In my heart, I am a patriot. I’m in the UK at the moment visiting Earl and I stayed up late last night to proudly watch the US fight their way through an incredible game against Belgium. If I’ve learned anything from transatlantic dating, it’s that the United States is like my mother: I can talk all the shit I want about her and discuss her many faults, but she’s mine to discuss and if some outsider to the family wants to do the same, we will have words. So when Earl gave himself a goal of reading all the shortlisted Man Booker Prize novels (if you recognize the badness of the pun in the name of his blog, two points for you), I was fairly pleased to give myself a sort of similar US-centric goal
(Incidentally, Earl’s given himself an additional goal of reading all cradle-to-the-grave biographies for US Presidents).
Not long ago, I stumbled across a list on Business Insider for the Most Famous Book Set in Every State of the United States, including Washington DC. What set this list apart from other lists like The Guardian’s Top 100 List, BBC’s Big Read Top 100 List, and Modern Library’s Top 100 List was that I really felt like I had a hope of finishing it. I generally think of myself as being sort of well-read until I peruse these lists, at which point I feel a little like an illiterate philistine. But at the same time, there are quite a few books on these lists that I have absolutely no interest in reading, or cannot comprehend why they’re on the list (On the Road, I’m looking at you).
When I first encountered The Most Famous Book Set in Every State list, it included enough books I’d already read or was interested in reading, plus quite a few I would never have thought to read and have subsequently enjoyed, like The Round House and Shiloh. So instead of just using it as a list from which to pick and choose certain books, I’ve endeavored to read every book on the list except for the ones I know I’m going to fucking loathe (namely Twilight, My Sister’s Keeper, and The Lost Symbol – sorry, WA, RI, and DC). I’ve decided to analyze how my opinion matches up with the opinion of the rest of the United States and include my analysis here. I’ll keep track of my progress over on my Most Famous Book Set in Every State page.
This is a heat map of my ratings so far for each book, red being most favored and that sandy off-white color being most reviled (click to embiggen, and please ignore typos in the list). At the moment it’s looking like Tornado Alley is going to do pretty well! Maybe the inclement weather inspires a lot of creativity and good writing. Compare to the Carolinas, where apparently it’s very popular to make people roll their eyes into the backs of their heads.
This map, expertly colored using mspaint, shows the breakdown of the most famous novels set in every state by the gender of the author. The ratio isn’t great, with women representing ~37% (I sort of merged both of Tennessee’s books into one, and don’t forget DC!), but it could be worse. Way to go, Mid-Atlantic states, giving the ladies some love!
This heat map represents the ratings of each book by goodreads users. Click on the picture for a more interactive version over at OpenHeatMap, where you can see that goodreads users are agreed that Twilight is a crap book compared to, say, The Laramie Project.
This heat map shows each Most Famous Book Set in Every State by year of publication, with the paler shades representing earlier years and darker shades representing more recent years. There’s a curious overlap of recently written novels and female authors in the Mid-Atlantic region. But what’s really cool is that women wrote both the oldest and most recent Most Famous books in this list – Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Round House respectively.
Oh, I said something about pie charts in order to keep this post pie-relevant, didn’t I?
While I’m at it, TIM HOWARD FOR PRESIDENT.