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46 Great Books About North Carolina To Read Before You Visit

Are you looking for books about North Carolina to read before you visit? Don’t miss these books set in North Carolina to spark your wanderlust and inspire your travels.

It’s no secret that I love reading about a destination before traveling there. Tell me more about the Fitzgeralds in Asheville. What is small-town North Carolinian life like? Paint a picture of those gorgeous mountain ranges, please.

Prior to moving to NC, I asked everyone for books about North Carolina that I should read, too. You really get to know a place through its literature, both fiction and nonfiction. Plus, books set the mood.

There are tons of novels set in North Carolina, and if you know me from The Uncorked Librarian, you also know that I read a lot. So, how do you pick the best books set in North Carolina to read before you go?

Below, find popular and contemporary North Carolina books, historical fiction, indie, YA, and nonfiction on our NC reading list.

Of course, these are just a few suggestions to get you started. We’ll also have more NC and Asheville-based book list recommendations for you paired with literary tourism itineraries.

Personally, what are my favorite North Carolina novels? I’d start with Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, Look Homeward, Angel by Asheville-native Thomas Wolfe, and the nonfiction book about Biltmore Estate, The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan.

What else do we recommend for North Carolina based novels? Travel to North Carolina with these books. Let’s get started!

Read more about Asheville’s Bibliotourism.

Books About And Set In North Carolina Reading List blog post cover with book covers for Look Homeward Angel, Where The Crawdads Sing, The Last Castle, Serafina and the Black Cloak, The Girl From Widow Hills, At Home in Mitford, and Big Lies Small Town
Don’t miss some of our favorite books set in North Carolina.

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Popular & Newer Books Set In North Carolina

Bestselling North Carolina novels, Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens book cover with orange sky and shadow of woman canoeing in the marsh

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Are you even a reader if you haven’t heard the hype about Where The Crawdads Sing? One of the most talked-about and bestselling books set in North Carolina, Owens transports readers to the NC marshlands.

A touching coming of age story and southern murder mystery, meet “the marsh girl,” Kya Clark. Kya has lived impoverished and outcast in the marshes her entire life. Never attending school, she must learn to read and survive on her own, especially with a dysfunctional and broken family.

When the town’s pretty boy and star Chase Andrews disappears–and is discovered dead near her home–Kya falls under public scrutiny and accusations from a town that never accepted her.

Can Kya overcome a prejudice society and the loneliness from its isolation? Will the jury find her guilty? Atmospheric, heart-breaking, and suspenseful, you’ll love this contemporary North Carolina novel. Amazon | Goodreads

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2020 books set in North Carolina including The Girl From Widow Hills by Megan Miranda book cover with golden hair floating in blue water with bubbles

The Girl From Widow Hills by Megan Miranda

A 2020 book release, The Girl From Widow Hills by Megan Miranda is a mystery and thriller set both in North Carolina and Kentucky.

Olivia lives in NC where she trying to overcome her troubled past and unwanted fame. With the 20-year anniversary marking her famous sewer drain rescue, she wishes that everyone would just forget and leave her alone. Unfortunately, tripping over a body in her yard puts Olivia back in the scrutinizing public eye.

Now, Olivia is both a murder suspect and a victim. Someone is hunting her. Nothing is as it seems. I loved the perfectly dropped breadcrumbs when trying to discover whodunnit. Amazon | Goodreads 

Save This North Carolina Book List For Later

Books Set In North Carolina Pinterest Pin with book covers for Look Homeward Angel, Where The Crawdads Sing, Serafina and the Black Cloak, The Girl From Widow Hills, Garden Spells, and Big Lies Small Town
Headed to NC? Save this North Carolina reading list for later on Pinterest.
Big Lies In A Small Town by Diane Chamberlain blue book cover with two shadows walking

Big Lies In A Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

An author that I have yet to read but everyone always recommends to me is Diane Chamberlain. Chamberlain is a bestselling author with over 26+ published novels–many based in North Carolina.

Set in the small town of Edenton, North Carolina, readers follow the stories of Anna Dale in 1940 and Morgan Christopher in 2018 in Big Lies In A Small Town.

Imprisoned in NC for a crime that she didn’t commit, Morgan must serve a three-year sentence. Tasked with painting an old post office mural, she discovers more of the town’s secrets, especially since the artist of that mural, Anna Dale, mysteriously disappeared back in the 1940s.

Learn more about prejudices, racism, and sexism in North Carolina through this fictional novel. Amazon | Goodreads

More Books About North Carolina From Diane Chamberlain

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain
The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain
Summer’s Child by Diane Chamberlain
Keeper Of The Light by Diane Chamberlain

Fictional Books About North Carolina

Serena by Ron Rash book cover with bird flying over foggy and misty trees and land

Serena by Ron Rash

Born in South Carolina, Ron Rash is infamous for his stories about Appalachian life set in the Carolinas. Serena follows George and Serena Pemberton, newlyweds, looking to start a timber business in the late 1920s.

Serena is a strong and powerful woman, and unfortunately, she cannot have children. George has a child from an affair, and Serena sets out to kill her ‘son.’ Amazon | Goodreads

More North Carolina Novels From Ron Rash

Above The Waterfall by Ron Rash
The Cove by Ron Rash

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen book cover with white wedding dress on a hanger

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Sarah Addison Allen is a famous and contemporary Asheville author, pairing magical realism with small-town life. Garden Spells is the first in the Waverly series, set in Bascom, North Carolina.

The Waverly family is a bit magical, known for their prophetic garden. Claire, as a caterer, prepares magical dishes. Her life becomes more complicated when her sister returns home after years of abandoning her.

Spellbinding and magical, Garden Spells evokes all of the southern charm. Amazon | Goodreads

More Books About NC From Sarah Addison Allen

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen (Book 2)
The Girl Who Chased The Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks movie version book cover with a White woman kissing a White man in the rain

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

In high school, I loved The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks, and I read many of Sparks’ North Carolina novels into early adulthood. While his books are mostly fluff, they are also problematic in that there is little representation or diversity. You will find few people of color, if any, as main characters, and throughout the years, Sparks’ public words and actions have shown intolerance toward the LGBT+ community.

Of course, we are learning that JKR–not so beloved author of the Harry Potter series–also disappoints us, questioning all that we know about magical HP. While I will briefly mention Sparks’ formulaic novels here–they are set heavily in North Carolina–I’ll leave you with the decision to read them or pass by.

Returning from World War 2, Noah Calhoun cannot stop thinking about his pre-war love, Allie Nelson.  Allie is engaged to Noah’s antithesis, a socialite lawyer. Can Noah win Allie over? The novel is told through a unique life event. Amazon | Goodreads

More Books Set In North Carolina From Author Nicholas Sparks

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks (Southport, NC)
The Choice by Nicholas Sparks
A Bend In The Road by Nicholas Sparks (New Bern, NC)
A Walk To Remember by Nicholas Sparks (Beaufort, North Carolina)
Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks (Sunset Beach, North Carolina)
The Guardian by Nicholas Sparks (Swansboro, North Carolina)
True Believer by Nicholas Sparks (Boone Creek, North Carolina)
Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks (Rodanthe, Outer Banks, North Carolina)
And yes, there are more…

At Home In Mitford by Jan Karon book cover with North Carolina mountains in the fall

At Home In Mitford by Jan Karon

Raised on a farm near Lenoir, North Carolina, Jan Karon eventually settled in Blowing Rock, which is where her Mitford series is set. Although technically a fictional town, you’ll see a lot of Blowing Rock throughout this sleepy and charming southern series.

At Home In Mitford is the first. Enter the sincere world of Father Tim, a single rector looking for more. Father Tim’s life slowly starts to fill up with a stray dog and feelings for his next-door neighbor. Add in a bit of mystery and suspense with a jewel thief too.

I’ve never really been able to get into the Mitford series, but Christian fiction also isn’t quite my jam. Back in my library days, though, patrons loved these North Carolina based books. Amazon | Goodreads

The Next Four Books Set In Blowing Rocking, NC (Mitford)

A Light In The Window by Jan Karon (Book 2)
These High Green Hills by Jan Karon (Book 3)
Out To Canaan by Jan Karon (Book 4)
New Song by Jan Karon (Book 5)

Historical Fiction Books Set In North Carolina

Classic historical fiction book set Asheville, Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe, Asheville based author

Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe

Most people know about Thomas Wolfe, even if you have not read his lengthy novels. This local Asheville author is best known for Look Homeward, Angel, a book about small-town North Carolina life and dreaming of more.

I hadn’t read any of Wolfe’s novels–even as an English major–until my husband and I visited the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, his mother’s boarding house. You can also visit his grave at Riverside Cemetery.

Published in the 1900s, Look Homeward, Angel is classic historical North Carolina ‘fiction.’  Disavowed at the time, Wolfe chronicles his life growing up in Asheville.

He barely changed residents’ names, which really ticked them off until his fame grew.

Look Homeward, Angel follows the story of Wolfe, or Eugene Grant, growing up and seeking higher education. Like Edith Vanderbilt, Wolfe’s mom was an impressive woman and entrepreneur.

Wolfe is notoriously long-winded so keep in mind that while this is one of the most famous books about North Carolina, it’s a slow burn, too. Amazon | Goodreads

Looking for more North Carolina writers? Don’t miss this list filled with Asheville authors.

Books Set In Asheville, Guests On Earth by Lee Smith book cover with young dark haired woman leaning on a porch with pink flowers in the bushes

Guests On Earth by Lee Smith

Another historical fiction novel set in Asheville, North Carolina includes Guests On Earth by Lee Smith. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda, was one of the nine women who perished in the 1948 Highlands Hospital fire. Zelda had suffered from mental illness most of her life.

Guests On Earth recreate Zelda’s experience at Highland Hospital. When the hospital admits 13-year-old Evalina Toussaint, she befriends Zelda. Evalina witnesses the events leading up to the tragic fire. Amazon | Goodreads

More North Carolina Based Books From Lee Smith:

On Agate Hill by Lee Smith
Black Mountain Breakdown by Lee Smith (Black Mountain, NC)

North Carolina Indie Books

Indie books about North Carolina including Outbound Train by Renea Winchester book cover with train tracks running through a small town

Outbound Train by Renea Winchester

I love reading independently published books both by authors and lesser-known presses. If you are looking for indie books about North Carolina, don’t miss Renea Winchester’s Outbound Train.

Set in the 1960s in Bryson City, North Carolina–about one hour from Asheville–the novel begins with Barbara Parker’s life forever altering on the ominous train tracks.

In the present, Carole Anne, Barbara’s daughter, is growing up trapped in the cyclical small-town nature filled with brutal poverty, abusive and corrupt men, and a judgmental society manipulating the status quo. Can Carole Anne escape this destiny? Does anyone stand a chance at a better life?

In what reads like The Connors and even Empire Falls, readers learn about redemption and working-class struggles. Hard work isn’t a guaranteed means to a better life in Bryson City.

In a moving story about growing up in Appalachia, watch as these women struggle to break free.  Amazon | Goodreads

Seven Turns by Kim Beall book cover with picture of a hiking trail in the woods

Seven Turns by Kim Beall

Indie author Kim Beall lives in North Carolina and created the fictional town Woodley to resemble her NC home. For those who love a good ghost story and a haunted house, you’ll enjoy Beall’s Seven Turns.

Even though she has a bestselling novel published, Cally has a case of writer’s block and a dwindling bank account. Cally heads to a haunted bed and breakfast in a last attempt to write a sequel.

The ghosts at Vale House are thrilled to have a new tenant, even if Cally doesn’t really believe they exist. Can Cally help the ghost of Vale House and save herself? Amazon | Goodreads

More Books Set In Fictional Woodley, NC

Moonlight And Moss by Kim Beall (Book 2)
Ghost Of A Chance by Kim Beall (Book 3)

Nonfiction Books About North Carolina

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs book cover with photograph of Harriet Jacobs

Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

An autobiographical slave narrative set in North Carolina, everyone should read Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl. Although scholars debated whether or not the title was historical fiction, Harriet Jacobs wrote her story under the name Linda Brent.

Born into slavery in 1813, Jacobs chronicles her life as a slave, including the abuses, fight for identity, and sexual abuse. From a female perspective, Jacobs emphasizes what it is like to be separated from your children as a slave. Amazon | Goodreads

Nonfiction books about Asheville, North Carolina like The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan book cover with picture of the Biltmore lit up at night

The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan

Biltmore is iconic in Asheville, and I truly believe that you should visit the largest house in America at least once. In fact, we are annual passholders. If you are looking for books about Asheville and Biltmore, don’t miss The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan. Kiernan is an infamous local historian and writer.

The Last Castle describes Biltmore coming to fruition. Readers discover the love story behind George and Edith Vanderbilt. Learn more about Edith’s role in politics and the estate as a woman. Champion the Vanderbilts’ forestry legacy, and witness their progressive ideals during a more conservative time.

You’ll also find more information about writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, Henry James, and Edith Wharton. The Vanderbilts essentially put Asheville, NC on the map for the elite, leaving a legacy of occasional debt, community, and rich history. Amazon | Goodreads

Curious to learn more about Asheville? Don’t miss these Books About & Set In Asheville.

Books Set In North Carolina For Tweens & Teens

YA Books Set In North Carolina like The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han white book cover with turquoise and yellow flowers

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

Back when I attended ALA (for library people) in Orlando, I met author Jenny Han. Like me, you might best know Han for the series To All The Boys I Love Before.

Han has a YA series set in a North Carolina-like coastal town, too, called Summer. The Summer series technically takes place in fictional Cousins Beach, which is said to be inspired by the Hamptons, Outer Banks, and Cape Cod.

The Summer I Turned Pretty is the first in the series. Belly spends her summers at the beach house with Conrad and Jeremiah. They have never really noticed her before, but she’s always had her eyes on them. This summer is completely different as Belly feels confident with her crush.

Find teenage love and heartbreak in the perfect beachy YA North Carolina novel. Amazon | Goodreads

More In This North Carolina Coast-Like Series:

It’s Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han (Book 2)
We Always Have Summer by Jenny Han (Book 3)

Children's books about Biltmore like Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty book cover with young girl in a golden shadow on a limb with Biltmore home in the background

Serafina And The Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

One of the most popular historical fiction books about North Carolina and Biltmore for children, don’t miss Serafina And The Black Cloak by Robert Beatty. Serafina is a child secretly living in Biltmore’s basement.

Serafina’s father works in maintenance for Biltmore. When children start disappearing on the grounds, Serafina and Braeden Vanderbilt decide to solve the mystery, heading into the forest.

While an elementary-school-aged read, Serafina And The Black Cloak is an enchanting fantasy book set in Asheville, North Carolina perfect for all ages.  Amazon | Goodreads

More Books About Biltmore From Robert Beatty

Book 2: Serafina And The Twist Staff by Robert Beatty
Novel 3: Serafina And The Splinter Heart by Robert Beatty
Book 4: Serafina And The Seven Stars by Robert Beatty

Books About North Carolina Pinterest Pin with book covers for Look Homeward Angel, Where The Crawdads Sing, The Last Castle, Serafina and the Black Cloak, The Girl From Widow Hills, At Home in Mitford, Garden Spells, and Big Lies Small Town
Did you find new books to read? Save these books about North Carolina for later on Pinterest.

What Other Books About North Carolina Have You Read?

There are so many authentic books set in North Carolina. Which ones have you read and loved? Which North Carolina novels do you recommend? Please let us know in the comments!

If you are looking for books set in all 50 states, don’t miss our sister blog’s 50 States Reading List.

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