The best books about Florida

7 authors have picked their favorite books about Florida and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Oh, Florida!: How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country

Oh, Florida!: How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country

By Craig Pittman,

Why this book?

To outsiders, Florida seems baffling. It's a state where the voters went for Barack Obama twice, yet elected a Tea Party candidate as governor. Florida is touted as a carefree paradise, yet it's also known for its perils—alligators, sinkholes, pythons, hurricanes, and sharks, to name a few.  It attracts 90 million visitors a year, some drawn by its impressive natural beauty, others bewitched by its man-made fantasies. Oh, Florida!, by award-winning journalist Craig Pittman, explores those contradictions and shows how they fit together to make this the most interesting state.

From the list:

The best books on modern Florida

Book cover of The Orchid Thief

The Orchid Thief

By Susan Orlean,

Why this book?

A good book provides me with information, but it must also be entertaining and free of annoying jargon. This one became a bestseller after it appeared back in 1998, with good reason. In fact, I’ve read it three times (a rarity for me) and I always get a chuckle or two. Susan Orlean crafts a fascinating tale about the wonderful subculture of orchid fanciers in Florida. The writing is vivid, the characters she meets are off the wall, and I learned a lot about these weird, sometimes creepy flowers.

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The best books on the amazing world of plants

Book cover of Does My Body Offend You?

Does My Body Offend You?

By Mayra Cuevas, Marie Marquardt,

Why this book?

This is a YA novel told from the perspectives of two very different strong women. It’s part coming-of-age, part coming-of-action as they learn the best ways to affect change in their communities and how to voice their frustrations with the patriarchy. And we loved how it dealt with these issues in a nuanced and complex way that didn’t offer easy answers.
From the list:

The best books with strong feminist perspectives, coming-of-age themes, and— please god— humor

Book cover of Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad That Crossed an Ocean

Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad That Crossed an Ocean

By Les Standiford,

Why this book?

Last Train to Paradise is acclaimed novelist Les Standiford's fast-paced and gripping true account of the extraordinary construction and spectacular demise of the Key West Railroad—one of the greatest engineering feats ever undertaken, destroyed in one fell swoop by the Labor Day hurricane of 1935. Brilliant and driven entrepreneur Henry Flagler's dream fulfilled, the Key West Railroad stood as a magnificent achievement for more than twenty-two years, heralded as "the Eighth Wonder of the World." Standiford brings the full force and fury of 1935's deadly Storm of the Century and its sweeping destruction of "the railroad that crossed an ocean"…

From the list:

The best books on modern Florida

Book cover of Gift from the Sea

Gift from the Sea

By Anne Morrow Lindbergh,

Why this book?

Anne Morrow Lindberg lived through the kidnapping and death of her child, the steady scrutiny of the press, and a husband who sympathized with the Nazis. She had to craft her own life amid turmoil and heartbreak.  But I didn’t know her full story when I first read this book in college. I was drawn to it for the power of wisdom she found while walking a Florida beach.

I’ve lived most of my life near the ocean and her powerful, timeless truths drawn from simple shells and sea life captured both my heart and imagination. Over the course of…

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The best books for surviving (and thriving) in disruptive times

Book cover of Florida Place Names: Alachua to Zolfo Springs

Florida Place Names: Alachua to Zolfo Springs

By Allen Morris,

Why this book?

Allen Morris’s compilation of Florida places, by name, tells the stories of each—the origin of their names, their histories, and who settled them. It was published in 1995 but all the information is just as current today. It is a fascinating read and has been an invaluable history research tool for every one of my Florida books.

From the list:

The best books for Florida-philes

Book cover of Wolf Hunt

Wolf Hunt

By Jeff Strand,

Why this book?

Even the simplest jobs can turn out to be horrible. George and Lou are the nicest, most amiable underworld thugs you could meet. They just want to get their delivery job done and then go out for some beers and bowling. Except, the thing they don’t know is that their delivery consignment is a very angry werewolf. When it escapes, they are forced into a cat-and-mouse chase across Florida. No paycheck can be worth the horror and torment that Jeff Strand’s bloody comedy puts them through.

From the list:

The best books that capture the horrors of the workplace

Book cover of Flush

Flush

By Carl Hiaasen,

Why this book?

I love Hiaasen’s humor and down-to-earth boy characters. In Flush, Noah is the adult in the father-son relationship. Normally I wouldn’t go for this in a story: Dads should lead by example, even in fiction. But I recognize that in real life that’s not always the case. Hiaasen’s YA novels are clean adventures that often include strong female characters, a solid moral (in this case preserving our environment), and make me want to read them again and again. I know some want to know how readers “feel” when they read a book. Not me. I’m more interested in the adventure…
From the list:

The best fun, fast “clean” reads for reluctant YA readers

Book cover of Go Gator and Muddy the Water: Writings From the Federal Writers' Project by Zora Neale Hurston

Go Gator and Muddy the Water: Writings From the Federal Writers' Project by Zora Neale Hurston

By Pamela Bordelon,

Why this book?

Today, most people know Zora Neale Hurston as a novelist, thanks to her classic Their Eyes Were Watching God. But she was also an accomplished folklorist, anthropologist, playwright, and essayist. And yet, by the late 1930s, she was broke, and she found work with both the Federal Theater Project and Federal Writers’ Project. This book collects Hurston’s writing for the FWP in her home state of Florida, along with an incisive essay by Pamela Bordelon. The sheer variety of material on display here wasn’t unusual for the FWP: you’ll find essayistic meditations on folklife and art, collections of tall…

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The best books about the New Deal’s unprecedented and often messy contributions to the arts

Book cover of Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams: A Social History of Modern Florida

Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams: A Social History of Modern Florida

By Gary R. Mormino,

Why this book?

Gary Mormino ranges far and wide across the landscape and boundaries of a place that is at once America's southernmost state and the northernmost outpost of the Caribbean. From the capital, Tallahassee--a day's walk from the Georgia border--to Miami--a city distant but tantalizingly close to Cuba and Haiti--Mormino traces the themes of Florida's transformation: the echoes of old Dixie and a vanishing Florida; land booms and tourist empires; revolutions in agriculture, technology, and demographics; the seductions of the beach and the dynamics of a graying population; and the enduring but changing meanings of a dream state.

From the list:

The best books on modern Florida

Or, view all 56 books about Florida

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