The most famous book that takes place in every state

Whether you come from the California coastline or the snowy forests of Maine, reading a book set in your home state can make you feel a warm nostalgia for that beloved place.

After scouring the internet and surveying our colleagues on their picks, we rounded up the most famous book set in every state in America.


ALABAMA: “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

ALABAMA: "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee

When a local lawyer is asked to defend an African-American man accused of rape, he has to decide between doing what’s right and doing what society expects of him, launching his children right in the middle of the conflict.

ALASKA: “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer

ALASKA: "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer

A young man from a family of money donates all of his savings to charity and abandons his possessions before hitchhiking into the Alaskan wilderness to reinvent himself.

This true story survival-drama was made into a movie of the same name in 2007, directed by Sean Penn and starring Emile Hirsch, shedding light on McCandless’ idealism of a life unburdened by material possessions, as well as the harsh realities of the Alaskan wild.

ARIZONA: “The Bean Trees” by Barbara Kingsolver

ARIZONA: "The Bean Trees" by Barbara Kingsolver

Taylor is well on her way to escaping small-town life. But shortly into her journey to Tucson, where she hopes to start over, a stranger leaves her with a Native American toddler with a traumatic past.

Kingsolver’s story of finding salvation in a barren situation is appropriately set in the Arizona backdrop, and is packed with real places and events.

ARKANSAS: “A Painted House” by John Grisham

ARKANSAS: "A Painted House" by John Grisham

Luke Chandler lives on a cotton farm with his parents and grandparents, and suddenly finds himself keeping the deadly secrets of the harvest workers. The legal-thriller follows the seven-year-old as he grows up and loses his innocence in the 1950s.

The narrator’s upbringing in rural Arkansas inspired this coming-of-age tale.

CALIFORNIA: “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck

CALIFORNIA: "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck

Another ode to California, Steinbeck explores the themes of identity and love in the Salinas Valley. The lives of two families, the Trasks and Hamiltons, are intertwined for generations as they continuously, helplessly reenact the downfall of Adam and Eve and the rivalry between Cain and Abel.

Born in Salinas, Steinbeck once described the book as “the story of my country and the story of me.”

COLORADO: “The Shining” by Stephen King

COLORADO: "The Shining" by Stephen King

A recovering alcoholic writer accepts the position as winter caretaker of the isolated Overlook Hotel, which sits in the Colorado Rockies. He moves in with his family, including his five-year-old son Danny, who has psychic abilities and begins to witness aspects of the hotel’s horrific past.

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, which inspired the fictional Overlook, offers a Ghost Adventure Package for guests.

CONNECTICUT: “Revolutionary Road” by Richard Yates

CONNECTICUT: "Revolutionary Road" by Richard Yates

Considered the original anti-suburban novel, “Revolutionary Road” follows a young, bright couple marooned in Connecticut and trying to escape pressure to conform in the 1950s. Their failed attempts to be different lead to self-destructive affairs and a psychotic breakdown.

In 2008, the book was adapted into a movie of the same name starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

DELAWARE: “The Saint of Lost Things” by Christopher Castellani

DELAWARE: "The Saint of Lost Things" by Christopher Castellani

Seven years after settling in Wilmington, an Italian couple is still in pursuit of the American Dream. Maddalena sews at the factory but desperately wants to be a mother, while her husband’s nighttime escapades threaten to unravel all their hard work.

Castellani wove bits of his own family history into the book, like the fact that his Italian father, who emigrated to Wilmington after World War II, dreamed of opening a restaurant in Wilmington’s Little Italy neighborhood like Maddalena’s husband did.

FLORIDA: “To Have and Have Not” by Ernest Hemingway

FLORIDA: "To Have and Have Not" by Ernest Hemingway

A fishing boat captain falls on hard times and is forced into the black market to make ends meet by moving contraband between Cuba and Key West. His illegal activities quickly escalate from smuggling in drugs to smuggling in Chinese immigrants and Cuban revolutionaries.

Hemingway had a warm place in his heart for Key West, where he lived and wrote for more than 10 years.

GEORGIA: “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell

GEORGIA: "Gone with the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell

Mitchell’s 1936 classic love story, set in the South during the Civil War and its aftermath, introduced the world to Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler. O’Hara, the young spoiled daughter of a plantation owner, and her rogue star-crossed lover are torn apart and reunited through the tragedies and comedies of the human existence.

Mitchell spent nine years writing her manuscript, and the ensuing, unwanted fame led her to vow she would never write again.

HAWAII: “Hawaii” by James Michener

HAWAII: "Hawaii" by James Michener

The first of Michener’s mammoth sagas, “Hawaii” tells the Islands’ history, from its creation by volcanic activity to its evolving identity as the most recent of the 50 US states.

Michener sought to show how Hawaii harmonizes different cultures and races, as a template that would benefit the rest of the country. However, he and his wife, the daughter of Japanese immigrants, faced harsh discrimination while living there.

IDAHO: “Housekeeping” by Marilynne Robinson

IDAHO: "Housekeeping" by Marilynne Robinson

Little to do with housekeeping, Robinson’s poetic story follows two orphaned girls who are cared for by eccentric female relatives in the fictional town of Fingerbone.

Robinson describes the town as “chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather.” This, and many other details in “Housekeeping,” conjure images of her own Idaho hometown of Sandpoint.

ILLINOIS: “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair

ILLINOIS: "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair

The story of a Lithuanian immigrant employed in Chicago’s stockyards, where Sinclair worked undercover to research for the book, revealed the poverty, hopelessness, and unpleasant living and working conditions experienced by meatpacking laborers in the early 20th century.

The book’s graphic depictions of the slaughterhouse work caused a public uproar that contributed to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act six months after “The Jungle” was published.

INDIANA: “The Magnificent Ambersons” by Booth Tarkington

INDIANA: "The Magnificent Ambersons" by Booth Tarkington

Written by a native Hoosier, the novel centers on characters struggling to preserve their status during rapid industrialization between the Civil War and 20th century. The aristocratic Amberson family loses its prestige and wealth as “new money” tycoons take over.

Woodruff Place, Indianapolis’ earliest suburb, was the setting for Tarkington’s “The Magnificent Ambersons,” which Orson Welles later adapted as a movie.

IOWA: “A Thousand Acres” by Jane Smiley

IOWA: "A Thousand Acres" by Jane Smiley

When an Iowa farmer decides to retire, he plans to divide his thousand acres of land among his three daughters. The youngest protests, setting off a chain of events that unleashes long-suppressed emotions and secrets. It’s a modern-day “King Lear.”

Smiley’s narrator describes the farm in Zebulon County as “paid for, no encumbrances, as flat and fertile, black, friable and exposed as any piece of land on the face of the earth,” like a lot of land in Iowa.

KANSAS: “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum

KANSAS: "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank Baum

There’s no place like the Great Kansas Plains.

Baum’s imaginative tale of Dorothy Gale from Kansas and her Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion friends was the best-selling children’s story of the 1900 Christmas season and spawned the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz.”

KENTUCKY: “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe

KENTUCKY: "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Uncle Tom, a long-suffering black slave, is sold by the Shelby family and begins a journey that, for 19th-century readers, depicted the realities of slavery and endorsed the power of Christian love to overcome all obstacles.

Stowe based the abolitionist novel on the first-hand stories of former enslaved peoples in Kentucky, a slave state, while she lived across the Ohio River in Cincinnati. Its powerful condemnation of slavery fueled the human rights debate in the mid-19th century.

LOUISIANA: “Interview with the Vampire” by Anne Rice

LOUISIANA: "Interview with the Vampire" by Anne Rice

Louis, a plantation owner living in New Orleans, is distraught by the death of his brother, until the infamous vampire Lestat turns him into his immortal companion. At first Louis is burdened by the guilt of feeding on humans, but he finds solace in a friendship with an orphaned vampire girl.

The French Quarter provides a backdrop for this New Orleans native’s first novel.

MAINE: “Carrie” by Stephen King

MAINE: "Carrie" by Stephen King

Carrie, a shy high school girl raised by an unstable, Christian fundamentalist mother, discovers she has telekinetic powers. When her classmates falsely crown her prom queen in an elaborate effort to humiliate her, she enacts her supernatural revenge.

“Carrie” takes place in the fictional town of Chamberlain.

MARYLAND: “Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant” by Anne Tyler

MARYLAND: "Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant" by Anne Tyler

Another Baltimore-based novel by Tyler, “Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant” tells how three siblings remember growing up with their perfectionist mother as she lies on her deathbed. The Pulitzer Prize-nominated novel examines how the siblings’ recollections vary drastically.

Tyler’s characters live in Charles Village, near her long-time residence.

MASSACHUSETTS: “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau

MASSACHUSETTS: "Walden" by Henry David Thoreau

“Walden” is the product of transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau’s two-year retreat into the woods, an experiment in isolation, simple living, and self-reliance. By immersing himself in nature, he hoped to understand society more objectively.

Encompassing 61 acres, Walden Pond is the crown jewel of the greater Walden Woods ecosystem in Concord.

MICHIGAN: “The Virgin Suicides” by Jeffrey Eugenides

MICHIGAN: "The Virgin Suicides" by Jeffrey Eugenides

“The Virgin Suicides” is a gripping tale of five beautiful, quirky sisters who commit suicide all in the same year in Gross Pointe. It is written from the perspective of an anonymous group of boys who are observant, infatuated, and struggling to explain the tragedy.

Eugenides said he was inspired by the deterioration of the state’s automotive industry and the “feeling of growing up in Detroit, in a city losing population, and in perpetual crisis.”

MINNESOTA: “Main Street” by Sinclair Lewis

MINNESOTA: "Main Street" by Sinclair Lewis

“Main Street” reveals two sides of Minnesota: the thriving metropolis of Saint Paul, where the heroine is from, and the dried-up small town she moves to after much convincing from her new husband. The young woman falls victim to the narrow-mindedness and unimaginative nature of the townspeople.

The author used his birthplace of Sauk Centre as a mold for the fictionalized Gopher Prairie setting.

MISSISSIPPI: “The Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner

MISSISSIPPI: "The Sound and the Fury" by William Faulkner

“The Sound and the Fury” encapsulates the decline of the American South through the dysfunctional Compson family, who face financial ruin during the Roaring Twenties and lose the respect of the townspeople in Jefferson, Mississippi.

Many readers complained that the book’s stream of consciousness style was hard to follow. Faulkner’s advice was to “read it four times,” he told the Paris Review.

MISSOURI: “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain

MISSOURI: "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" by Mark Twain

This classic coming-of-age story set alongside the Mississippi River follows Tom Sawyer, a young boy who preoccupies himself with pulling pranks and impressing a girl — until he witnesses a murder. Tom and his companions run away to an island, but eventually return to take up treasure hunting.

Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which which inspired the setting of “Tom Sawyer” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

MONTANA: “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean

MONTANA: "A River Runs Through It" by Norman Maclean

“A River Runs Through It” is the semi-autobiographical tale of everyday life in the west for two brothers who are the sons of a local pastor.

Set amidst the stunning natural landscape of Montana, the two boys — one responsible and one rebellious — grow up and discover themselves, turning at times to dark places, but always under the footfalls of their father.

NEBRASKA: “My Ántonia” by Willa Cather

NEBRASKA: "My Ántonia" by Willa Cather

The reader meets Ántonia Shimerda through a written account from the narrator, Jim Burden, a young man who moves to the fictional town of Black Hawk, to live with his grandparents.

Through Jim’s lens of love and infatuation, Ántonia is brought to life as a young Bohemian girl with many trials and triumphs. The reader grows to know her and, simultaneously, the author as well, who wrote the novel from details of her own life in Nebraska.

NEVADA: “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” by Hunter S. Thompson

NEVADA: "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" by Hunter S. Thompson

“Fear and Loathing” follows a journalist, Raoul Duke, and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo, on a trip to Las Vegas to cover an event taking place there.

However, the two are preoccupied and saddened by what they perceive as the decline of 1960s American pop culture, and begin experimenting with drugs. Much of the book is seen through their hallucinations and twisted realities which is only fueled by the hyperreal surroundings of Sin City.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: “The Hotel New Hampshire” by John Irving

NEW HAMPSHIRE: "The Hotel New Hampshire" by John Irving

Containing all the classic John Irving tropes — a bear, rape, body-building, and social privilege — “The Hotel New Hampshire” follows a peculiar family as they open hotels in New Hampshire, Vienna, and Maine.

The book is evocative of Irving’s upbringing in the back woods of New Hampshire.

NEW JERSEY: “Drown” by Junot Díaz

NEW JERSEY: "Drown" by Junot Díaz

Based on his own experiences as a Dominican immigrant who moved to New Jersey, the 10 short stories in “Drown” perfectly tell of the struggles the New Jersey immigrant community faces, from poverty to homesickness to the language barrier.

The outlook is often grim, but told in Díaz’s riveting and intoxicating narrative we manage to see the characters’ unsentimental determination for a better life.

NEW MEXICO: “Red Sky at Morning” by Richard Bradford

NEW MEXICO: "Red Sky at Morning" by Richard Bradford

Regarded as a “novel of consequence” by the New York Times book review, “Red Sky at Morning” is the coming-of-age story of Josh Arnold, a teenager who relocates with his family from Alabama to New Mexico during World War II when his father enlists in the Navy.

Josh is burdened by his responsibilities of being the man of the house while also trying to grow up during a troubling time.

NEW YORK: “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

NEW YORK: "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“The Great Gatsby” tells the story of Jay Gatsby, a young, lovesick millionaire, as told by his friend and next door neighbor Nick Carraway. The novel progresses as Gatsby tries to rekindle his love with Daisy Buchanan, who is also Nick’s cousin.

Through Gatsby’s shady business dealings and his extravagant wealthy lifestyle on Long Island, Fitzgerald reveals a world in New York that is both terribly beautiful and terribly corrupt.

NORTH CAROLINA: “A Walk to Remember” by Nicholas Sparks

NORTH CAROLINA: "A Walk to Remember" by Nicholas Sparks

This Sparks romance novel, made famous by its film adaptation starring Mandy Moore, shows the unlikely, blossoming love between two high school students from Beaufort: Landon Carter, a popular rebel, and Jamie Sullivan, a quiet bookworm.

While Landon tries to get closer to Jamie, she pushes him away, fearing that a secret will end things between them before it begins.

NORTH DAKOTA: “The Round House” by Louise Erdrich

NORTH DAKOTA: "The Round House" by Louise Erdrich

A woman living on a North Dakota Indian reservation is attacked, but police have a hard time investigating the case when she is unwilling to discuss what transpired.

Her son takes matters into his own hands, recruiting his friends to find out what happened and bring justice to his family and his tribe.

OHIO: “The Broom of the System” by David Foster Wallace

OHIO: "The Broom of the System" by David Foster Wallace

In Foster Wallace’s slightly altered view of Ohio in 1990, we follow our heroine, Lenore Stonecipher Beadsman, a telephone operator and secretary who manages a job with barely any purpose, a relationship with her much-older boss, and the task of finding her decrepit grandmother.

The grandmother, along with 25 other residents of the Shaker Heights Nursing Home, has managed to disappear without a trace.

OKLAHOMA: “Paradise” by Toni Morrison

OKLAHOMA: "Paradise" by Toni Morrison

“Paradise” chronicles tensions between the patriarchal, all-black town of Ruby, which was founded by the descendants of free slaves intent on isolating themselves from the outside world, and a nearby community of five women, each seeking refuge from the past.

Morrison conceived the idea for “Paradise” after researching the all-black towns in Oklahoma that formed when newly freed men left plantations under duress.

OREGON: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey

OREGON: "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" by Ken Kesey

Randle McMurphy barges into an Oregon mental institution one day and decides to rally the patients against the tyranny of Nurse Ratched. McMurphy stirs more trouble as he smuggles in women, alcohol, and other contraband, leading to an all-out war between him and the institution.

Told through the eyes of one of the patients, Kesey reveals bits of his own background, having previously worked as an orderly in a mental health ward.

PENNSYLVANIA: “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold

PENNSYLVANIA: "The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold

“The Lovely Bones” is a dark, gripping tale about Susie Salmon, a young girl who was brutally raped and murdered in the cornfields of Norristown. It’s told from her point of view after her death.

Looking down on her family from heaven, Susie watches as they come to terms with what happened to her and try to solve a case that, to police, seems to lead nowhere.

RHODE ISLAND: “My Sister’s Keeper” by Jodi Picoult

RHODE ISLAND: "My Sister's Keeper" by Jodi Picoult

Anna has always been her older sister Kate’s lifesaver. She’s undergone countless surgeries, transplants, and donations to help save her sick sister, but when doctors discover that Anna is now a match to be Kate’s bone marrow donor, Anna decides to sue for the right to control her own body.

Picoult shows the heartbreaking pull between freedom and family in this Rhode Island-set novel.

SOUTH CAROLINA: “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd

SOUTH CAROLINA: "The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd

Lily Owens is a young girl growing up in 1960s South Carolina with an abusive father and an African American nanny who serves as a surrogate mother. But when her nanny lands herself in jail for insulting some white men, Lily breaks her out and the two run away — seeking refuge among three eccentric bee-keeping sisters.

Monk Kidd injects some of her own southern upbringing into this contemporary heartwarming novel.

SOUTH DAKOTA: “A Long Way From Home” by Tom Brokaw

SOUTH DAKOTA: "A Long Way From Home" by Tom Brokaw

“A Long Way From Home” details Brokaw’s own “American pilgrimage,” from boyhood on the Missouri River into a career in broadcast journalism in the ’60s.

In Brokaw’s honest narrative, we see how much his life has been shaped by growing up in South Dakota and the historic events he lived through as a child and young adult.

TENNESSEE: “The Client” by John Grisham

TENNESSEE: "The Client" by John Grisham

In a vacant lot outside Memphis, 11-year-old Mark encounters Romey, a suicidal lawyer who, before killing himself, leaves the boy with the secret of where his client’s murder victim is buried.

Now Mark is running for his life, aided only by a friendly young attorney named Reggie Love, as the two try to keep Mark safe from Romey’s mobster client, and simultaneously bring a killer to justice.

TEXAS: “No Country for Old Men” by Cormac McCarthy

TEXAS: "No Country for Old Men" by Cormac McCarthy

Made famous by the eponymous film starring Javier Bardem, “No Country for Old Men” is Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece about a drug deal-gone-wrong on the Texas-Mexico border. The event left a group of men dead and $2 million in an abandoned truck.

Llewellyn Moss, who discovered the scene, takes the money and gets swept up in the illicit drug business.

UTAH: “The 19th Wife” by David Ebershoff

UTAH: "The 19th Wife" by David Ebershoff

Ebershoff weaves a novel based on the life of Ann Eliza Young, one of the wives of Mormon leader Brigham Young, who escapes her oppressive husband and embarks on a mission to end polygamy. The tale is juxtaposed against a modern-day story, following a young Mormon man who was cast out of the church and is trying to re-enter to solve his father’s murder.

In this work of historical fiction, Ebershoff takes a critical look at polygamy through his side-by-side narratives.

VERMONT: “Pollyanna” by Eleanor H. Porter

VERMONT: "Pollyanna" by Eleanor H. Porter

Pollyanna Whittier is a young orphan who goes to live with her rich, stern aunt in Beldingsville. Pollyana, who always has an optimistic outlook on every situation, begins to spread her philosophy of gladness to the dreary town of Beldingsville, until an accident threatens to spoil her sunny disposition.

VIRGINIA: “Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Patterson

VIRGINIA: "Bridge to Terabithia" by Katherine Patterson

Jesse Aarons wants to be the fastest runner in his rural Virginia elementary school, and almost realizes his dream until a new girl shows up and outruns everyone. This leads to an unlikely friendship between Jesse and the girl, Leslie, who together invent a magic wooded kingdom they call Terabithia.

The book is loosely based on events from Patterson’s own childhood, which she also spent in the greater DC area.

WASHINGTON: “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer

WASHINGTON: "Twilight" by Stephenie Meyer

The small town of Forks was made famous as the setting for Meyer’s best-selling vampire book series.

Bella Swan moves from her mom’s house to live with her dad in Forks where she meets Edward Cullen, a quiet, handsome young man at her new high school. Edward usually keeps to himself, but he is drawn to Bella and can’t seem to stay away from her — for a shocking reason.

WASHINGTON, DC: “The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown

WASHINGTON, DC: "The Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown

In this story of espionage, conspiracies, and buried American secrets, “The Da Vinci Code” author Dan Brown has done it again.

Brown’s beloved character Robert Langdon returns in his latest thriller, this time chasing down his mentor’s kidnapper in DC while trying to decode five puzzling symbols linked to the Free Masons that could be the key to rescuing his mentor.

WEST VIRGINIA: “Shiloh” by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

WEST VIRGINIA: "Shiloh" by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

In Friendly, a young boy finds a puppy he names Shiloh in the hills behind his home. But Shiloh belongs to Judd, a scary town-drunk who beats the dog.

Now the boy, who’s made a friend in Shiloh, will do anything to save him.

WISCONSIN: “Little House in the Big Woods” by Laura Ingalls Wilder

WISCONSIN: "Little House in the Big Woods" by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The classic characters Laura, Mary, and their family struggle to make a home for themselves in Ingalls Wilder’s beloved “Little House” children’s book series.

Based in part on Ingalls Wilder’s own journey around the Midwest, young Laura and Mary, along with their parents and baby sister Carrie, learn to survive the long winter, fend for themselves, and take care of each other in this true-to-life work.

WYOMING: “The Laramie Project” by Moises Kaufman

WYOMING: "The Laramie Project" by Moises Kaufman

Kaufman wrote “The Laramie Project” as a play to recount the murder of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man who became the victim of an extreme hate crime in a quiet Wyoming town.

Shepard is remembered and honored from the perspective of family and friends as Kaufman takes a lens to the stubborn intolerance in society.

This Pulitzer Prize winner is set in Maycomb, a community divided by racism and inspired by Lee’s hometown of Monroeville.

By Melia Robinson, Tech Insider

This list was originally published on on April 14, 2016.


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