First we scoured coast to coast to find the most famous book set in every state. Now we’re hitting the books to discover the most famous author from every state.
Not all the choices were cut and dry. To qualify for this list, the esteemed wordsmiths had to be born in their respective states, but not necessarily live out their years there.
We considered the authors’ fame in terms of ubiquity, literal acclaim, and financial success – and awarded bonus points if the author showed state pride by setting their works there.
Keep scrolling to read more about the most famous author from your state.
ALABAMA: Harper Lee
Known for: “To Kill a Mockingbird“
Harper Lee was born and raised in Monroeville, the inspiration for her classic novel’s fictional town of Maycomb. The Monroe County Courthouse, where Lee watched her father practice law as a child, currently operates as a museum.
The University of Alabama alumna continues to live there, just a short drive from the Mockingbird Grill and Radley’s Fountain Grille.
ALASKA: Velma Wallis
Known for: “Two Old Women“
Velma Wallis is a native Alaskan. Born in a remote village near Fort Yukon, she dropped out of school at age 13 to help raise her siblings after the death of their father. Wallis later earned her GED, and moved to a cabin where she practiced her hunting and trapping skills for over a decade.
She wrote and published her first book, “Two Old Women,” in 1993, and it became a word-of-mouth bestseller. Based on an Athabaskan legend passed down from Wallis’ mother, the book sold over 1.5 million copies.
ARIZONA: Jeannette Walls
Known for: “The Glass Castle“
Jeannette Walls’ memoir examines her struggle as a child and young adult to overcome poverty and become self-sufficient. Her dysfunctional family were nomads of the Southwest, but the first place she remembers living is a small trailer park in Arizona.
ARKANSAS: John Grisham
Known for: “A Time to Kill“
This lawyer-turned-master of the legal thriller genre was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas. He left his wheelhouse in writing “A Painted House,” a coming of age story inspired by his upbringing on a farm.
There are currently more than 275 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, and nine of his novels have been turned into films.
CALIFORNIA: Joan Didion
Known for: “Slouching Towards Bethlehem“
A California native, Joan Didion is a now-legendary novelist and essayist. She began her career writing for Vogue in New York City, but soon returned to her home state.
She has authored five novels and seven books of nonfiction throughout her decades-long career. Many of her novels – like 1968’s “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” and 1970’s “Play It As It Lays” – depict California life and culture at the time they were written.
Most recently, Didion won the National Book Award for her 2005 memoir “The Year Of Magical Thinking,” which she wrote following the death of her husband.
COLORADO: Ken Kesey
Known for: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest“
Considered a founding father of 1960s counterculture, Ken Kesey was born in La Junta, Colorado, the son of dairy farmers. His works promoted drug use as a path to individual liberation, and bridged the beatnik and hippy generations.
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Sometimes a Great Notion” were both set in Oregon, where he was raised.
CONNECTICUT: Harriet Beecher Stowe
Known for: “Uncle Tom’s Cabin“
The eminent abolitionist writer Harriet Beecher Stowe grew up in Litchfield, Connecticut.
In her later years, she returned to Hartford, where she wrote some of her best works other than “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” – “The American Woman’s Home” and “Poganuc People” – and helped establish the Hartford Art School, which later became the University of Hartford.
DELAWARE: Rebecca Lee Crumpler
Known for: “Book of Medical Discourses“
Born in Delaware, Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler was the first African-American woman to obtain a medical degree in the United States. Though little is known about her personal life, Dr. Crumpler authored a book of medical advice for women and children in 1883 called “Book of Medical Discourses” based on her field notes.
In the historic book, Dr. Crumpler recounts: “It may be well to state here that, having been reared by a kind aunt in Pennsylvania, whose usefulness with the sick was continually sought, I early conceived a liking for, and sought every opportunity to relieve the sufferings of others.”
FLORIDA: Carl Hiaasen
Known for: “Hoot“
Sunshine State-grown Carl Hiaasen is a New York Times best-selling author, mastering both the mystery thriller and children’s genres. He graduated from the University of Florida, and has written for The Miami Herald since he was 23 years old. His column still regularly appears in the opinion section.
His most popular books, including “Hoot,” “Flush,” “Tourist Season,” “Skin Tight,” “Strip Tease,” and “Skinny Dip,” take place in Florida.
GEORGIA: Alice Walker
Known for: “The Colour Purple”
Novelist, essayist, and poet Alice Walker was born in Putnam County, Georgia, in 1944 and graduated from Sarah Lawrence College. Her third novel, “The Colour Purple,” depicted the life and relationship of two sisters in the rural South and was released to instant, universal acclaim. It was later made into a successful film directed by Steven Spielberg.
Walker became the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1983, and “The Colour Purple” also won her a National Book Award. Since then, she’s published many other books, essays, and poems, like “The Third Life of Grange Copeland” and “Meridian.“
HAWAII: Armine Von Tempski
Known for: “Born in Paradise“
Armine Von Tempski grew up on a cattle ranch on the slopes of Haleakalā, a massive volcano that forms most of Maui, and shared the sights and natural wonders of the islands in her memoir and book-turned-film, “Hula.”
She once described her career ambitions to The Honolulu Advertiser: “The desire grew within me to write a literature of Hawaii that was authentic, to picturize the life as I, a child of the Isles, knew it.”
IDAHO: Vardis Fisher
Known for: “Children of God“
A child of the frontier, this Annis native also wrote a guide to Idaho and the 12-part “Testament of Man” series in a cabin that he built, overlooking the Thousand Springs area.
Vardis Fisher’s gritty account of trappers in the fur trade era, “Mountain Men,” was made into a 1972 movie starring Robert Redford, titled “Jeremiah Johnson.”
ILLINOIS: Ernest Hemingway
Known for: “The Old Man and the Sea“
Ernest Hemingway found his passion for writing in the upscale Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois, where he was born. In high school, he wrote for the school’s newspaper and yearbook. After graduation, he left Illinois to report for The Kansas City Star.
The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park operates a museum in his childhood home.
INDIANA: Kurt Vonnegut
Known for: “Slaughterhouse-Five“
Many of Kurt Vonnegut’s works use his birthplace of Indianapolis as a symbol of American values, or contain at least one character from Indy.
In 1986, during a visit to North Central High School, he said, “All my jokes are Indianapolis. All my attitudes are Indianapolis. My adenoids are Indianapolis. If I ever severed myself from Indianapolis, I would be out of business. What people like about me is Indianapolis.”
IOWA: Bill Bryson
Known for: “A Short History of Nearly Everything“
Before travel and history writer Bill Bryson shot to fame in the U.K., where he currently lives, he was Des Moines’ hometown boy. He attended Drake University for two years and wrote about his 1950s Middle America upbringing in his memoir “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.”
Fellow Hoosier and former President Herbert Hoover features prominently in Bryson’s book, “One Summer.”
KANSAS: William Inge
Known for: “Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff“
Perhaps best known for his Academy Award-winning screenplay, “Splendor in the Grass,” Inge channeled his Kansas pride into his two novels. His hometown of Independence fostered his creativity, and as a boy, Inge cherished the tight-knit community and enjoyed seeing top artists perform as they passed through on their way to Kansas City.
The University of Kansas at Lawrence alum set his books in the fictional town of Freedom, a play on Independence, Kans.
Like most of the Midwest states, Kansas was a tough call, as the pool of notable authors was sparse. We went with Inge – a playwright by trade – because of his staunch state pride.
KENTUCKY: Hunter S. Thompson
Known for: “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas“
Hunter S. Thompson, a Louisville native, wrote almost a dozen books and is credited as the founder of gonzo journalism, a style of first-person reporting that is devoid of objectivity.
He catapulted into fame with the seminal sports article “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.” Thompson pitched the Louisville-based story to “Scanlan’s Monthly” just 72 hours before the race, and quickly found himself submerged in the spectators’ lewd celebrations.
LOUISIANA: Anne Rice
Known for: “Interview with the Vampire“
Born and raised in New Orleans, Anne Rice brings the city to life in her Gothic fiction. The French Quarter provides a setting for “Interview with the Vampire,” and her house in the Garden District serves as the fictional home of her characters in the “Lives of the Mayfair Witches” series.
It’s rumoured that Rice purchased a tomb at the St. Louis Cemetery in New Orleans, where her vampire character goes to brood, for her eventual use.
MAINE: Stephen King
Known for: “The Shining“
Stephen King is the quintessential Maine author – born in Portland, graduated from the University of Maine at Orono, and still living in Bangor. His blood red Victorian mansion, surrounded by a black, wrought-iron fence decorated with cobwebs, is hard to miss.
King’s fictional Maine topography provides a backdrop for many of his novels, including “Carrie,” “It,” “The Dead Zone,” “Insomnia,” “Salem’s Lot,” and others.
MARYLAND: Nora Roberts
Known for: “The Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy“
Silver Springs, Maryland-born romance novelist Nora Roberts still lives in the same Boonsboro, Md., home she moved into as a newly wed teenager. In 2011, her family owned eight properties in the town, including the Turn the Page Bookstore where she hosts frequent book signings, and Inn BoonsBoro, the B&B setting for her trilogy of the same name.
Baltimore native Tom Clancy, who recently passed away, was also a contender for the state of Maryland.
MASSACHUSETTS: W.E.B. DuBois
Known for: “The Souls of Black Folk“
Born William Edward Burghardt Du Bois in 1868, W.E.B. DuBois was a preeminent sociologist, essayist, and civil rights activist. DuBois was an early proponent of using data to help solve social issues in the black community.
After graduating from Harvard University, DuBois published his groundbreaking book, “The Souls of Black Folk,” in 1903. A collection of sociological essays detailing the black American experience, “The Souls of Black Folk” also introduced the theory of “double consciousness” and became required reading in many African-American studies courses around the country.
MICHIGAN: Jeffrey Eugenides
Known for: “The Virgin Suicides“
This bestselling author found inspiration in the economic turmoil of Detroit for his first novel “The Virgin Suicides.” The Motor City native told NPR, “That whole feeling of growing up in Detroit, in a city losing population, and in perpetual crisis really was the mood that made me write ‘The Virgin Suicides’ in the first place.”
His Pulitzer Prize-winning “Middlesex” is also set in Michigan.
MINNESOTA: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Known for: “The Great Gatsby“
F. Scott Fitzgerald was born and raised on a tree-lined street in St. Paul’s Ramsey Hill neighbourhood. In his writing Fitzgerald painted himself as coming from nothing, when in reality the family lived in an upscale luxury apartment.
Fitzgerald’s first writing to appear in print was a detective story in St. Paul Academy’s newspaper when he was 13 years old.
MISSISSIPPI: William Faulkner
Known for: “The Sound and the Fury“
Oxford, Miss., is the ultimate literary destination for fans of William Faulkner. He was reared, schooled, made famous, and buried there, and loved Lafayette county so deeply that he created a fictitious county based on it.
He told the Paris Review, “I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about, and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it.”
MISSOURI: Maya Angelou
Known for: “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings“
Poet, singer, and memoirist Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Angelou became a civil rights activist, working for Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and was also the first black female director.
Her most acclaimed book, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,” was published in 1969 and is a memoir of her traumatic early life and the development of her love for literature. Angelou was also a prolific poet, penning widely quoted lines in poems like “On the Pulse of Morning” and “Phenomenal Woman.”
Angelou received an honorary National Book Award in 2013, in addition to the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010, before her death in 2014.
MONTANA: Maile Meloy
Known for: “Liars and Saints“
Born and raised in Helena, Meloy has written books for kids and adults. The Harvard College grad is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Times, and has been dubbed “the first great American realist of the 21st century” in a review of her work by The Boston Globe.
Aside from her writing, Meloy is also credited with being a founding member of the band The Decemberists.
NEBRASKA: Nicholas Sparks
Known for: “A Walk to Remember“
Sparks was born in Omaha to a business professor and an optometrist’s assistant. He wrote his first novel the summer after his freshman year at Notre Dame and, though the novel went unpublished, it was the beginning of a slow-going (at first) career in writing.
He wrote his first best-seller, “The Notebook,” at age 24, which spent over a year on the hardcover bestseller’s list. Sparks has been an incredibly prolific author, writing a new book nearly every year, many of which have been made into films.
NEVADA: Charles Bock
Known for: “Beautiful Children“
Relatively new to the book industry, Bock, who was born and raised in Las Vegas, wrote his debut novel “Beautiful Children” in 2008. It was named the same year to The New York Times’ “Notable Book of the Year” list.
Bock’s parents were pawnbrokers, and his upbringing with them, as well as his childhood in Las Vegas, was a huge influence on the novel. He got his MFA from Bennington College and currently lives in New York City.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Dan Brown
Known for: “The Da Vinci Code“
Brown grew up on the campus of Phillips Exeter Academy, where his father taught maths and where Brown himself eventually attended. Growing up Episcopalian, Brown doubted religion from a young age, which led to themes of conspiracy and and religious scepticism that are found in many of Brown’s books.
After graduating from Amherst College, Brown briefly pursued a career as a musician, even recording a few CDs, before quitting his teaching job to write full time. He wrote three books before “Da Vinci,” which put him on the map as a best-selling author.
NEW JERSEY: Philip Roth
Known for: “Portnoy’s Complaint“
The Newark-born author sets many of his books in his hometown, including his most recent work, “Nemesis.”
The Jewish community in which he grew up became a huge influence in many of his books-not just the relationships between family members or the divide between Jews and non-Jews where he was raised, but also “the liberated Jewish consciousness,” as evidenced by the promiscuity of some of his characters.
NEW MEXICO: Rudolfo Anaya
Known for: “Bless Me, Ultima“
Anaya came from a family of cattle workers and sheepherders in the tiny town of Pastura. Overall he had a happy, active life of hunting, fishing, and exploring the plains of New Mexico, but many of his less-positive experiences-like questioning his place in the world as a Latino, or a diving accident that almost killed him at age 16-are alluded to in his canonical Chicano literature.
NEW YORK: James Baldwin
Known for: “If Beale Street Could Talk“
New York City native and acclaimed novelist and essayist, James Baldwin’s work weaves tales of “blacks’ aspirations, disappointments, and coping strategies in a hostile society.” Baldwin was adored by critics for both his writing style and substance, and he penned now-classics like “If Beale Street Could Talk” and “Go Tell It On The Mountain.”
Baldwin moved to Paris in 1948, where he lived for the rest of his life. On his move, he wrote via The New York Times: “Once I found myself on the other side of the ocean, I could see where I came from very clearly, and I could see that I carried myself, which is my home, with me. You can never escape that. I am the grandson of a slave, and I am a writer. I must deal with both.”
NORTH CAROLINA: Thomas Wolfe
Known for: “Look Homeward, Angel“
Born and raised in Asheville, N.C., Wolfe was recognised at a young age for his genius, and enrolled at UNC Chapel Hill at age 15. After completing further studies in playwriting at Harvard, Wolfe went on to write not only many plays, but some lengthy novels as well, including “Look Homeward, Angel,” a work of fiction based on his life in Asheville.
While the book was a huge success, it was met with a ton of controversy back home, as more than 200 characters were based on Asheville residents, including his own family. The outcry was so bad that it led to Wolfe exiling himself from Asheville for almost a decade before returning home again.
NORTH DAKOTA: Louis L’Amour
Known for: “The Walking Drum“
Born Louis Dearborn LaMoore in 1908, the North Dakota native grew up in a medium-sized farm community to a veterinarian father. L’Amour heard tales of the Great American Frontier from his uncles and his grandfather, who lived through the Civil and Indian wars.
OHIO: Toni Morrison
Known for: “Beloved“
Born in Lorrain, Ohio, iconic novelist Toni Morrison studied at Howard and Cornell Universities before working as a publishing editor for many years. Morrison’s first novel, “The Bluest Eye,” was published in 1970 to critical acclaim – but it was her third, “Beloved,” that made her a literary star.
Throughout her career, Morrison has won several awards for her work, including the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988 for “Beloved.”
OKLAHOMA: Ralph Ellison
Known for: “Invisible Man“
Before his writing career took off, though, Ellison left his home of Oklahoma City to pursue music at the Tuskegee Institute. It wasn’t until Langston Hughes introduced Ellison to Richard Wright that Ellison was encouraged to take up writing.
OREGON: Beverly Cleary
Known for: “Ramona Quimby, Age 8“
Even though Cleary’s Oregon hometown was so small it didn’t have a library, she developed a love of books early on. Once she got to school, the school librarians suggested she write children’s books for a living, and Cleary made that her ultimate goal.
She published her first book, “Henry Huggins,” in 1950, and has developed many more beloved characters throughout her career.
PENNSYLVANIA: John Updike
Known for: “Rabbit, Run“
Pennsylvania native John Updike is one of only three writers to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction more than once. His books are known for their carefully crafted depictions of the American middle class.
Updike is most known for his “Rabbit” series: “Rabbit, Run” (1960), “Rabbit Redux” (1971), “Rabbit is Rich” (1981, Pulitzer Prize), “Rabbit At Rest” (1990, Pulitzer Prize), and “Rabbit Remembered” (2001). He also wrote “The Witches of Eastwick,” which was turned into the popular 1987 film starring Cher and Jack Nicholson.
RHODE ISLAND: Cormac McCarthy
Known for: “No Country for Old Men“
McCarthy’s works are closely tied with the south, but the Southern Gothic-genre writer was born in Providence. McCarthy’s family moved to Knoxville, Tenn., when he was a child where his father worked as a lawyer.
McCarthy was 32 when his first book, “The Orchard Keeper,” was published, and he continues to publish novels on a regular basis, even at the age of 80.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Peggy Parish
Known for: “Amelia Bedelia“
Peggy Parish brought her beloved kids’ book character Amelia Bedelia, a housekeeper who interpreted all of her employers’ instructions literally, to life after spending years teaching elementary school and discovering what children like to read.
Parish grew up and attended school in South Carolina, but taught for many years in New York before returning to her home state. Her celebrated book series just celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.
SOUTH DAKOTA: Adam Johnson
Known for: “Parasites Like Us“
Growing up, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer says he heard many tales of survival in the wilderness from the men in his family. The skills they needed to survive weren’t ones Johnson learned, as he lived with his mother when his parents divorced, but was able to adeptly describe these skills and his characters’ struggle for survival in his back-in-time debut novel.
South Dakota was another difficult state to fill; other authors, like Laura Ingalls Wilder, called South Dakota home at one time or another, but were not born there.
TENNESSEE: Peter Taylor
Known for: “A Summons to Memphis“
Peter Matthew Hillsman Taylor, a contemporary of Robert Penn Warren, Katherine Anne Porter, and Jean Stafford, grew up in Tennessee and was named for his father Matthew Hillsman Taylor, an attorney and Vanderbilt alum.
Taylor later went by Peter Taylor professionally, dropping the Matthew Hillsman; all of his works are authored by Peter Taylor.
TEXAS: Katherine Anne Porter
Known for: “Flowering Judas and Other Stories“
Saying Porter lived a hard life would be an understatement; her mother’s death when Porter was just two years old caused her father to become neglectful, so she was raised primarily by her grandmother. She married young, and suffered as a victim of domestic violence during her first and some subsequent marriages.
She almost died, twice, from two different pandemics, and endured poverty and infertility. But many of her hardships are evident in her writing, which often explores human fallibility.
UTAH: Thomas Savage
Known for: “The Corner of Rife and Pacific“
Though Savage is best known for his Montana-based novels, the Wild West author was born in Salt Lake City. He followed his mother to a Montana ranch when she remarried, and there gained his inspiration for many of the books he came to write.
His last book before his death, “The Corner of Rife and Pacific,” follows the joys and sorrows of a family in the small, fictional town of Grayling.
VERMONT: Ralph Nading Hill
Known for: “Contrary Country: A Chronicle of Vermont“
Hill was born and raised in Burlington and remained in the northeast for college, where he attended Dartmouth. A foremost authority on the Green Mountain state, Hill spend many years as the editor of Vermont Life magazine, during which time he also authored a number of Vermont-centric books, including “Contrary Country.”
It was particularly difficult to track down Vermont-born authors. Poet Robert Frost wrote in and about the state, but was born in San Francisco; and Rudyard Kipling wrote “The Jungle Book” while living in Brattleboro, Vt., but was born in India.
VIRGINIA: Willa Cather
Known for: “My Antonia“
Though Willa Cather is generally known for writing about frontier life, she was born in Virginia. Known for her books like “O Pioneers!” and “My Antonia,” Cather paved her way as a preeminent author of modernist fiction with a focus on the Great Plains of the US.
WASHINGTON: Debbie Macomber
Known for: “Cedar Cove” series
Debbie Macomber is an author of successful romance novels, with over 200 titles currently in print. She is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, per her website, and many of her books have been turned into Hallmark movies. She is best known for her “Cedar Cove” series, and her recent novels include “Cottage by the Sea” and “Alaskan Holiday.”
WASHINGTON, DC: Michael Chabon
Known for: “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union“
Chabon was born in the Georgetown neighbourhood of Washington, DC, and began writing his first novel right after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, finishing it right before getting his MFA from UC – Irvine.
It is evident in Chabon’s writing that his Jewish upbringing was a major influence on his work and characters. LGBT characters also make their way into many of his books.
WEST VIRGINIA: Mary Lee Settle
Known for: “Blood Tie“
Born in West Virginia, author Mary Lee Settle was best known for her critically acclaimed “Beulah Quintet” series, which was historical fiction that focused on events from Cromwell-era England to 20th century West Virginia. Settle also won the National Book Award for her 1978 novel “Blood Tie,” and she established the PEN/Faulkner Award just two years later.
WISCONSIN: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Known for: “Little House in the Big Woods“
Ingalls Wilder, whose family moved from state to state like nomads for much of her life, was born in the “big woods” of Wisconsin, where her children’s classic was eventually set.
Other books from her “Little House” series were also based on the places she’d lived – Kansas, South Dakota, Missouri – and all but one of her books were nominated for the prestigious Newbery Medal for exceptional children’s literature.
WYOMING: Patricia MacLachlan
Known for: “Sarah, Plain and Tall“
Born in Cheyenne, MacLachlan still carries around a bit of prairie dirt with her wherever she goes to remind herself of where she came from.
Lauded for her beloved children’s books that tell stories of home and family, MacLachlan has noted and always been fascinated by children’s preoccupation with and attachment to certain places.
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