Ever wondered what U.S. states have the strongest literary tradition? Well, we’ve broken down the country into all 50 states, highlighting one singular writer to carry the flag for each. The results are surprising: the Midwest and the Northeast have the highest concentration of well-known writers, and a few states one might believe would have a strong history of pumping out writers are actually not all you’d think. Which state is the worst? The best? Find out below!
1. Alabama – Harper Lee. She put her home state on the literary map with one book.
2. Alaska – John Haines. One of the weakest states for writers…we even had to cheat to pick Haines, who, despite teaching at Alaska Fairbanks and serving as poet laureate of Alaska, was born in Virginia. You can do better, Alaska.
3. Arizona – Jeannette Walls. Another weak state for writers.
4. Arkansas – John Grisham. One of America’s most successful writers comes from a state you wouldn’t expect.
5. California – John Steinbeck. California has a good number of writers, but can’t compete with New York.
6. Colorado – Ken Kesey. The One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest author got his start as a champion wrestler in high school in Colorado.
7. Connecticut – Annie Proulx. A strong leader for an otherwise light state.
8. Delaware – Howard Pyle. The legendary children’s author and illustrator is another strong choice in a state with little else to offer.
9. Florida – Carl Hiaasen. One of the weakest states relative to size and population. Without Hemingway propping up the state with his Key West home, would have very little to write home about.
10. Georgia – Flannery O’Connor. No writer better represents her home state.
11. Hawaii - Lois Lowry. Like Grisham, the children’s author comes from an unlikely place.
13. Illinois – Ernest Hemingway. The leader of a very strong state.
14. Indiana – Kurt Vonnegut. Another strong showing from the Midwest.
15. Iowa – Wallace Stegner. The Pulitzer winner leads another strong Midwestern state.
16. Kansas – William Inge. The Pulitzer Prize winner carries his home state.
17. Kentucky – Robert Penn Warren. An unlikely leader for a strong writer state.
18. Louisiana – Elmore Leonard. A state with a very strong literary tradition.
20. Maryland – Edgar Allen Poe. The leader of the second strongest state in the mid-East Coast, behind Virginia.
21. Massachusetts – Emily Dickinson. One of the Northeast’s stronger states.
22. Michigan – Theodore Roethke. Along with Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio, Michigan anchors the Midwest.
23. Minnesota – F. Scott Fitzgerald. A titan from an unlikely place.
24. Mississippi – William Faulkner. Duh.
25. Missouri – Mark Twain. Be honest. You didn’t know Mark Twain was born in Florida, Missouri.
26. Montana – Maile Meloy. One of the weakest states in the country.
28. Nevada – Walter Van Tilburg Clark. More cheating: Clark was born in Maine but grew up in Reno. He’s most famous for The Ox-Box Incident.
29. New Hampshire – John Irving. A solid literary state.
30. New Jersey – Philip Roth. Who is more inextricably bound to his respective home state: Roth or Faulkner?
31. New Mexico – Angelico Chavez. New Mexico is one of the least writer-rich states in the country, and though Chavez is best known as a priest and activist, he also wrote prolifically in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.
33. North Carolina – O. Henry. Much stronger than the other Carolina.
34. North Dakota – William H. Gass. One of the least-populated states in the country is home to the winner of 3 National Book Critics Circle Awards.
36. Oklahoma – Ralph Ellison. A big writing figure for a not-so-big literary state.
37. Oregon – Raymond Carver. The father of the modern short story carries the Northwest.
38. Pennsylvania – John Updike. A state surprisingly light on literary sons and daughters.
39. Rhode Island – Cormac McCarthy. Though he now lives in New Mexico (which boosts that state’s literary stature), he was born in Providence.
40. South Carolina – Dorothy Allison. Carries an otherwise weak state.
41. South Dakota – No one of note. The closest South Dakota has to literary tradition is that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s itinerant childhood stopped through Dakota territory in 1880.
42. Tennessee – James Agee. The Pulitzer Prize winner tops a respectable literary state.
43. Texas – Katherine Anne Porter. Along with Pennsylvania, Texas is the most surprisingly barren writer state. Who knew?
44. Utah – Thomas Savage. The western writer was nominated for a PEN/Faulkner and received a Guggenheim Fellowship.
45. Vermont – Dan Chiasson. Chiasson has received a Guggenheim Fellowship for Poetry, as well as a Pushcart Prize. If it weren’t for him, Vermont would have little to offer, especially in comparison to neighbor New Hampshire, which is even the home to famous literary rocks.
48. West Virginia – Pearl S. Buck. Another surprise state. In addition to the Pulitzer winner, West Virginia is also the home state of Breece D’J Pancake, a writer who made a name for himself on only one story collection before his suicide.
49. Wisconsin – Laura Ingalls Wilder. Props up both South Dakota and Wisconsin.
50. Wyoming – C.J. Box. A bottom-of-the-barrel state for writers.
Agree? Disagree? Which state is underrated by this list? Which is overrated? Let us know!