Monday, December 12, 2016

Reading State by State Wrap-Up

Back in 2013 I found a reading challenge that I thought truly would be challenging. I'd much appreciated the Westerns I'd read over the years, but pretty much all of them had been forced upon me by my book clubs. And I had been discussing with a friend how we thought Midwestern fiction was underrated and ought to be a classification that people look for and use, like Southern fiction and Westerns. So this challenge to read a book set in every state felt right. I knew it was possible to do it in two years (heck, it is possible to do it in one but I don't have that kind of single-minded determination, I like to read other kinds of books, and between this and my book clubs, every single possible book I read in 2014 would have been accounted for if I did that.) I wanted to enjoy this challenge and not feel it to be too much of a burden, so I gave myself three years. I knew some states (NY, CA) would be fulfilled with no effort at all (in fact, I've read roughly a dozen books set in each of those states over the last three years). I was surprised at some of the more obscure states that were ticked off by my book clubs: Kentucky, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi.

But I was really worried about this, the third year. I thought the states I hadn't gotten to in the first two years would be very difficult to find books set in (and that was mostly true) and that the books would not be enjoyable, which luckily wasn't at all true. In fact, I'd say I liked the last five books I read for this challenge as much if not more than the first five. Some of those last states introduced me to books that I really loved, that I never would have otherwise read, like Attachments (Nebraska), The Book of Unknown Americans (Delaware), and Maud's Line (Oklahoma). This challenge got me to prioritize books set Elsewhere, in particular not in NYC, which gives such a better-rounded and more realistic view of the United States. Now, it does mean that I read fewer international books in the last three years but not by much.

I am so glad I did this challenge! I wish it was still active, as I think everyone ought to do it. Expand your horizons! Read Western books and Mountains and Plains books and New England books! We live in a wide and varied country and it's so helpful to our understanding to be familiar with all of it, not just our own corner.

State by State in 2014-2016
Ever thought you would like to read your way across America?
The USA Fiction Challenge asks you to do just that.
Read just one book from each state - you choose whether the link is the setting or the author.
You choose whether you confine yourself to a particular genre or not.

Carin says:
I am extending this challenge over multiple years. I am picking setting (I think often where an author's from is wildly irrelevant to a book) and I am not confining myself to a genre. I had hoped to have 35 books done by the end of my first year but I only had 22. Now I have 37 done, leaving 14 (I included Washington D.C.) I am confidant I can finish this year, and I'm going to try pretty hard. I own 6 of them, and two of those I know are on my book club's list for this year, so those are easy guarantees. Books marked in blue were read in 2014, black in 2015, with red for 2016.

Alabama: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
All the Winters After by SerĂ© Prince Halverson
Arizona: Son of a Gun: A Memoir by Justin St. Germain
Arkansas: A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip: A Memoir of Seventh Grade by Kevin Brockmeier
California: The Longest Date: Life as a Wife by Cindy Chupack
Columbine by Dave Cullen 
Connecticut: The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Age of the Early Republic by John Putnam Demos
DC: All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid by Matt Bai 
Delaware: The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
Florida: The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani
Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind: A Bestseller's Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood by Ellen F. Brown and John Wiley Jr.
Hawaii: Hawaii by James A. Michener
Idaho by Emily Ruskovich
Illinois: Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen
Indiana: She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel
Iowa: Big Brother by Lionel Shriver
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn 
Kentucky: The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton
Louisiana: Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
Maine: The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
Wondrous Beauty: The Life and Adventures of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte by Carol Berkin
Massachusetts: Defending Jacob by William Landay
Michigan: You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know by Heather Sellers
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
Mississippi: Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan Odell
Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life by Pamela Smith Hill
Montana: Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
Nebraska: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell 
Nevada: Basin and Range by John McPhee
New Hampshire: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees

New Jersey: 
Let Me Explain You by Annie Liontas 
New Mexico: Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West by Hampton Sides
New York: The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro
North Carolina: 
My Accidental Jihad by Krista Bremer
North Dakota: Nothing to Do But Stay by Carrie Young
Ohio: The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok
Oklahoma: Maud's Line by Margaret Verble
Oregon: Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival by Peter Stark
Pennsylvania: The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan
Rhode Island: 
In a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me about Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love by Joseph Luzzi 
South Carolina: On Folly Beach by Karen White
South Dakota: The Personal History of Rachel DuPree by Ann Weisgarber
The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan
Texas: Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce
Utah: The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family by Josh Hanagarne
Vermont: Good Grief: Life in a Tiny Vermont Village by Ellen Stimson
The House Girl by Tara Conklin
Washington: The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
West Virginia: Close to Famous by Joan Bauer
Wisconsin: Keeping the House by Ellen Baker
Letters from Yellowstone by Diane Smith
22/51 in 2014
15/29 in 2015
14/14 in 2016 DONE!

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