The best books to make you feel like you’re in Almost Heaven (West Virginia)

Who am I?

I’m a seventh-generation West Virginian. My husband and I own the farm that’s been in my family since before the Civil War. My Appalachian roots are sunk deep, so when it comes to “writing what you know,” this is it! I was baptized in stories by my father who transformed my ancestors and my history into a living, breathing cast of characters I longed to meet. So, I began to write their stories in the guise of novels about made-up people. My seven novels (and two novellas) are love letters to the place that shaped me. 


I wrote...

The Finder of Forgotten Things

By Sarah Loudin Thomas,

Book cover of The Finder of Forgotten Things

What is my book about?

"In a hardscrabble 1930s setting, complex characters wrestle with justice, mercy, inequality, honesty, and the fact that they are all prodigals still searching for the way home. Loudin Thomas delivers a stunning tale of one of the worst industrial disasters in U.S. history, underlined with a moral imperative to love one's neighbor that still hits home today." -Library Journal

"Loudin Thomas introduces a multifaceted cast desperately trying to survive the Great Depression in 1930s West Virginia, in this strong historical... The small-town plot's set against the real-life Hawks Nest Tunnel disaster... giving Loudin Thomas impetus to underline the impact of acts of caring in a community." - Publishers Weekly

The books I picked & why

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June Bug

By Chris Fabry,

Book cover of June Bug

Why this book?

I can just imagine Chris Fabry saying, “Hey, let’s set a retelling of Les Miserable in West Virginia!” Which is exactly what he does in June Bug, resulting in a story that’s just as wonderful and heart-rending as its inspiration. June Bug is traveling the country with her father in an RV. Then, one day, she sees her own face on a poster for missing children. What if her father isn’t her father? Well worth picking up a copy to find out!

June Bug

By Chris Fabry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked June Bug as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the best-selling author of War Room comes a Christy Award finalist, now a Lifetime original movie called Child of Grace.
“I believed everything my daddy told me until I walked into Wal-Mart and saw my picture on a little poster . . .” For as long as she can remember, June Bug and her father have traveled the back roads of the country in their beat-up RV, spending many nights parked at Wal-Mart. One morning, as she walks past the greeter at the front of the store, her eyes are drawn to the pictures of missing children, where she…


The Appalachians

By Maurice Brooks,

Book cover of The Appalachians

Why this book?

This nonfiction work is the quintessential handbook to the biological diversity of Appalachia. Plus, it’s fun to read! Brooks grew up on a farm not far from where I did in north-central West Virginia. I like to think he fell in love with the flora and fauna of our region the same way I did—by simply being exposed to it from the day he was born. His account of a snake visiting camp after dark one night is told in true West Virginia style. With a tongue-in-cheek humor I love almost as much as these mountains!

The Appalachians

By Maurice Brooks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Appalachians as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

softcover


The Unquiet Grave: A Novel

By Sharyn McCrumb,

Book cover of The Unquiet Grave: A Novel

Why this book?

Don’t you love that title?!? And the novel is based on a true story about a ghost who testified at her own trial. Seriously. Testimony from the Greenbrier Ghost was accepted in a court of law. I’m just sorry I didn’t get around to writing about this one before Sharyn did!

The Unquiet Grave: A Novel

By Sharyn McCrumb,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Unquiet Grave as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From New York Times bestselling author Sharyn McCrumb comes this finely wrought novel set in nineteenth-century West Virginia, based on the true story of one of the strangest murder trials in American history-the case of the Greenbrier Ghost.

Lakin, West Virginia, 1930-Following a suicide attempt and consigned to a segregated insane asylum, attorney James P.D. Gardner finds himself under the care of Dr. James Boozer. Eager to try the new talking cure for insanity, Boozer encourages his elderly patient to reminisce about his experiences as the first black attorney to practice law in nineteenth-century West Virginia. In his forty-year career,…


The Grand Design: A Novel of Dorothy Draper

By Joy Callaway,

Book cover of The Grand Design: A Novel of Dorothy Draper

Why this book?

This book is about the other West Virginia. The one where the Vanderbilts and the Astors traveled down to the Greenbrier to spend their summers taking the waters. The story centers around famed interior designer Dorothy Draper and her design for the Greenbrier. And while the story is definitely “high class” it also highlights Dorothy’s love for the beauty of my home state which she captured in so many elements of her final design. 

The Grand Design: A Novel of Dorothy Draper

By Joy Callaway,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Grand Design as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

She has one last chance to prove she chose the right course for her life.

In 1908, young Dorothy Tuckerman chafes under the bland, beige traditions of her socialite circles. Only the aristocracy's annual summer trips to The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia spark her imagination. In this naturally beautiful place, an unexpected romance with an Italian racecar driver gives Dorothy a taste of the passion and adventure she wants. But her family intervenes, sentencing Dorothy to the life she hopes to escape.

Thirty-eight years later, as World War II draws to a close, Dorothy has done everything a woman…


Dirt: Growing Strong Roots in What Makes the Broken Beautiful

By Mary Marantz,

Book cover of Dirt: Growing Strong Roots in What Makes the Broken Beautiful

Why this book?

Mary and I both grew up in West Virginia. And while her family life was rougher than mine, I recognize so many of the characters she writes about in her bittersweet memoir. This is Mary's story of trying to move past poverty, shame, and those doggone hillbilly stereotypes to discover who she really is. And in doing so, she reminds us all of who we are too—broken people trying to get the dirt out from under our fingernails before anyone sees. If you've ever struggled to embrace your roots, this is the book for you!

Dirt: Growing Strong Roots in What Makes the Broken Beautiful

By Mary Marantz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dirt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dirt is a story about the places where we start. From a single-wide trailer in the mountains of rural West Virginia to the halls of Yale Law School, Mary Marantz's story is one of remembering our roots while turning our faces to the sky. From growing up in that trailer, where it rained just as hard inside as out and the smell of mildew hung thick in the air, Mary has known what it is to feel broken and disqualified because of the muddy scars leaving smudged fingerprints across our lives. Generations of her family lived and logged in those…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in West Virginia, lawyers, and the Appalachian Mountains?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about West Virginia, lawyers, and the Appalachian Mountains.

West Virginia Explore 23 books about West Virginia
Lawyers Explore 66 books about lawyers
The Appalachian Mountains Explore 13 books about the Appalachian Mountains

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Call It Horses, Colored People, and Shiloh if you like this list.