A listing of books that feature Minnesota settings in a fictional or non-fictional work of literature.

  • The Emigrants Suite by Vilhelm Moberg
    The Emigrants Suite is the collective name of four novels; The Emigrants (1949) , Unto a Good Land (1952), The Settlers (1956), The Last Letter Home (1959). The series describes the journey of a group of people from Småland, Sweden as they emigrate to Minnesota in the 1850s.
  • Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.
    A novel that takes place in the historic Ramsey Hill neighborhood of St. Paul, MN. The story follows several members of an American family and their close friends and lovers through the last decades of the twentieth century. Oprah Winfrey made Freedom her first book club selection for 2010.
  • Giants in the Earth, by O.E. Rolvaag (1927).
    Masterpiece of 19th-century immigrant life on the prairies by a Norwegian who settled in Minnesota and became a professor at St. Olaf College.
  • A History of Minnesota, by William W. Folwell (1921).
    A definitive history of the state’s early years, written by a man who was instrumental in shaping a good deal of the history he recorded.
  • Main Street, by Sinclair Lewis (1920).
    The Nobel laureate’s enduring portrait of small-town Minnesota life is hardly a valentine, but it still packs a punch and is still being read. The story is set in Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, a fictionalized version of Sauk Centre, MN – Lewis’s hometown.
  • Millions of Cats, by Wanda Gag (1928).
    Though not explicitly Minnesotan in setting or detail, a pure product of Gag’s upbringing in New Ulm.
  • The Voyageur’s Highway: Minnesota’s Border Lake Land, by Grace Lee Nute (1941).
    An accounting of the famous explorers, fur traders, voyageurs, Indians, and loggers who traveled throughout Minnesota’s canoe country from Rainy Lake east to Lake Superior in the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • Canoeing With the Cree, by Eric Sevareid (1935).
    Seminal journalist’s classic account of youthful adventure in the North Country.
  • On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1937).
    This story of the peripatetic Wilder family’s days in a sod hut near the southwestern Minnesota town of Walnut Grove is one of the best in the eternally popular series.
  • Canoe Country, by Florence Page Jaques (1938). Beautifully designed and illustrated (by her husband, Francis Lee Jaques) primer on the enduring romance of the Arrowhead Region.
  • The WPA Guide to Minnesota (1938).
    Essential, chock full of history and arcana, and still incredibly useful.
  • The Betsy-Tacy books, by Maud Hart Lovelace (1940-1955).
    Nostalgia- inducing children’s classics set in Mankato, Minnesota.
  • The works of Frederick Manfred (1944-1992).
    Prolific and larger-than-life chronicler of the mythology and history of western Minnesota and the Dakotas.
  • North Star Country, by Meridel LeSueur (1945).
    Folklore approach to the history of the state, notable for its populist zeal and obvious affection for regional characters.
  • The Singing Wilderness, by Sigurd Olson (1956).
    A defining and meditative collection of essays by one of the fiercest defenders of Minnesota’s natural resources.
  • The Face of Minnesota, by John Szarkowski (1958).
    Back in print after 40 years, the influential photographer/curator’s sweeping portrait of the state and its people remains exhaustive and inspiring.
  • Morte D’Urban, by J.F. Powers (1962).
    National Book Award winner by arguably the state’s most elegant and criminally neglected writer.
  • Shall We Gather at the River, by James Wright (1968).
    Sparsely detailed snapshots of the Twin Cities and the state emerge time and again in Wright’s haunting and elegiac collection.
  • Wind Chill Factor, by Thomas Gifford (1975).
    The first of the blockbuster mystery-suspense novels to come out of Minnesota.
  • Staggerford, by Jon Hassler (1977).
    Hassler’s debut was perhaps the best of his funny, tender and beloved Minnesota novels.
  • Letters From the Country, by Carol Bly (1981).
    A tough, practical and clear-eyed series of essays, polemics and meditations on life in the rural western half of the state.
  • A Romantic Education, by Patricia Hampl (1981).
    Indelible portrait of a childhood in St. Paul by a master of the memoir.
  • Lake Wobegon Days, by Garrison Keillor (1985).
    Like it or not, this is the one book of relatively recent vintage that has played a huge role in coloring national perceptions of our state.
  • Rules of Prey, by John Sandford (1989).
    The book that launched the hugely popular, Twin Cities-based Lucas Davenport series.
  • Grass Roots: The Universe of Home, by Paul Gruchow (1995).
    A masterful celebration and defense of rural life from an ardent conservationist.
  • The Heart Can Be Filled Anywhere on Earth, by Bill Holm (1996).
    A loving and erudite portrait of Holm’s tiny western Minnesota hometown of Minneota.
  • Lake Street, by Wing Young Huie (2001).
    A concentrated, urban update of Szarkowski’s book.
  • Absolute Zero, Hunters Moon, The Big Law, Homefront, Vapor Trail, by Chuck Logan
    Chuck Logan is the author of five novels that feature a former Minnesota undercover cop, Phil Broker. Most of his books are set in Minnesota.
  • The death and life of Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood
    Although not based in Minnesota, the family name “St. Cloud” originated in St. Cloud, Minnesota, where the main character’s mother grew up.  The book makes a few other references to Minnesota, including a mention of the Minnesota band, the Jayhawks.


Photos of Minnesota