The best books about Indiana

13 authors have picked their favorite books about Indiana and why they recommend each book.

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In Limestone Country

By Scott Russell Sanders,

Book cover of In Limestone Country

Not only does geology shape the land, it can also shape the lives of those who quarry the stone. Rarely is this relationship between human and rock better portrayed than in Scott Russell Sanders’ thoughtful essays about the limestone country around Bedford, Indiana. With graceful and respectful prose, he tells the stories of a “piece of earth where the accidents of geology have yielded a special kind of stone, and where landscapes, towns, and the people themselves bear the mark of that stone.” And, if you seek to see this story on film, I can also recommend one of my favorite movies, Breaking Away, a humorous and passionate portrayal of life and biking in limestone country.

Who am I?

For the past two decades, I have written about the intersection of people and place, particularly as viewed through the lens of geology and how it influences our lives. My nine books include Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography, Cairns: Messengers in Stone, and Homewaters: A Human and Natural History of Puget Sound. All of them have a goal of helping people develop a better connection with the natural world around them.

I wrote...

Stories in Stone: Travels Through Urban Geology

By David B. Williams,

Book cover of Stories in Stone: Travels Through Urban Geology

What is my book about?

Most people do not think of looking for geology from the sidewalks of a major city, but for the intrepid geologist any good rock can tell a fascinating story. All one has to do is look at building stone to find a range of rocks equal to any assembled by plate tectonics. Furthermore, building stones provide the foundation for constructing stories about cultural as well as natural history.

In my journeys around the United States and Italy recounted in Stories in Stone, I braid together natural and cultural history to reveal the untold life of building stone. Stories range from explorations of rock used by the Romans to build the Colosseum to a gas station made of petrified wood to a granite quarry that led to the first commercial railroad in the United States. By discussing history, transportation, and architecture, I hope to give readers a new way to appreciate urban geology.

The Season of Styx Malone

By Kekla Magoon,

Book cover of The Season of Styx Malone

Have you ever dreamed of being someone and somewhere else? I remember being a kid in the summertime when the hot summer in Omaha, Nebraska felt sooooo long and there was nothing to do. Styx Malone (foster child & the cool kid) and brothers Caleb and Bobby Gene are feeling that angst too. To make life more exciting, they concoct a plan to exchange one small thing for something better until they achieve their “wildest dreams” (motorbike). Sometimes it’s the baby sister that’s exchanged for fireworks (I mean, that’s pretty funny, but don’t worry, the baby sister is given back and they get to keep the fireworks). Of course, everything goes awry and gets dangerous and…well, read this book and you’ll be turning the pages at a mad pace, too!

Who am I?

I’m a grown mother now. Also an author. But once upon a time, I was in middle school. I remember the braces, bad hair, being scared to return my lunch tray because boys might look at me while I passed their lunch table. Such angst, and yet I adore middle schoolers - they’re my jam. Fun, funny, exasperating, creative, boisterous, and annoying are all words I’d use to describe the middle school kids I teach and coach. I write down their quotes, shake my head at their antics, and adore their intense friendships. I hope you’ll enjoy these true-to-life middle-grade reads as much as I have!

I wrote...

Ten Thousand Tries

By Amy Makechnie,

Book cover of Ten Thousand Tries

What is my book about?

Twelve-year-old Golden Maroni is determined to channel his hero, soccer superstar Lionel Messi, and become captain of his soccer team and master of his eighth grade universe…especially since his home universe is spiraling out of orbit. Off the field, Golden’s dad, once a pro soccer player himself, is now battling ALS, a disease that attacks his muscles, leaving him less and less physically able to control his body every day. And while Mom says there’s no cure, Golden is convinced that his dad can beat this, just like any opponent, they just have to try.

The Best at It

By Maulik Pancholy,

Book cover of The Best at It

Rahul Kapoor isn’t sure where he belongs as he starts seventh grade as one of the few Indian American kids in his midwestern town, but he latches onto his grandfather’s advice to figure out what he’s “the best” at… with sometimes disastrous results. This sweet, funny novel tackles relatable issues like facing anxiety and discovering your passion, all with a delightful cast. Rahul’s aunties are a force to behold!

Who am I?

When I was in school, I often struggled to figure out where I “fit”. Yeah, I know that’s a common struggle among angsty teens. But as a biracial, bisexual kid who loved basketball and books, I didn’t feel totally at home in any of the stereotypical Breakfast Club-style categories that showed up even in many of the books I read: jock, nerd, prep, etc. Now, as a dad, coach, and writer, I know those boxes aren’t real. I’m passionate about giving kids stories that challenge old ideas about what boys are “supposed” to be and help them explore the full range of who they can be.

I wrote...

Thanks a Lot, Universe

By Chad Lucas,

Book cover of Thanks a Lot, Universe

What is my book about?

Brian has always been anxious, but things get worse when he and his brother are placed in foster care. Ezra notices Brian pulling away and wants to help, but he worries his friends might figure out he has a crush on Brian. But when Brian and his brother run away, Ezra takes the leap and reaches out. Both boys must decide if they're willing to risk sharing parts of themselves they'd rather hide. If they can be brave, they might find the best in themselves—and each other.

"A glorious ode to the beauty of pre-teen friendship…. By far my favorite middle-grade novel of 2021!" -- Nic Stone, New York Times bestselling author of Clean Getaway


By Curtis Sittenfeld,

Book cover of Prep

This book is a brilliantly written, honest story set at a prestigious prep school (Ault) in the US. Its sometimes infuriating main character, Lee, doesn’t have a great time there and mostly it’s her own fault. But Lee is a scholarship girl and the unwritten rules of the privileged society she has just chosen to enter bewilder her. This is definitely a coming-of-age book for people who are already well into adulthood. At the end of the book, when real life crashes in on Lee, Sittenfeld writes a chapter that I could read over and over again. It’s so hauntingly true and wise in the way that you can only get by looking back at a sad period in your life later, when you’re happier.

Who am I?

I went to four different boarding schools when I was younger, which at the time didn’t seem weird but it definitely is. I think boarding schools are peculiar places, full of teenagers with raging hormones, secret homesickness, and a certain sort of reckless swagger that is a recipe for all sorts of drama i.e. the perfect setting for a novel. I was on quite hefty scholarships and know how lucky I was to be there, but whether you have or haven’t been to boarding school, there is an endless fascination with them. I had a lot of fun writing The Islanders, wallowing happily in my nostalgia and reminiscing with old friends about what we got up to.

I wrote...

The Islanders

By F.J. Campbell,

Book cover of The Islanders

What is my book about?

One girl. Three boys.

Beautiful, rich, selfish Beth Atkinson is the undisputed queen of her new school and she won’t give that up just to be someone’s girlfriend. Her loyal friend Milo and the intense head boy Edward both try to change her mind, but it’s only when she meets gorgeous, charming Zack that she finally twigs what all the fuss is about. She’s in so deep with Zack, she can’t see until it’s too late that her careless choices affect everyone around her, wrecking the lives of her friends and propelling them all towards tragedy. 

Lola Benko

By Beth McMullen,

Book cover of Lola Benko: Treasure Hunter

I loved the young female Indiana Jones character in this book, and it’s a great read for adventure-seeking readers between eight and twelve whether they are boys or girls. The story is fast-paced and intriguing. I got caught up in this one and I’m not a middle-grade-age reader.

Who am I?

I’ve been hooked on adventure stories since I started reading. When I became serious about writing for young readers, I couldn’t resist creating fearless kids out to tackle. Indiana Jones-sized dangers. While I love writing these kinds of stories, I can’t resist reading them either. If there’s an added element of magic or sci-fi time-travel, I have to find out what happens and how. The most fun is to read these stories aloud to the young readers in my family in hopes they’ll also fall in love with adventure/fantasy—maybe one of them will even write a few of these books. That would be fabulous.

I wrote...

Sign of the Green Dragon

By C. Lee McKenzie,

Book cover of Sign of the Green Dragon

What is my book about?

Three plucky sleuths. A crumbling skeleton. A buried treasure.

Sam’s the new kid at school with enough hitting talent to bring the baseball trophy back to Haggarty Elementary. But Sam’s guardian is shipping him off to boarding school. When his teammates, Joey and Roger, hear his bad news, they plot to hide him until the big game. Their secret cave is a perfect place, but an earthquake shatters a wall and reveals a wooden chest with a red-eyed dragon carved into the top. Inside, a crumbling skeleton clutches a map with a cryptic note, promising treasure if the finder reveals the truth about an old murder and returns the remains of the victim to China. Is the note a hoax? Maybe.

Raintree County

By Ross Lockridge,

Book cover of Raintree County

My friends and I discovered Raintree County as undergrads, and found in it everything that matters – history, character, politics, and above all action. Here is life with all its pleasure and horror, apostasy and faith, sacrifice and victory. Here too is the core of American democracy, its glories and fiascos: a love letter to the Republic, more than ever relevant in the factional bitterness of today. An unforgettable novel from a man who killed himself at 34.

Who am I?

I had a rotten childhood. Stuck in bed with asthma, I couldn’t do sports; but I could roam space and time with books, especially science fiction. Yet when I tried to re-read my beloved sci-fi titles as an adult, I got a shock. The books with sound science had terrible writing; the well-written books were full of scientific schlock. I realized that if I wanted sci-fi that was both technically astute and rewarding to read, I’d have to write it myself. And so I did.

I wrote...

Sun's Strong Immortality

By William Illsey Atkinson,

Book cover of Sun's Strong Immortality

What is my book about?

A tiny faction of humans hidden in distant space has achieved the ultimate technology: Immortality without decay. But when the centuries-old First of this splinter group do not share power, what happens to the young? And what happens to the New Earth when a virulent Old Earth learns of its existence and starts to track it down? In this new series I look at the extremes of human mind, heart, and invention in clear and riveting prose. Here is great hard-science fiction -- literate, exciting, technically rigorous, and unputdownable.

What Are You Going To Write About When I'm Gone? Essays of Hilarity and Heartache About His Mother

By Scott Saalman,

Book cover of What Are You Going To Write About When I'm Gone? Essays of Hilarity and Heartache About His Mother

The author, a columnist, wrote these family stories as an homage to his bigger-than-life mom Patty while she was battling cancer. Told with heart, laugh-out-loud family anecdotes, and love, always love, Saalman brings you into an unforgettable midwestern world of then and now, although even the modern-day Indiana stories echo with “yore” to my more urban ears: his parents’ solid working-class values, their casino date every Saturday night, Patty’s job as the hostess of a diner. Ultimately, she would outlive her death sentence by five years.

Who am I?

I’m a Korean American author who believes life is too short to read books that bore you, classics or otherwise. I’ve always had eclectic tastes and like to pick out books the way customers choose bonbons at my chocolate shop (which I’ve co-owned since 1984). And while I do read and often write longer works, I’ve always preferred to fall into a world from the opening line and bow out soon thereafter. By nature, I’m a minimalist – and maybe don’t have the greatest attention span – so I’m in awe of short works that stand on their own. They’re just more dramatic and memorable to me.

I wrote...

That Lonely Spell

By Frances Park,

Book cover of That Lonely Spell

What is my book about?

Frances Park’s parents arrived in the United States decades before the mass migration of Koreans. Her background and memory are rich with unique histories that work their way into That Lonely Spell, a collection of humor and heartache that covers much emotional ground from the innocent Sixties to the wild Seventies to the entrepreneurial Eighties – all the way to today. Kirkus Reviews praised her memoir with “Heart and humanity shine through in essays that speak to a fierce love of family and longing for home.” 

One Shot

By Lee Child,

Book cover of One Shot

What I admire the most about Reacher is his sense of doing what’s right whether it is within the law or not. The next most appealing aspect of this series is his ability to use analytical rigor in order to work out what is going on. In this book, his ability to see beyond the low-hanging fruit of James Barr as the criminal, teaches us to see beyond what everyone wants us to see. This is becoming more and more apparent in life, for instance in some of the imagery coming out of Ukraine. I believe that people have lost the ability to think for themselves, which is why in my novel, Zenobia goes through a number of thought processes to make her decisions.

Who am I?

I have been in various militaries for over 17 years and am proud of my service. Troubled Zen is my first foray into the publishing world and I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. I enjoy the ex-military hero-style action/ thriller novels because I find that I can understand their mindset and relate well with their characters. I found most were male, ex-special forces so I chose a female Explosive Ordnance Disposal member as I believe that there are plenty of aspects to investigate that can show how a woman can be equally tough, stubborn, ingenious, brave, and determined.

I wrote...

Troubled Zen

By Wolfric Styler,

Book cover of Troubled Zen

What is my book about?

Having survived some of the worst warzones in modern history, Ex-EOD operator, Zenobia Ortega Martinez opts for the quiet life in Australia. That is until she is caught in the crossfire of cartels, violence, and revenge. She will need all her skills and instincts to survive and protect the people she loves. Running away has never been an option.

This debut novel from Wolfric Styler introduces a new heroine in Zenobia Ortega Martinez. She's tough, loyal, and clever. Someone we've all been waiting for.

One Small Town, One Crazy Coach

By Mike Roos,

Book cover of One Small Town, One Crazy Coach: The Ireland Spuds and the 1963 Indiana High School Basketball Season

Mike Roos did a great job telling this true story of Indiana high school basketball. Roos’s father was the high school principal that hired that crazy coach referenced in the title. He used extensive interviews and years of rewrites to recreate meetings, locker room pep talks, and dialogue. Not only is this a good story, but Roos showed readers what is wonderful about creative nonfiction. It reads like a novel, but it’s genuine nonfiction.

Who am I?

I’m a storyteller and jack of all trades who grew up on a family farm in Indiana. I can operate a combine, analyze data, or edit a book. Writing about sports can create great stories, but the true beauty lies in the people and circumstances, not the stats and game highlights. Most of my works are nonfiction—personal interest, sports, history, and sports history. I enjoy unearthing untold stories, especially when they involve equal rights, underdogs, hidden history, and non-famous people. Everyone has a story to tell.

I wrote...

Season of Upsets: Farm boys, city kids, Hoosier basketball and the dawn of the 1950s

By Matthew A. Werner,

Book cover of Season of Upsets: Farm boys, city kids, Hoosier basketball and the dawn of the 1950s

What is my book about?

This is the incredible true story of the 1950 Indiana high school basketball season. The circumstances of that one season captured the essence of Hoosier hysteria in all its glory. But this is more than a sports story. The students were born into the Great Depression and grew up in the shadow of World War II. The coaches were veterans of war. A fire destroyed a school, but not its spirit. A coal strike threatened everything. There were hard times and happy memories. In the end, everyone shared one common love: basketball.

All the Bright Places

By Jennifer Niven,

Book cover of All the Bright Places

For me, All the Bright Places accurately represents the joys and sorrows of life. This book is so full of depth, heart, and incredible characters, when I read it, I forgot it was a book. I was excited for every chapter when Finch and Violet would take me on their adventure. These characters are relatable and true to life. Even if you’ve never been through the situations they have, you can imagine them as kids in your neighborhood, workplace, or school. It is a beautiful and heartbreaking book that I will reread every year and always experience the excitement.

Who am I?

The topic of mental health, which is prominent in all the books I’ve recommended, including my own, is one I am passionate about. As a neurodivergent person, I know first-hand how difficult the teen years can be. Not only are you dealing with the issues like friends, family, and school, but you are working with other factors that can make learning and socializing especially difficult. When I was a teen, I did not have books like these to guide me and let me know I was not alone in my feelings and struggles. It is my deepest wish that all kids have books, tools, and guides to help them.

I wrote...

List of Ten

By Halli Gomez,

Book cover of List of Ten

What is my book about?

Ten: three little letters, one ordinary number. For Troy Hayes, a sixteen-year-old suffering from Tourette Syndrome and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, the number dictates his life. Fed up with the daily humiliation, loneliness, and physical pain, Troy writes a list of ten things to do by the tenth anniversary of his diagnosis—culminating in suicide on the actual day. But the process of working his way through the list changes Troy’s life: he becomes friends with Khory, a classmate with her own troubled history who unwittingly helps him cross off items on his list. He moves ever closer to his grand finale, even as Khory shows him that life may have more possibilities than he imagined. 

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