Werewolf - Stephen King
Friday The Rabbi Slept Late - Harry Kemelman
Summer - Edith Wharton
Moby Dick - Herman Melville (partly set in Nantucket)
The Chatham School Affair - Thomas H. Cook
A Superior Death - Nevada Barr
On The Banks Of Plum Creek - Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Lost Girls - Heather Young
The Help - Kathryn Stockett
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter - Tom Franklin
The Quiet Game - Greg Iles
Holmes On The Range - Steve Hackensmith
Black Cherry Blues - James Lee Burke
Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell
NEW HAMPSHIRE: --
Night of the Living Dead - E.J. Copperman
NEW MEXICO: --
NEW YORK STATE:
In The Bleak Midwinter - Julia Spencer-Fleming
A Gathering Light - Jennifer Donnelly
NORTH CAROLINA: --
NORTH DAKOTA: --
The Last Runaway - Tracy Chevalier
Sworn to Silence - Linda Castillo
The Signature Of All Things - Elizabeth Gilbert
RHODE ISLAND: --
The White Road - John Connolly
Death Du Jour - Kathy Reichs
By The Shores Of Silver Lake - Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Long Winter - Laura Ingalls Wilder
Last Wool and Testament - Molly MacRae
Carved in Bone - Jefferson Bass
Track Of The Cat - Nevada Barr
To Helvetica and Back - Paige Skelton
WASHINGTON STATE: --
WEST VIRGINIA: --
The Way Station - Clifford D. Simak
Little House in the Big Woods - Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Cold Dish - Craig Johnson (and others in the series)
OK, so as well as the 50 states I also decided to include New York City and Washington DC. 'And' note down any multi-state books I read.
NEW YORK CITY:
Maigret in New York - George Simenon
The House of Mirth - Edith Wharton
WASHINGTON DC: --
Narrow Dog to Indian River - Terry Darlington
The Gift of Rivers - edited by Pamela Michael
Travels With Macy - Bruce Fogle
Notes From a Big Country - Bill Bryson
A Voyage Long and Strange - Tony Horowitz
So, 25 states is far better than I thought I'd done to be honest. I've just been quietly writing titles in my trusty notebook and not counting at all.
What's apparent is that firstly I have some huge gaps, and secondly for some states I have multiple entries. The latter was deliberate... it seemed to me that in order to get a real flavour of a state it might be necessary to read a non-fiction, something fun (crime or horror etc.) and something fictional that was more informative. I've definitely done the fun thing! 'But' fun doesn't necessarily mean the book doesn't possess a real flavour of the state it's set in, John Connolly's 'Maine' for instance, James Lee Burke's 'Louisiana', Dana Stabenow's 'Alaska', all have an almost tangible sense of place in their books.
And so I have a long way to go. But that's OK. This is a long term project and always was and I see no reason to rush at it, I want to enjoy the journey.
I'll finish by saying that if anyone has any suggestions for states I'm missing... or states I already have where I should read more (and that's all of them) then please leave them in the comments. All are welcome.
For Maryland - almost any book by Ann Tyler. Or, if you can handle all his descriptive language, Chesapeake by James Michener.
Wonderful progress, Cath!
I'd have a heck of a time doing this since I seem to stick mostly with Victorian England!! However the Harry Bosch series is in California!!
That is great, you are halfway there. I haven't updated my list in a while, but right now it shows I have read books for 17 states. Amazingly, nothing from Alabama, where I grew up. I will come back with a few suggestions for Alabama if I find some.
On my list I was trying to stick with mysteries only, but I may go back and reconsider if I have states that are difficult to find in mysteries. I have Way Station on my TBR pile, I should read it this year.
I definitely recommend Julia Keller's Bell Elkins series for West Virginia. Definitely. And Robert Dugoni's Tracy Crosswhite series for Washington. :-)
Mary: Thanks for the recs. I'll note down Ann Tyler and her books for Maryland. My mother-in-law used to read a lot of James Michener and loved his books, I'd forgotten Chesapeake and also there's one set in Alaska I think?
Peggy: Thank you! I was surprised I'd covered half the states to be honest.
Pat: You would like the book I'm reading, it's a Sherlock Holmes story, The Giant Rat of Sumatra by Richard L. Boyer and set in Victorian England of course.
Oh yes, of course the Bosch series is set in California, I should've Peter. LOL
Tracy: 17 is excellent, especially as you've doing it for far less time than me. I can see I'll be old and doddery by the time I finish... if I ever do. LOL
Yes, if you can think of anything for Alabama that would be great. Way Station has a very nice sense of Wisconsin which, for a science-fiction novel, surprised me a bit. It was also a *good* book!
Kay: Thanks for the recs. I put the first Bell Elkins book on reserve at the library. They don't have the other series you recced but will put them onto my 'look into' list.
Inspiring, Cath! and only yesterday I read Hopewell's Public Library of Life blog about her journey of reading across the United States and wondered about doing it too. She included books she'd read over her lifetime–not just since blogging came into being, so I think I'll look through my books for a head start, rather than starting from scratch - or is that cheating. I see you began your journey in 2011.
I think it would help me to work out where the states all are!! My geographical knowledge is not good.
Here are some suggestions for Alabama. Note that many of them I have not read, so cannot say if good or bad.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper is the most obvious suggestion.
Anne George - Southern Sister mysteries (humorous cosy series): I have read the first book in this series and it hit very close to home. Too close. Written in late 1990s so sort of contemporary. Set in Birmingham, where I grew up. I do plan to revisit this series.
Two books I have but have not read:
Andrew Grant - False Positive (Det. Cooper Devereaux, 1st in a series). Author is from the UK, brother of Lee Grant, so I don't know how well he does Birmingham, Alabama, but that is where it is set.
Thomas H. Cook - Breakheart Hill. I recommended this to someone else and she liked it a lot but I haven't read it yet. Described as psychological suspense at Goodreads. The author grew up in Alabama.
Another one I haven't tried but probably should:
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg: Set in 1920s Whistle Stop and 1980s Birmingham
Cath, I can't remember if you told me at some point that you've read Lonesome Dove. If not, to me at least, that's the definitive Texas book.
But then again, sort of like Burke does for Louisiana, Larry McMurtry has written several other Texas books that shouldn't be missed, especially The Last Picture Show and Terms of Endearment.
Margaret: No, I don't think including books you've read previously is cheating. I had only those I'd read since 2011 but have since changed my own rules (not that there were any) and added a few I read earlier than that.
Tracy: Thanks very much for all the Alabama recs. I've edited them into the post. Much appreciated. I seriously need to read To Kill a Mockingbird, seen the film but not read the book and suspect they're not exactly the same. I have read one book by Thomas H. Cook, The Chatham School Affair, set in Massachusetts, I thought it was very good.
Sam: No, I haven't read Lonesome Dove so I will try to get to that soon. The author has been very much on my radar for years.
I have a suggestion for Vermont. I think most people agree that Chris Bohjalian's best book was one of his firsts--Midwives, which is a very human story, suspenseful, dealing with topical issues, on the NYT Bestseller's List, won awards, and made into an extremely popular movie starring Sissy Spacek.
Got loads of accolades. And, indeed, it's very, very, very Vermont. A great book. He is a Vermonter, though born in upstate New York.
New Hampshire: Oh, absolutely, check out the novels by Anita Shreve. Many of her suspense novels were set in New Hampshire.
And oh gosh, Connecticut! That feels a little tricky to me, but my strategy would be to talk to independent bookstores in Connecticut, because they would stock fiction (and nonfiction) about their state on their shelves. I will think on...
Judith, thank you so much for the recommendations, much appreciated. I will edit those into my post over the weekend, busy day today as one of my daughters and her husband are here for the day plus my grandson from my other daughter. Looking forward to a nice day with them, we talk endlessly about allsorts... including books!
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