These are the most and least popular states for book settings

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A book’s setting can play a huge role in its tone and memorability. The best writers can bring a place to life and make the story much more real through it. This means that the choice of location for a book is crucial. Many authors simply set up their books where they live, drawing inspiration from their daily lives. Others find locations that match the plot or mood of the story: the noir set in California versus New York, for example, represents two distinct subgenres.

So which states are attracting writers, and which are sorely lacking in literary representation? You can place your guesses now (population size is a good place to start), but Crossword Solver has done the job of accounting for all US location tags on Goodreads, so let’s dive into their results.

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Unsurprisingly, New York takes the top spot with 4,887 books, and more than half of the books set there take place in New York. California gave its money’s worth with 4,505 pounds found there. It does, however, have a slightly larger spread of cities featured, so removing the books from the most populous city in each state would put California at the top.

a graphic map showing the city with the most books in each state
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Crossword Solver also pulled the city from each state where the most books are. Again, New York is the champion, as I’m sure you’ll be shocked to know. Los Angeles, Chicago, New Orleans and Boston are other popular cities for installing books.

a chart showing the top 10 places to set books with photos from each city

However, not all cities attract the same type of author. Some cities are for horror novels, while others are the perfect place for a fantasy story. Before you continue scrolling: can you guess which city has the highest percentage of mystery books in it? What about romance novels?

a chart showing the top 10 places to create mystery books with photos of each city

Some cities are typed for certain genres, and Bisbee, Arizona is a mystery town. 81% of the books set there are mysteries, including JA Jance’s Desert Heat. Personally, I’d be a little nervous living in a city that seems destined to be the backdrop for a murder mystery.

a graph showing the locations with the highest percentage of thrillers

In retrospect, it makes sense that Washington, DC is particularly likely to house a thriller. Political thrillers are a common subcategory, and what better place to put an American political thriller than its capital? One of the most popular examples is Dan Brown’s Deception Point. New York is also a popular thriller location, with three of its cities making this top 10.

a chart showing where the highest percentage of love books are

Looking for the most romantic city in America? According to the novelists, it could be Bloomington, Indiana. 93% of the books put there are romance novels! One of the most popular is Redemption by Karen Kingsbury. Second place goes to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Both places have a large Amish population, so it’s probably the Amish romance subgenre that put them in the top spots. Did you know that Flint, Michigan is also a romantic setting? 82% of the books that take place there are romances!

a graph showing the locations with the highest percentage of historical fiction books

Some cities are so central to US history that a large percentage of the books set there are historical fiction. According to data from Goodreads, 100% of books set in Pearl Harbor are historical fiction. It’s likely that books that don’t deal specifically with the Pearl Harbor bombing are more generally labeled Hawaii or Oahu. Massachusetts and New York are also likely to provide the backdrop for a historical fiction book, with New York having three cities on the list and Massachusetts claiming two spots.

a chart showing which locations have the highest percentage of fantasy books in them

What American cities come to mind when you think of fantasy novels? While many fantasy series are set in other worlds, some place their magic in our world, hidden around the corners of familiar buildings. Blue Ridge Mountains, Arizona* must exude a magical aura, as 31% of the books set there are of the fantasy genre, including This Side of the Grave by Jeaniene Frost.

a chart showing which locations have the highest percentage of sci-fi books in them

Science fiction often takes the stars for its settings, but it can also take place on a future Earth. If you want to visit somewhere with a foot in the future, head to Sedona, Arizona, where one in four books contains a science fiction story, including John A. Heldt’s River Rising.

*Editor’s note: the creators of this infographic identify the Blue Ridge Mountains in Arizona. We kept the error, but be aware that the beach is located from southern Pennsylvania to Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia.


If you don’t live in New York or another major city, it can be difficult to find books that are set nearby, so Crossword Solver has compiled the data they’ve collected to show books near you! Simply enter your zip code to get a list of books in multiple genres near you.

If you liked this article, you may also want to check out Most Translated Books from Every Country in the World and Most Popular Children’s Books from Every Country in the World.


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