From the Wire

Take a Reading Road Trip Across All 50 U.S. States (Plus D.C.!)

The weather is warming up, which means it’s the perfect time to start planning an epic road trip. Road trips are an American tradition, which is why there are so many road trip books in the U.S. literary tradition! If you’re planning your own road trip, why not make it a bookish one? Here’s our guide to A Bookish Coastal U.S. Road Trip: Pacific Coast Highway highlighting the best bookstores, literary landmarks, and other bookish stops along the PCH. We’ve also got bookish road trip guides to the I-95, I-90, I-70, and Southern Pacific Highway.

Whether you’d rather take an armchair road trip by exploring states through literature or you want to match your reading to your travels, Goodreads has you covered. They have a book recommendation for every U.S. state, from Alabama to Wyoming — plus D.C. Each book is meant to represent its state, and recommendations range from literary fiction to mysteries, science fiction, romance, thrillers, historical fiction, and more. They’re all recent releases, so they go beyond the classics of each state you may be familiar with.

Here’s a sampling of their recommendations:

Alabama

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

“Young Black nurse Civil Townsend turns whistleblower when she discovers an appalling situation involving state medical care, reproductive politics, and two young girls from a dirt-poor family. The bleakest part: Author Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s acclaimed novel is based on real events.”

California

cover of Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley

Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley

“Longlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize (and nominated for a 2022 Best Debut Novel GCA) Leila Mottley’s Nightcrawling introduces the unforgettable teenage heroine Kiara, who must endure some awful times to survive her circumstances in Oakland, California. Goodreads reviewers praise Mottley’s book for its empathetic characterizations and ultimate celebration of the enduring power of love.”

Also check out these 100 must-read California books and 10 California history books.

Hawaii

Every Drop Is a Man's Nightmare cover

Every Drop Is a Man’s Nightmare by Megan Kamalei Kakimoto

“This rowdy short story collection paints a picture of America’s complicated island paradise through a series of character portraits colored with magical realism. Stitched into the narratives — sometimes scary, sometimes sexy — you’ll find fascinating details on Hawaiian history and mythology: haunted highways, Elvis impersonators, and one highly unsettling corpse flower.”

Also check out 10 of the best books set in Hawai’i.

Iowa

cover of The Late Americans

The Late Americans by Brandon Taylor

“In the surprisingly kinetic environs of Iowa City, three young adults pilot their way through a most extraordinary year. Ivan, Fatima, and Noah form the core of a shifting group of students, friends, and lovers, each trying to find a proper trajectory into the future. Author Brandon Taylor’s campus novel explores themes of class, race, and Life Itself with clarity and empathy.”

Missouri

James by Percival Everett cover

James by Percival Everett

“One of 2024’s most talked about (and raved about) books, Percival Everett’s bold novel takes the concept of literary retellings to entirely new places. James is Everett’s version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, only told from the perspective of Huck’s stalwart companion, James, the enslaved runaway who, it turns out, has his own stories to tell.”

Here’s our recommendation of this new classic!

Rhode Island

Book cover of Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

“Following up her hit 2012 debut, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, author Emily M. Danforth brings us a story of young love and gothic vibes at Rhode Island’s Brookhants School for Girls, circa 1902. One hundred years later, the past and present collide when Hollywood decides to film a movie at the haunted ruins of the school. Danforth’s dizzying mix of grim comedy, ghost story, and queer romance features some nice period illustrations, too.”

You might also be interested in 3 Things That Happen When I Read Books Based in My Home State of Rhode Island and Literary Tourism: Providence, Rhode Island.

Texas

cover of The Bullet Swallower

The Bullet Swallower by Elizabeth Gonzalez James

“A riff on the Old West story template, The Bullet Swallower introduces the legendary Mexican bandido El Tragabalas, fleeing through Texas to escape a magical curse. What starts in 1895 winds up in 1964 when Mexican singer Jaime Sonoro discovers he has inherited his ancestor’s otherworldly problems. The go-to description on this one is Cormac McCarthy meets Gabriel García Márquez, and that’s about right.”

Also check out Latina Authors From the Texas-Mexico Border You Should Read and More Latina Authors From the Texas-Mexico Border You Should Know.

Wyoming

Where Coyotes Howl cover

Where Coyotes Howl by Sandra Dallas

“A grand historical love story set in the high plains of Wyoming, this latest novel from author Sandra Dallas (The Persian Pickle Club) brings readers to the tiny outpost of Wallace, circa 1916. When schoolteacher Ellen Webster meets rancher Charlie Bacon, the young couple must rely on each other to survive the cruel seasons of life on the prairie.”


Check out the full 51-book list on Goodreads.

Find more news and stories of interest from the book world in Breaking in Books.