The “Appalachian States” Reading Challenge

AppalachiaI have set myself a challenge to read books set in the “Appalachian States” in the United States (since I cannot possibly take up the challenge of reading 50 books set in all 50 different states). For those who do not know, Appalachia is a “cultural region in the Eastern US that stretches roughly from New York to Northern Georgia”. I reside in the UK and, so, it will be interesting for me to discover and learn about life in some American states through literature, as well as bring visibility to that part of the world. I am especially interested in small and remote American towns.

I feel like I can sign up for this challenge because I am making good progress on my YARC and will soon progress on my Colour Coded Reading Challenge too. I will also not set a deadline to complete The “Appalachian States” Reading Challenge. This is not a year-round challenge, and I will try to complete it incrementally. 

For the purpose of The “Appalachian States” Reading Challenge, I am taking the definition of the Appalachian states as stated by the Appalachian Regional Commission in 1965, and NOT the states making up the Appalachian trail. This means I have a goal to read books set in these 13 American states: West Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. 

I already know that I want to read the book of Anne Tyler – Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant [1982] to cover the state of Maryland, and I will probably read the debut of Toni Morrison – The Bluest Eye [1970] to cover the state of Ohio. Have you ever done a similar challenge, or want to? Do you have a favourite book set in the states mentioned above?

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22 thoughts on “The “Appalachian States” Reading Challenge

    1. Thank you! It is interesting, isn’t it? I guess that is why I did not draw a deadline for myself to complete the challenge. I will try to read as many books as possible set in different states, but I don’t have to do it by the end of the year. I don’t think I will be able to manage that pressure.

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  1. I heartily recommend you check out work by Ron Rash. He is best known for his novel, Serena, which is amazing. (the film was very disappointing) He has a considerable body of work from which to choose.

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    1. Thanks very much for this excellent suggestion! It is great in fact – actually, I did make a note to read Serena to cover the state of North Carolina. I cannot wait to read it and I really like that it is about ordinary people and the timber business.

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  2. Enjoy reading about my people!

    Keep in mind that West Virginia is the only “real” Appalachian state. Appalachia only includes small parts of the rest of those states.

    I second the recommendation of Ron Rash, although Serena is my least favorite of his books. David Joy is another writer who sets his stories in the mountains of NC. I also loved Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown. And the titular Cold Mountain in Charles Frazier’s book is in NC.

    Rash sets most of his books in WNC, but his excellent debut One Foot in Eden is set in the mountains of South Carolina. His second book, Saints at the River, is one of his few I haven’t read and is set on the border between South Carolina and Georgia.

    Brian Panowich’s books Bull Mountain and its sequel Like Lions are set in the mountains of Georgia.

    I really like James McLaughlin’s Bearskin, set in the mountains of Virginia.

    https://hillbillyhighways.wordpress.com/

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    1. Thank you very much for your wonderful recommendations! I will certainly look them all up, starting with Ron Rash since I earmarked this author already. Bearskin sounds very interesting, too.

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        1. Wow, these are great recommendations. I already want to read Kentucky Straight: Stories by Chris Offutt, that will be very insightful, I think. For Kingsolver, I was thinking The Poisonwood Bible, not sure how much it spends on the region in question, though because I guess some action also takes place elsewhere outside the country.

          It is difficult to find great books on some topics unless someone points in the right direction, so I am grateful to you and all the others.

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          1. Most of the Poisonwood Bible happens in Africa. I don’t think it fits your challenge.

            Chris Offutt and Ron Rash attended a festival I went to a few weeks ago. They are deeply attached to their region, the Appalachians. They know what they’re writing about and their short stories are a good introduction to the place.

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