Have some extra vacation days lying around?

CELEBRATE NATIONAL TRAVEL AND TOURISM WEEK, MAY 5-11!

National Travel and Tourism Week is an annual tradition for the U.S. travel community. It’s a time to recognize and celebrate the value travel holds for our economy, businesses and personal well-being. Maybe it’s a bit short notice to actually go on a little trip this week, but you could at least start planning one.

Where would you go and what would you do once you’re there? Good questions. Here is where we would recommend going to look.

Travel Destinations: Dewey Decimal Call Numbers by Location

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Dewey Travel

Take a Literary Tour of the U.S. with These 50 State-Set Books

Photo by Abigail Keenan on Unsplash

We live in a particularly diverse and fascinating country. It can be easy to forget that, especially in the current divisive political climate. The United States, however, is home to an extraordinary literary tradition – one as expansive and diverse as the country itself. Thus, a literary tour of the U.S. seems in order.

From classics to memoirs to thrillers, a literary masterpiece can be found lingering in every state –  a book that gives us a view into another part of the country is always a worthwhile exercise. The books below represent some of the best and most iconic reads from each of the fifty states, and are both fiction and nonfiction. Don’t worry if your particular favorite didn’t make the cut – we’d love to hear about it in the comments. And you can always dive a little deeper with these curated book lists for each of the fifty states.

Alabama

The cover of the book To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee

This Pulitzer Prize winner from Harper Lee is one of the great American novels. Fifty years after its publication, its ruminations on race, injustice, and morality remain as relevant as ever, and crusading attorney Atticus Finch is one of literature’s finest characters.

 

Alaska

The cover of the book The Call of the Wild and Selected StoriesThe Call of the Wild and Selected Stories

Jack London

The Call of the Wild, originally serialized in the Saturday Evening Post, made Jack London a household name. This tale of adventure, survival and companionship in the wilds of Alaska is as gripping today as on its original publication in 1903.

 

Arizona

The cover of the book Blood MeridianBlood Meridian

Cormac McCarthy

Few writers have Cormac McCarthy’s gift for haunting, terse, and elegiac prose. Blood Meridian is among McCarthy’s finest work, and also his most brutal. It follows the story of a young man caught up with a gang of ruthless outlaws in along the U.S./Mexico border – it is a challenging and pitiless read. It is also modern mythmaking at its very best.

 

Arkansas

The cover of the book I Know Why the Caged Bird SingsI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was one of the most inspiring voices of her generation. Her debut memoir became an instant classic and recounts a life that is, at turns, joyous and painful. Filled with Angelou’s frank and powerful ruminations on sexuality, race, and love, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings remains among the author’s best.

 

California

The cover of the book East of EdenEast of Eden

John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck is a towering figure in American literature, and with good reason. Steinbeck considered East of Eden his magnum opus. This sprawling examination of two families living in California’s Salinas Valley is built around allusions to the Book of Genesis, as well as Steinbeck’s extraordinary descriptions of the region that makes up the novel’s setting.

 

Colorado

The cover of the book The ShiningThe Shining

Stephen King

Stephen King’s first bestseller is still one of the prolific author’s greatest. The novel established King as a household name. It’s chilling (literally) tale of a man slowly losing his mind while serving as an off-season caretaker at a remote resort hotel in the Colorado Rockies is haunting.

 

Connecticut

The cover of the book Revolutionary RoadRevolutionary Road

Richard Yates

This searing deconstruction of the ideal of American suburbia in the 1950’s is a devastating view into the disintegrating lives of a young couple struggling to conform to life in a Connecticut suburb. Yates writes with a startling clarity that exposes the inner machinations of a generation.

 

Delaware

The cover of the book The Book of Unknown AmericansThe Book of Unknown Americans

Cristina Henríquez

Told from multiple points of view, The Book of Unknown Americans chronicles the lives and interwoven stories of a group of recent immigrants – and first generation Americans – living in a neighborhood in Western Delaware. It is a book that feels particularly relevant today.

 

Florida

The cover of the book The Orchid ThiefThe Orchid Thief

Susan Orlean

In this beguiling, strange, and wickedly funny book, Susan Orlean takes the reader deep inside the eccentric world of orchid enthusiasts. It’s a bizarre and too-strange-for-fiction account of a truly fascinating subculture that is equal parts vivid and hilarious.

 

Georgia

The cover of the book The Color PurpleThe Color Purple

Alice Walker

Alice Walker’s Pulitzer winner is a powerful examination of race, misogyny, and class. The Color Purple recounts the harrowing life of Celie, who endures decades of abuse and rape first at the hands of her father, and then her husband, before ultimately building a life of her own with devastating power.

 

Hawaii

The cover of the book HawaiiHawaii

James A. Michener

James A. Michener’s expansive and meticulously researched recounting of the history of Hawaii is a stunning piece of historical fiction. Hawaii is a fascinating and thrilling chronicle of the birth of modern Hawaii and the people who populate it.

 

Idaho

The cover of the book HousekeepingHousekeeping

Marilynne Robinson

With Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson creates a poetic portrait of two orphaned girls coming of age in the fictional town of Fingerbone, Idaho. It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1980, and is a haunting tale of familial strife and redemption.

 

Illinois

The cover of the book The JungleThe Jungle

Upton Sinclair

This quintessential work of muckraking fiction is built around Upton Sinclair’s own investigations into the meatpacking industry in early 20th century Chicago. The novel follows a Lithuanian immigrant forced into backbreaking menial labor in the Chicago stockyards. Sinclair intended to turn America’s attention to the plight of impoverished working class, but instead shed a harsh light on disturbingly unsanitary practices of the meatpacking industry.

 

Indiana

The cover of the book The Magnificent AmbersonsThe Magnificent Ambersons

Booth Tarkington

The Magnificent Ambersons is a Pulitzer Prize-winning classic that focuses on the changing fortunes of three generations of a once-powerful American family. It is a study of the economic turmoil that resulted from the swift industrial expansion that took place in the U.S following the Civil War.

 

Iowa

The cover of the book A Thousand AcresA Thousand Acres

Jane Smiley

This tale of an Iowa farmer seeking to divide his one thousand acre plot of land between his three daughters reads like a Shakespearean tragedy. The objections of the youngest daughter open the flood gates on startling series of suppressed emotions and long-held family secrets.

 

Kansas

The cover of the book In Cold BloodIn Cold Blood

Truman Capote

Truman Capote’s classic more or less created the true crime genre. His account of the murders of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas in 1959 is a meticulously researched, atmospheric masterpiece and represents Capote at the zenith of his narrative skill.

 

Kentucky

The cover of the book The Sport of KingsThe Sport of Kings

C.E. Morgan

The Sport of Kings, a sweeping novel on race in America, is the best horse racing novel in recent memory, and is told through the lens of multi-generational epic. It is a story steeped in dark and complex history, and serves as a reminder of our darker impulses and our better angels.

 

Louisiana

The cover of the book A Confederacy of DuncesA Confederacy of Dunces

John Kennedy Toole

A Confederacy of Dunces is an absurd, picaresque novel centering on an eccentric, delusional, and slovenly man stumbling through a series of increasingly bizarre misadventures in a brilliantly drawn New Orleans. It also earned John Kennedy Toole a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.

 

Maine

The cover of the book Olive KitteridgeOlive Kitteridge

Elizabeth Strout

Another Pulitzer Prize winner, Olive Kitteridge is told through a series of interwoven narratives all taking place in Crosby, Maine. It centers around the cynical and abrasive titular character. Tinged with joy, pain, and ruthless honesty, Olive Kitteridge is Elizabeth Strout’s best work.

 

Maryland

The cover of the book Dinner at the Homesick RestaurantDinner at the Homesick Restaurant

Anne Tyler

This Baltimore based novel centers on three siblings grappling with the impending death of their perfectionist mother. It’s an emotionally wrought examination of recollection and the complexities of family that is equal parts poignant and humorous.

 

Massachusetts

The cover of the book WaldenWalden

Henry David Thoreau

Walden is an undisputed classic in American literature. Working in a small cottage in 1845 on Walden Pond in Concord Massachusetts, Henry David Thoreau laid down a series of startling ruminations on life, nature, and contentment.

 

Michigan

The cover of the book MiddlesexMiddlesex

Jeffrey Eugenides

Jeffrey Eugenides’ controversial examination of an intersex Greek man named Cal Stephanides is a thought provoking exploration of gender identity, sexuality, race relations, and the immigrant experience. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2002.

 

Minnesota

The cover of the book Main StreetMain Street

Sinclair Lewis

Main Street tells the story of Carol Milford, who moves to the small community of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota after college. Her efforts to bring culture and reform to the town are met with disdain and bigotry. Published in 1920, Lewis’s novel shattered the literary myth of happy small-town life with satirical precision.

 

Mississippi

The cover of the book The Sound and the FuryThe Sound and the Fury

William Faulkner

In The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner chronicles the decline of the American South through the lens of the Compson family. The Compsons were once Southern aristocracy, but fell to financial ruin throughout the 1920’s. It is arguably Faulkner’s finest novel.

 

Missouri

The cover of the book BettyvilleBettyville

George Hodgman

This remarkable memoir from George Hodgman reads like the most absurd fiction. Hodgman leaves his life in Manhattan for his hometown of Paris, Missouri to care for the ailing mother who has never fully accepted his sexuality. It is disarmingly honest, moving, and laugh-out-loud funny.

 

Montana

The cover of the book A River Runs Through ItA River Runs Through It

Norman Maclean

This semi-autobiographical collection of short stories explores Norman Maclean’s childhood in Montana. It is a coming-of-age tale set against the beautiful landscape of Montana, and centers on a father’s reverence for fly-fishing.

 

Nebraska

The cover of the book Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park

Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell’s debut novel was an instant classic tale of star-crossed misfit teens. Set over the course of a school year in 1986, Eleanor & Park is a knowing look at the power and pitfalls of first love in all its painful glory.

 

Nevada

The cover of the book Fear and Loathing in Las VegasFear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Hunter S. Thompson

There really is nothing quite like Hunter S. Thompson’s drug soaked, surreal, and chaotic chronicle of a long-weekend roadtrip to Vegas. It’s incredibly bizarre and incredibly fun. Thompson’s inimitable prose is just icing on the cake.

 

New Hampshire

The cover of the book The Hotel New HampshireThe Hotel New Hampshire

John Irving

The Hotel New Hampshire is, in many ways, quintessential John Irving – quirky, evocative, and thought-provoking. It centers on the Berry family and the various ordeals they stumble into while opening a series of hotels.

 

New Jersey

The cover of the book The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar WaoThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Junot Díaz

Diaz’s stunning debut novel became an instant literary classic. Another Pulitzer Prize winner, the novel pulls together pop culture references, a coming-of-age tale, and bits of magical realism to tell the story of Oscar – a chubby Dominican adolescent who may be victim of a curse that has plagued his family for generations.

 

New Mexico

The cover of the book Death Comes for the ArchbishopDeath Comes for the Archbishop

Willa Cather

Willa Cather’s novel unfolds with a kind of mythic intensity. The narrative centers on Father Jean Marie Latour, a devout priest sent to serve as the Apostolic Vicar to New Mexico in 1851.  The novel unfolds over the course of forty years, and charts Latour’s life against the unforgiving landscape and his own loneliness.

 

New York

The cover of the book UP IN THE OLD HOTELUP IN THE OLD HOTEL

Joseph Mitchell

Few works capture the allure of New York City like this collection of Joseph Mitchell’s iconic reporting for The New Yorker. His precise observations and his humor chronicle the bizarre lives of street preachers, freaks, saloon-keepers, and gypsies – it’s a cross-section of New York unlike any other.

 

North Carolina

The cover of the book Cold MountainCold Mountain

Charles Frazier

Charles Frazier’s debut novel is a stirring historical epic. The narrative centers on W.P. Inman, a wounded Confederate deserter who makes the arduous journey back to his home in Cold Mountain, North Carolina, and to the love of his life.

 

North Dakota

The cover of the book The Round HouseThe Round House

Louise Erdrich

This coming-of-age tale centers on a thirteen year old Native American boy seeking revenge after the brutal rape of his mother.  The story is set on an unnamed fictional Ojibwe Indian reservation in North Dakota and is a haunting examination of the effects of oppression, isolation, and violence on a community.

 

Ohio

The cover of the book Winesburg, OhioWinesburg, Ohio

Sherwood Anderson

Winesburg, Ohio was ahead of its time. It presents a series of interconnected narratives of life in a small Ohio town. At the time of its publication, it was startling for its frank and, at times, shocking depictions of everyday life in all its complexities. Writers like Faulkner and Fitzgerald owe a debt to Anderson’s work here.

 

Oklahoma

The cover of the book ParadiseParadise

Toni Morrison

In her inimitable style, Toni Morrison chronicles the tensions and tragedies of a rural, all-black town in Oklahoma. The novel opens with a scene of shocking violence and then unfolds with the sort of grandeur and portent that makes Morrison’s writing so compelling.

 

Oregon

The cover of the book One Flew Over the Cuckoo's NestOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is an American classic. Randall Patrick McMurphy is one of modern literature’s most boisterous and enduring characters. It is a ribald and insightful commentary, a parable of good and evil unfolding in the confines of a psychiatric ward, and is as powerful today as on its original publication.

 

Pennsylvania

The cover of the book Rabbit, RunRabbit, Run

John Updike

John Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom cycle is among the author’s most celebrated works. Rabbit, Run, the first in the series, follows Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, a one-time high school basketball star crushed under the weight of his middle class life, flailing for some deeper purpose.

 

Rhode Island

The cover of the book My Sister's KeeperMy Sister’s Keeper

Jodi Picoult

Told with Picoult’s trademark flair for emotional turmoil, My Sister’s Keeper is a coming-of-age saga centering on a thirteen year old girl who sues her parents for medical emancipation after her parents attempt to force her to donate a kidney to her dying sister. It is an emotionally complex and thought-provoking read.

 

South Carolina

The cover of the book Bastard out of CarolinaBastard out of Carolina

Dorothy Allison

The publication of Dorothy Alison’s Bastard out of Carolina drew comparisons to Harper Lee and launched Alison into the literary spotlight. This now-classic of rural southern literature centers on Ruth Anne Boatwright, known as Bone, who finds herself on a collision course with her increasingly violent and abusive stepfather.

 

South Dakota

The cover of the book The Personal History of Rachel DuPreeThe Personal History of Rachel DuPree

Ann Weisgarber

Ann Weisgarber’s debut novel offers an insightful and harrowing view into the harsh life of homesteaders at the turn of the century. The novel follows Rachel and Isaac, an African-American couple, struggling to make a life for themselves after claiming a parcel of land in the South Dakota Badlands.

 

Tennessee

The cover of the book A Death in the FamilyA Death in the Family

James Agee

A Death in the Family is a nearly flawless narrative, and possibly James Agee’s finest work. It is an autobiographical novel centering on the tragic death that threatens to consume an entire family. A Death in the Family is among the most powerful examinations of grief in American literature.

 

Texas

The cover of the book Lonesome DoveLonesome Dove

Larry McMurtry

Lonesome Dove is a true Western epic and cemented McMurtry’s literary legacy. The first published novel in the Lonesome Dove series earned a Pulitzer and focuses largely on a group of retired Texas Rangers driving a herd of cattle from Texas to Montana.

 

Utah

The cover of the book The Executioner's SongThe Executioner’s Song

Norman Mailer

Norman Mailer won a Pulitzer Prize for this sprawling depiction of the events surrounding the execution of Gary Gilmore by the state of Utah. Based almost entirely on interviews with family and friends of both Gilmore and his victims, The Executioner’s Song is an exhaustive examination of the case and its fallout, all told with Mailer’s clear-eyed prose.

 

Vermont

The cover of the book The Secret HistoryThe Secret History

Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt’s debut novel focuses on a group of classics students at fictional Hampden College in Vermont. Under the sway of a charismatic professor, the students begin to push the boundaries of morality – until tragedy strikes and their lives change forever.

 

Virginia

The cover of the book The Known WorldThe Known World

Edward P. Jones

Set in Virginia during the Antebellum era, The Known World is a potent examination of race and legacy. It tells the story of a young slave who becomes a slave owner, but dies young, leaving his wife to come to terms with the aftermath. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

 

Washington

The cover of the book Snow Falling on CedarsSnow Falling on Cedars

David Guterson

Snow Falling on Cedars is a compelling read – one part whodunit and one part courtroom thriller. It follows the mysterious death of a fisherman on San Piedro Island in Washington. A Japanese American man is charged with the murder, and the ensuing trial unearths both the man’s own haunted past as well as the past sins of the entire community on San Piedro.

 

West Virginia

The cover of the book The Glass CastleThe Glass Castle

Jeannette Walls

This beloved memoir from Jeannette Walls recounts her tumultuous childhood – a large part of which was spent in Welch, WV. Born to an alcoholic, hopelessly optimistic father and an erratic mother, Walls childhood was one of disappointment, tragedy, and joy in near equal measure.

 

Wisconsin

The cover of the book The Deep End Of The OceanThe Deep End Of The Ocean

Jacquelyn Mitchard

Mitchard’s debut novel imagines an ordinary family ripped apart when their youngest son is kidnapped, only to mysteriously return nine years later. The novel charts the mother’s struggles against her own grief and the lengths she goes to hold her tattered family together.

 

Wyoming

The cover of the book Close Range: Wyoming StoriesClose Range: Wyoming Stories

Annie Proulx

This collection of short stories is best known for Prouix’s Brokeback Mountain, but each of the tales – all set against a desolate Wyoming backdrop – are as well drawn and emotionally resonant.

10 Traveler’s Tales of Magic, Terror, and Adventure

Will you be taking a vacation this summer? No? Well, we’ve got the next best thing. Enjoy these ten traveler’s tales of magic, terror, and adventure.

The cover of the book Moontide and Magic RiseMoontide and Magic Rise

SEAN RUSSELL

Magic is very nearly a thing of the past, and what is left of it is being rapidly replaced by science. Tristram Flattery is a naturalist, a practitioner of this new and modern discipline. When the ailing king summons Flattery to his court to nurse a dying plant to health — a plant with what appears to be magical properties — Flattery sets out on a grand voyage of discovery: one that will usher him into a conflict that will determine the course of civilization.

 

The cover of the book The Grand EllipseThe Grand Ellipse

PAULA VOLSKY

The republic of Vonahr is locked into a bitter battle to the death with a fanatical invading army, and their only hope of survival lies with Sentient Fire: a fire that follows the commands of its wielder. Unfortunately, the invention is in the hands of the king of Low Hetz: an eccentric leader intent on keeping his nation out of the conflict. Desperate, Vonahr sends an agent to change his mind. First she’ll have to gain an audience with him, though, and the only way to do that will be to win the Grand Ellipse: a grand journey that will test her strength, endurance, and ability to think on her feet.

 

The cover of the book The OdysseyThe Odyssey

HOMER

The story of a warrior’s long journey home, The Odyssey is the world’s greatest tale of travel and adventure. Follow Odysseus as he bests witches, gods, and magical monsters alike on an epic quest to find his way home and into the arms of the wife he left behind.

 

The cover of the book The RoadThe Road

CORMAC MCCARTHY

The Earth is dying, burned to cinders and plunged into perpetual winter by an unknown catastrophic event. With nothing but a pistol and a little food, a father and son set out on a journey to the coast. Cannibals and thieves, choking ash, and aching cold stand in their way, but the light of civilization must be maintained.

 

The cover of the book Invisible CitiesInvisible Cities

ITALO CALVINO

Marco Polo regales the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan with the tale of his travels to the great cities of the Khan’s empire. These are more than simple urban centers, though: The cities of Polo’s stories are tied inextricably to life’s greatest mysteries: death, desire, memory, and more.

 

The cover of the book A Natural History of DragonsA Natural History of Dragons

MARIE BRENNAN

Isabella, Lady Trent, the world’s preeminent dragon scholar, set out on an epic journey to the mountains of Vystrana to learn all she could about these magnificent creatures. This is her journal. Follow Isabella as she risks life and limb on a journey into dangerous dragon territory.

 

The cover of the book The Land AcrossThe Land Across

GENE WOLFE

A visit to a small Eastern European country turns into an absurdist nightmare for an American travel writer named Grafton. His passport confiscated, Grafton becomes a prisoner of bureaucratic, corrupt, and possibly supernatural forces. Is Grafton simply an innocent victim of a Kafkaesque conspiracy, or is there a very good reason for his detainment?

 

The cover of the book Move Under GroundMove Under Ground

NICK MAMATAS

Jack Kerouac is at the very tail-end of his career, washed-up and drunk in Big Sur when he learns that the city of R’lyeh is rising from the sea, and with it the ancient god Cthulhu. Shaken, Kerouac and his crew of writers and poets set out on a cross-country trip to stave off the Old Ones and save humanity — at least for a little while.

 

The cover of the book InfernoInferno

LARRY NIVEN AND JERRY POURNELLE

Newly deceased science fiction author Allen Carpentier has been sentenced to Hell, but he’s determined not to stay there. With the help of a mysterious guide named Bennie, Carpentier sets out on a journey into the underworld to meet Satan himself. Along the way, they’ll meet some of history’s greatest sinners and witness the tortures devised for them. If he’s lucky, Carpentier won’t join their ranks.

 

The cover of the book American GodsAmerican Gods

NEIL GAIMAN

A newly released con named Shadow accepts a job with a mysterious trickster named Mr. Wednesday. Now his bodyguard and driver, Shadow learns that a war is underway between the old gods of myth and the new ones of the modern era.