State-based book lists (A.K.A. Why is my state so lame?)

Ohio is lame. But I’ll get back to that in a minute…

The amount of lists of books that use state location as a factor is astounding to me.

I get it.

There are only so many ways to repackage the same Harry Potter related secrets to make them look new and get people to forget they read them before in that one Buzzfeed post two years ago.

People who write about books have to get some new material. Using all 50 states gives you the chance to hit an entire nation’s audience and pit states against each other in a weird sort of competition. (And who hasn’t secretly–or maybe not so secretly– been jealous of a state like California or Hawaii in some of those posts…)

Yesterday, one of my coworkers and friends, Emily, sent me a link to this Mental Floss post (note the comment below about the map being designed for arguing).

It lists the most famous book set in each state. My state is lame. The most famous book set in Ohio is The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace.

I can’t say I’ve read the book, which is described on Goodreads as being something of a mystery mixed with a little comedy that is set in Cleveland and revolves around 25 seniors who go missing from a nursing home.

There has to be some better, more famous book set in Ohio, Mental Floss. Just has to be.

At first, I was OK. I’d just look at other states. Maybe, if I looked at states I at one point or another had hoped to live in (before I entirely understood the logistics of moving), I could find the state I was destined to live in someday.

Yes, a bit far-fetched basing that on a random online post, but hey, bigger things have probably been decided on less at some point in history.

So, Massachusetts (I love the idea of the history in Boston). Thoreau’s Walden. Not the worst book I’ve ever read, but definitely not a favorite.

Connecticut: Revolutionary Road. Never read it, but heard the movie’s great. (Leo + Kate 2.0…. it could work.)

Florida: To Have and Have Not. I like me some Hemingway… so…. maybe this one would be a winner.

But as I scanned the list, I noticed something else. Whoever wrote this list has a vastly different definition of famous than I do. I would classify famous as well-known and recognized by readers of all categories. Not just the study literature for a living and do nothing but read types, but the casual readers who read for pleasure at various ages.

Gone with the Wind for Georgia. I’ll give you that one. Who hasn’t heard of the movie, at the very least?

Washington having Twilight, spot on Mental Floss.

Indiana… my guess would have been The Fault in our Stars–the teen sensation that swept the nation earlier this year. But no, it’s The Magnificent Andersons. A book I’d never heard of.

For Ohio, the writer could have picked Beloved, a well-known work by Toni Morrison. Or Captain Underpants. Known to children and adults alike. (I guess that could have been a little too low-brow for a list with the likes of Steinbeck, Hemingway, Faulkner and others.)

These lists are arbitrary at best. A quick Google search found lists including the literary masterpiece that best matches or represents each state, favorite books from each state and the favorite book of each state in 2014.

Why does literature have to be bounded by state boundaries? It’s something I will probably never understand.

But I’ll probably still click on the link…

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