by Emma Davis | June 9, 2020

24 Books Every Floridian Should Have

From well-known classics to highly anticipated novels, we've curated a list of Sunshine State-centric books every Floridian should read

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There’s nothing like a good book on a rainy Florida afternoon, so we’re here to help you pick your next read. From nonfiction to children’s, we’ve rounded up some of the best literary works from the Sunshine State, plus a few to look forward to. Hit the beach with the perfect paperback companion this summer. From fighting injustice in a Panhandle reform school with Colson Whitehead to exploring swampy South Florida Everglades with Marjory Stoneman Douglas, we’ve got you covered.

FICTION

THE NICKEL BOYS BY COLSON WHITEHEAD

This 2020 Pulitzer Prize winner is based on the true story of the Dozier Reform School in Marianna, in the Panhandle. The intimate novel follows African American student Elwood Curtis through the violent abuse and upsetting injustices of the Nickel Academy in Jim Crow-era Florida.

DUMA KEY BY STEPHEN KING

Stephen King trades his usual misty Maine backdrop for an eerie Florida island in his 2008 novel Duma Key. Main character Edgar Freemantle moves to The Keys in hopes of relaxation and recovery after a work injury, but finds that some things will follow you anywhere.

THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD BY ZORA NEALE HURSTON

If you skipped this one in your high school English class, it’s time to head back for some extra credit. Famous Florida author Zora Neale Hurston details the transformation of a quiet girl into a confident woman in rural 1920s Eatonville.


THE YEARLING BY MARJORIE KINNAN RAWLINGS

Another famed female writer hailing from the Sunshine State, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ breakout success The Yearling is about a lonely young boy in the mid-19th century north Florida backwoods and his deep bond with an orphaned deer.

FLORIDA BY LAUREN GROFF

A deep darkness prowls beneath Florida’s blinding sunshine as Groff takes readers through different decades with a host of twisted characters. While vicious panthers and lurking alligators may seem the most obvious danger, the true wildness of Florida lies in the hearts of its residents.

DARKLY DREAMING DEXTER BY JEFF LINDSAY

Still not over that Dexter TV ending? Experience the original tale of the Miami Police Department crime scene analyst, and part time vigilante serial killer. Or just rewatch all eight seasons on Netflix.

STILTSVILLE BY SUSANNA DANIEL

Fall in love alongside Frances Ellerby in steamy South Florida. Daniel’s shy main character discovers romance, motherhood and heartbreak over the three decades of painfully real life in this romantic adventure.

NONFICTION

CAT TALE: THE WILD, WEIRD BATTLE TO SAVE THE FLORIDA PANTHER BY CRAIG PITTMAN

Another strange tale found in the Florida backwoods, this witty nonfiction follows the journey of those determined to bring the Florida panther back from the brink of extinction. With a few cats caught in the middle, the story is a perfect ode to Florida’s diverse wildlife and passionate people. 

THE EVERGLADES: RIVER OF GRASS BY MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS

Believe it or not, The Everglades weren’t always recognized as the ecological wonder that it is. In 1947, the same year it was established as a national park, Stoneman Douglas warns readers about the fragility of this vast ecosystem and the dangers of pollution and human interference.

SUNSHINE STATE: ESSAYS BY SARAH GERARD

With economic strife and an environment on the brink, Florida native Sarah Gerard uses the state as a smaller example of much bigger problems. This nonfiction piece precedes her upcoming fiction book, True Love. Stay tuned for an interview with Gerard on Flamingo.

THE ORCHID THIEF: A TRUE STORY OF BEAUTY AND OBSESSION BY SUSAN ORLEAN

The strange 1994 arrest of John Laroche, an orchid poacher in South Florida, is recounted in The Orchid Thief by journalist Susan Orlean. What begins as an odd news piece becomes a deep dive into the passion and struggle of Laroche and his fellow flower dealers. 

TALES OF OLD FLORIDA BY FRANK OPPEL AND TONY MEISEL

Before Florida became a carribean trading hub or a tourist paradise, it was a swampy new frontier. With stories of hunters, sportsmen and Native Americans, this book takes you back to the untamed wilderness of Old Florida.

THE GROVELAND FOUR: THE SAD SAGA OF A LEGAL LYNCHING BY GARY CORSAIR

The truth of what happened when four young black men are accused of raping a white woman is finally revealed, and Florida’s history of racism is painfully exposed. While the men were officially pardoned last year, the sad truth lingers and justice comes far too late.

PARKLAND: BIRTH OF A MOVEMENT BY DAVE CULLEN

Just one year after 17 people were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Dave Cullen’s 2019 book recounts the stories of the teens who survived and their leadership in the national debate about gun control laws that ensued.

CHILDREN’S

OONAWASSEE SUMMER BY MELISSA FORNEY, ILLUSTRATED BY GREG W. SCOTT

Join 12-year-olds Addie and Tanner in their visit to Uncle Henry’s bait shop along the mysterious and intriguing Oonawassee River. The two kids discover Florida’s culture, the unbreakable bond of a family and maybe even an alligator or two along the way.

HOOT BY CARL HIAASEN

This book that became one of our favorite early 2000s movies follows a group of outcast kids in their fight to save an owl habitat from an evil pancake house developer. The movie, of course, features Florida legend Jimmy Buffet himself.

BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE BY KATE DICAMILLO

In another Florida classic, a 10-year-old girl struggles with her father to make ends meet when she makes an unlikely friend: a scruffy dog she names Winn-Dixie. Winn-Dixie, and a few other oddball friends, help her realize that even without money, there’s a lot to be grateful for. 

STARRING SALLY J. FREEDMAN AS HERSELF BY JUDY BLUME

Sally J. Freedman is the main character in her own movie, and she finds her conflict when her family moves from New Jersey to Miami Beach just after World War II. Sally’s superstitious and theatrical nature, and her new neighbor Hitler, cause strange adventures in another uncensored Blume tale. 

APALACHEE: A NOVEL BY JOYCE ROCKWOOD HUDSON

A Native American woman fights for her culture in the colonial south in this harrowingly historically accurate book. With the forced assimilation and slavery of Native Americans, Hinachuba Lucia struggles to navigate clashing cultures and moral dilemmas that result.

HELLO, FLORIDA! BY MARTHA ZSCHOCK

Author and illustrator Martha Zschock tells the tale of a young alligator and his father making their way from the Panhandle to the Florida Keys, discovering all of Florida’s gems along the way. The two visit theme parks, stop by orange groves, play in the surf and rhyme the whole way.

UPCOMING

THE LAST TRAIN TO KEY WEST BY CHANEL CLEETON — JUNE 16, 2020

In 1935, three women cross paths in Key West as a dangerous hurricane looms. Brought together by fate during an economic depression, the women face perilous missions and venture through passionate relationships in the windy onset of a deadly storm. 

SQUEEZE ME BY CARL HIAASEN — AUGUST 25, 2020

During the silk-and-pearls, diamond-dripping fundraising gala season in Palm Beach, a socialite disappears and is mysteriously found buried under the concrete in this puzzling mystery. Things only get stranger from there in the circle of high-society South Floridians in a book that perfectly reflects the absurd times we’re living in. 

CONFESSIONS ON THE 7:45 BY LISA UNGER — OCTOBER 6, 2020

Selena Murphy’s life is stone-carved perfection, but it begins to crumble after confiding in a stranger on her daily commute to work. Selena begins to uncover a web of lies behind her missing nanny and failing marriage in this intriguing new mystery.

TROPIC OF STUPID BY TIM DORSEY — JANUARY 26, 2021

Florida history buff Serge Storms’ journey continues in Tropic of Stupid. Storms dives into his ancestors’ murky past, and his ventures into swampy Florida history quickly turn sinister.

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