OK, I live in North America, so I get here a lot. But North America is a big, diverse place. Below is just a sampling of books that make me want to visit (or revisit) parts of this continent that have been brought to life by books I’ve read.
This is not a list of travel books. Instead, I’m looking back on my reading list over the past eight or nine years to recall books I’ve read that bring the North American continent and people to life in a way that makes me want to visit. I hope you enjoy this North America-themed reading list and are inspired to try a few of these books out!
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will make a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
I am including three different formats for each book:
I love reading my Kindle on vacation. At home I often find my attention span too short for digging into a book, so the Kindle is my go-to vacation book source. (See my link for the Kindle Unlimited free trial membership at the bottom of my post, if you are interested.)
If you haven’t caught on to the audiobook craze yet, I encourage you to hop on board! I have been a serious audiobook listener since 2010. Since then I’ve read over 600 audiobooks. Now that I have noise-canceling headphones, I can listen on the plane with an immersive experience, rather than trying to hear it over the hum of the engine and the screams of the children. A few things about audiobooks:
- You can use your smartphone, MP3 player, tablet or laptop as your listening device (though I highly recommend one of the first two more portable methods).
- The best part about audiobooks is that you can listen while doing other things, like driving, walking, or doing chores.
- AND, since Audible is owned by Amazon, they have an awesome Whispersync option for many of their books, so if you want to pick up where you left off on your e-book, your audiobook will sync with the Kindle e-book. I have found this a great option for longer books that I’d probably never finish on e-book alone.
This is the old school book, made with paper pages and a cover. I have included paperbacks, as they’re lighter and more economical.
Books that Make Me Want to Go To North America
I unfortunately don’t have any good recommendations yet for Mexico. Feel free to send any my way!
Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery (Prince Edward Island, Canada)
I will confess not having read this book as a child, and reading it pretty quickly as an adult. The story itself didn’t grab me nearly as much as the idyllic descriptions of Prince Edward Island in Canada, both the landscape and the culture.
Kindle e-book (FREE!)
The Shipping News, E. Annie Proulx (Newfoundland)
This book won a Pulitzer Prize. Proulx has a distinctive writing style that I can only describe as “staccato.” But it’s a fantastic description of the narrator’s journey to Newfoundland with his daughters.
Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides (Detroit)
This book may have some of the most poignant descriptions of a city that I’ve ever read. Descriptions that only a native son like Eugenides can capture. Obviously this books is about a lot more than Detroit, but the descriptions of the city are vivid and beautiful.
East of Eden, John Steinbeck (California)
This is one of my all-time favorite books. Happy feel-good? Definitely not. But his writing is second to none, in my opinion. And that includes his luscious descriptions of California. I could have included The Grapes of Wrath or Cannery Row here as well. Enjoy!
Angle of Repose, Wallace Stegner (western US)
Another one of my all-time favorite books, from one of my all-time favorite authors. There were several books of his I could have chosen for their descriptions, but Stegner’s descriptions of the main character’s grandparents and their journeys across primitive western states was fascinating.
English Creek, Ivan Doig (Montana)
This is actually one of a trilogy of books. It was written first, but chronologically it takes place after the 2nd book. Set in Montana in the 1930’s, you get a clear image of the culture and landscape of Montana ranchers. If you like Doig’s fiction, read his fantastic memoir, This House of Sky.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, John Berendt (Savannah)
This is a non-fiction book, though some doubt its authenticity. It absolutely reads like a novel full of colorful characters from a charming, isolated Georgia city. This book brings to life more about the culture than the attractions of the city, but it is a delightful ride.
The final two books are a nod to my my lifelong home…Minnesota.
Ordinary Grace, William Kent Krueger (Minnesota)
Krueger mostly writes a series of mysteries based in northern Minnesota that weave in a lot of American Indian culture. This book is a departure for him, focusing on a fictional town in southern Minnesota in the early 1960’s where a series of tragedies have occurred. His writing and his descriptions of the area were well crafted.
Kitchens of the Great Midwest, J. Ryan Stradal (Minnesota)
This book focuses more energy on its spot-on descriptions of the Twin Cities. This story of a young foodie’s upbringing and development capture the reality of many of the Twin Cities’ young adults, especially those heavy into the foodie scene.
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