Tuesday, August 16, 2016

13 Books With Refreshingly Underused U.S. Settings

 There are a zillion books set in New York City, in the English countryside, in Paris -- and, don't get me wrong, I love them all. But sometimes it's refreshing to dive into a more unfamiliar atmosphere, and for today's Top Ten Tuesday post (10 books set in X location), I've listed books set in some less commonly used U.S. locales -- most filled with rich descriptions of these unique landscapes.

The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church
New Mexico
Elizabeth J. Church grew up in Los Alamos, where scientists gathered in the 1940s to work on the atom bomb, and her familiarity with the rugged desert of the Southwest shows through in her beautiful and descriptive writing. (review)

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson
Smith Henderson's gritty story about a social worker who gets involved with a young boy and his survivalist father takes place in rural Montana.

The Daily Coyote by Shreve Stockton
Stockton's awesome memoir (with pictures!) is about a major life change -- picking up and moving from New York City to the middle-of-nowhere Wyoming, where she adopts an orphaned coyote pup and finds herself in the process.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
This wasn't my very most favorite book ever, but it was definitely an interesting change to read about a small, struggling town in Iowa -- and it involves books! (review)

June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
I loved "June," a dual narrative that takes place in the small town of St. Jude, Ohio, in both 1955 and 2015. The setting is fictional, but the mansion and town are both based on real places in west-central Ohio. (review)

The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man by W. Bruce Cameron
This quirky, fun mystery novel about a repo man, his basset hound and an outlandish cast of characters is set in the small Michigan town of Kalkaska. (review)

All the Winters After by Sere Prince Halverson
I got about halfway through "All the Winters After" and then had to return it to the library right before we moved, but I'm definitely going to finish it up. I loved the descriptions of cold, beautiful Alaska!

Molokai by Alan Brennert
Hawaii is not a completely uncommon setting, but the little-known island of Molokai -- which is not touristy at all and which many people have never even heard of -- is. The novel is a fictional account of a very real place: the Kalauapapa leper exile colony. Kalaupapa is a natural prison bound by cliffs and the ocean, and for decades lepers were sent to live out their days there. (review)

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Minnesota and Maine
"Orphan Train" is a fascinating historical fiction novel about the practice of shuttling orphaned kids from big cities on the East Coast to the Midwest for what was all too often a childhood of indentured servitude. The story is told in two parts, in Maine in present day and in (mostly) Minnesota in the 1930s. (review)

Redemption Road by John Hart
North Carolina
"Redemption Road" is my current read! This crime thriller has a grim, haunting feel to it and is set in an (as yet) unnamed North Carolina town.

I'll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan
Iowa and Massachusetts
This historical fiction novel told in letters between two strangers set up as pen pals during WWII is one of my favorites. Young mother Glory lives in Rockport, Massachusetts, and Rita, whose son and husband are both fighting on the front, is from Iowa City. (review)

Descent by Tim Johnston
"Descent" is about a teenager who's kidnapped while on a family vacation to the Colorado Rockies and held captive in a cabin in the wilderness; meanwhile her family fractures in the wake of her disappearance. (review)

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
"Plain Truth" was the first Jodi Picoult novel I ever read, long before I started blogging. It's about a horrific event that rocks an Amish community in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and it's both drama and legal thriller, as well as a look at Amish life.


  1. Yes, I really love your take on this! Authors should focus on writing stories set in less well known places.

    Here's my Top Ten!

  2. Oh I love your take on this topic! Plain Truth was the first time I ever read about the Amish community and I loved her take and everything about that book. I completely agree that some of the most underutilized places in the US are the most interesting to read about.

  3. This was a super cool way to do this topic! There are so many areas that don't get the same literary love SF and LA and NYC do...thanks for highlighting them!

  4. Ah I love Plain Truth! Learned so much about the Amish that I never knew before.
    My TTT: https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/16/top-ten-tuesday-70/

  5. I really like the way you've approached this week's TTT topic. A lot of the titles you've featured are ones I've heard many things about, but not yet read myself, however I have read Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult and I remember at the time how 'new' the location and setting felt - I hadn't read anything like it previously.

  6. You are right. So many books focus on the major cities so it is rather refreshing when you see other less common settings. I just revisited Kalkaska in the Repo Man sequel and can't wait for you to read it too. Mice list.

  7. What a great topic! It is fun when lesser known parts of the country are used as the setting. I was so excited when I found a series set in Roseville. LOL

    Maine is a very common setting in cozy mysteries, I've discovered. The entire Northeast of the country really. Iowa isn't one I've encountered a lot in my reading. Or many of the central states. I've read several of the books you mention though-and several others sound really good.


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