13 Best Books About Florida History Update 05/2022

The list is alive! If there are any new updates, check back often (and subscribe to FloWriter for ALL THE UPDATES). You can also leave a comment, follow me on Twitter or Instagram, or send me an email if you think I’ve left something important out of Florida canon. I love getting suggestions, and I’d be happy to add any forgotten masterpieces to the list if you send them to me.

A Land Remembered by Patrick D. Smith

In Smith’s historical fiction, he tells the story of three generations of MacIveys who move from Georgia to Florida and try to make a living in the harsh scrub. We start in the 1850s, right after Tobias MacIvey and his family move into their new and short-lived home in the scrub of Florida. When Zech and Sol inherit the MacIvey family business, they turn it into a huge cattle empire and become real estate tycoons like Flagler. The MacIveys grow up in a world full of crackers, cattle, mosquitoes, hurricanes, oranges, frosts, wars, hunger, and greed. Sol, who is nearing the end of his life, leaves his Miami Beach mansion and retreats to his father’s small cabin near Punta Rassa. He thinks about how his role in the conquest led to the demise of the land that his family lived on and that of his Seminole half-brother.

A Land Remembered is widely regarded as great Florida fiction. It has been named the Best Florida Book by Florida Monthly Magazine ten times, and it has won the Florida Historical Society’s Tebeau Prize for the best historical novel in the state. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read, no matter how many people say it’s great in Florida.

Ditch of Dreams: The Cross Florida Barge Canal and the Struggle for Florida’s Future by Steven Noll and David Tegeder

A history of the Army Corps of Engineers’ bold plan to split the state in two with a nearly 200-mile-long canal, a seemingly impossible feat of engineering and money that would make man’s rule over the wilds of the great peninsula. As it turns out, the plan didn’t work at all. This is still the largest public works project in American history that was halted in the middle of construction. People in Florida who care about the environment and the economy are fighting each other in Ditch of Dreams. It’s about one of the Great Florida Marjories, Marjorie Harris Carr, who led the fight.

Carr led the Florida Defenders of the Environment, and his work has had a long-term effect on how projects affect the environment and how politics work in Florida. The Kirkpatrick Dam and Rodman Reservoir are still up for debate, but the rest of the project has been turned into the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway State Recreation and Conservation Area.

Oh, Florida! How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country by Craig Pittman

It takes someone who was born and raised in Florida to understand how much of an impact Florida has on the country. In Pittman’s speech, he will make you think that Florida ManTM is just a state-sponsored front for the rest of the county while the state’s courts decide the world’s fate.

The Swamp by Michael Grunwald

In South Florida, there was a lot of room for growth. You could make money in every corner of the land if you could get rid of mosquitos and alligators and native people. You also need to get rid of all that water. Grunwald’s book, The Swamp, is about 500 years of history in Florida. It shows how rich developers and richer politicians cut, maimed, trenched, drained, tamed, and killed the Everglades and its people. As long as you can make it to the end of the third act, you will meet our heroine, Marjory Stoneman Douglas!

In a sad way, the fight is still going on today; Jeb! Because of this, Bush almost sold water rights to a subsidiary of Enron for the love of God! It’s even a fight to get back what little there is left. For at least 50 years, the Everglades we think of as still wild have been dying. They need to be “de-conquered” or “restored.” This is what Guy Martin says. “Of course, there’s a fight about that, too.” If nothing else, The Swamp shows us that politicians, both at the local and national level, do their best to forget the mistakes of their predecessors and repeat them over and over again.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

They are a new book by New York Times Bestselling author Colson Whitehead, who has also won a Pulitzer Prize. A bright, young, idealistic black boy grows up in the Jim Crow South and ends up at Nickel, a reform school for troubled kids, at no fault of his own. This story is about how he ends up there.

A lot of the stories in Whitehead’s book are based on the dark history of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida, which ran from 1900 to 2011. Some of the stories of abuse, rape, and murder at Dozier have been told by people who went to the school years ago. Former Governor Charlie Crist ordered an investigation into these claims. After interviewing former students and staff, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said it couldn’t find enough evidence to back up the claims, which were made by former students and staff.
This state-sponsored sham investigation into a state-sponsored “youth rehabilitation facility” has found over 50 burials at “Boot Hill,” the “school’s” burial ground. Archaeologists from the University of South Florida have found them.

The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea by Jack E. Davis

When Davis had this baby, he brought the Pulitzer Prize for History in 2018 back to the Sunshine State. In this book, he looks at how the Gulf of Mexico has changed over time, from a beautiful and productive ecosystem to a “national sacrifice zone.” Davis was able to change the traditional environmental history narrative and talk about the Gulf of Mexico as the source of change in the region, not as a passive victim of colonialism and conquest. This is what makes Davis’ work so interesting.

With the Pulitzer Prize, The Gulf won the 2017 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction. It was also nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the New York Times Notable Book of 2017, and the Washington Post’s Best Books of the Year. It is for people who like to breathe air.
It’s not just Davis who wrote this book. He’s also a professor of environmental history at the University of Florida.

Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams by Gary Mormino

Mormino talks about what he calls Florida’s “Big Bang.” In the second half of the 20th century, the state went from being the smallest state in the south to being a social and economic powerhouse with more than 16 million people. It’s another Florida historian on this list who says, “This is the first comprehensive social history of Florida in any of its eras.” In Florida, this will be the standard against which all future efforts to gather data will be judged. It also has a nice cover.

Everything by Carl Hiaasen

Perhaps one of the most “Florida” writers in Florida. When he was in the 80s, he tried to scare people away from the peninsula. Northerners don’t seem to pay attention enough. A lot of people who live outside of Florida seem to like him because they think he is funny. Floridians are better at this than people from other places, though.

Totch: A Life in the Everglades by Loren G. “Totch” Brown

Totch is a fourth-generation Floridian. His family was one of the first white people to settle on the land.

The Chokoloskee Bay is in the Ten Thousand Islands region, and it is in the water. A war hero, husband, father, fisherman, author, and actor were some of the things that he did. Even though he was also a moonshiner, a poacher, a tax dodger, and a drug trafficker. : This is the only thing that he has ever written, and it is one of Florida’s most important works. This is his only book.
Totch’s grandparents were both friends with Ed J. Watson, who was killed by Peter Matthiessen in his book Killing Mr. Watson.

Florida: A Short History by Michael Gannon

Michael Gannon is a big name in the history of Florida, and his book, “Florida: A Short History,” is one of the best nonfiction books about the state. “By the time the Pilgrims came ashore at Plymouth, St. Augustine was in need of a facelift,” he says. In this town there was a fort and church. There was also a seminary and a six-bed hospital. There were about 120 shops and homes. Because La Florida stretched from the Keys to Newfoundland and west to Texas, St. Augustine could say that it was the capital of much of what is now the United States because it was in the middle of it.

Even though his story starts in pre-contact Florida, he doesn’t give enough attention to the history of Florida before people came to the area. This, on the other hand, is coming from an archaeologist, so I’m willing to let it go. This is a side note: If you want a good introduction to native Florida, I recommend Jerald T. Milanich’s book, “Florida’s Indians from Ancient Times to the Present.”

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Kinnan is one of the new Great Floridian Marjories, and she’s the last one to make the list. She wrote about Jody and Penny Baxter, the Forresters, and old Slewfoot because her editor told her to write about what she knew from her own life after she had a lot of manuscripts turned down. A fawn that Jody found on the ground and had to raise by himself is the subject of the story. Jody is struggling with farming in the scrubland of central Florida in the 1870s. If you want to learn how to eat like a Cracker and live like a Cracker, you should check out Rawlings’ Cross Creek Cookery.

Hikers can visit places from the book (and the 1946 movie starring Gregory Peck) as well as the Long Family cemetery on the Yearling Trail. If you can, I think you should follow my example and read this book while you’re doing archaeological work in the area where the story and the movie were set. They let us stay at their club, which is near Silver Glen Springs (the Glen springs in the book). Also in 1939, the club had Rawlings stay at their cabin. There is a letter from Rawlings thanking the club members, and a large bear skull on the fireplace mantel that is said to be that of old Slew Foot. Rawlings’ follow-up to The Yearling, Cross Creek, is a book that deserves to be talked about.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Perhaps the best-known of all of Hurston’s works, it was not well-received at first because Hurston’s colleagues were upset that she didn’t make racism the main point. It didn’t fit in with the Harlem Renaissance’s goal of Uplifting people, so it didn’t work. Hurston: “…I was writing a novel and not a treatise on sociology… I wanted to be able to write freely and not be limited by my background as an anthropologist.” I no longer think about race; I think only about people. People are interested in me now, not because I’m black, but because I’m a man. I am not interested in the race problem, but I am interested in the problems of people, both white and black.

As a child, Hurston lived in Eatonville, which was based on the all-black town in Florida where she was raised. The book’s climactic storm was based on the great 1928 storm, also known as the San Felipe Segundo hurricane, which was one of the deadliest on record. After Lake Okeechobee’s levees broke, hundreds of square miles flooded. The storm caused over $1.4 billion in damage and killed more than 4,100 people in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and the Southeastern US. Hurston is still a huge figure in the history of great Floridians, and Their Eyes Were Watching God is seen as a seminal work in both African American and women’s literature.

The Everglades: River of Grass by Marjory Stoneman Douglas

It is very important to the state, and it has had a big impact on the environmental movement across the country, like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Stoneman Douglas, the third Great Florida Marjory on this list, used poetic language to draw the world’s attention to the preservation of the Everglades. “The miracle of the light pours over the green and brown expanse of saw grass and of water, shining and slow-moving below, the grass and water that is the meaning and the central fact of the Everglades of Florida.” This is how she did it. It is a stream of grass. Mandatory reading for everyone in the country.

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