White Shadow included in recent Top 10 list by St. Petersburg Times book editor, Colette Bancroft
What books should every Floridian read? You know the classics set in the state, and you might even have read them: Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ The Everglades: River of Grass, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ The Yearling, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Patrick Smith’s A Land Remembered, John D. MacDonald’s Condominium. You know the roster of great crime novelists who write about the shady side of the Sunshine State: Carl Hiaasen, James W. Hall, Randy Wayne White, Tim Dorsey, Edna Buchanan, James Swain and many more. You might have read recent Florida books by St. Petersburg Times staffers, like Pilgrim in the Land of Alligators by Jeff Klinkenberg, Paving Paradise by Craig Pittman and Matthew Waite, or Lonesome Point by Ian Vasquez. Here are 10 more books, fiction and nonfiction, to round out your understanding of this crazy place we’re living in.
Colette Bancroft, Times book editor
Dream State: Eight Generations of Swamp Lawyers, Conquistadors, Confederate Daughters, Banana Republicans, and Other Florida Wildlife by Diane Roberts. The FSU professor, journalist and descendant of Florida pioneers brings her sharp and riotous wit to an idiosyncratic history of the state.
Florida Frenzy by Harry Crews. This collection of essays and excerpts from novels by the former UF professor and big dog of redneck Gothic literature offers a strong shot of his powerful style and favorite subjects (bodybuilding, dogfighting, heavy drinking and other bad behavior).
Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams: A Social History of Modern Florida by Gary Mormino. The director of USF St. Petersburg’s Florida studies program takes a sweeping look at the state’s “Big Bang” transformation in the second half of the 20th century.
Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S. by Cynthia Barnett. This incisive book of investigative journalism explains why this month’s sudden plague of sinkholes is just one tiny symptom of the state’s water problems.
Ninety-two in the Shade by Thomas McGuane. This novel is a hallucinatory, iconoclastic journey through the pre-gentrified Key West of the 1970s; McGuane is married to Jimmy Buffett’s sister, but he writes about the dark side of Margaritaville.
7,000 Clams by Lee Irby. Set in St. Petersburg in the 1920s, when Babe Ruth was the star of spring training and the real estate boom was so hot salesmen buttonholed prospects on downtown streets, this novel by Irby, an Eckerd College history professor, is a rollicking caper as well as a trip into the city’s past.
Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen. One of America’s finest writers spent more than three decades obsessed with writing this magisterial, menacing novel about Edgar Watson, who a century ago was a real-life Southwest Florida planter, developer and serial killer.
The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise by Michael Grunwald. Marjory Stoneman Douglas told us why the Everglades were worth saving; in this book, a Washington Post reporter details the remarkable efforts to do just that in the 1990s — although the results remain to be seen.
Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World by Carl Hiaasen. You know him as a satirical novelist, but here Hiaasen gleefully rakes some journalistic muck about the 10-ton mouse that took over the state 40 years ago.
White Shadow by Ace Atkins. This novel, set with loving detail in Tampa in 1955, is a hard-boiled tale based on the real-life unsolved murder of Charlie Wall, who was born to the city’s elite and died a washed-up gangster inside a locked house in Ybor City.