Novels can be portals to fantastic and otherworldly places—magical grade schools filled with moving staircases, epic battlefields overrun by vicious orcs, antique wardrobes that lead to snow-covered kingdoms, or even Russia. But sometimes you want nothing more than a story that reminds you of home.
After the murder millionaire Sam Westing, sixteen unrelated would-be heirs are brought together at the Sunset Towers, a brand-new apartment complex Westing built on Lake Michigan, and given strange clues that send them all around the city — whoever figures out the mystery first gets Westing’s fortune and control of his company. This book has transcended its initial “children’s novel” classification and still maintains a following of vocal adult fans, including Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn and actor Neil Patrick Harris.
Stephen King, the godfather of the modern horror novel, rarely ventures outside of Maine, his home turf, when he’s creating a new story. But Peter Straub, a Wisconsin native, finally brought the Nightmare Master over to Cheese Land for their joint novel Black House. A sequel to their 1984 joint novel The Talisman, Black House revisits protagonist Jack Sawyer nearly twenty years later. Now an LAPD detective, Sawyer is sent to chase down a murderer in the fictional town of French Landing, Wisconsin, which provides mystery, thrills and crushing cosmic horror in a way that only small Wisconsin villages can.
This novel follows four childhood friends who grew up in the small town of Little Wing, Wisconsin, where they re-converge as grown men. Full of the memories and conflict that homecomings always bring, Shotgun Lovesongs is a rewarding slice of Wisconsin life.
Most scholars agree that Shakespeare’s biggest mistake was failing to set Hamlet in Wisconsin. Thankfully, David Wroblewski decided to take that legendary play, toss out all the Denmark crap, and turn it into an epic Wisconsin novel starring Edgar Sawtelle, a boy born mute, who lives near the Chequamegon National Forest with his family and their multiple hounds.
Set at Westish College, a fictional liberal arts school along the shores of Lake Michigan in northeastern Wisconsin, this novel follows a college baseball team, the Harpooners, across their Herman Melville-influenced season. If you happened to attend college in the northern reaches of the state, this novel captures the atmosphere of those times with great success. It also garnered a number of accolades, including the Guardian First Book Award. Harbach grew up in Racine, himself, and also founded successful literary magazine n+1.
Milwaukee-based writer Amy Reichert catalogues three generations of Wisconsin women—Gina Zoberski, who runs a gourmet grilled cheese food truck, her critical mother Lorraine and her rebellious daughter May. After Lorraine suffers a severe stroke, Gina uncovers a family secret that sends her searching for answers. The novel is replete with in-depth sensory descriptions of food, making it the perfect pre-dinner read.
This haunting novel takes place just after the Civil War in the town of Friendship, Wisconsin. Jacob Hansen, a troubled veteran, returns to the town to care for his wife and daughter after the conflict has ended. The town experiences a summer drought and a diphtheria outbreak. It’s not exactly a beach read, but if you’re looking for some quality pain and suffering in your literature, this is the Wisconsin novel for you.
Sally and Margaret O’Malley are two young sisters in 1950s Milwaukee. They’ve lost their father, they’re mother is hospitalized and their stepfather is abusive. Against this backdrop, the sisters learn of the local murder of two young girls just like them and realize they could easily become the killer’s next target.
Wisconsin has been a setting for great literature for nearly a century now. Wilder fictionalized her 1870s upbringing in Pepin, Wisconsin, where she lived in the woods with her family. The novel, published in 1932 and the first of the immensely popular Little House series, is an American classic, and a worthwhile look at life in frontier Wisconsin.
Have you ever wondered what it might be like if a bevy of ancient mythological pals decided to hang out in Wisconsin for a while? Neil Gaiman has. The novel tells the story of a god- and goddess-filled roadtrip across the country, a country populated by gods old and new — the Odin, Anansi, Anubis types, and new gods like Technical Boy and Media. During this epic tale, our human protagonist Shadow drives through Madison, visits a holy site in central Wisconsin and then spends a significant chunk of the story hanging out “up north” — an activity we can all appreciate.