10 Florida Books We’re Curling Up With This Fall
Whether you’re on the hunt for a locked-room mystery or a revealing Southern memoir, find your next perfect pageturner on this list.
There is arguably no season better suited for book lovers than fall. Dipping temperatures give bibliophiles the perfect excuse to settle in early with a chunky blanket and a thick paperback. And if you need some inspiration for your autumn TBR, let us lend a hand with 10 books written about our home state or by local authors. You’ll find everything from suspenseful thrillers and moving memoirs to glossy picture books for adults. Here is every book on the Flamingo editors’ bedside table this season.
Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six
Kick off spooky season with the latest psychological thriller from New York Times bestselling author—and Tampa Bay resident—Lisa Unger. Releasing Nov. 8, this locked-room mystery follows three couples on a luxurious weekend getaway in the woods that turns out to be anything but serene. As the sinister history of their cozy cabin unravels, so too are the secrets between these spouses and siblings. With every twist, Unger reminds readers that things are rarely as they seem on the surface.
Although this book is filled with absurdities, it’s more than just a play on the Florida Man trope. Rundown protagonist Jamie narrowly avoids a jail sentence for an outrageous crime she committed by opting for community service at a monkey sanctuary in Florida. Between cultish rituals and palpable sexual tension between the three women running the nonprofit, Jamie finds herself immersed in the fringe culture of Florida. On its face, this debut appears to be a comedic, sensationalized Sunshine State story, but along the way readers find a tale of suspense, a search for belonging and an exploration of what we’ll overlook to find it.
The Kingdom of Sand
It’s been 16 years since acclaimed author Andrew Holleran penned a novel, but his June 6 release is set to become another instant classic—much like his debut tale Dancer from the Dance. In The Kingdom of Sand, we meet a nameless gay male protagonist stuck in the Sunshine State after moving there to care for his elderly parents during the peak of the AIDS pandemic. Holleran’s latest work explores friendship, loneliness and aging in a way that leaves readers pondering death on one page and chuckling the next. Floridians will find a particularly special connection in the way Holleran writes about our home state—sometimes searing, but always undeniably spot on.
All Day is a Long Time
In this fictional tale inspired by author David Sanchez’s own life, we follow a young man’s coming-of-age story on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Taking us beyond the image of idyllic sunsets, Sanchez’s novel dives into the drug culture of the Gulf Coast and its unyielding grip on those who fall into it. Throughout the book David chases love, cocaine, and ultimately, the desire to craft a meaningful life, which he finds in the written word.
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
This Jacksonville-born author’s debut collection of short stories is an illuminating look at the forces of religion and sexuality at play in the lives of Black Southern women. Drawing on her upbringing in the Bold City, Philyaw confronts racism, sexism, repressed desire and pushing back on the pressures of the church in nine stories that elevate Black women and girls. From the often messy relationship between mother and daughter to the fallout of infidelity, Philyaw tackles complex themes with both unfathomable nuance and unflinching candor.
The same production company that brought us The Florida Project and Moonlight is bringing its astute Sunshine State observations to the page in this new hyper-local guide to our belovedly bizarre home. Divided by region, Florida! highlights some of the locals’ favorite places, pastimes and professions from mullet tossing on the Florida-Alabama line to living wild and free at one of the many nudist colonies. Filled with whimsical illustrations, nostalgic photography and even a diagram of the perfect Cuban sandwich, this encyclopedia of the Sunshine State is a fun read for Floridians and outsiders alike.
The Talented Ribkins
Johnny Ribkins is in a race against the clock. The 72-year-old owes a large sum of money to a not-so-understanding mob boss, and if he doesn’t scrounge it up fast—well, he doesn’t want to find out. Thus ensues a riotous road trip, so Ribkins can dig up loot he’s hidden all around Florida. While that alone would make for a page-turning adventure, it’s Johnny’s superpower-laden family members that make this book un-put-downable. Some of the Ribkins clan burp fire. Johnny can precisely map any place in the world, and his father sees colors no one else can. With a dash of magical realism and a whole lot of feel-good family moments, The Talented Ribkins is complex, crazy and totally compelling.
Dead Fish Wind
This sobering climate fiction novel from Sarasota journalist Cooper Levey-Baker paints a Florida city overrun by Red Tide. The story follows Cecily, a young woman living barely above the poverty line struggling to care for her strung-out father. It isn’t until she makes a new friend that she starts to believe there may be a way out of her bleak existence. And while Cecily goes to extreme lengths to change her fate, readers learn it may be too late. Levey-Baker’s arresting prose and achingly accurate descriptions of the state leave us hoping this is merely fiction, and not fortune-telling.
Among the Beautiful Beasts
We all know Marjory Stoneman Douglas for her dogged Everglades activism, but in this novel, McMullens tells a fictionalized story of Douglas before her conservation crusade. After leaving a stifling marriage to someone 30 years her senior, Douglas finds a blooming sense of independence in Miami as she takes up a career in journalism. Readers follow along as Douglas grapples with her mother’s mental illness, her father’s estrangement during childhood and choosing between a life of confinement or courage.
The Magic Kingdom
Releasing Nov. 8, this historical fiction novel takes us back to the 1970s and a group of conservatives known as the Shakers in Central Florida. Harley Mann credits this colony and its leader, Elder John, with saving his family. But a meeting with a young woman suffering from tuberculosis and living with the Shakers rocks Mann’s beliefs about the colony. Banks details Mann’s quest to find the truth about the Shakers and ultimately his decision to leave them with what’s been heralded as melodic prose.