7 WV authors you should be reading


The Mountain State has produced hundreds of talented writers, including the Nobel Prize-winning Pearl Buck, whose childhood home in Hillsboro has been converted into a museum. Here are a just a few of the many West Virginia authors to check out:

1. If you like memoirs, read HOMER HICKAM

Homer Hickam first shot to fame with his 1998 memoir, “Rocket Boys,” an account of his teen years building and launching rockets in the tiny coal-mining community of Coalwood. A Vietnam veteran, amateur paleontologist, and NASA engineer, Hickam draws upon his experiences to weave colorful stories on a variety of subjects. His latest work, “Carrying Albert Home,” is a “somewhat true” account of his parents returning a pet alligator to Florida.

2. If you like suspense, read CARLENE THOMPSON

Born in Parkersburg and raised in Point Pleasant – with an undergraduate degree from Marshall University – Carlene Thompson pays tribute to her mountain roots by setting her mysteries in West Virginia. A longtime animal lover, the author says she likes to include one of her real-life pets in each book alongside a cast of fictional characters. She got the inspiration for her first published novel, “Black for Remembrance,” while walking her dogs in the woods.

3. If you like military thrillers, read STEPHEN COONTS

Buckhannon native Stephen Coonts’ “Flight of the Intruder” became an instant classic, spending more than 6 months on the New York Times bestseller list. Coonts, a WVU graduate and Navy veteran who served in Vietnam, spins stories of political intrigue and military drama set on a world stage. Also of note is his memoir, “The Cannibal Queen: A Flight into the Heart of America,” about a cross-country flight the author and his teenage son took in a 1942 Stearman biplane.

4. If you like contemporary literature, read RAJIA HASSIB

Rajia Hassib made her debut with the critically acclaimed “In the Language of Miracles.” A native of Egypt, Hassib settled in Charleston after earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from Marshall University. Her first published novel follows an Egyptian-American family whose lives have been shattered by a devastating act as they struggle pull their lives back together and fit into a post- 9/11 cultural climate.

5. If you like youth fiction, read CYNTHIA RYLANT

Cynthia Rylant is the author of more than 100 books for children and young adults. Rylant worked as a librarian at the Akron Public Library when she began writing her first books. Many of her works, including the Newbery Medal winner, “Missing May,” and the Caldecott Honor recipient, “When I Was Young in the Mountains,” were inspired by her childhood growing up in rural Raleigh County.

6. If you like historical fiction, read DENISE GIARDINA

A native of Bluefield and graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College, Denise Giardina grew up in a coal mining community in McDowell County. Two of her award-winning books, “Storming Heaven” and “The Unquiet Earth,” explore life in the coalfields of West Virginia through the eyes of first-person narrators, tackling such meaty real-life events as the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain and the 1972 Buffalo Creek Disaster.

7. If you like mystery, read CRAIG JOHNSON

Craig Johnson’s “Walt Longmire” series is set in the dusty Wyoming backcountry where the author now resides, but Johnson grew up in Huntington. The mysteries, set in the new American West and featuring Absaroka County Sheriff Longmire and his longtime friend Henry Standing Bear, spawned a hit TV series, “Longmire.” Johnson is the recipient of numerous literary awards. Book 12 in the Longmire series, “An Obvious Fact,” was just released in September.

You can purchase books by local authors, attend writing workshops, and even meet special guests at the West Virginia Book Festival held annually in October.

This post was last updated on July 30, 2020