I love to read about a location before visiting. It got me thinking, what books would I recommend about the United States? There are obviously thousands of books to choose from that take place in the United States. But as a native, and an avid reader, below are a handful that I would pick based their readability, their settings, and their insight into American culture and history.
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue is a great tribute to the American Dream…it follows the lives of two families in NYC. One family is well established and has it all, the other is a family of immigrants who came to the United States for a better life.
On the Road by Jack Karouac is the quintessential travel novel. Written in the mid 50’s it is the story of Jack’s travels across country.
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingles Wilder follows the story of a family in America’s mid-west during the mid-19th century. This is an American classic and there was a 1980s TV series as well. These books hit both the reality and the myth of the simple life of America’s heartland.
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney is wonderful novel where New York City is the main character from the 1920s through the 1980s. Watch the city evolve and change through the 20th century.
The Dead Don’t Bleed by David Krugler takes place in Washington DC at the end of WWII. I read it while living in DC and enjoyed the references to the landmarks I saw everyday. It also provides good insight into the beginning of the Cold War and the events that shaped much of the 20th Century.
Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson is an amazing book. She follows several black families through the migration from the South to the North and West. It is a non-fiction page turner and I learned so much.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is a great book on its own but also a fantastic reminder about how diverse the United States of America is. Where the Crawdads Sing is a novel set in the Marshes of North Carolina. And the portrait of this specific place and time is so different than the rest of the country.
I will add that if going to Alaska, make sure to read something by Velma Wallis and if going to Hawaii check out something by Alan Brennert.