The most recommended books about Virginia

Who picked these books? Meet our 128 experts.

128 authors created a book list connected to Virginia, and here are their favorite Virginia books.
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Book cover of The Birth of Black America: The First African Americans and the Pursuit of Freedom at Jamestown

Seth Mallios Author Of The Deadly Politics of Giving: Exchange and Violence at Ajacan, Roanoke, and Jamestown

From my list on alternate perspectives on Jamestown.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was Site Supervisor at the Jamestown Rediscovery Project in the late 1990s and early 2000s. My fondness for the people involved with the archaeological excavations is only rivaled by my love for the subject matter that involves the collision of cultures as Chesapeake Algonquians, Spanish Jesuits, and English colonists first encountered one another during the 16th and 17th centuries. Though I have been fortunate to write many books, my first book was on Jamestown, and this topic will always hold a special place in my scholarly heart (there is such a thing, I swear!).

Seth's book list on alternate perspectives on Jamestown

Seth Mallios Why did Seth love this book?

Few individuals, even students of history, are aware of the significance of Jamestown in the legacy of American slavery. Tim Hashaw’s The Birth of Black America: The First African Americans and the Pursuit of Freedom at Jamestown provides an important alternative narrative for the birth of English America, focusing on the sixty Africans that arrived in the Chesapeake in 1619, instead of traditional exaltation of the original colonists at 1607 James Fort.

By Tim Hashaw,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The voyage that shaped early America was neither that of the Susan Constant in 1607 nor the Mayflower in 1620. Absolutely vital to the formation of English-speaking America was the voyage made by some sixty Africans stolen from a Spanish slave ship and brought to the young struggling colony of Jamestown in 1619. It was an act of colonial piracy that angered King James I of England, causing him to carve up the Virginia Company's monopoly for virtually all of North America. It was an infusion of brave and competent souls who were essential to Jamestown's survival and success. And…

Book cover of A Madman's Will: John Randolph, Four Hundred Slaves, and the Mirage of Freedom

John A. Ragosta Author Of For the People, For the Country: Patrick Henry's Final Political Battle

From my list on recent history about USA and problems.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of early America who previously practiced law for 20 years. I have both my PhD and JD from the University of Virginia. I have taught at the University of Virginia, George Washington University, Hamilton, Oberlin, and Randolph Colleges. I have also worked at Jefferson’s Monticello for many years. While American history is often misused for narrow political ends, I am convinced that good history is not only fascinating but can assist us in understanding our world and current challenges.

John's book list on recent history about USA and problems

John A. Ragosta Why did John love this book?

I knew a bit about John Randolph of Roanoke, and I have read many books on the problem of slavery. But this book had me absolutely hooked.

Randolph was a powerful politician in the early republic but so contrarian as to be “mad.” Listening to his own conscience, he freed four hundred slaves and provided land for their settling. While the family fought his will to the bitter end, the four hundred previously enslaved seemed to have triumphed.

But I was aghast when the newly freed people met a mob that would not allow them on their own land in Ohio. What a story of courage.

By Gregory May,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Madman's Will as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Few legal cases in American history are as riveting as the controversy surrounding the will of Virginia Senator John Randolph (1773-1833), which-almost inexplicably-freed all 383 of his slaves in one of the largest and most publicised manumissions in American history. So famous is the case that Ta-Nehisi Coates has used it to condemn Randolph's cousin, Thomas Jefferson, for failing to free his own slaves. With this ground-breaking investigation, historian Gregory May now reveals a more surprising story, showing how madness and scandal shaped John Randolph's wildly shifting attitudes toward his slaves-and how endemic prejudice in the North ultimately deprived the…

Book cover of Dunmore's New World: The Extraordinary Life of a Royal Governor in Revolutionary America

Lori Benton Author Of Many Sparrows

From my list on Dunmore’s War (1774 Ohio frontier).

Why am I passionate about this?

Lori Benton is an award-winning, multi-published author of historical novels set during the 18th century North America. Her literary passion is bringing little known historical events to life through the eyes of those who lived it, particularly those set along the Appalachian frontier, where European and Native American cultural and world views collided. Virginia Governor Lord Dunmore’s campaign against the Shawnee nation on the eve of the Revolutionary war, culminating in the Battle of Point Pleasant, is a fascinating, complex, and poignant example of the armies and individuals that planned, fought, and resisted the campaign.

Lori's book list on Dunmore’s War (1774 Ohio frontier)

Lori Benton Why did Lori love this book?

With a broader focus than the 1774 campaign into the Ohio Valley known as Dunmore’s War, James David’s book gave me a vivid picture of the late colonial North American and British landscape in which Dunmore lived and moved and had his being. An engaging read as well as an indispensable resource for a historical fiction writer.

By James Corbett David,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dunmore's New World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dunmore's New World tells the stranger-than-fiction story of Lord Dunmore, the last royal governor of Virginia, whose long-neglected life boasts a measure of scandal and intrigue rare in the annals of the colonial world. Dunmore not only issued the first formal proclamation of emancipation in American history; he also undertook an unauthorized Indian war in the Ohio Valley, now known as Dunmore's War, that was instrumental in opening the Kentucky country to white settlement. In this entertaining biography, James Corbett David brings together a rich cast of characters as he follows Dunmore on his perilous path through the Atlantic world…

Book cover of Isle of Dogs

Mary Maurice Author Of Burtrum Lee

From my list on exciting your imagination.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always enjoyed the intrigue of the mystery and the constant back and forth of the twists and turns offer in a well-written novel. The tremor of my nerves at the base of my neck as I try to figure out the culprit and their intentions, has always enticed my imagination. To, me, those sensations are mind stimulating, and are only born through reading.

Mary's book list on exciting your imagination

Mary Maurice Why did Mary love this book?

If you like reading fast action and involved mysteries, you’ll enjoy Patricia Cromwell’s novel, Isle of Dogs. This action-packed story delves into the historical plots surrounding a small island off the coast of Virginia, where it is said ancestors of long-ago pirates reside, and to this day a sunken treasure remains at the bottom of the sea off their shores. The Governor of Virginia decides to build speed bumps on the small island where the preferred mode of transportation is golf carts. Disarrays begin, so State Trooper Andy Brazel is assigned to investigate and discovers a gang’s intentions to raid the island in search of the treasure.

By Patricia Cornwell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Isle of Dogs is the final book in the Andy Brazil series, following the success of Hornet's Nest and Southern Cross, from bestselling author Patricia Cornwell.

Chaos breaks loose when the Governor of Virginia orders that speed traps be installed on all streets and highways, and warns that motorists will be caught by monitoring aircraft flying overhead. But the eccentric inhabitants of Tangier, fourteen miles off the coast of Virginia in the Chesapeake Bay, respond by threatening to secede and set up an independent state, claiming that their independence lies in the history of America's first settlers, those who set…

Book cover of Flight and Rebellion: Slave Resistance in Eighteenth-Century Virginia

Marc Dollinger Author Of Black Power, Jewish Politics: Reinventing the Alliance in the 1960s

From my list on social justice.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve devoted my academic career and personal life to the limits and possibilities of white liberal approaches to civil rights reform. Trained in U.S. history and published in American Jewish history, I look closely at how ethnic groups and religious minorities interact with their racial and gender status to create a sometimes-surprising perspective on both history and our current day. At times powerful and at other times powerless, Jews (and other white ethnics) navigate a complex course in civil rights advocacy.

Marc's book list on social justice

Marc Dollinger Why did Marc love this book?

A classic, this book was one of the first to challenge prevailing white attitudes about the assimilation and acculturation of Africans and African Americans to life under slavery. Mullin describes how greater levels of assimilation translated into more effective means of protest.

Book cover of The Worst Best Man

LaQuette Author Of Vanessa Jared's Got a Man

From my list on rom-coms with diverse characters living their best lives.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write sexy, stylish, and sensational romance. That means I write sentimental and steamy stories (like Hallmark movies, but with a lot of sex) featuring at least one main character who always keeps it cute. I’m a Brooklyn native who writes unapologetically bold, character-driven stories. My novels feature diverse ensemble casts who are confident in their right to appear on the page. My work has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, O-Magazine, and the Library Journal. If I’m not writing, I am probably trying on or looking for my next great makeup find.

LaQuette's book list on rom-coms with diverse characters living their best lives

LaQuette Why did LaQuette love this book?

Max and Lina have a complicated history, to say the least. He’s the brother of her ex-fiancé, the former best man at Lina’s wedding, and he’s also the reason her intended groom left her standing at the altar. As she makes a bid for a prominent hotel’s business, she’s paired with Max on a marketing project that forces her to deal with the man that ruined her life. Determined to keep him from ruining everything again while indulging in a bit of petty revenge, Lina seeks to get Max to drop out of the marketing campaign. But as they spend more time together, she realizes that Max, who was the worst best man ever, might be the greatest love of her life.

I love this book because it’s rich with humor, heart, and culture. Mia Sosa does a terrific job of making us laugh, while still making us aware of…

By Mia Sosa,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


"A romantic comedy that's fun and flirty, young and fresh." - PopSugar

Named one of the Best Romances of 2020 by EW, Cosmo, OprahMag, Buzzfeed, Insider, and NPR!

Mia Sosa delivers a sassy, steamy #ownvoices enemies-to-lovers novel, perfect for fans of Jasmine Guillory, Helen Hoang, and Sally Thorne!

A wedding planner left at the altar? Yeah, the irony isn't lost on Carolina Santos, either. But despite that embarrassing blip from her past, Lina's offered an opportunity that could change her life. There's just one hitch... she has to collaborate with the best (make that worst) man from…

Book cover of Thomas Harriot: A Life in Science

Joseph Mazur Author Of The Clock Mirage: Our Myth of Measured Time

From my list on narrative merit in mathematics and science.

Why am I passionate about this?

Meaningful communications with people through life, books, and films have always given me a certain kind of mental nirvana of being transported to a place of delight. I see fine writing as an informative and entertaining conversation with a stranger I just met on a plane who has interesting things to say about the world. Books of narrative merit in mathematics and science are my strangers eager to be met. For me, the best narratives are those that bring me to places I have never been, to tell me things I have not known, and to keep me reading with the feeling of being alive in a human experience.

Joseph's book list on narrative merit in mathematics and science

Joseph Mazur Why did Joseph love this book?

For me, this book was an adventure. I felt as if I was on an expedition to Virginia with Harriot teaching me astronomy and navigation. There I was, infatuated with rainbows and imagining myself scrutinizing scientific wonders of elliptical planetary motion, atomic theory of matter, and how cannonballs could be stacked to fill space. I found myself with Harriot back in 1591 searching for a sphere-packing formula, an old problem questioning the most stable way to stack cannonballs on ships. Thomas Harriot is a fast-moving biography packed with the world- and mind-changing curiosities.

By Robyn Arianrhod,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Thomas Harriot (1560-1621) was a pioneer in both the figurative and literal sense. Navigational adviser and loyal friend to Sir Walter Ralegh, Harriot took part in the first expedition to colonize Virginia. Not only was he responsible for getting Ralegh's ships safely to harbor in the New World, once there he became the first European to acquire a working knowledge of an indigenous language (he also began a lifelong love of tobacco, which may have been his undoing).
Harriot's abilities were seemingly unlimited and nearly awe-inspiring. He was the first to use a telescope to map the moon's craters, and,…

Book cover of Shadow Horse

Pat Toth-Smith Author Of Wild Among Us: True adventures of a female wildlife photographer who stalks bears, wolves, mountain lions, wild horses and other elusive wildlife

From my list on animal adventures to experience the wild side.

Why am I passionate about this?

My journey to wildlife storytelling had a very unusual beginning, I started out as a wildlife photographer with an intense curiosity for bears and other North American wildlife. I would pursue these animals wherever it took me and ended up with a large photographic portfolio of these majestic creatures. This quest resulted in remarkable, interesting, and sometimes dangerous wildlife encounters, which I shared in my book, Wild Among Us. My combination of images and storytelling has been a complete immersive experience and has made me appreciate the varied and specific behaviors each animal possesses. These unique adaptive animal behaviors when presented with an interesting adventure story always has interested and captivated me.

Pat's book list on animal adventures to experience the wild side

Pat Toth-Smith Why did Pat love this book?

Shadow Horse, part of the Shadow Horse series starts immediately with action and tragedy, a young female teen is arrested for the assault of her grandfather’s employer. This in part seems to be in retaliation for the strange and mysterious death of her beloved horse, Whirlwind. Her life spirals downward with her grandfather’s sudden stroke and her court-ordered sentence of house arrest. She is relocated to a foster family on an animal and horse rescue farm for supervision. I thoroughly enjoyed this book because it not only explores the extraordinarily complex relationships with horses and owners, but the problems involved with trusting again after a traumatic betrayal. And, if that was not enough, the writer intertwines all the above with a complicated who done it mystery involving horses which slowly puts the protagonist in dangerous, uncomfortable situations requiring her to find her inner strength and new allies.

By Alison Hart,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Thirteen-year-old foster kid Jasmine Schuler is immediately drawn to the scrawny, broken-looking brown gelding huddled in the corner of an auction house stall. Feeling a kinship with the lonely animal, Jas convinces her new foster mom, who rescues and rehabilitates abused horses on her Virginia farm, to buy him. Slowly, the horse Jas names Shadow begins to blossom and even to thrive. But when Jas uncovers a startling clue to Shadow's true identity, she becomes entangled in a mystery which could have serious consequences for the two of them.  Both the heartwarming story of a young girl's love for her…

Book cover of Thomas Jefferson's Education

Seth Mallios Author Of Hail Montezuma! The Hidden Treasures of San Diego State

From my list on the surprising histories of college campuses.

Why am I passionate about this?

I find the archaeology of here to be just as interesting and enlightening as any faraway land. For those of us at universities, that means that the campus itself is worthy of historical, archaeological, and anthropological study. I have been San Diego State’s University History Curator for decades and never tire of uncovering new insights into an institution with a 125-year history, nearly 500,000 alumni, and a bevy of bizarre tales. Whether it be hidden student murals, supernatural claims from the gridiron, or disputed dinosaur footprints, the immediate landscape of our workplace is often full of historical treasures.

Seth's book list on the surprising histories of college campuses

Seth Mallios Why did Seth love this book?

Whereas many books research the history of higher education are full of lofty ideals and collegiate high jinks, Alan Taylor’s book Thomas Jefferson’s Education is an insightful yet sobering look at the historical context and inception of the University of Virginia. This text is no hagiography and details how Jefferson’s university was deeply intertwined with slavery and many of the elitist vices common to Virginia gentry.

By Alan Taylor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Thomas Jefferson's Education as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

By turns entertaining and tragic, this beautifully crafted history reveals the origins of a great university in the dilemmas of Virginia slavery. Thomas Jefferson shares centre stage with his family and fellow planters, all dependent on the labour of enslaved black families. With a declining Virginia yielding to commercially vibrant northern states, in 1819 Jefferson proposed to build a university to educate and improve the sons of the planter elite. He hoped they might one day lead a revitalised Virginia free of slavery-and free of the former slaves.

Jefferson's campaign was a contest for the future of a state and…

Book cover of Witch

Mary Kendall Author Of The Spinster's Fortune

From my list on vintage gothic suspense by iconic authors.

Why am I passionate about this?

Sometimes I have to take a trip back to my reading "roots": gothic mystery and suspense. This list is a deep dive into some of my very favorite vintage gothic authors and ones that I consider to be icons of the genre. These writers formed the foundation not only for my reading tastes but also for who I have become as a writer. The memories of my younger self come flooding back when I revisit these authors and their works as I have done with this list. Some of these novels are hard to come by now but, in my opinion, the older and more beat-up paperback, the better. 

Mary's book list on vintage gothic suspense by iconic authors

Mary Kendall Why did Mary love this book?

I spent so many summer afternoons as a teenager reading Barbara Michaels’ novels.

She is another writer who managed to set in stone my love and fascination for tales gothic and truly inspired and informed my own writing.

This one with a copyright of 1973 has it all. Isolated, rural setting with a historic stone cottage, creepy, almost folk horror-esque townspeople, a twisted villain, and a supernatural edge.

But it also has something that Michael’s specialized in: dialogue that captures relationships in a very approachable and identifiable way despite the vintage year.

Witch captures her mastery of the gothic and ticks all the boxes of a great read in the genre.

By Barbara Michaels,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A wonderful Gothic suspense story filled with clever twists and turns, Witch by Barbara Michaels will have you on the edge of your seat.

It was more than her dream house. For divorcee Ellen March, buying the secluded old house nestled in the pine woods marked the start of a new life. Now she could put her failed marriage behind her, enjoy the quiet solitude of small town life in Virginia, and get to know her new neighbour, the handsome Norman McKay.

But strange visions began to cloud her mind - the shadowy figure of a woman, a ghostly white…