22 Best Books Set in Florida You Should Read

Looking for ideas on Florida books to add to your reading list? This article will give you the best books set in Florida that you’ll want to read right away!

Florida is one of the southern states of America and has one of the longest coastlines in the country.

With the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, the Sunshine state, as it is known, is famous for its white sand beaches, theme parks like Disney World, national parks like the Everglades, and bustling nightlife.

Apart from this, it is also a multi-cultural state with a huge Spanish influence, which is why many Latin Americans reside there and so does a sizeable African American population.

best books set in Florida

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And did you know that Key West, the southernmost point of the USA is closer to Cuba than to mainland Florida? Now you know!

While Florida offers so much, it’s not hugely known for literature but that doesn’t mean that the state has none. In fact, there are so many books written by famous writers based on this state.

If you’re looking for a new read, especially one that transports you to sunny Florida, this article will give you the 22 best books set in Florida to add to your reading list.

Best Books Set in Florida

There are a variety of Florida books spanning different genres from fiction and non-fiction to romance and mystery to even historical and psychological horrors. So, take your pick, curl up on your couch with a drink of choice and read away cozily.

If you can’t take a trip to Florida soon, let these best books set in Florida transport you to the Sunshine State instead.

1. Because of Winn-Dixie By Kate DiCamillo

Many shy people would like to learn how to initiate conversations and make friends but they may not know how. Because of Winn-Dixie is a book that explores this theme with 10-year-old India Opal Buloni as one of two main characters.

She learns to overcome her loneliness because of a dog (Winn-Dixie) she fosters and spends time with.

With the help of her friendly mutt, Opal’s life is transformed. She is able to make new friends in her town, Naomi, a fictional town in Florida, strengthen her bond with her father, and overcome abandonment issues caused by her mother.

It’s a love-filled, sweet story that later became a motion picture. You can read it here.

2. Send Down the Rain By Charles Martin

One of the best novels set in Florida that shows you different sides of the state is Send Down the Rain.

This fiction novel tells the story of two brothers — Joseph and Bobby Brooks, and how their lives are linked even if they don’t want them to be.

Set against the beachy shores of Cape San Blas in Gulf county, Florida, it has elements of romance, truth, and deceit, along with parts regarding the Vietnam war (one of them is a veteran).

And what happens when Joseph tries to escape his traumas to the Carolina Mountain but is later forced to go back to Florida?

A story of despair, romance, and rebuilding unfolds but not with a shocking twist. You can read the full story here.

3. Hoot By Carl Hiaasen

Among the best mystery books set in Florida, especially for kids and tweens, is Hoot.

The lead character is a boy named Roy Eberhardt, who has just moved to town and gets bullied from the get-go.

During one of those instances, Roy notices a boy running barefoot, who he later finds out is the local vigilante, Mullet Fingers.

Mullet is working towards a social cause to save an owl burrow from being plowed by a pancake house.

When their friendship grows, Roy takes it up as well. The story touches upon the environmental topic of saving animals.

4. Devil in the Grove By Gilbert King

This is the first non-fiction book on this list of the best books set in Florida, mainly for the subject it highlights — racial injustice.

Devil in the Grove recounts the case taken up by attorney Thurgood Marshall (Mr. Civil Rights) related to four young black men (the Groveland Boys) accused of raping a young white girl.

It takes place in Lake County, known at the time for being a “white” county and employing African-American labor.

Everyone tried their hardest to ensure Thurgood and the boys didn’t win, including giving death threats and making attempts at their lives. It recounts all of that and includes never seen material about the case.

This book will have you sitting on the edge of your chair as you walk through a journey of “one of the best examples of one of the worst menaces to American justice” as described by U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Robert Jackson.

The book won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction and it’s the perfect Florida book for those interested in true crime, law, and non-fictional books.

5. Their Eyes Were Watching God By Zora Neale Hurston

A classic novel set in the late 1930s in central Florida, Their Eyes Were Watching God is based on the central character, an African-American woman named Janie Crawford.

It explores her journey from a typical teenage girl to a strong-minded, independent, and no-nonsense 40-year-old woman.

Having been brought up in an all-female household, who didn’t have the best of lives, Janie craves love and a non-volatile relationship, which she receives for a short period in her 3rd marriage.

When all three fail for their respective reasons, Janie eventually realizes she is better off alone. Does she succeed in her endeavors? You’ll have to read the book here to find out.

6. The Coconut Key Series By Hope Holloway

The Coconut Key Series is a set of 7 novels about the Florida Keys and the life of Beck Foster.

Each book explores different aspects of Beck’s life while remaining true to the two central emotions — love and family.

Four generations of women now live on Coconut Key Island and navigate their lives based on past revelations and future encounters.

They explore the idea of an older woman restarting her life, giving love a second chance, and reconnecting with her estranged family.

If you want to read them in order, here is the entire series: A Secret in the Keys (Coconut Key Book 1), A Reunion in the Keys (Coconut Key Book 2), A Season in the Keys (Coconut Key Book 3), A Haven in the Keys (Coconut Key Book 4), A Return to the Keys (Coconut Key Book 5), A Wedding in the Keys (Coconut Key Book 6), and A Promise in the Keys(Coconut Key Book 7).

7. The Nickel Boys By Colson Whitehead

The story of The Nickel Boys follows the lives of young black boys, Elwood Curtis and Jack Turner in a juvenile reform school called The Nickel Academy in Florida.

Elwood’s unfortunate sentence there led him to see and experience the school’s wrongdoings.

The repercussions of the school’s racial segregation, corporal punishments, and assaults were felt for decades to come and changed the boys’ lives forever.

The stark contrast between Elwood’s idealism and Turner’s cynicism mimics real-world duality.

Loosely based on real events that happened at a reform school known as Florida School for Boys which just closed recently in 2011 after its injustices, torture, and sexual assault towards young boys were exposed, this book won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It was also named one of TIME’s best books of the decade.

8. Alas, Babylon By Pat Frank

Alas, Baylon is one of the first few apocalyptic Florida novels of the late 1950s and it set an example in that genre for years to come.

It focuses on a small, fictional town in Florida named Fort Repose, one that was the sole survivor of a nuclear war unleashed on the USA.

The almost deserted town and the nearby land were the largest non-contaminated zone in a nearly decimated country and the novel follows the lead-up to the nuclear event and how the survivors sustain themselves through the aftermath.

How do they cope with all this? Read the book here to find out.

9. Rum Punch By Elmore Leonard

What happens when you’re caught between the devil and the deep sea? Rum Punch tells the story that finds 44-year-old stewardess, Jackie Burke exactly in that scenario.

She is caught between an aspiring, small-time gunrunner Ordell Robbie and the police who are after him.

Her life is meaningless to them both, so she must act selfishly and smartly to get out of this situation alive and make herself scarce while securing her fugitive future.

An exhilarating and well-told story, this is one of the best books about Florida to check out. You can read it here.

10. The Last Train to Key West By Chanel Cleeton

The Last Train to Key West is one of the best books about Key West. A novel by Chanel Cleeton, it is based on the lives of 3 women whose paths cross each other under different circumstances.

Elizabeth Preston, Helen Berner, and Mirta Perez each have their reason for taking the Overseas Railroad.

The story follows in the wake of an economic depression that has taken a toll on everyone’s lives.

With an impending hurricane hurtling towards Key West, you can read about their grit, strength, determination, love stories, and the drama that unfolds here.

The historical accounts mentioned are loosely based on actual events that occurred in and around 1935.

11. Last Train to Paradise By Les Standiford

Like The Last Train to Key West above, Last Train to Paradise makes the list of books on Florida with a plot centering around the fierce and intense 1935 Labor Day hurricane.

Unlike the former fictitious tale, this one is an actual historical account. Entrepreneur Henry Flagler dreamt of constructing a railroad that connected Key West to mainland Florida.

With sheer determination, he even succeeded, giving the people of Florida the Key West Railroad.

The nearly 150-mile-long railroad bridge ran over the Florida Straits for over 20 years before the storm of the century destroyed its engineering marvel.

This book recounts the entire journey from its construction to destruction.

12. Duma Key By Stephen King

Staying true to his King of Horror title, Stephen King wrote Duma Key, a psychological horror novel based on Edgar Freemantle, who, after a severe accident is left with external and neurological injuries.

He moves to an island off the coast of Florida called Duma Key to regain his lost self. However, paranormal things start to happen when he takes up his long-forgotten hobby of painting, and eerie incidents, some proving fatal occur.

Some supernatural power is around and needs controlling. But that’s all we’ll say. Just get yourself a copy here and you’ll know how everything unfolds.

13. Darkly Dreaming Dexter By Jeff Lindsay

Would you believe us if we told you that the TV series Dexter is based on this series of books about Florida?

Jeff Lindsay wrote eight thriller/crime horror books that show the journey of forensic analyst turned serial killer Dexter Morgan.

But what Dexter does differently is that he only kills bad people, making him a kind of vigilante.

He is a forensic analyst by day in the Miami Police Department, and by night he tracks down the wrongdoers who have committed crimes and punishes them.

What happens when someone tries to copy his killing style? You’ll have to find out by reading Darkly Dreaming.

14. Crazy in Paradise (Paradise Florida Keys Mystery Series) By Deborah Brown

Another set of mystery books set in Florida is the Paradise Series by Deborah Brown, of which Crazy in Paradise is the first book.

There are 26 books in total, all revolving around Madison Westin and her life in the small town of Tarpon Cove in the Florida Keys.

Each book explores a different theme but has all the elements right from crimes, kidnapping, murder, seduction, love, and even humor, making this suspense/mystery fiction series worthy of a binge-reading session.

Think of Madison as Florida’s Nancy Drew who uses her intelligence and Glock (when needed) to solve them. You can check out all 27 books in this series here.

15. Don Juan McQueen By Eugenia Price

The Florida Trilogy, of which Don Juan McQueen is the 2nd installment is a historical fiction book series.

This novel tells the story of John McQueen and his wife, Anne. John had to flee Savannah while leaving his wife and children behind to escape captivity and imprisonment.

It shows conflicts between the settlers and the Spanish government and the friction between John and Anne when he starts to adapt to his new life in Spanish East Florida.

You can read the first book named Maria here and the third of the trilogy named Margaret’s Story here.

16. Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland By Dave Barry

Best. State. Ever. is a humorous exploration of everything famous and not-so-famous in Florida.

Dave deep dives into everything that makes Florida, Florida! All the anecdotes ranging from alligators and mermaids to Florida Bigfoot (Skunk Ape) and psychics, and even machine guns.

Each recounting will leave you in splits and help you learn a little bit more about this state and why it is the way it is.

The book is written with wit and it’s a fun read that will perhaps change (or not) your ideologies toward Florida. You can read it here.

17. Hemingway’s Girl By Erika Robuck

Hemingway’s Girl falls under the historical romance fiction category. It has world-famous writer Ernest Hemingway as the titular character, with his second wife Pauline and house help Mariella Bennet as supporting characters.

The story explores relationships, love, marriage, and temptation, as told through the accounts of Mariella.

It is one of the few books about Key West with a real-life persona playing the lead.

18. Tourist Season By Carl Hiaasen

Some of the best Florida books have been by resident author Carl Hiaasen, whose other book, Hoot, also made it to this list.

In the humorous mystery novel Tourist Season, private investigator Brian Keyes is on the heels of the terrorist gang Las Noches trying to foil their devious plans.

The group begins a series of kidnappings and killings of famous people in Miami Beach to gain attention, ultimately feeding the “loose ends” to a giant crocodile named Pavlov.

This book has elements of crime and suspense, along with comedic hints.

19. Paper Towns By John Green

Centered around Jefferson Park in Orlando, Florida, Paper Towns tells the story of Quentin “Q” Jacobsen and his quest to find his neighbor-childhood crush, Margo Roth Spiegelman when she suddenly goes missing.

Having been childhood friends, nerdy Q is the only one who understands the popular girl Margo like no other, which means he is the only one who can find his love interest.

It launched at number 5 on the New York Times bestseller list for children’s books but later became a number 1 New York Times Bestseller.

It was awarded the 2009 Edgar Award for best young adult novel and it also got adapted into a movie in 2015. You can read the entire book here.

20. To Have and Have Not By Ernest Hemingway

To Have and Have Not, written by prominent novelist Ernest Hemingway, is a fictitious story about Harry Morgan.

Harry, a fishing boat captain in Key West, Florida, is forced to partake in the crime of transporting contraband to sustain himself and his family.

It is set in the 1930s when the Great Depression crippled the people of Key West, of which Harry was a victim, too.

He needed to support his family during the tough times, so he took an unfortunate plunge into the crime pool, which only worsened with time.

Will he give in to fully becoming a criminal or will he go back on the right path? Read the book here to find out.

21. Florida By Lauren Groff

Florida by Lauren Groff explores the sunshine state as an emotion rather than a place.

Taking place in different towns in Florida, each character differs in age and generation.

They all have different experiences to share and go through, be it the raging and conflicted mother, abandoned sisters, lonely young man, or the childless couple.

But at the heart of it all is the state of Florida which has seemingly stayed the same.

Even the stories that aren’t set in Florida draw comparisons with it reminding the characters and the reader of what they’re missing. With this book, you’ll get a glimpse of the livelihood of Florida.

22. Hidden in the Keys By Sage Parker

One of the best mystery books set in the Florida Keys is this gem, Hidden in the Keys.

The main character, Julia Masterson, has moved to a beach house in Longboat Key, Florida, with her husband Frank after both of them retired.

Their new lives were about to begin until Frank disappears, and Julia starts a frantic and desperate search to find him.

Local detective Brody Barker helps her with this case, but soon they realize the mess they’ve gotten themselves in.

Will they find Frank and what secrets will they discover? Grab the book here to find out.


Final Thoughts on the Best Books About Florida

Whether you’re a book lover just looking for new reads or a self-proclaimed Florida fanatic who appreciates everything about the state from Florida quotes, and Instagram captions about Florida, to its immense beauty, you’ll find a book you’ll enjoy on this list.

While some of these books about Florida are fictional, they give a closer view of the state for those who want to either feel the waves of Miami or Key West or just envision themselves strolling down the streets of the state.

And if you’ve read any books set in Florida that you just couldn’t put down for a second, be sure to drop them in the comments below to inspire others.

But before you go, consider sharing these best books about Florida if you found the article helpful!

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