Booklist: 10 Books for a Reading Roadtrip Across America
Scintilla.info has been proudly international from the beginning, intentionally seeking books and authors from around the world. But we are based in the United States. Given that our country celebrates her birthday on July 4th, we decided to highlight some books that we have reviewed that are American in focus.
Possibly the most powerful book we’ve read for Scintilla is There There by Tommy Orange. There are a lot of reasons to choose this book, but in this context our main reason is its setting. Oakland is almost an additional character within the book, a side of Oakland perhaps not obvious to tourists but rather one that locals would recognize. The characters and the powwow might be fictional, but the city is real and vibrant and essential to the story. Orange makes good use of the quote that inspired the title and shows that Oakland indeed has a there there.
Moving down the coast, pick one of Greg Hurwitz Orphan X books which are primarily set in Los Angeles. Although protagonist Evan Smoak does travel around the country, he is based in LA and much of the action takes place in the US’s second largest city. Using actual neighborhoods and streets gives the settings a strong realism. The only thing hotter than the summer temperatures is the story when Smoak goes into action.
And for some reality in your LA story, The Library Book by Susan Orlean tells the story of the LA library in a way that reads more like a novel than a history. The people and the city that the library serves are well represented, as are the characters who came to lead the library throughout its history. A fun and enlightening read.
Although many of David Baldacci’s books are set in Washington, DC, his recent book A Long Road to Mercy puts FBI agent Atlee Pine into a small town near the Four Corners region of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. The landscapes and distances are almost characters themselves in this novel with a kickass heroine and a typically complex Baldacci plot.
Mississippi is the setting for both of Jesmyn Ward’s National Book Award winning novels: Salvage the Bones and Sing, Unburied, Sing. Her evocation of the heat and humidity can make you sweat on a winter’s day in Pennsylvania, and I say this from personal experience.
Florida by Lauren Groff takes us across the country to our 27th state, the southernmost of the 48 contiguous states. Filled with unique characters and individual stories, the state figures into every story of this book that bears its name.
Brad Meltzer’s first novel, The Tenth Justice, and Jake Tapper’s novel The Hellfire Club are both set in Washington, DC, roughly 50 years apart. Both are thrillers with intrigue, political skulduggery, and real and potential violence. If you want to escape the current political news cycle, these are two options that keep you in the Beltway without once mentioning any actual living politicians.
And finally, NYC is home to millions of people and almost as many stories, but Invisible by Stephen L. Carter is a true story of his grandmother and her battles against the mob in the 1930s. A lawyer under the famed Thomas Dewey, Carter’s grandmother tackled prejudice and gangsters using her intellect and the law.
Obviously there is a lot more country we could have visited…so let us know if you enjoyed this brief tour and maybe we will travel to some more places next July!