50 Nifty in 15


In grade school I learned a song (didn’t we all, amiright?) about the 50 Nifty United States. We were to “shout ’em, scout ’em, tell all about ’em” and after that I forget the words. We’d learn about the state bird, the state flower, the state motto*, and then promptly get them confused with the ones we learned the next week. Well, this might be the Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon talking, but I’ve been seeing state pride in many forms the past several months (city/state jewelry and apparel showing up on gift lists, Slate’s lists of State Meats and State Sweets, etc.) and it all seemed to ramp up after reading this:

In October of last year** I came across this Brooklyn Magazine list by Kristin Iversen naming the books that best represent each state (artwork above by Sarah Lutkenhaus). Iversen claimed that she and her team wanted to find out “what it means for a story to not just be from a place, but also of it,” and being very interested in that concept as well, I read through the chosen quotes with wonder. After returning to the list several times in the following months, I decided to turn this map into my new year’s resolution. I’m declaring it here in part for accountability and in part because I’ll likely be posting about this in the future and don’t want to have to re-explain. 🙂

The official declaration: I intend to read at least 50 of these books in 2015.

Your first question may be, “At least 50? Isn’t it supposed to be a list of the books that best represent each state?” And although that’s technically two questions, allow me to allay your fears of being uninformed about our newest three states: there are 53 books on this list, including two for California (northern and southern), two for New York (state and city), and an extra for D.C.

I’ve set up a schedule of a book per week going in alphabetical order. I did think about other options for possible book order  – regional, date of publication, date the story takes place, order the state became part of the U.S., places I’ve been/lived/know people, etc. – but settled on alphabetical because it’s the way the list was published and it’s easy to organize. That said, there are a few caveats that I feel the need to disclose up front:

  • The first caveat is actually not a caveat, but an invitation: You should read some of them with me! Feel free to pick and choose what interests you, but it would be great to have others reading some of these books at the same time. Also, I’d love to talk to others about the project, and since I don’t know many people in Chicago yet, let me know if you’re in the city and would like to get together to chat! #50niftyin15 Okay, on to the real caveats:
  • While I intend to go as much in order as possible and stick to the schedule posted below, this will partly be dictated by the availability of books (and timing of holds arriving) at my branch of the Chicago Public Library.***
  • I will try to read ahead if I can (mostly because I know work will be especially busy this fall), but I’ll wait to publish any post about each book until the Monday following the allotted week on the schedule.
  • I’ll likely read only one book each for CA and NY, and while I hopefully will get to the D.C. book, we’ll see where I’m at next December.
  • If I have read the book in the past several years or so, I’m not requiring myself to re-read it. (This will allow me a few catch-up weeks throughout the year, which I’m sure I will need!)
  • If a book is long (350 pages is probably a good guideline) I’m likely going to skim it. Or watch the movie. Just being honest.

Since, for the first time in several years I have no current plans to leave the country (first world problems, I know), I thought I’d explore some new places by living vicariously through the characters in these books. Who’s with me?!

Happy New Year, All! #50niftyin15

*Wisconsin’s motto is “Forward” (yep, that’s it) and Derek always makes fun of me about it, sarcastically saying things like, “When you think of the state that’s leading the way for this country, that’s moving tirelessly into new frontiers, that’s pioneering technology and education, what state first comes to mind?” I know he’s kidding, but it always makes me feel defensive of my home state. But not defensive enough to order a t-shirt. Yet.

**Meaning 2014. This early in the new year, I feel the need to clarify.

***CPL because 1) I love libraries (as you may recall) and 2) my current budget does not merit purchasing 50 new books this year.

The 50 Nifty in 15 List

(click on the state or book to take you to that blog post)

January 4-10: ALABAMATo Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

11-17: ALASKA: Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer

18-24: ARIZONA: Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy

25-31: ARKANSAS: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

February 1-7: CALIFORNIA (southern): The White Boy Shuffle, Paul Beatty or CALIFORNIA (northern): Suicide Blonde, Darcey Steinke

8-14: COLORADO: Angle of Repose, Wallace Stegner

15-21: CONNECTICUTNine Stories, “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut,” J.D. Salinger

22-28: DELAWARE: The Good Lord Bird, James McBride

March 1-7: FLORIDA: Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

8-14: GEORGIACane, Jean Toomer

15-21: HAWAII: The Descendants, Kaui Hart Hemmings

22-28: IDAHO: Train Dreams, Denis Johnson

29-April 4: ILLINOIS: Native Son, Richard Wright

April 5-11: INDIANA: The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields

12-18: IOWA: Gilead, Marilynne Robinson

19-25: KANSAS: In Cold Blood, Truman Capote

26-May 2: KENTUCKY: Beloved, Toni Morrison

May 3-9: LOUISIANA: All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren

10-16: MAINE: Carrie, Stephen King

17-23: MARYLAND: Jacob Have I Loved, Katherine Patterson

24-30: MASSACHUSETTS: The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

31-June 6: MICHIGAN: Split Images, Elmore Leonard

June 7-13: MINNESOTA: Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, Maud Hart Lovelace

14-20: MISSISSIPPI: Long Division, Kiese Laymon

21-27: MISSOURI: Stoner, John Williams

28-July 4: MONTANA: Legends of the Fall, Jim Harrison

July 5-11: NEBRASKA: Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell

12-18: NEVADA: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson

19-25: NEW HAMPSHIRE: A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving

26-August 1: NEW JERSEY: American Pastoral, Philip Roth

August 2-8: NEW MEXICO: Leave Her to Heaven, Ben Ames Williams

9-15: NEW YORK STATE: Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang, Joyce Carol Oates or NEW YORK CITY: Daddy Was a Number Runner, Louise Meriwether

16-22: NORTH CAROLINA: Look Homeward Angel, Thomas Wolfe

23-29: NORTH DAKOTA: The Round House, Louise Erdrich

30-September 5: OHIO: The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison

September 6-12: OKLAHOMA: The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton

13-19: OREGON: No One Belongs Here More Than You, Miranda July

20-26: PENNSYLVANIA: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Michael Chabon

27-October 3: RHODE ISLAND: The Witches of Eastwick, John Updike

October 4-10: SOUTH CAROLINA: Bastard Out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison

11-17: SOUTH DAKOTA: Little Town on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder

18-24: TEXAS: Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry

25-31: TENNESSEE: Child of God, Cormac McCarthy

November 1-7: UTAH: The Executioner’s Song, Norman Mailer

8-14: VIRGINIA: The Confessions of Nat Turner, William Styron

15-21: VERMONT: The Secret History, Donna Tartt

22-28: WYOMING: Close Range: Wyoming Stories “Brokeback Mountain,” E. Annie Proulx

29-December 5: WISCONSIN: The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach

December 6-12: WASHINGTON: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Sherman Alexie

13-19: WASHINGTON DC: You Are One of Them, Elliot Holt

20-26: WEST VIRGINIA: The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls

Once again, the original list can be found here: http://www.bkmag.com/2014/10/15/the-literary-united-states-a-map-of-the-best-book-for-every-state/



Filed under 50nifty, fifty nifty, place, recent reads

4 responses to “50 Nifty in 15

  1. This is a neat idea! I was surprised by how many of these I’ve actually already read – although many were so long ago that I don’t remember much. I may join you for a few. I haven’t read a book a week since my undergrad days, so I don’t think I can keep up completely!

  2. Pingback: 50 Nifty – Alabama | wert and art

  3. janesmom

    I love this! I’ll try to join you some!

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