Take a literary tour of the United States with this 5 part series of 50 States, 50 Novels

50 States, 50 Novels- Part 1

The United States is known for the breadth of diversity in its literature – take a literary tour round the states with these fifty novels. Explore Alabama through Georgia below, and check other posts for more!

Alabama Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg (1987)

This now-classic novel charts the history of small-town Whistle Stop, Alabama and its eccentric citizens. Harper Lee, considered by many to be the quintessential Alabama novelist, praised it as “a richly comic, poignant narrative.”

Alaska – The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon (2007)

In this alternative history novel, the US government has provided land in Alaska as refugee settlements for European Jews during WWII. Michael Chabon takes this premise as a launching-pad to create a fictional Yiddish-speaking Alaskan metropolis as the background for his bizarre detective story.

Arizona – Warlock by Oakley Hall (1958)

Inspired by the mythologized events of the 1881 gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, Oakley Hall’s novel subtly dispels and blurs the binary division between hero and villain. It is a favorite of Thomas Pynchon, who described it as “one of our best American novels.”

Arkansas – I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1969)

This autobiographical novel was one of the first to utilize techniques common to fiction within the autobiography genre, and was hugely influential. The book covers the life of the young Marguerite Johnson from childhood to 17 years old, focusing the bulk of the narrative on her early years in Stamps, Arkansas.

California – Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson (1884)

Helen Hunt Jackson hoped her novel would do for Native Americans what Uncle Tom’s Cabin did for African Americans. The book was a huge commercial success and it has never been out of print since. In fact, Southern California saw an increase in tourism after the novel’s release, because so many visitors wanted to see the landmarks associated with the story.  

Colorado – The Shining by Stephen King (1977)

A literary tour of the United States probably wouldn’t be complete without a Stephen King novel. One of King’s earliest novels, The Shining also remains one of his most popular, and continues to sell thousands of copies every year. King supposedly settled on the mountainous Colorado location by pointing randomly at a map, but it is hard to imagine it taking place anywhere else.

Connecticut – Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (1961)

Richard Yates’ debut novel dissects the underlying despair in 1950’s American suburban life, by delving into the lives of Connecticut couple Frank and April Wheeler, who decide to escape the mendacity of their lives by planning a move to Paris.

Delaware – Hawkes Harbor by S. E. Hinton (2004)

Most famous for writing the bestselling young-adult novel The Outsiders while she was still in high school, S. E. Hinton made the transition to writing for an adult audience with this novel set in a seaside town in Delaware.

Florida – A Land Remembered by Patrick D. Smith (1984)

This multi-generational saga traces the history of Florida through the story of a single family, allowing readers to live through the landscape’s slow transformation from natural swampland to bulging metropolis – the quintessential Florida novel.

Georgia – The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (1940)

Published when Carson McCullers was just 23 years old, this novel charts the encounters of a deaf man in small town Georgia. It was bestselling phenomenon upon release, and remains just as popular today, frequently appearing on lists of greatest American novels and also featured in Oprah’s Book Club.

Check back soon for 10 more states to visit on your literary tour of the United States!

Christian Kriticos

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