Utne Blogs > Literature

A Literary Map of the United States

by Rachel Levitt


Tags: books and publishers, Omnivoracious, United States, electoral map, authors, reading lists, Maud Newton,

Last month, the book blog Omnivoracious kicked off its “Books of the States” project, which highlights essential books and authors from each state in the union. In his introduction to the series, editor Tom Nissley explains the strategy: "We're going to use the clunky structure of the electoral college to build a map of our own, a reader's map of the United States."

Every weekday, the Omnivoracious blog editors endeavor to post a new state, nominating as many books as that state has electoral votes (i.e. Delaware gets three; California, a whopping 55). Readers are invited to weigh in via the comments section. Once all states are tackled and all suggestions have been accounted for, the blog will post a final list of the 538 essential state-centric books.

Books qualify as state representatives either by their setting (e.g. Winesburg, Ohio) or the origins of the author (Kurt Vonnegut represents Indiana). So far, the list contains a good mix of fiction and nonfiction, and Nissley encourages suggestions spanning “history, kids' books, art books, anything you can make a case for. We're relying on your local expertise.”

It's worth noting that while the editors began with the goal of 51 consecutive daily posts, the entries gradually petered out with the last one posted on October 27. Perhaps they were distracted watching another electoral map unfold? Whatever the status of the project, it’s fun to see what they’ve come up with so far.

(Thanks, Maud Newton.)

tom nissley
11/14/2008 7:10:35 PM

Hi Rachel-- Thanks for noticing the Books of the States! We did indeed slow down for a bit (the election was one of many distractions/deadlines), but we've gotten rolling again with Missouri, Arkansas, Michigan, and Florida this week. And speaking of Maud Newton, she's our guest today with her list of 27 Florida books. And thanks for emphasizing that this is a work in progress--we'd love to get more nominations in the comments on any of the states we've done so far. Having inexplicably left John Irving off my New Hampshire list, for instance, I know we've missed a lot of good books along the way. Best-- Tom