Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The 50 States Reading Challenge

As we move into a new year, many book clubs and individuals are taking various reading challenges that will run to the end of 2014 (can it really be 2014? where is my flying car?). I have suggested challenges like this on my blog before, and this year I decided to keep it closer to home with an all-American challenge.

My reading challenge for 2014 is The 50 States Reading Challenge. It's fairly self-explanatory, but here are a few guidelines ("rules" sounds too strict; reading should be fun):

  • The goal is to read as many books as you can written by authors from different US states.
  • An author's state is the state in which he was born; Hemingway lived in Florida and Idaho, but he was born in Illinois.
  • I prefer fiction, but non-fiction is also acceptable. Short story collections work too. Ask your local bookseller for suggestions; you might be pleasantly surprised.

Here are the achievement levels, based on number of states "visited" in 2014:

  • Turn Off the Television: 1-5 states visited
  • Homebody: 6-10 states visited
  • Budget Traveler: 11-15 states visited
  • Frequent Flier: 16-20 states visited
  • Pathfinder: 21-25 states visited
  • Lewis and Clark: 26 or more states visited

In a best-case outcome you would read 50 books, roughly one per week. If you don't think that even 26 is an achievable number, remember that's just one book every 2 weeks. And consider the following partial list of novelists and their home states:

  1. Ernest Hemingway - Illinois
  2. Tom Perrotta - New Jersey
  3. Mark Twain - Missouri
  4. F. Scott Fitzgerald - Minnesota
  5. John Dunning - New York
  6. Dan Jenkins - Texas
  7. Robert B. Parker - Massachusetts
  8. Marisha Pessl - Michigan
  9. Carl Hiaasen - Florida
  10. Stephen King - Maine
  11. Jim Butcher - Missouri
  12. John Steinbeck - California
  13. Dean Koontz - Pennsylvania
  14. Dashiell Hammett - Maryland
  15. John Grisham - Arkansas
  16. Sue Grafton - Kentucky
  17. Laura Moriarty - Hawaii
  18. James Thurber - Ohio
  19. Ray Blackston - South Carolina
  20. S.E. Hinton - Oklahoma
  21. Flannery O'Connor - Georgia

Keep in mind that each state only counts once; Mark Twain and Jim Butcher are both from Missouri, but if you read the entire Dresden series and Tom Sawyer it only counts as one state visited (even if you detoured into Kansas in between). But this also shows the flexibility of this challenge: fans of the classics and fans of Sci-Fi/Fantasy both have options in Missouri.

While there are no prizes for successfully completing this challenge, I can assure you that as a reader you will gain great satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. I may even post a list of the Lewis and Clark-level folks in a 2014 year end blog, if you send me your names.

Happy New Year, and happy reading.


  1. One thing to add...for those of you with long commutes, audio books are acceptable. Just try to keep them to 20% or less of your total, unless you suffer from chronic road rage. In that case keep it to 10% since you miss so much while screaming at fellow drivers.

    1. I listen to audio books specifically to quell potential road rage and keep calm in traffic.

  2. This sounds like a fun challenge! I can't wait to start - thanks for the awesome idea!!

  3. I love this idea. I accept your challenge and my personal goal is to read a book with an author from all 50 states as I read over 200 books last year.

  4. ...I think audiobooks are acceptable even if they are 100% of your consumption. Not all of us have time to sit down and read as often as we'd like.

  5. Another to add to the list: William Faulkner - Mississippi

    1. Definitely...not sure how I missed Faulkner.

  6. Susan Gilbert - Collins - Cooking with the Insecure Chef (South Dakota)

  7. I love this idea. If audio books count...I am totally in. While I do not have the luxury of sitting down to read very often, I am able to do a great many things if I can listen and walk around at the same time. Thanks for the challenge.

  8. Kurt Vonnegut - Indiana! (I'm excited as he's one of the few, and a really good one!)

  9. Fun idea, but seems a bit limiting to me. I try and read at least a few books translated to English each year, maybe I'll try something similar for authors around the world, or decades

    1. David...I did a post on an International Challenge in 2011. Here's the link:

  10. I always thought Mark Twain was born in NY, but apparently not. Apparently born in Florida, a city in Missouri. Not the state of Florida.

  11. I'm definitely in; and starting with Theodore Dreiser from Indiana!

  12. Chuck Palahniuk is from Washington and Beverly Cleary (who writes young adult and children's books) is from Oregon. There aren't many authors, that I can seem to find, that are born in Oregon. Most have moved there later in life.

  13. I want to do this, but I think I want to focus on women writers.. one from each state.. and I think I'll do them in order of entrance into the union. :) Delaware literary tourism, here I come! :)

  14. I am super set for this. I have started with Richard lee byers, he is from Ohio. Then back that up with book 12 of the R.A. Salvator's Drizzt series(MA). if only Kingsley Amos were American. Robert E Howard will have to do for book three

  15. Love it! And forgive the shameless plug, but I'm from Rhode Island ;-)

  16. Love this idea. Going to go for it.

  17. Thank you so much for coming up with this. I'm in - wrote about it on my blog today.

  18. This is simply wonderful! A perfect gift for book lovers to go along with this reading challenge, is the book A Journey Through Literary America. Fantastic!