5 Great Midwestern Novels You May Have Missed


We’ve talked about how great the Midwest is for writers today, but from Hemingway’s Michigan to Bellow’s Chicago and Cather’s Nebraska, the region has always provided readers with plenty of great literature over the years. Since this week marks the birthday of Indiana’s own Booth Tarkington, we thought of a few novels from the region that you may have overlooked, and should consider placing on your bookshelf alongside Augie March and Sister Carrie.

The Magnificent Ambersons, Booth Tarkington

Tarkington has, for some strange reason, fallen out of favor among American readers, so let’s start with him and the novel on which Orson Welles based one of his greatest films. The author’s lack of popularity today is a shame, because if you count either Faulkner or Wharton among your favorite writers, Tarkington is a natural.

The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison

Far be it from us to call anything the Nobel Prize winner has written underrated, but her first novel, set in Ohio after the Depression, is always worth another read.

During the Reign of the Queen of Persia, Joan Chase

Almost like an Ohio version of Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, Chase’s early-’80s classic was put back on shelves recently thanks to NYRB Classics.

Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury

When you think of Bradbury, you tend to think Fahrenheit 451 or The Martian Chronicles, but his somewhat autobiographical book — based off of growing up in northern Illinois in the 1920s — is one of the ultimate summertime books to enjoy.

Them, Joyce Carol Oates

One of the truly great books set in Detroit. Oates won the 1969 National Book Award for Them, but since she has about 6,000 books, we figured we’d remind you of this one all the same.