Good Minds Suggest: Annie Barrows's Favorite Books About Small Towns

Posted by Goodreads on June 1, 2015

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Need an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life? Annie Barrows understands—her fiction is focused on little towns with big heart and character. After graduating with a degree in Medieval History (a great era for the town and village), she worked as an editor at Chronicle Books before turning to writing full-time. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which she coauthored with her aunt, Mary Ann Shaffer, introduced an island full of eccentric characters, and Ivy and Bean, her children's book series, follows the gleeful adventures of two friends living and learning in Pancake Court. In her new book for adults, The Truth According to Us, she dives into another cozy setting, Macedonia, West Virginia, where the prominent Romeyn family struggles to keep their secrets safe from a nosy new arrival. Barrows shares her favorite books about life, love, and occasional lunacy in small towns around the world.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
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"It almost goes without saying: This is THE great book about small-town America, in that the town of Maycomb is a central character in the story. Just like all the most interesting characters, Maycomb is history-haunted, conflicted, and deluded by love and hate. The book is such an icon that it seems to have always existed, whole and perfect, just the way it is. But of course it was made, and the town of Maycomb, as constructed by Harper Lee, embodies the wonderful way these places are both prisons and palaces for the people who live in them."

Middlemarch by George Eliot
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"OK, so it's not America—it's still a small town where everyone knows your grandfather cheated his next-door neighbor on the sale of a cow and predicts that you'll display the same underhanded traits if you're not carefully watched. The parts about poor Dr. Lydgate are especially moving. He arrives in town an independent, proud, forward-thinking representative of science, but Middlemarch has the last laugh. It's tragic, really, but brilliant. George knows whereof she speaks, for sure."

Staggerford by Jon Hassler
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"This unfairly neglected novel covers a week in the life of a high school teacher in the small town of Staggerford, Minnesota, in the 1970s. For six of the days not much happens, except that our hero lives in the town where he's lived all his life, among people he grasps so thoroughly, he can predict their every move. He teaches, his teeth hurt, he goes to a party and gets drunk, but running through the week like a vein is a story about betrayal, loss, love, cowardice, and bravery—the full gamut of virtue and sin."

Chronicle in Stone by Ismail Kadare
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"This is sort of a weird one, since the author himself says it's about a city. But this city—on an unnamed mountain in Albania during the Second World War—is really the semimagical, semifarcical, semitragical small town of childhood, populated by the familiar and the utterly alien. In the course of this gorgeous, unsettling book, both the narrator and the place are inexorably dragged from illusion to reality. Plus, it's Albanian. How often do you read a great Albanian book?"

A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck
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"Let's lighten up a little bit here with a great kids' book. A Long Way from Chicago tells the story of a Depression-era teenager who's been sent from his home in Chicago to a small Illinois town to live with his irascible grandmother Dowdell, who knows everyone in town and doesn't think much of them. If gossip weren't entertaining, people wouldn't do it so much, and the author displays a keen understanding of how much fun it is to get the dirt on your neighbors."

Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Books About Small Towns

Comments Showing 1-50 of 50 (50 new)

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message 1: by Sara (new)

Sara Cold Sassy Tree -- one of my favorites of all time:)

message 2: by Laura (new)

Laura Cussimanio Persian Pickle Club
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Friday Night Knitting Club

message 3: by Sheri (new)

Sheri The Mitford Series by Jan Karon

message 4: by Bette (last edited Jun 03, 2015 06:09AM) (new)

Bette Gail Fraser--- Lumby books

message 5: by Valorie (last edited Jun 05, 2015 08:44AM) (new)

Valorie Cold Sassy Tree came to mind immediately when it saw this list. It certainly deserves to be on any small town book list. One of my absolute all time favorites. If you haven't read it run right out and get a copy and get reading!

message 6: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Reeve Milagros Beanfield War by Nichols. Great small town comedy

message 7: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Sara wrote: "Cold Sassy Tree -- one of my favorites of all time:)"

I agree.

message 8: by Leslie (new)

Leslie Sara wrote: "Cold Sassy Tree -- one of my favorites of all time:)"

100% agree. Thought of it as soon as I saw the category. It will always be a favorite.

message 9: by Dorothy (new)

Dorothy Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

message 10: by Katie (new)

Katie Kinsey Big Cherry Holler by Adriana Trigiani

message 11: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Hunter We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates. Loved it!

message 12: by Leslie (new)

Leslie Kevin wrote: "Milagros Beanfield War by Nichols. Great small town comedy"

Loved it! Movie was charming as well.

message 13: by Steve (last edited Jun 03, 2015 09:09PM) (new)

Steve Steinbeck's The Winter of Our Discontent. (and surely Mockingbird and Chicago from the list above.)

message 14: by Nancy (new)

Nancy I would recommend Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick. He describes a small town and the inhabitants' relationships so well.

message 15: by Dayl (new)

Dayl Fredrickson "Fried Green Tomatoes" and anything else by Fanny Flagg. Also, Clyde Edgerton's novels, "Raney" and "Walking Across Egypt". Wonderful, warm and funny tales of small town people who aren't so ordinary when you get to know them.

message 16: by Tony (new)

Tony Jefferies How often do you read a great Albanian book? Every time you pick up a Kadare. He's been shortlisted for the Nobel Prize for Literature, for goodness sake!

message 17: by Darla (new)

Darla Yes, Cold Sassy Tree and the sequel(s)!

message 18: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Nancy wrote: "I would recommend Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick. He describes a small town and the inhabitants' relationships so well."

Thanks for mentioning "Heading Out to Wonderful." I had forgotten about that one, and have always wanted to read it.

message 19: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Staggerford by Jon Hassler sounds very good as well as The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows . They're both on my to-read list now.

message 20: by Jane (new)

Jane Boyars And Ladies Of The Club by Santmyer. One of my favorites of all time.

message 21: by Rosemary (new)

Rosemary Anderson Jan Karon's Mitford series!

message 22: by Kate (new)

Kate Moench I love Louise Penny's Gamache series around the village of Three Pines.

message 23: by Margaret (new)

Margaret Don't forget Alice Munro's "Lives of Girls and Women"

message 24: by Steve (new)

Steve Gamache and Three Pines are great!

message 26: by Marcia (new)

Marcia Ford Kent Haruf's Plainsong Trilogy
also J.K. Rowling's A Casual Vacancy

message 27: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Yes, definitely Louise Penny's Three Pines village descriptions and Kent Haruf's CO plains trilogy of small town life are excellent reads!

message 28: by Pat (new)

Pat Vanoverstraeten Laura wrote: "Persian Pickle Club
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Friday Night Knitting Club"

Sara wrote: "Cold Sassy Tree -- one of my favorites of all time:)"

Patwrites. Super books

message 29: by Lindy (new)

Lindy Lindell Sherwood Anderson's WINESBURG, OHIO, imaginary, but oh so real.

message 30: by June (new)

June Freeman Cold Sassy Tree, The Ladies of Missalonghi (sp?), Minding Frankie, Big Stone Gap.

message 31: by Andrea (new)

Andrea So many wonderful books! The "Biggie" mystery series by Nancy Bell is great fun in a small town.

message 32: by Sue-Anne (new)

Sue-Anne The Midwife of Hope River is a wonderful read of a small mining town in W. Virginia.

message 33: by luci (new)

luci Plainsong Kent Haruf
Big Stone Gap Adriana Trigiani
Anything by Fannie Flagg

message 34: by Lily (new)

Lily White I love to Kill a Mockingbird.

message 35: by Susan (new)

Susan Stein Home and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson also Abide With Me by Elizabeth Strout. I realized a lot of my favorite books are set in small towns

message 36: by Sarahlhunt (new)

Sarahlhunt "Population 451" by Michael Perry, great read.

message 37: by Shirley (new)

Shirley Strasburg Our Town (play) by Thornton Wilder
Main Street by Sinclair Lewis

message 38: by Fred (new)

Fred Thal Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollack, sordid scenes that are all too reminiscent of small town life.

message 39: by Lavender (new)

Lavender Blue The Miss Julia series, by Ann B. Ross
Story of a Southern, Senior lady who was married to a jerk for most of her life until he is found dead in his Buick, in their garage. His death left Miss Julia a very wealthy woman. One morning shortly after her husbands death, a young boy appears on her front porch, it's her husbands son by a mistress! The book series is funny and spiritual and will keep you begging for more.

message 40: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Sarah, did you mean Population 485?

message 41: by Linda (new)

Linda Reinhart I believe Cold Sassy Tree is now on my list, thanks!

message 42: by Leslie (new)

Leslie Linda wrote: "I believe Cold Sassy Tree is now on my list, thanks!"
You will love it. It was on my son's school summer reading list, and I picked up all the books. This one, I could not put down.

message 43: by Judi (new)

Judi Albert Anything by Ivan Doig -- The Bartender's Tale, Worksong, Sweet Thunder, etc.

message 44: by Kristi (new)

Kristi Benninghoff William Kent Krueger's Ordinary Grace is another small town favorite with a twist of mystery for who done it? fans

message 45: by Linda (new)

Linda Reinhart Yes, I enjoyed Ordinary Grace as well. My small town Minnesota upbringing made me a fan.

message 46: by Joan (new)

Joan Anything by Jon Hassler--especially Staggerford, A Green Journey, Dear James and Simon's Night.

message 47: by Linda (new)

Linda Reinhart I think I've read all of Jon Hassler's books but it may be time to read them again. Thanks!

message 48: by Leslie (new)

Leslie Ursitti Ladies of Covington.

message 49: by Linda (new)

Linda Reinhart Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio - just finished

message 50: by Sara (new)

Sara Sarahlhunt wrote: ""Population 451" by Michael Perry, great read."

As noted by another, the population of that small town is 485 -- & it is wonderful. I recently got a free trial to Audible & decided to try listening to his next one,"Truck." Michael Perry reads it & it also is wonderful, as is the the sequel, "Coop." I recommend all of them & am looking forward to his other work.

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