The Best Books About Small Towns

*If you are new here, WELCOME! In this post, I’ll share The Best Books About Small Towns that Your Book Club Should Read!

Best Books about Small Towns
Best Books about Small Towns

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. In the event of a sale, I will be awarded a small commission (at no extra cost to you or the featured book’s author). All opinions are 100% mine and every book, unless otherwise noted, is handpicked by me to be featured on the site.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty much a sucker for any book set in a small town. Really, though, it has to be more than just that. It needs to be about a community.

I grew up in a tiny town in the Texas panhandle, so I know a little bit about small towns. When a book is able to highlight both the good and the bad of small communities, it’s a sure winner for me.

Recently, I was sent a copy of a new release titled The Secret of Rainy Days. The book centers around a small community and a woman torn between her life there and the new life she’s forged in New York City.

I’m all too familiar with the tug of wanting to leave the smallness behind as a young adult, then longing for community as you grow older. The desperation of needing to go somewhere no one knows your history so you can forge your own path and the longing to be fully known and loved by a community.

And, that book got me thinking about all the books I’ve loved centered around small-town life. I think we can all use a little bit of community these days, fictional or not. So, I decided to put together a list of some of my favorites.

The Best Books About Small Towns for Your Book Club

In this list you’ll find novels chock-full of interesting characters, some romance, a little adventure, and more! There’s something on this list that every book club will enjoy.

While I’m sure that many of you know that the romance genre is chock-full of small-town romances (check out one here!), the books on this list lean towards the literary or women’s fiction categories.

Explore these talented authors who have brought small towns to life for readers everywhere!

Olive Kitteridge

Olive Kitteridge

If you haven’t read this Pulitzer Prize winner, you should. The writing is superb and the characters will have you thinking for weeks. Centered around a retired school teacher in a small Maine community, the novel explores the depth of the human condition through ordinary events. (Plus there’s an absolutely fantastic HBO series featuring Frances McDormand as Olive – find it here!)

If you have read it, did you know that Elizabeth Strout wrote a sequel? Check out Olive, Again (an Oprah Book Club pick)!

From the publisher: “Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her. As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life—sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition—its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.”

The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop

The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop

If you’re familiar with the hit, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (or it’s counterpart movie, Fried Green Tomatoes), this novel is the long-awaited sequel.

The novel centers around a grown-up Bud Threadgoode (Ruth’s son) as he revisits the beloved Whistle Stop and many of the characters.

It is the most recent in Fannie Flagg’s prolific career, but, really, if you are looking for a feel-good novel about small towns, you can’t go wrong with any of Flagg’s novels. Check out the full list of her novels here.

From the publisher: “Bud Threadgoode grew up in the bustling little railroad town of Whistle Stop with his mother, Ruth, church-going and proper, and his Aunt Idgie, the fun-loving hell-raiser. Together they ran the town’s popular Whistle Stop Cafe. But sadly, as the railroad yards shut down and Whistle Stop became a ghost town, nothing was left but boarded-up buildings and memories of a happier time. Then one day, Bud decides to take one last trip, just to see what has become of his beloved Whistle Stop. In so doing, he discovers new friends, as well as surprises about Idgie’s life, about Ninny Threadgoode and other beloved Fannie Flagg characters, and about the town itself.”

At Home in Mitford

At Home in Mitford

Another author with a long repertoire of small town novels is Jan Karon. The flagship novel mentioned here was published in 1996. Since then, Karon has gone on to write thirteen more novels about the beloved town of Mitford.

If you love small towns, quirky characters, and wholesome stories, you’ll love this entire series. I do. I wrote a post about At Home in Mitford that you can read here.

From the publisher: “It’s easy to feel at home in Mitford. In these high, green hills, the air is pure, the village is charming, and the people are generally lovable. Yet, Father Tim, the bachelor rector, wants something more. Enter a dog the size of a sofa who moves in and won’t go away. Add an attractive neighbor who begins wearing a path through the hedge. Now, stir in a lovable but unloved boy, a mystifying jewel theft, and a secret that’s sixty years old. Suddenly, Father Tim gets more than he bargained for. And readers get a rich comedy about ordinary people and their ordinary lives.”

Yes, please.

Cold Sassy Tree

Cold Sassy Tree

Perhaps you love At Home in Mitford, but you’ve read the series and want something similar. If that’s you, check out this classic, Cold Sassy Tree.

The story of a young boy on the edge of adolescence who is tasked with chaperoning his grandfather and his much-younger wife, Cold Sassy Tree follows Will Tweedy as he learns about his heritage and the Southern town where he lives. Set at the turn of the century, the novel offers a taste of Southern life at a simpler time.

Readers who love To Kill a Mockingbird and Ordinary Grace, will also love this one!

From the publisher: ” Olive Ann Burns has given us a timeless, funny, resplendent novel – about a romance that rocks an entire town, about a boy’s passage through the momentous but elusive year when childhood melts into adolescence, and about just how people lived and died in a small Southern town at the turn of the century. Inhabited by characters who are wise and loony, unimpeachably pious and deliciously irreverent, Cold Sassy, Georgia, is the perfect setting for the debut of a storyteller of rare brio, exuberance, and style.”

When Crickets Cry

When Crickets Cry

Many readers who love small town novels also love inspirational (i.e. religious) fiction. If that’s you, then you’ll love this novel by Charles Martin set in a sleepy town in Georgia.

This novel deals with real issues of faith and humanity in the face of tragedy. If you are looking for something that will inspire you and challenge your faith, this might be a great pick for you.

From the publisher: “It begins on the shaded town square in a sleepy Southern town. A spirited seven-year-old has a brisk business at her lemonade stand. But the little girl’s pretty yellow dress can’t quite hide the ugly scar on her chest. Her latest customer, a bearded stranger, drains his cup and heads to his car, his mind on a boat he’s restoring at a nearby lake. The stranger understands more about the scar than he wants to admit. And the beat-up bread truck careening around the corner with its radio blaring is about to change the trajectory of both their lives. Before it’s over, they’ll both know there are painful reasons why crickets cry . . . and that miracles lurk around unexpected corners.”

Big Lies in a Small Town

Big Lies in a Small Town

Like a little mystery in your small-town novel? Then, check out this novel by Diane Chamberlain.

If you haven’t read anything by Diane Chamberlain, she’s a talented writer who writes women’s fiction that usually includes some level of suspense. Check out her books here!

This novel is a dual-timeline story that centers around a mystery in a small town. When an artist is sent to a sleepy town to restore a mural, she uncovers more than she bargained for as small town secrets begin to surface beneath the layers of paint.

From the publisher: “North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher’s life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will get her released from prison immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to be free, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and in great need of work, she accepts. But what she doesn’t expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.”

The Secret of Rainy Days

The Secret of Rainy Days

If you’ve eaten your share of funeral casseroles, then you can relate to this novel by Leslie Hooton. This book centers around the small community of Erob, Alabama and a young woman trying to reconcile the life she once had there with the one she’s now living in New York City.

If you’ve ever tried to go back home or if you’ve ever had a best friend you love to hate and hate to love, you’ll sympathize with the main character of this novel.

Chock full of characters with a little romance sprinkled in, this novel is one of the most contemporary on the list!

From the publisher: “Growing up in Erob, Alabama, Nina “Little Bit” Barnes Enloe lived in the shadow of her imposing and harsh grandmother, Nina “Biggie” Barnes Enloe. If she wasn’t being bossed around by Biggie, then the task fell to her best friend Win…who did win. At everything. Bit believes she can escape her grandmother’s controlling grip once and for all by moving somewhere where she is the only Nina Enloe listed: New York. Yet her world is turned upside down when an unexpected loss forces her to leave her new life in the city and return to Erob, where she must face everything―and everyone―she left behind.” 

Beartown

Beartown

Interested in books about the gritty parts of small towns? The flawed characters who live there? Still want an uplifting read, but something a little more cathartic than some feel-good books?

Fredrik Backman is the answer. One of my favorite authors, Backman never fails to capture the beautiful and fallible human heart. If you haven’t read A Man Called Ove or Anxious People, check out my posts on both books.

However, if you are looking for a book about a small community, Beartown is Backman’s take on the triumphs and trials of tight-knit towns.

From the publisher: “By the lake in Beartown is an old ice rink, and in that ice rink Kevin, Amat, Benji, and the rest of the town’s junior ice hockey team are about to compete in the national semi-finals—and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys. Under that heavy burden, the match becomes the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown. This is a story about a town and a game, but even more about loyalty, commitment, and the responsibilities of friendship; the people we disappoint even though we love them; and the decisions we make every day that come to define us. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.”

Ordinary Grace

Ordinary Grace

Similar to Beartown, this novel by William Kent Krueger centers around a town shook by a crime. Ordinary Grace is a coming of age novel set in the 1960s small town of New Bremen, Minnesota.

If you’ve ever searched for a novel comparable to To Kill a Mockingbird, check out this one. Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after the incidents take place, you’ll find a similar tone to Harper Lee’s masterpiece, along with the familiar questions about justice and forgiveness. You can find my full post on Ordinary Grace here.

From the publisher: “New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson’s Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder. Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family—which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother—he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years.”

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe

Another novel set in a small Southern town, Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe, takes your typical inheritance turned romance story and sprinkles in a healthy dose of magical realism.

If you love Hallmark movies, then you’ll probably love this novel which seems similar on the surface but dives deeper into character issues. With a touch of Southern charm and magic, this is a quick, fun read about a quirky community of characters.

From the publisher: “Nestled in the mountain shadows of Alabama lies the little town of Wicklow. It is here that Anna Kate has returned to bury her beloved Granny Zee, owner of the Blackbird Café. It was supposed to be a quick trip to close the café and settle her grandmother’s estate, but despite her best intentions to avoid forming ties or even getting to know her father’s side of the family, Anna Kate finds herself inexplicably drawn to the quirky Southern town her mother ran away from so many years ago, and the mysterious blackbird pie everybody can’t stop talking about.”

And that wraps up the list of The Best Books about Small Towns! I hope that you enjoyed reading all of the options available and that you’ll pick a few to read this year!

This is by no means an exhaustive list and I’d love to know what other novels about small towns you or your book club has read and loved!

Until next time, Happy Reading!

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. In the event of a sale, I will be awarded a small commission (at no extra cost to you or the featured book’s author). All opinions are 100% mine and every book, unless otherwise noted, is handpicked by me to be featured on the site.

I was gifted an advance reader copy of The Secret of Rainy Days for my review.

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