Read Across America begins on March 2. For the uninitiated, this is a program for elementary school students to encourage early age reading—but this year, SparkPress is taking a more literal translation. After all, one of the best things about reading is visiting new locations, cultures, and experiences. So pack your bags, because we’re taking you on a literary road trip across the United States!
We start our trip in Syracuse, New York with Forks, Knives and Spoons by Leah DeCeasare. Tour the Syracuse University campus, go dancing at 44’s, and read the daily orange to experience the world through Amy and Veronica’s eyes. This story will surely bring on some ’80s and ’90s NY nostalgia.
Just a hop, skip and a jump away is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where The Infinite Now by Mindy Tarquini takes place. Stroll down the Ninth Street Market and see if you can find the leather shop that Carlos may have worked in, or the pharmacy where Fiora spends her time. You’ll know doubt feel the location’s mystical aura while reading this story.
Continue down the east coast to Charleston, South Carolina and transport back in time to experience Trouble the Water by Jacqueline Friedland*. Walk around in this city steeped in history and see the dichotomy of the living conditions between the rich white aristocrats of old, and the slaves they kept.
As a last stop, before we hook a right and start heading back north and west, go explore Central Florida with So Close by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. Your average trailer park town might not seem too exciting, but once you’ve read So Close, you’ve got to see this girl-next-door from the trailer park-turned-politician’s right-hand woman to believe it.
Alright, let’s turn that car around head out to Montgomery, Alabama with a copy of Colorblind by Leah Harper Bowron in hand. While Montgomery has made leaps and bounds since the days of just starting to integrate schools, the impact of this history can still be found today.
As we continue north, make sure to stop in Knoxville, Tennessee—you can practically use your copy of Engineering a Life by Krishan Bedi* as a guidebook. Since this one’s a memoir, you can stop in all of the actual places Bedi experience when he first arrived in the United States, trying to build a life for himself.
And we can’t forget about Muncie, Indiana, the locale of the The Half-Life of Remorse by Grant Jarrett. Perhaps this read will inspire you to engage with the homeless on the street—you never know what sort of stories they may have, much like the characters in this literary, twisty, heart-wrenching read.
After the heaviness of homelessness, take a break and go to the beach. Drive up to the shores of Lake Michigan— but reading Running for Water and Sky by Sandra Kring won’t be as much of a break as your scenery. Go for a jog along the fourteen-block run Bless takes to reach Liam before he dies to really immerse yourself in her mindset.
Next, it’s time to head west to Lincoln, Nebraska with a copy of The Frontman by Ron Bahar*. This is a great pairing, especially if you’re a fan of music. The protagonist is trying to make it as a musician, and has gigs all over Lincoln. You may find a new band or cozy reading spot by following his story.
Keep heading west to the ranches of Wyoming and read First Rodeo by Judith Hennessey. If you’re a city-slicker like Kate, you’ll relate to the culture shock she experiences when she picks up and moves to Prickly Pear Ranch. Perhaps, like Kate, you’ll even find a little romance or artistic inspiration in this new rural location.
We finally make it to the west coast, heading to Portland, Oregon for the forests of Tree Dreams by Kristin Kaye*. Hang a hammock between trees and dive into the book. What better natural scenery could there be? When you need to stretch, go for a walk and tag a tree or two with her tree-tagging kits.
Now, start heading south down the coast until you find yourself in Northern California, then crack open Learning to Fall by Anne Clermont. If you can, coordinate the timing of your trip with the Million Dollar Gold Cup to experience the prestige of the horse competition that Jason, Brynn, and Jett make a run at.
For the last leg of the journey, Los Angeles, California will allow you to experience the glamorous world of The House of Bradbury by Nicole Meier. Drive by the old Bradbury estate that Mia moves into, and follow the clues left by the stranger and see if you can piece it all together before Mia.
*not out yet, but available for preorder now.