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The most famous book from each state in the US
October 26, 2013 9:35 AM   Subscribe

A map of the most famous books set in each U.S. state. Which of these books have you read? Is there a book you think should be on the list that isn't? (the full list) It reminds me of a recent post on the Blue featuring a writer who spent a year reading one novel from every country in the world. Metafilter users, of course, have been there done that.

Previously on Ask Metafilter:

(2007) Black Spring asked which novels are most representative of each country?

(2011) highfidelity went around the world in 200 books with a non-fiction work on each country's history

(2011) quadrilaterals tackled books from all 53 African nations, excluding Egypt

(2013) therumsgone seeks the best novels that help you learn about the world from other perspectives

(2013) Eyebrows McGee is tackling archetypal works from countries around the world
posted by Jacob Knitig (126 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
The unclickability of this map irritates me.

(Also, Nicholas Sparks? Yeah, of course, not Thomas Wolfe, who's he?)
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:40 AM on October 26, 2013 [11 favorites]


Surely the Ohio entry should be Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio.
posted by kewb at 9:42 AM on October 26, 2013 [15 favorites]


Would love to find the place where they actually outlined how they did their "research" for this clickbait article. And I am mostly saying that so I could pick it apart since I suspect it was far from rigorous. What does famous mean? Why don't they tell us how they arrived at their conclusions? And also: Pollyanna? WTF.
posted by jessamyn at 9:43 AM on October 26, 2013 [10 favorites]


Interesting...the map shows The Firm and but the list has The Client.

(checks wikipedia)

Well...I guess Grisham is all we've got. Huh.
posted by jquinby at 9:43 AM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


(Also, Nicholas Sparks? Yeah, of course, not Thomas Wolfe, who's he?)
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:40 PM on October 26 [+] [!]


Seconded! North Carolina gets embarrassed at every turn these days. I haven't read it or anything, but I'd at least hoped for something like Cold Mountain there, if not a Thomas Wolfe novel.
posted by Rustmouth Snakedrill at 9:44 AM on October 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Why does Michigan get Little House In The Big Woods? That book is set in Wisconsin. I'm pretty sure none of the Little House books take place in Michigan, and Laura Ingalls Wilder as a person is more associated with North Dakota and Oklahoma.
posted by Sara C. at 9:46 AM on October 26, 2013


...and Ann Rice for NOLA? Not Confederacy of Dunces, arguably one of the greatest books ever written? Sheeeit.

Oh, wait. I see what they've done.
posted by jquinby at 9:46 AM on October 26, 2013 [12 favorites]


Agreeing with jessamyn on Pollyanna.
Poor Washington.
posted by doctornemo at 9:48 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


AAAAAGH I take it back, that is Wisconsin.

I got slightly confused by the placement of the UP.

Sorry, folks.

*Hangs head in shame, goes off in search of coffee.*
posted by Sara C. at 9:48 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Also, Nicholas Sparks? Yeah, of course, not Thomas Wolfe, who's he?)

Seconded! North Carolina gets embarrassed at every turn these days. I haven't read it or anything, but I'd at least hoped for something like Cold Mountain there, if not a Thomas Wolfe novel.


Thirded! I really thought it would be Cold Mountain.
posted by Rangeboy at 9:55 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm just glad Georgia is Gone With the Wind and not Deliverance.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:56 AM on October 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


I am from washington and i just am cringing in anticipation

(clicks)

. . . yep.

Did you know, the way she chose Forks for the setting of that book, was she googled "What is the cloudiest city in America?" That was it. That was the beginning and end of her decision making.
posted by KathrynT at 9:57 AM on October 26, 2013 [25 favorites]


Please don't be Twilight, please don't be Twilight, please don't be Twilight, please don't be Twilight...


ARRRRRGH
posted by trunk muffins at 10:04 AM on October 26, 2013 [12 favorites]


How is "No Country For Old Men" more "famous" than "Lonesome Dove"? Argh why did I click.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:07 AM on October 26, 2013 [5 favorites]



Ugh, this is a prime example of unnecessary map use.

The first question you should ask yourself before making a map:
- Can I display this information without making a map? Yes, you can, and if you're not gaining any advantages or allowing any additional insight for the reader by making a map, over a list or a chart, don't make a map.
posted by fizzix at 10:09 AM on October 26, 2013 [11 favorites]


I feel compelled to point out that the most famous book set in Minnesota is "2013 Minnesota DNR State Fishing Regulations"
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:09 AM on October 26, 2013 [21 favorites]


I'm just glad Georgia is Gone With the Wind and not Deliverance.

I knew it would be Gone With The Wind but was kind of hoping for something a little darker, set in my neck of the woods, perhaps by Erskine Caldwell .
posted by TedW at 10:12 AM on October 26, 2013


I mean come on; Van Halen never did a song called "Gone With The Wind".
posted by TedW at 10:16 AM on October 26, 2013


Oops; David Lee Roth
posted by TedW at 10:19 AM on October 26, 2013


I figured California would be some kind of Steinbeck, but I wasn't really expecting East of Eden - I was thinking more along the lines of The Grapes of Wrath or Of Mice and Men. Sure, GoW takes place a bunch of places other than California, but if Into the Wild (which has large portions in California and other states) can be the book for Alaska I don't see that being a big issue. Speaking of Alaska, I would have figured Call of the Wild or White Fang, but I'd guess those are mostly Yukon-based, not really Alaska.
posted by LionIndex at 10:30 AM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sigh. "Twilight" for Washington, of course. Not "Snow Falling On Cedars". Not "Another Roadside Attraction." Not anything by Earl Emerson.

And Florida didn't even get a nod for a Carl Hiaasen book. Hemingway, really? Life just isn't fair.
posted by lhauser at 10:32 AM on October 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Most Famous" = known by the greatest number of people.

My suggestion is that we use this irritating grain of sand to make our own pearl of a list, and people nominate the books that they think are most particular to a given state; books that just couldn't have been set anywhere else. A books that, when you were reading it, you thought "yes, that's what it feels like around here."

My suggestions:

Cali Massposted by benito.strauss at 10:33 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Surely The Wizard Of Oz is set in the land of Oz, and uses Kansas only as a stepping-off point.
posted by damehex at 10:33 AM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Great Gatsby. Yeah, I guess. Coulda gone with Catcher in The Rye maybe.

Those are pretty much the two most famous books other than the bible so they are hard to beat.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:35 AM on October 26, 2013


No Tom Sawyer? No Moby Dick? I wish we didn't get all these links to parody sites. I keep thinking they are real.
posted by EnterTheStory at 10:36 AM on October 26, 2013


For MN they missed any of the Little House books, the Songs of Hiawatha, and The Corrections, and the Betsy/Tacy series....oh why do I never with this clock bait stuff.
posted by miyabo at 10:36 AM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Alabama is correct, at least. (Well, for this Alabamian, anyway.)
posted by ocherdraco at 10:38 AM on October 26, 2013


EnterTheStory,

Tom Sawyer is on the list. Presumably Moby Dick was beaten out by Walden and/or viewed as "set on the ocean" or something.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 10:44 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a business mag - it's probably based on the best-selling novel set in that state.

Moby Dick just got beat out by Gatsby; Tom Sawyer is listed for MO.

I would have been shocked if Florida weren't Hemingway.

The Tom Brokaw book seems out of place... is that the only non-fic?
posted by mdn at 10:45 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


(PS I suppose we could argue that Moby Dick contains chapters that are not is not set in a particular state, but "Call Me Ishmael" is spoken in Manhattan IIRC and that is the most famous part)
posted by EnterTheStory at 10:45 AM on October 26, 2013


@mdn - fair point. But if best selling refers to only today's data and not total historical sales, then at some point on a particular day the 1 Direction world tour brochure will beat them all.
posted by EnterTheStory at 10:47 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


@ Jonathan Livengood
Thanks. I searched for "sawyer" and came up zero - the map is too small to see on my screen
posted by EnterTheStory at 10:49 AM on October 26, 2013


Huh. So you would have taken Moby Dick to be set in NY? I would have thought it was set in Nantucket, if not at sea. But it's been a while since I read it.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 10:49 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


The one consolation I have as a Washingtonian is that other Washington got saddled with Dan Brown.
posted by hades at 10:50 AM on October 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Gee, I wonder which Anne Tyler book we got...
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:51 AM on October 26, 2013


deadmessenger: "I'm just glad Georgia is Gone With the Wind and not Deliverance."

I take it you're a white dude, and not a black slave?
posted by symbioid at 10:54 AM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I totes called Wilder/Wisconsin before looking, then Shining, too.

Though - is there a reason East of Eden is more California than Grapes of Wrath (which is what I first thought til I looked - at least both are Steinbeck -- not that I've read either).
posted by symbioid at 10:56 AM on October 26, 2013


Yay, just as I was resigned to getting off the Net and doing some more real work, I see this perfect example of Things with no Right Answer to Argue About on the Net.

"Most Famous" = known by the greatest number of people.

And I present this list of writers with Michigan ties, many of whose works are set in the state, and many of which I'd argue were just as appropriate as the one this site lists.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Michigan_writers
posted by NorthernLite at 10:57 AM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


PS I suppose we could argue that Moby Dick contains chapters that are not is not set in a particular state, but "Call Me Ishmael" is spoken in Manhattan IIRC and that is the most famous part

The bulk of the land part of the book is set in New Bedford, Mass. Massachusetts was also the center of the whaling industry in its day. Only the first page or two -- if not the first paragraphs -- is set in New York.

By the way, if you ever meet anyone from New Bedford, they will not fail to inform you that Moby Dick is set there and that it is the greatest book of all time.

Walden is good and all, but I agree, Massachusetts' state book should definitely be Moby Dick, for historical reasons if nothing else.
posted by Sara C. at 10:59 AM on October 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


The list is definitely not by best selling novel set in the state. If it were, Iowa would be The Bridges of Madison County and Ohio would be Winesburg, Ohio or ...And Ladies of the Club or some such. The list reads more like a Friday afternoon question that gets emailed around the office "hey what's the most famous novel set in each state?"
posted by plastic_animals at 11:00 AM on October 26, 2013 [5 favorites]



Huh. So you would have taken Moby Dick to be set in NY? I would have thought it was set in Nantucket, if not at sea.

Yeah, it mostly takes place on a boat (if not in someone's rambling thoughts). I associated it with manhattan first, probably because I read it while living in NY. Either way, there were other books for both states.
posted by mdn at 11:05 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm just intrigued to see that they somehow came up with a completely objective and measurable quantity which can be used to determine how famous something is.

I look forward to the publication of the associated paper. Do you think it will appear in Nature, or Science?
posted by kyrademon at 11:07 AM on October 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


the map is too small to see on my screen

Mine too, but you can click on the magnifying glass in the upper right corner and make it, well... smaller for some reason. Still: good effort.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:15 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Indiana - The Magnificent Ambersons
A book and an Orson Welles movie twofer.
Though, to be fair, Ambersons is set in pseudo-Indianapolis, which, even then, was hardly representative of the state as a whole.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:17 AM on October 26, 2013


Michener's "Hawaii?" Maybe ten years ago, but I would argue that the most famous book from Hawaii in 2013 is Kaui Hart Hemmings' "The Descendents."

But the best book written in Hawaii about Hawaii is arguably "All I Asking For is my Body" by Milton Murayama or "Blu's Hanging" by Lois-Ann Yamanaka.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:23 AM on October 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


The thing about Moby Dick and setting that makes me want to fight for it belonging to Massachusetts in a special way (certainly moreso than Walden) is how beautifully drawn the world of the book is. Moby Dick is very much of the world of the 19th century Massachusetts whaling industry, in fact in my opinion that's what made the book so enjoyable to read. I'm sure someone reading in 1870 would have been like "yes this is a book OK", but for 21st century readers it really brings a specific time and place to life in a way very few other books do. (I would compare it to Faulkner's relationship with Mississippi sharecropping towns, Steinbeck and the Depression, or Hemingway and the 1920's Parisian expat scene). Melville builds a world as beautifully as any sci fi or fantasy writer ever has.

I am passionate about the use of setting in Moby Dick, OK? OK, CLICKBAITY DUMB INFOGRAPHIC?
posted by Sara C. at 11:23 AM on October 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm just going to assume they forgot that Beloved is set in Ohio.
posted by mcmile at 11:27 AM on October 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


So you would have taken Moby Dick to be set in NY?

People in MA, especially the South Coast, are nuts on this subject. Coastal whaling communities were sort of their own thing, as Sara C says, and Moby Dick captured this in a way that still resonates for whatever reason.

Not only is this a map-for-no-reason, it's also not even clickable. I mean you can click it and just get... a copy of the map? So weird. I agree with the office Friday mailing list boredom "research" technique outlined by plastic_animals. I guess I should drop these folks a note.
posted by jessamyn at 11:30 AM on October 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


I might have guessed "From Here To Eternity" for Hawaii, but I'll concede that James Jones was more of a big deal in a previous generation.

Also, I read James Michener's "Hawaii" a few years ago, and actually I was impressed. His love of the place really shines through. Also, it begins with several pages describing violent tectonic plate activity under the ocean floor, and I like books that start this way.
posted by ovvl at 11:41 AM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's a business mag - it's probably based on the best-selling novel set in that state.

It's not an actual business magazine, it's Business Insider. The only business that concerns them is that of making and monetizing clickbait listicles.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 11:43 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a native Atlantan (currently within spitting distance of the margaret mitchell house, sadly not a still burnt out ruin as I remember it, but now a tourist trap) I refuse to ever read Gone With The Wind.

Ever. End of story. The book has far too many issues in terms of race and politics for me to be comfortable reading.
posted by strixus at 11:43 AM on October 26, 2013


If you actually went in terms of sales (and only sales), you would get:

New York: Catcher in the Rye
Alabama: To Kill a Mockingbird
Georgia: Gone With The Wind
Massachusetts: Love Story
Oregon: The Shack
California: The Grapes of Wrath
Montana: The Horse Whisperer
South Carolina: God's Little Acre
New Hampshire: Peyton Place
Iowa: The Bridges of Madison Country
Washington DC: The Exorcist
Pennsylvania: The Lovely Bones
Washington: Twilight
Everywhere Else: Nothing Much of Consequence

Not that the above list is any more meaningful.
posted by kyrademon at 11:44 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sure, I read Little House in the Big Woods, like many a Wisconsin girl, but I prefer American Gods, which I read long after I'd moved away. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was set in my home state, and actually had to pause when I read the words "M&I Northern Bank". Neil Gaiman had definitely done his research.
posted by droplet at 11:46 AM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I once said McMurtry wrote "nothing much of consequence", and was summarily hung upside down and forced to eat salsa made in New York City.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:01 PM on October 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


> "I once said McMurtry wrote 'nothing much of consequence', and was summarily hung upside down and forced to eat salsa made in New York City."

If it didn't sell over 10 million copies, it ain't on my stupid meaningless list.

Pulitzer Prizes and artistic merit, pfui! We're trying to determine something *pointless* here, if you please!
posted by kyrademon at 12:07 PM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've made two enjoyable visits to Arrowhead, the Pittsfield, MA farm Melville owned and lived at when he finished Moby Dick, and there's a view of Mt. Greylock from an upstairs window where the mountain in the landscape looks like a massive whale dominating the horizon. Melville cited it as an inspiration, and to me it's a nice symbol of the centrality of Massachusetts to the novel.
posted by layceepee at 12:09 PM on October 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


(Also, Nicholas Sparks? Yeah, of course, not Thomas Wolfe, who's he?)

Even though we know it as Asheville, Look Homeward, Angel was set in the fictionlized town and state of Altamont, Catawba.
posted by 3.2.3 at 12:11 PM on October 26, 2013


With all due respect to Alice Sebold, a little series set in Pennsylvania by John Updike might be a tad more famous.
posted by sixpack at 12:12 PM on October 26, 2013


To be totally fair though, I should add to my pointless list:

Oklahoma: The Outsiders
Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and Arkansas: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
posted by kyrademon at 12:13 PM on October 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


so much out-from-butt-pullage to this list
posted by daisystomper at 12:16 PM on October 26, 2013


Surely The Wizard Of Oz is set in the land of Oz, and uses Kansas only as a stepping-off point.

I'm from Kansas, and kind of internally rolled my eyes when I saw we got assigned Wizard of Oz... until I couldn't really think of another book set here.

Then I remembered Little House on the Prarie from elementary school, but both Little House and Oz paint Kansas with these broad, bucolic strokes that don't jive with the places I grew up, but I'm from the weird part full of bankers and land developers that nobody thinks of when they think of Kansas.
posted by maus at 12:21 PM on October 26, 2013


Oh, also forgot In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Out-of-butt-pullage, indeed.
posted by maus at 12:24 PM on October 26, 2013


I think of gangsters, but that Kansas is in another state.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:27 PM on October 26, 2013


The ultimate Indiana novel is, hands-down, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut. It's a terrifically bleakly funny satire on class in America that captures the despair of small-town Indiana with such striking accuracy, and it was written almost 50 years ago!
posted by Ndwright at 1:18 PM on October 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


Utah: I wonder if "A Study in Scarlet" is more famous than "19th wife". The Mormons should be proud. :) (I am exmormon, btw so it brings a wry smile)
posted by EnterTheStory at 1:26 PM on October 26, 2013


As a Montanan...our book pleases me greatly. Case could be made for AB Guthrie, but this is absolutely acceptable.
posted by davidmsc at 1:34 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Re: Steinbeck and East of Eden vs. Grapes of Wrath -- East of Eden is set almost entirely in the area near Salinas and Monterey, and involves multiple generations of families in those locations, whereas Grapes of Wrath is an immigrant tale of outsider Okies vs. powerful local farmers, and 1/3 of the book takes place on the way to California. I can see why East of Eden got the nod, at least as far as this article is concerned.
posted by mosk at 1:40 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I was expecting something by Anaya for NM, but honestly I think Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume is more famous than anything else set here.
posted by NoraReed at 1:45 PM on October 26, 2013


How is "Most Famous" determined?

(Hard cheese on some states, as I am not ashamed to admit eight or nine of these authors/titles I've never heard of. My bad, of course, but the thing is, I'm a pretty bookish kind of guy.)
posted by IndigoJones at 1:46 PM on October 26, 2013


Ugh, Twilight of course. And even if it wasn't Twilight, it'd be Fifty Shades of Grey. We have lots of sun and our billionaires are not young, tortured, and sexy!
posted by lovecrafty at 1:50 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Illinois should be Saul Bellow, maybe Adventures of Augie March or maybe Farrell's Studs Lonigan.
Virginia should be something by William Styron, either Lie Down In Darkness or Confessions of Nat Turner
New Hampshire might be John Irving but Peyton Place is my choice
Florida, maybe Hemingway but only if you consider the Keys to be part of the state and not another country altogether. Rawlings' The Yearling is better I think
New Mexico, Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop That gives Cather a twofer, since it's hard not to call her for Nebraska
Michigan, something by Elmore Leonard, say The Big Bounce (don't be misled by the movie versions)
South Dakota, Giants In The Earth by Ole Rolvaag
Kansas, Little House is okay, but how about In Cold Blood?
North Carolina, nthing Thomas Wolfe
Hard to argue with Mississippi, Missouri, or Minnesota, though maybe other titles from Lewis and Faulkner come to mind

Jeez, I could get stuck doing this all day.
posted by CCBC at 1:52 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Most Famous" = known by the greatest number of people.

Even by this metric, the choice for South Carolina—Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees—is absurd. By popularity, God's Little Acre or one of Pat Conroy's novels, The Lords of Discipline or The Water is Wide should get the nod. Or a novel by William Gilmore Simms (who, despite his tediousness and his advocacy for slavery, or maybe because of that, was hugely popular in his day). Me, I'm gonna just pretend that South Carolina's book is Dorothy Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina.
posted by octobersurprise at 2:01 PM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Wizard Of Oz is set in the land of Oz, and uses Kansas only as a stepping-off point.

There's ample reason to think that journalist Baum set the book in Kansas because of the then-famous 1879 Irving tornados - which destroyed a house owned by Mr. John Gale.
posted by Twang at 2:18 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Going with the theme of Books they Should Have Chosen I'd agree with jquinby's choice of

Louisiana: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

and add

Tennessee: Suttree by Cormac McCarthy

obviously it could be argued that those are more specifically love songs to particular cities (New Orleans and Knoxville, respectively) but they sell the spirit of those cities so effectively that it's hard to ignore.
posted by komara at 2:26 PM on October 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


My wife, a native New Hampshirite is a big Jodi Picoult fan. That said, there is no way that damn Grunter (and a carpet-bagging Grunter at that!) wrote the most famous book set in Rhode Island. The state has close to 350 years of English speaking history. How we gonna settle for a book that's 9 years old? I think the big reveal here is no reveal at all: Business Insider's content is for people who couldn't keep a business selling Grit subscriptions going.
posted by yerfatma at 2:28 PM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


The thing about Moby Dick and setting that makes me want to fight for it belonging to Massachusetts in a special way (certainly moreso than Walden) is how beautifully drawn the world of the book is.

I can certainly accept that Moby Dick belongs in a special way to Massachusetts - I associated it with Melville's hometown and the starting point of the main character because details in NY were immediately recognizable to me, whereas specifics in MA were more abstract. But "certainly moreso than Walden"? I'm not from Massachusetts, but I'd have thought Walden was the obvious choice.

(Although, it's now been suggested to me by a native bostonian it should be The Scarlet Letter...)
posted by mdn at 2:29 PM on October 26, 2013


I'm very prepared to believe that they pulled this list out of their butts, but on the other hand I've not seen a single "hey, instead of X they should have Y" in this thread where the Y has been obviously "more famous" than the X (except in cases where there is high debateability on the question of where the novel is "set"--like Moby Dick). I think people are confusing the claim about "fame" with a claim about quality, or they're translating it into "famous among people with a deep passion for literature" or something. Any book which was made into a popular movie in the last ten or fifteen years, for example, is going to be immeasurably "more famous" than almost any book whose fame rests solely on literary merit.
posted by yoink at 2:50 PM on October 26, 2013


yoink, while some of the replacements that have been suggested have been about literary merit or local association, I do not think you can seriously argue that, say, "A Thousand Acres" is actually more famous in any sense than "The Bridges of Madison County".

A fairly high number of the choices in the FPP are fairly silly even just going by the "most famous" metric.
posted by kyrademon at 2:59 PM on October 26, 2013


I do not think you can seriously argue that, say, "A Thousand Acres" is actually more famous in any sense than "The Bridges of Madison County".

Yeah, that one does seem implausible, I agree; I missed that. But most of the alternatives people are suggesting in this thread are not in any way obviously "more famous" than the book they want replaced.
posted by yoink at 3:04 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have been trying to find a more famous/deserving book set in Vermont (or one that I'd read, for example) and it's a challenge. The Stand was partly set here. Jodi Picoult set a book or two here. The Sound of Music was mostly a musical. I am Legend ends up here but is mostly in New York. The Lottery is only alleged to be about Vermont. Robert Frost mostly wrote poetry. There are a lot of locally famous books set entirely here (Archer Mayor and Joe Citro and Howard Frank Mosher) that no one has ever heard of.

Here's a good starter page if people want to dig up better books from their states.
posted by jessamyn at 3:06 PM on October 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Whelp, they got NC terribly wrong... Thomas Wolfe doesn't count???

And as for VA, I have to say, I've never even heard of Bridge to Terabithia...Tom Wolfe doesn't count? He's a Virginian, though maybe he's not known as such... This one isn't so bad, since I'm not sure what it should have been...but I am surprised that I've never even heard of the book...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 3:14 PM on October 26, 2013


jessamyn: "Not only is this a map-for-no-reason, it's also not even clickable. I mean you can click it and just get... a copy of the map? "

Worse to this non-American is the gratuitous use of abbreviations for the alphabetical (by state name instead of abbreviation) state listing. Seriously how could the AL, AK, AZ, AR ... order of the states not want them to stab their eyes out.
posted by Mitheral at 4:02 PM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have been trying to find a more famous/deserving book set in Vermont (or one that I'd read, for example) and it's a challenge.

Chris Bohjalian's Midwives comes to mind.
posted by BWA at 4:16 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't The Secret History be the most famous Vermont novel?
posted by plastic_animals at 4:22 PM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Trying to think of a conceivable method / metric of making a list in a NON ass-backwards sort of way and there isn't one.

There's
-books that are commonly taught in schools
-books that have been made into major motion pictures
[And then classic vs contemporary movies]
-books that have had 100+ yrs on the shelves to generate sales
-books that are just so NOW! that people who don't read books are fairly familiar with them

I would have probably just gone with ten years of Amazon sales, but outright say it in the article.

I had kinda expected the Oprah book club effect to have pushed The Time Traveler's Wife to the top in Illinois, or for it to go to The Man With The Golden Arm.
posted by elr at 4:39 PM on October 26, 2013


I'm not sure what the most famous novel set in New Jersey is (Portnoy's Complaint? a Stephanie Plum novel? seriously, no idea here) but I've never heard of Juniot Diaz's Drown. Not that it's not cool to have a Dominican writer representing our state - but it's a short story collection that doesn't have its own Wikipedia page.

Also, it's really hard to get through this listicle to two-paragraph summaries that don't explain any selection criteria other than a blurb for the book.
posted by graymouser at 4:41 PM on October 26, 2013


Clever how Huckleberry Finn manages to avoid being on this stupid list by carefully slipping between states most of the time.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:51 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've never heard of Juniot Diaz's Drown

It's commonly assigned to college students. And brilliant. But, yeah, kind of a random choice given that it's New Jersey and surely some more widely-known work of fiction is set there.

Theory: this list was written by a 19 year old intern, who populated it with books he'd been assigned in school, things with famous movies, and some stab-in-the-dark wikipedia work.

(Frankly it's kind of interesting how many authors whose work I read in college are on here. In addition to Diaz, there's Louise Erdrich, Toni Morrison, and Barbara Kingsolver. Not even touching the American Canon stuff that everyone obviously reads in college like Faulkner and Hemingway. I think my Freshman "Multicultural American Literature" syllabus is all on here.)
posted by Sara C. at 5:02 PM on October 26, 2013


As a non American, whenever I think of writing from California(yes, I do have such thoughts about our southern neighbour, why do you ask?), I think of Joan Didion's The White Album and most of Raymond Chandler's work. Both these authors give such a striking sense of place in their respective enterprises.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 5:05 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have lived in Virginia for 39 of my 42 years and somehow never knew that Bridge to Terabithia was set here. I do remember my fifth grade teacher reading it to us when it was new.
posted by 4ster at 5:07 PM on October 26, 2013


Analysis of their choices by pure fame - not merit, mind, just fame. I'm trying to restrict it to books set largely in one nonfictional state. So some strong contenders don't count (e.g., "The Time Traveler's Wife" is fairly equally divided between Illinois and Michigan, "Look Homeward Angel" is set in the fictional state of Catawba, "Lolita" is set somewhere unclear in New England, etc.) Please remember I'm trying to look JUST at current fame - not at quality, historical importance, or significance.

ALABAMA: "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. No argument here.

ALASKA: "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer, Really? Yeah, big seller, recent movie, but genuinely more famous than "The Call of the Wild" by Jack London?

ARIZONA: "The Bean Trees" by Barbara Kingsolver. Hm. Maybe, but "Waiting to Exhale" by Terry McMillan is probably better known.

ARKANSAS: "A Painted House" by John Grisham. Eh ... this might squeak by because the more famous books that might beat it out are all only partially set in Arkansas.

CALIFORNIA: "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck. Come on. This isn't even *Steinbeck's* most famous novel set in California. If you won't accept "The Grapes of Wrath", "Of Mice and Men" is way more famous than "East of Eden".

COLORADO: "The Shining" by Stephen King. Yeah, all right.

CONNECTICUT: "Revolutionary Road" by Richard Yates. Again, famous, recent movie, but is this seriously better known than "The Stepford Wives" by Ira Levin?

DELAWARE: "The Saint of Lost Things" by Christopher Castellani. OK.

FLORIDA: "To Have and Have Not" by Ernest Hemingway. There are other contenders, but not inarguable ones. Sure.

GEORGIA: "Gone with the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell. No question.

HAWAII: "Hawaii" by James Michener. Hmm. More than "From Here to Eternity" by James Jones?

IDAHO: "Housekeeping" by Marilynne Robinson. I suppose so?

ILLINOIS: "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair. OK.

INDIANA: "The Magnificent Ambersons" by Booth Tarkington. All right, although Kurt Vonnegut's "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater" is probably a strong contender.

IOWA: "A Thousand Acres" by Jane Smiley. No way. Much as I like Smiley's book better, "Bridges of Madison County" by Robert James Waller is way more famous.

KANSAS: "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank Baum. No. Ninety percent of this book is not in Kansas, and if we let it through none of the other choices makes sense. "Little House on the Prairie" by Laura Ingalls Wilder probably wins, although "In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote might have if "Little House on the Prairie" didn't exist.

KENTUCKY: "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe. This makes sense.

LOUISIANA: "Interview with the Vampire" by Anne Rice. This probably actually does beat out "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole in terms of fame. Oh, well. If we accept that "All The King's Men" by Robert Penn Warren is set in Louisiana, though ... it still probably loses out to "Interview with the Vampire".

MAINE: "Carrie" by Stephen King. OK. All the other possible contenders are probably by Stephen King too, and this one is a well known one.

MARYLAND: "Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant" by Anne Tyler. Hm. Tyler makes sense, but I'd've thought "The Accidental Tourist" was more famous.

MASSACHUSETTS: "Walden" by Henry David Thoreau. Wow, tough call. Massachusetts gives us not just Walden but "Love Story" by Erich Segal, "Infinite Jest" by David Foster Wallace, "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott, "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and arguably "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville. None of these would be terrible choices, honestly, and an argument can certainly be made for "Walden". But I might honestly give the edge to "Little Women".

MICHIGAN: "The Virgin Suicides" by Jeffrey Eugenides. OK, but again mostly because some more famous stuff is only partially set in Michigan.

MINNESOTA: "Main Street" by Sinclair Lewis. Wellllll ... it's famous, but have more people really heard of "Main Street" these days than have heard of "Lake Wobegon Days" by Garrison Keillor?

MISSISSIPPI: "The Sound and the Fury" by William Faulkner. All right.

MISSOURI: "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" by Mark Twain. Sure.

MONTANA: "A River Runs Through It" by Norman Maclean. Only if you argue that "The Horse Whisperer" by Nicholas Evans is only partially set in Montana. But you can argue that, so, OK.

NEBRASKA: "My Ántonia" by Willa Cather. OK.

NEVADA: "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" by Hunter S. Thompson. Fine.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: "The Hotel New Hampshire" by John Irving. I *guess* this might beat out "Peyton Place" by Grace Metalious these days, but I'm very, very dubious.

NEW JERSEY: "Drown" by Junot Díaz. No, I'm not buying this. More famous than "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret." by Judy Blume, or her other New Jersey set books? No.

NEW MEXICO: "Red Sky at Morning" by Richard Bradford. I'm having a hard time believing that this is better known that "Death Comes for the Archbishop" by Willa Cather or "The Milagro Beanfield War" by John Nichols.

NEW YORK: "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Yeah, all right. J. D. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye" beats it out on sales, but is also arguably split between New York and Pennsylvania.

NORTH CAROLINA: "A Walk to Remember" by Nicholas Sparks. I suppose ... "Cold Mountain" by Charles Frazier might be able to stake a claim here, but I think "A Walk to Remember" has more name recognition at present.

NORTH DAKOTA: "The Round House" by Louise Erdrich. I'd have maybe gone with another book by her, but all right.

OHIO: "The Broom of the System" by David Foster Wallace. ... No. Compared to "Beloved" by Toni Morrison? In terms of fame? No.

OKLAHOMA: "Paradise" by Toni Morrison. On the other hand, this I might give to S. E. Hinton's "The Outsiders". But maybe that's not true these days.

OREGON: "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" by Ken Kesey. Yeah, sure. I think even today this would beat out William Young's "The Shack" on the fame and recognition scale.

PENNSYLVANIA: "The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold. Sure. With all due respect to Updike, this book is better known that the Rabbit books these days.

RHODE ISLAND: "My Sister's Keeper" by Jodi Picoult. However (weird how these patterns emerge), is "My Sister's Keeper" more famous that John Updike's "The Witches of Eastwick"? I wouldn't think so.

SOUTH CAROLINA: "The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd. I guess.

SOUTH DAKOTA: "A Long Way From Home" by Tom Brokaw. A dubious winner, but in a very limited field, there, so all right.

TENNESSEE: "The Client" by John Grisham. Sure, this or "The Firm". I guess.

TEXAS: "No Country for Old Men" by Cormac McCarthy. Lots of pretty well-known contenders, but after the movie, this probably wins, yeah.

UTAH: "The 19th Wife" by David Ebershoff. I really do not think this is more famous than "The Executioner's Song" by Norman Mailer.

VERMONT: "Pollyanna" by Eleanor H. Porter. Despite protests above, this really is a super-famous book, and it's hard to think of anything set in Vermont with the same name recognition.

VIRGINIA: "Bridge to Terabithia" by Katherine Patterson. I'm having trouble accepting this is the most famous novel set in Virginia ... If "Flowers in the Attic" by V. C. Andrews is set in Virginia, there is no contest here.

WASHINGTON: "Twilight" by Stephenie Meyer. Yeah, OK.

WASHINGTON, DC: "The Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown. Hmm. Is this really more famous that "The Exorcist" by William Peter Blatty? I know "The Da Vinci Code" would have been, but that's set elsewhere and I'm a lot less sure about "The Lost Symbol".

WEST VIRGINIA: "Shiloh" by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Hm. I'd say "The Night of the Hunter" by Davis Grubb.

WISCONSIN: "Little House in the Big Woods" by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Sure.

WYOMING: "The Laramie Project" by Moises Kaufman. A reasonable choice, but I think I'd give the edge to "Brokeback Mountain" by Annie Proulx.

So, looking it over ... I score them 31 out of 51, which comes to about a D- grade-wise.
posted by kyrademon at 5:23 PM on October 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


It seems if you are going by sales, _Flowers in the Attic_ likely wins for Virginia, and if you are going by literary merit/enduring fame, _Red Badge of Courage_ does. _Bridge to Terabithia_ isn't an embarrassing choice like some, but it seems hard to figure out the criteria.
posted by tavella at 5:28 PM on October 26, 2013


I wasn't exactly just going by sales alone, tavella - otherwise, "The Shack" would have beaten out "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", for example. I really was trying to figure by fame. So in addition to sales, I was trying to take into account things like famous movie adaptations, universal assignment in school, and general widespread knowledge of a title. It wasn't an exact science.

"The Red Badge of Courage" isn't explicitly set in Virginia, but if we accept that it's about the Battle of Chancellorsville then absolutely it seems like it might be the strongest contender. And I *like* "Bridge to Terabithia" and don't think it was at all an utterly ludicrous choice - I just think there are other books set in Virginia that would beat it out.
posted by kyrademon at 5:39 PM on October 26, 2013


I'm just going to throw out that, if you're picking a Jeffrey Eugenides novel for Michigan, I actually think Middlesex is more Michigan-ish than The Virgin Suicides, as it specifically traces several generations of one family's lives in the Detroit area, from the 1920's through sometime in the late 20th/early 21st century. It specifically touches on the auto industry culture, the riots, and the specific changes to the city over time in a way that Suicides doesn't, IIRC. In certain ways, you can even say that the protagonist's shifting and difficult to understand gender identity is a metaphor for the city of Detroit, if you wanted to get all Freshman English about it. Whereas The Virgin Suicides merely takes place in Detroit, almost by default.

But The Virgin Suicides was adapted into a movie, therefore it wins. I guess.

(Sorry guys I just really like thinking about the role of setting in Great American Novels, I guess.)
posted by Sara C. at 5:57 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yo Anne Tyler, I’m really happy for you, I'mma let you finish but Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself is the most famous book set in Maryland of all time…one of the most famous books of all time!
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:58 PM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Ice Cream Socialist, I was going to say the same thing. If you're counting non-fiction, I don't think you can get a more famous book set in Maryland than that by any criteria.
posted by nangar at 6:56 PM on October 26, 2013


Yeah, while some states are slim pickings, Massachusetts really does have an embarrassing wealth of choices.

But for New Hampshire, it seems like tehre are even better Irving choices. Plus there are the books set at fictionalized versions of Philips Exeter like A Seperate Peace.
posted by maryr at 7:04 PM on October 26, 2013


WYOMING: "The Laramie Project" by Moises Kaufman. A reasonable choice, but I think I'd give the edge to "Brokeback Mountain" by Annie Proulx.

It's a short story, though. Can't find it for word count but in print it's about 27 pages, which would put it in the 8,000 word range.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:06 PM on October 26, 2013


Edit window problems: I was going to suggest either The World According To Garp or A Prayer For Owen Meany as better Irving in NH choices.
posted by maryr at 7:12 PM on October 26, 2013


... although "Close Range: Wyoming Stories" is apparenly now published as "Brokeback Mountain" after its most famous story, so I guess it qualifies as a "famous book", the exact wording here.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:16 PM on October 26, 2013


> "... although 'Close Range: Wyoming Stories' is apparenly now published as "Brokeback Mountain" after its most famous story, so I guess it qualifies as a "famous book", the exact wording here."

Actually what I was thinking of, although you can buy Brokeback Mountain these days as a separate small (64 page) book by itself.
posted by kyrademon at 7:23 PM on October 26, 2013


Wikipedia: Novels set in the United States by state

Looking at the Novels set in Vermont category, I'd vote for "A Day No Pigs Would Die" for Vermont. I think most of Pollyanna's name recognition comes from the movie. She's a famous character, but I wouldn't call it a famous book.
posted by fussbudget at 7:39 PM on October 26, 2013


Interview with a Vampire...106,000,000 google hits
A Streetcar named Desire.. 5,430,000 google hits
Pelican Brief...1,030,000 google hits
Confederacy of Dunces...619,000 google hits

I see a trend here
posted by JujuB at 8:47 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Broom of the System? Seriously? Nobody reads that book. Even people who adore DFW get slightly red-faced and mumble something about 'early work' if you bring it up.
posted by cmyr at 9:37 PM on October 26, 2013


Some of us read it back when it was his only book!
posted by jessamyn at 9:46 PM on October 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


kyrademon: "ALASKA: "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer, Really? Yeah, big seller, recent movie, but genuinely more famous than "The Call of the Wild" by Jack London?"

The Call of the Wild has the disadvantage of being essentially set in the Yukon, Canada.
posted by Mitheral at 10:20 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Worse to this non-American is the gratuitous use of abbreviations for the alphabetical (by state name instead of abbreviation) state listing. Seriously how could the AL, AK, AZ, AR ... order of the states not want them to stab their eyes out.

It's a sign of the American recession. They can't afford to write all the letters anymore.
posted by WalkingAround at 11:35 PM on October 26, 2013


It's just a parochialism. They're standardized postal abbreviations that Americans typically have to memorize in elementary school. So aside from a few confusing ones (Missouri being MO, Montana being MT, and Minnesota being MN, for example) most Americans know the two-letter codes by rote. We just assume everyone else does, too.
posted by Sara C. at 12:05 AM on October 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think Mitheral's point is not that they're using the abbreviations but that they're ordering them by the full name. Thus AZ appears in front of AR, because "Ari" comes before "Ark"
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:15 AM on October 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Late to the list but also objecting to Louisiana's "most famous." Surely the National Book Award went to Walker Percy's first novel "The Moviegoer" while Shirley Ann Grau's "The House on Coliseum Street" is much more a New Orleans story than Anne Rice's dreary vampire sludge and, if nothing else, what about John Kennedy Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces" which is a book not to be missed. Just saying.

Also, I am pleased to see that about thirty-seven percent of these books are written by women. Nineteen female authors out of a group of fifty-one is encouraging; it's more than I expected to see on a 'most famous' list. I have a theory that something around thirty-four percent participation is the tipping point for women's voices to be heard at all by the majority and equilibrium will be reached at some point after that. This just an aside in case, like me, you want to hear women's voices as well as men's in your literature.
posted by Anitanola at 12:54 AM on October 27, 2013


Broom of the System? Seriously? Nobody reads that book. Even people who adore DFW get slightly red-faced and mumble something about 'early work' if you bring it up.

I read that book, that's why I picked up Infinite Jest, because I enjoyed Broom so much.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 1:41 AM on October 27, 2013


> "Surely the National Book Award went to Walker Percy's first novel 'The Moviegoer' while Shirley Ann Grau's 'The House on Coliseum Street' is much more a New Orleans story ..."

Yes, but they aren't more famous. They just aren't. There just aren't more people who know these books than who know "Interview with the Vampire".

This list is just a much more stupid concept than people want it to be. If you want "best book set in a certain state" or "book that most iconically represents a certain state", those are different lists. Probably much more interesting lists. But it's not fair to slag on them for getting it wrong when they got it right within the parameters they set. By their metric, "Twilight" is going to beat "Snow Falling on Cedars", "The Client" is going to beat "Suttree", and "Interview with the Vampire" is going to beat "The Moviegoer".

It's totally fair to complain that "most famous" is a dumb way to rate books, but it's not fair to blame the listmakers because the book you want to be more famous isn't.
posted by kyrademon at 3:04 AM on October 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Late to the list but also objecting to Louisiana's "most famous."

The list is "most famous," not "most representative" or "most critically acclaimed."
posted by kdar at 4:03 AM on October 27, 2013


Even if you go by the most-famous metric, a lot of the entries are still iffy.

Arkansas, for example--'A Painted House' is not even among the most famous Grisham books. Between awards, school reading lists and sheer cultural cachet, I don't think it beats 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.'

Or Ohio--I like David Foster Wallace too, but picking his least popular novel over 'Beloved,' which won a Nobel Prize and got made into an Oprah Winfrey movie, seems dubious.

(Also, if my math is correct, this list has more books by Stephen King on it than it does books by African-American and Native American authors put together. Which might be accurate, and in keeping with the fame thing, but, yeah.)
posted by box at 8:30 AM on October 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Red Sky at Morning" for New Mexico? Never heard of it. I was expecting "Bless Me Ultima" or some random Tony Hillerman novel.
posted by pravit at 9:22 AM on October 27, 2013


I think Mitheral's point is not that they're using the abbreviations but that they're ordering them by the full name. Thus AZ appears in front of AR, because "Ari" comes before "Ark"

Yes, because they're abbreviations for states. Which have been put in the usual state alphabetic order. Because they're states, not random letters.

One thing Americans don't ever talk about or even ever think about is the fact that, because we have fifty states, there's all kinds of obscure education that goes into memorizing them and getting familiar with the way they're presented. We're used to seeing alphabetical lists of the states, we're used to seeing the abbreviations, and we think nothing of an alphabetical list of states that uses abbreviations that are not, themselves, alphabetized. Because we all have years of education on how to think about the states.

A non-American won't have that education and will be confused by whatever state is represented by "AZ" coming first on a list despite the existence of another state with the abbreviation "AK".
posted by Sara C. at 9:57 AM on October 27, 2013


And even with that education, some of us still get an eye twitch when we see it. Depending on who build the software, dropdown menus that have a "Choose a State" feature may or may not have Vermont (VT) above Virginia (VA) and this is true whether you see the abbreviation or the state name. So sometimes the pulldown will have states in the "wrong" order because the database is using the abbreviations but the pulldown is displaying the state names. SO MUCH WRONG just like this clickbait list!
posted by jessamyn at 10:07 AM on October 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bridge to Terabithia is a Newberry winner (and many schools and libraries have a go-through-the-Newberry list program), a regular on the ALA banned book lists (a sure sign that it was famous enough to enrage screaming censor-minded dickbags) and the quintessential depressing children's novel where a kid dies. Tons of people had it as required reading and I doubt there are many literary-minded people born after 1980 who haven't heard it. And they just made a movie in the past decade, which only increases fame.

And everyone who read that book as a kid is way more likely to remember it because it's the first goddamn book that made them cry that was not about a dog.
posted by NoraReed at 10:36 PM on October 27, 2013


Another Louisianian gripped by rage over Interview With a Vampire.

All The King's Men is the Louisiana book.

Confederacy of Dunces is nice, but a lot lighter. And to me, really represents New Orleans, a world unto itself.
posted by atchafalaya at 11:25 PM on October 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wrote the authors a note about how they determined the list. Got his in response
We made the list with the thought in mind that everyone's definition of "most famous" will differ; and in the two weeks the piece has been live, it's certainly garnered a lot of discussion!

We used Goodreads and Amazon to find books set in every state, and narrowed down options based on the state's significance in the narrative. We leaned more toward books with authors who are well known today, not just in their states, but in other states as well. We tend to have a younger audience, so the likelihood of their recognizing a more contemporary author is greater than a more classic author. I hope this helps.
posted by jessamyn at 7:33 AM on October 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


So basically it's less "most famous books" and more "some books chosen according to more or less random criteria"?
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:01 AM on October 28, 2013


It's a weird metric, "famous." It certainly doesn't mean "best represents the state" or such. Also, books that really capture cities don't always do a great job of capturing the state, which is a different thing, i.e. Confederacy of Dunces is really about Nola, not Louisiana, and Infinite Jest is really about Boston, not MA.

Might not be the most 'famous,' but Oregon's book should really be Sometimes A Great Notion.

Utah's book should be Desert Solitaire.

I kind of think Washington's book should be This Boy's Life, but I dunno, maybe I just really like that book.

About the Moby Dick thing. The setting of Moby Dick is the sea. Walden was the correct choice. There is no book more MA than Walden, imo.

I think maybe I'm actually most upset that Giants in the Earth wasn't South Dakota's book. That book IS South Dakota. But I'm Norwegian so I guess I'm biased.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:30 AM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


showbiz_liz: "more "some books chosen according to more or less random criteria"?"

That's what fame is; especially once you drop three or four places down on the "most famous" list. I mean it's obvious that Elvis Presley and Micheal Jackson are the most famous dead rock/pop stars but after that I'd bet we couldn't even get a consensus here for the number three spot let alone number 25 or 48. And that for something where you aren't trying to pick one from every state where that filter is going to bias the results.
posted by Mitheral at 7:13 PM on October 28, 2013


I don't think there'd be a lot of arguing that John Lennon is in the top three, there.
posted by tavella at 7:39 PM on October 28, 2013


Elvis? At some point, the world needs to start considering taking away his top spot. He's been dead longer than I've been alive, and I am not a young man.

I suggest that Elvis be replaced with Tupac.
posted by box at 6:55 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


And even there you'd have to debate the importance of death in how you weigh the results-- Tupac in particular is not only famous but famously dead, with his death being a major component of his fame.

And then you have the Paul McCartney issue, where he is famously NOT dead, or rumored to be dead, and the Elvis invert, where he's famously rumored to still be alive.
posted by NoraReed at 7:05 AM on October 29, 2013


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