December 27, 2017

The Challenge

I’ve decided – I’m reading my way across the United States. Three to five books set in each state of the US – especially books where the setting becomes another character, and those which deal with some aspect of the people, geography, or history of the state.

books on table

I recently saw a post on Facebook that had a US map which boasted a list of the most famous book for each state. Of course, any list like this is highly subjective, and the comments related to the post were as interesting as the list itself, with people weighing in to complain about the choice for their state and to give alternatives.

Several choices were memorably poor – Twilight for Washington state for instance – and highlighted the “need” for an alternate list. Twilight may arguably be the most famous book set in Washington state, but it could have been set in just about any state. However, the most commonly suggested alternative – Snow Falling On Cedars – is a novel where the setting is an important part of the story. I grew up in upstate New York, which yearns to separate itself from New York City, so I was disappointed but not surprised to see that the novel chosen for New York was The Great Gatsby, a classic New York City book, rather than The Last of the Mohicans which took place in Leatherstocking Country in the “wilds” of upstate New York. For Georgia, Gone With the Wind might be a famous classic, but something like Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil might be a more interesting choice. Obviously, any alternate list needs a more transparent criteria for selection than “most famous,” but the list does provide a basic jumping off point.

As I read through the comments, I started adding books to my “To Read” list, first mentally, then hastily in a notebook. Soon I noted that there were several books that might be of interest to some of my friends and family, and I thought perhaps there might be some small merit in writing a blog to document the challenge. As the idea grew on me and I continued scanning the comments, I found myself simultaneously thrilled to see a familiar, beloved book listed in the comments and disappointed to realize that since I’d already read it, it “wouldn’t count.” I realized, as well, that the New Year would be an ideal time to begin such a challenge, but that since it was already December 26, I was running out of time to do the setup work required for a blog such as this.

So. The challenge – to read my way across the United States.

  • 50 states, 3-5 books each (I’m also open to books from the territories…)
  • The books are to take place mainly in the target state
  • Preference of novels that “teach” something about the state – history, geography, ethnic groups, culture, etc.
  • Preference of literary or historical fiction, and women or minority writers.
  • Books I haven’t read before (preferably ones I haven’t seen the movie either if applicable)
  • No particular order to my ramble
  • Offer a book club discussion option for at least one book for each state



Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. […] am reading my way across the USA–5 or so books from each state, with an emphasis on those where the setting becomes another […]

  2. […] am reading my way across the USA–5 or so books set in each state, with an emphasis on those where the setting becomes another […]


Leave a Reply




, , , , , , ,