‘Papa’ Hemingway’s visceral tale of a fisherman, Santiago, battling a marlin in the waters between Havana and Florida - where Hemingway himself fished from his boat the ‘Pilar’.
The Big Sleep
Raymond Chandler’s slice of Noir - the first ‘Philip Marlowe’ novel - offers a perfect counterbalance to the gloss of La La Land.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Philip K. Dick’s brilliant sci-fi novel - the source material for the movie ‘Blade Runner’ - is set in the Bay area, now the home of future tech. A great text through which to explore Silicon Valley and our automated future.
The Great Gatsby (Manhattan / Long Island)
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic story of longing and self-invention, set on the north shore of Long Island, where mansions like Gatsby’s still pepper the foreshore.
Set in the early Civil Rights era in Jackson, Mississippi, Kathryn Stockett’s best-seller is as much about class as it is about race. Easy to read, but provoking.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
The story of a true-life murder in the hothouse atmosphere of Savannah. The movie / book had such an impact that it now fuels Savannah's tourist industry. Read Colin Burrow’s guest blog here.
The Grapes of Wrath
A slice of pure Americana. Today, the Joads’ route west from Oklahoma to California is peppered with boarded-up motels and bars and gas stations (think ‘Radiator Springs’ in Pixar’s “Cars”). In the Bakersfield Valley in California (the Joads’ destination) history repeats itself; migrant laborers still work the fields and chase the American Dream. Here Andrew discuss the novel here.
A wickedly funny but controversial childhood classic. A book to re-read on a steamboat south from Twain’s home town of Hannibal, Missouri, down the Mississippi to the borders of Arkansas.
To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee’s perfect novel doesn’t age. As the South wrestles with the weight of history, bookpacking ‘Mockingbird’ feels more relevant than ever.
Interview With The Vampire
New Orleans is decadent, transgressive, nocturnal - and comes alive through the pages of Anne Rice’s gothic pot-boiler… . Read Andrew’s blog post here.
The Joy Luck Club
Stories of Chinese-American immigration and assimilation. One to read in San Fran’s Chinatown.
All the King’s Men
Robert Penn Warren’s political thriller describes the rise of a populist demagogue in 1930s Louisiana. In the age of Donald Trump it feels topical and fresh. Read Andrew’s blog post here.
The Color Purple
Alice Walker’s epistolary novel is about a young black woman growing up in the South. Set in an unnamed part of Georgia, it’s profoundly moving.
The Overlook Hotel is based on the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, where Stephen King stayed one night in 1974. It's supposedly haunted…
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Hunter S. Thompson’s account of his drug-fueled travels to Las Vegas in the 1960s. A story of excess in a city of artifice and dreams.
The book on which the harrowing Burt Reynolds movie was based. It explores the American imperative to go ‘into the wild’ - and the backwoods folk that live there. James Dickey was a poet, and the novel describes brilliantly the wilds of the southern Appalachia.
On The Road
Jack Kerouac’s love song to the great American road trip, laced through with a sense of yearning and loss. It covers much of the US, and Denver (Neal Cassidy’s home city) features prominently. But ultimately, all roads lead to San Francisco…
Snow Falling on Cedars
The internment of Japanese-American wartime internment provides the context for David Guterson’s gripping murder mystery set in a fishing community in Puget Sound, northwest of Seattle.
The Weary Blues
A celebration of Harlem through the lens of Langston Hughes - cool, bi-sexual, angry but triumphant.
The Bonfire of the Vanities
Tom Wolfe’s corruscating novel is the best best book ever written about the worst excesses of New York. A book to savor touring Wall Street and the Upper East Side.
In Cold Blood
Capote’s brilliantly empathetic true-crime novel dissects a small town American murder.
Do we really need to explain why? We love the idea of bookpacking in the Pacific North West!
Peter Benchley's blockbuster novel was inspired by a real life shark attack in 1917. One to read on the beaches of Long Island…
A River Runs Through It
We love the idea of fly-fishing the Blackfoot River with Norman MacLean’s lyrical novella as a guide. Time to release our inner Brad Pitt….
Same Place, Same Things
Tim Gautreaux’s short stories of blue collar life in Louisiana are infused with Cajun flavor. Read Andrew’s blog post here.
A Confederacy of Dunces
John Kennedy Toole’s comic masterpiece - the story of Ignatius J. Reilly, New Orleans’ Rabelaisian, flatulent hero. If one book captures the rumbustious spirit of New Orleans, this is it. Read Andrew’s blog post here.
Kate Chopin’s late 19th Century Creole classic, a story of self-discovery set on the vacation resort of Grand Isle on the Gulf Coast. Read Andrew’s blog post here.
Walker Percy’s existential tale of the old South, a story of ennui set in the genteel environs of the Garden District in New Orleans.
A Lesson Before Dying
Ernest J. Gaines’ classic story of a condemned man in the Segregated South, based on his childhood experiences in Pointe Coupée Parish, Louisiana. The town of Bayonne is based on New Roads, LA. Read Andrew’s blog post here.
Coming Through Slaughter
Michael Ondaatje’s novella about Storyville and Jazz in 1920s New Orleans.
Leslie Marmon Silko’s extraordinary story of a traumatised Native American veteran returning home to Laguna Pueblo after WW2.
Close Range (Brokeback Mountain)
Annie Proulx’s Wyoming Stories capture the character and contradictions of the West. The collection includes ‘Brokeback Mountain’, filmed by Ang Lee in 2005.
Willa Cather’s nostalgic love song to the homesteaders. The town of Black Hawk is based on Red Cloud, Nebraska, where Cather spent her childhood in the 1880s.
Elizabeth Strout’s collection of interconnected stories describe the intricacies of life and character in a coastal town in Maine. The stories were adapted as an HBO miniseries starring Frances McDormand in 2014.
Gish Jen’s funny and insightful account of the Chinese-American immigrant experience, set in New York in the 1950s and 60s.
Woman Hollering Creek
A wonderful collection of short stories by Chicano author Sandra Cisneros, describing the lives of a series of Mexican-American women on both sides of the Texan / Mexican border. The titular story is set in Seguin, TX.
Other Voices, Other Rooms
Written when he was just 23, ‘Other Voices, Other Rooms’ is Capote’s first novel, a brilliant story of a child’s search for self-identity on a decaying plantation home in Mississippi. It’s a terrifically atmospheric slice of Southern Gothic - and an interesting companion piece to ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, by Capote’s childhood friend Harper Lee.
Song of Solomon
Toni Morrison’s hard hitting but ultimately uplifting story of a young black man’s search for identity and place. It starts in the industrial north, and moves south to Pennsylvania and Virginia.
The Secret History
Donna Tartt’s best-selling novel moves from an ivy-clad New England college into the pagan woods…
Cormac McCarthy’s tale of blood-letting between Americans, Mexicans and Native Americans in the decade after Texan annexation.
Death Comes for the Archbishop
Willa Cather’s charming historical novel follows the life a Catholic priest in Santa Fe, describing his subtle relationship with the local Mexican and Native American peoples. Read Andrew’s blog post here.
The Lathe of Heaven
Ursula K. Le Guin’s fantasy novel imagines parallel versions of Portland’s future. Read Andrew’s blog post here.
Larry McMurtry’s epic novel describes a cattle drive from the Texas Panhandle north to Montana.
The Red Badge of Courage
Written in 1895, Stephen Crane’s novel seems surprisingly modern in its psychological treatment of war. It focuses on one unnamed private in the Union army in the Civil War battle of Chancellorville.
John Updike’s comic novel broke so many taboos in its day. Published in 1960, it tells the story of “Rabbit” Angstrom, a young father unable to cope with the responsibilities of adulthood. It’s wickedly satirical, very funny, and deeply humane.