Books Set in Wisconsin – Books Based in Wisconsin – Wisconsin Novels

Friendship Village

Gale, Zona
NY: Macmillan 1908

Short stories of a Wisconsin village, held together by a thread of narrative.
For biographical info about the author, see her other entry on this page.

A village of no definite geographical location is the scene of happenings which are recorded by one who drops quietly into the life and ways of the towns-folk for a short season. From the lowliest to the village autocrat, the chronicler selects her types, and gathers them into a sheaf for the reader. The volume has a large brotherhood-of-man value in its lessons of neighborly kindness and charity, in its substitution of the spirit of simplicity and genuineness for superficial worldliness. – Book Review Digest. Novels set in Wisconsin.

Miss Lulu Bett; An American Comedy of Manners

Gale, Zona
NY: Appleton 1921

Zona Gale (1874-1938) was an author and playwright, and was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, in 1921. Born in Portage, WI, she attended Wayland Academy in Beaver Dam and received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She then worked for six years at newspapers in Milwaukee and New York before returning to Portage, where she lived and worked for the rest of her life. In 1920 she published the novel Miss Lulu Bett, and then adapted it for a play. It was this play that won the Pulitzer. In addition to being a prolific writer, Gale was very active in progressive political causes. You can find her autobiography on the Wisconsin Biography page of this website.

This play, which was awarded the Pulitzer drama prize for 1921 as the best American play of the year, is a dramatization of the novel of the same name. It has been given on the stage with two different endings, both of which have been included in the present volume. – Book Review Digest

See also: Books about 19th Century American Women Authors

Coming Home To Wisconsin

Gard, Robert E.
Stanton & Lee 1982

Stories from the author’s life in Wisconsin.

Rose of Dutcher’s Coolly

Garland, Hamlin
Chicago: Stone and Kimball 1895

Hamlin Garland (1860-1940) was born in West Salem, WI and grew up on a succession of homesteads in Iowa and South Dakota. He moved to Chicago in 1893, where he wrote this novel. He was a well-known authority on pioneer life, as well as a novelist, short story writer, poet, biographer, lecturer and traveler. Memories of his boyhood days on a Wisconsin farm furnished him with themes for his work.

“Widely regarded as the best of Hamlin Garland’s novels, Rose of Dutcher’s Coolly tells the story of a country girl of precocious ability who is raised by her widower father on a small Wisconsin farm. She wants to be a poet and eventually attends the university, where her talent is encouraged. A carefully crafted defense of the New Woman, the first generation of women to achieve economic and social independence, Rose of Dutcher’s Coolly deals with issues that are still with us-the nature of femininity, the problem of reconciling career and family, the meaning of “love,” and the need for equal opportunity. Above all, it records a nineteenth-century man’s vision of a world that still eludes us, one in which men and women are equal partners.” – from Google Books. Books based in Wisconsin.

Trail-makers of the Middle Border

Garland, Hamlin
NY: Macmillan 1926

Pictures of three generations of pioneers in Wisconsin. See the note about the author at Rose of Dutcher’s Coolly, on this web page.

A Map of the World

Hamilton, Jane
Doubleday 1994

Jane Hamilton (born 1957) is a best-selling author who lives and writes in a farmhouse near Rochester, Wisconsin. Several of her works have been selections of Oprah’s Book Club.
“Alice Goodwin is caring for her best friend’s children when two-year-old Lizzy Collins wanders to the pond on the Goodwin farm and drowns. The consequences of this tragedy reverberate through a small Wisconsin community, which never accepted Howard and Alice Goodwin. Theresa Collins, bereft at losing a child and a dear friend, draws on her Catholic religion and finds forgiveness. Alice, immobilized by guilt and grief and unable to function as a wife or mother to her own two daughters, is charged with abusing children in her part-time job as a school nurse.” -Libr J. Novels set in Wisconsin.

Free Historical novels set in different countries around the world

Something about Singlefoot: Chapters in the Life of an Oshkosh Man

Hicks, John
NY: Cochrane 1910

Author John Hicks (1847-1917) was a newspaperman, author, and diplomat. He moved with his parents to Wisconsin in 1851, settling in Little Chute. He attended Lawrence College (1865-1867), and began his journalistic career in 1867 as city editor of the Oshkosh Northwestern. He became the owner of the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, and incorporated the John Hicks Publishing Co. in 1889. He served as U.S. Minister to Peru (1889-1893) and Minister to Chile (1905-1909). He contributed numerous articles to his newspaper based on his travels, and was the author of two novels, The Man from Oshkosh (1894) and Something about Singlefoot (1909).
– Wisconsin Historical Society

Richard Haddon: A Romance of Old Fort Crawford

Hoffman, William Stanislaus
Boston: Stratford 1920

Books set in Wisconsin.

Their Friendly Enemy

Hunting, Gardner
NY: Macmillan 1921

Gardner Hunting (1872-1958) was born in Kilbourn City, WI, son of a pastor. He was engaged in commercial drawing until 1897, when he began a series of newspaper reporting and editing jobs in Michigan, Chicago and New York. He also worked as a writer and editor in the film industry. He wrote a number of novels, including some for juveniles, and contributed to magazines.

Two girls just out of high school, Hallie Rector and Marah Whittlesey, decide they do not want to teach school, so when a chance comes to buy out the town paper, the Penwater Clarion, they borrow money and become real editors. At first things run beautifully; then there are difficulties over the attitude of the paper toward the town water system, and trouble comes thick and fast. Just when it seems as if things could not be worse, a fire breaks out which threatens to wreck a whole section of the town. But this instead of being the end, turns out a blessing in disguise. – Book Review Digest

The Midlanders

Jackson, Charles Tenney
Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill 1912

Charles Jackson (1874-1955) was born in St. Louis, MO. He attended high school and university in Madison, WI, leaving college after one year to serve in a Wisconsin army unit at the time of the Spanish-American War. He worked on newspapers in California for several years before returning briefly to Wisconsin to work on the Milwaukee Sentinel in 1909. He was the winner of the O. Henry award in 1921 for the best short story.

The midlands are the wide prairie states of the middle West thru which the Mississippi river flows. The story begins low down in the Louisiana swamps and moves northward with old Uncle Michigan and little Aurelie when they start out to explore the states and countries with the music names they have picked out on the map in the old geography. Most of the story plays itself out in Rome, Iowa, and never it would seem, has the atmosphere of the complacent, prosperous, cheerfully unprogressive mid-West town been better reproduced on paper. Politics plays a part and so do the Ladies’ Shakespeare club and the social ideals of High street, but the best thing about the story is still Aurelie, the little Cajun girl from down river, who sparkles and scintillates and grows to sweet womanhood unspoiled by the publicity of a beauty contest or the notoriety of Chicago musical comedy success. – Book Review Digest

May Iverson

Jordan, Elizabeth Garver
NY: Harper 1904

Elizabeth Jordan (1867-1947) was born in Milwaukee and graduated from the Convent of Notre Dame there. After working several years as a secretary in Milwaukee she moved to New York. There she joined the editorial staff of the New York World for 10 years and the Sunday World for three more years before moving on to Harper’s Bazaar as editor.
Jordan authored many novels and contributed articles and stories to magazines. She also served in leading positions in a number of reform organizations, including the National Woman Suffrage Association.

Richard Walden’s Wife

Kelly, Eleanor
Bobbs 1950

Pioneer days in Wisconsin before and during the Civil War; Southern wife loyal to her husband even after his death. Books set in Wisconsin.
Eleanor Mercein (1880-1968) was born and raised in Milwaukee, and was sent to a Catholic boarding school in Washington, D.C. for high school. In 1901 she married and moved with her husband to Louisville, KY, where she began writing novels, and stories for major magazines. She traveled widely, helping her to set many of her stories in exotic locales.

Captain Blake

King, Charles (Capt.)
Philadelphia: Lippincott 1891

Capt. Charles King (1844-1933) was born in Albany, NY and graduated from West Point Military Academy in 1866, serving in the army until 1879 when he was “retired for wounds” as a Captain. He then served in the Wisconsin National Guard in the 1880s and 1890s, reaching the rank of Brigadier General. From 1888-1889 he served in the Philippines Insurrection. King authored over 50 novels, mainly on military and adventure themes.

The Iron Brigade; A Story of the Army of the Potomac

King, Charles
NY: Dillingham 1902

The Girl from Oshkosh

Lane, Katharine Glynn
Chicago: Weeks 1896

Katharine Glynn Lane grew up in Oshkosh, graduating from Oshkosh Normal School; a teachers’ college. The Girl from Oshkosh was semi-autobiographical, and her only published book. In 1896, the year of its publication, she married Rollin B. Lane. He had grown up in Oshkosh also, but had established himself as a real estate investor in Redlands, CA, where the couple went to live. Rollin soon became a real estate tycoon in Hollywood, where the couple built an enormous mansion. Katherine played a leading role in Hollywood social and community affairs. Books set in Wisconsin.

Guardian Angel & other Stories

Latimer, Margery
Feminist Press 1984

“Margery Latimer (1899-1932) knows and understands human beings, particularly those who have been treated none too gently in the course of their lives… The heaviness and world weariness of her stories are balanced by the excellent craftsmanship which is the outstanding feature of her work.” – NY Times.

The Land Remembers

Logan, Ben
Perennial Classics 2000

“Here is a journey backward into time, an evocative recollection of summer fishing trips and picnics, the fall harvest, the well-stoked winter stove, the spring planting, and the Logan men and women whose lives were nurtured by the land. It is a world of warmth and honesty, filled with fragrances of country cooking and fresh-plowed fields, where the link between man and nature are strong and direct.” – Publisher. Books based in Wisconsin.
Author Ben Logan (1920-2014) grew up on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin’s Crawford County during the Great Depression. He served in the Navy during WWII, and afterward had a career in broadcasting as well as writing. Books set in Wisconsin.

The Federal Judge

Lush, Charles Keeler
Boston: Houghton 1897

Charles Lush (1861-?) was born in La Crosse and attended boarding school in Indiana. He worked in printing and then as a reporter for a Chicago newspaper. He moved to Milwaukee in 1889, where he continued to work at newspapers.

The Breath of the Runners

Mears, Mary Martha
NY: Stokes 1906

“One of the runners is a large-souled, unselfish girl, the other a jealous, narrow-minded; self-constituted rival. Beulah Marcel’s art career from the lowly rounds of a cameo-cutter’s apprentice to the point of distinction as a sculptor Is unselfishly subordinated to that of Enid Rahfield spares no effort, good or evil, to win much-coveted fame. The scene shifts from New York to Paris, and at every pause of the runners, the love interest creeps in, and with it, misunderstandings which are fully accounted for at the mention of “artistic temperament.”
“There is much knowledge of the art world, much keen insight into the hearts of men and women, and no small amount of healthful philosophy of life in this unpretentious story.” – The Book Review Digest

Mary Mears (1876-1943) grew up in Oshkosh, where her mother and sister were notable in the arts. Mary’s mother, Elizabeth Farnsworth Mears, wrote the first book of verse published in Wisconsin (1860). Mary’s sister, Helen Farnsworth Mears, was a sculptress who created a statue of reformer Frances Willard that still represents the state of Illinois in Statuary Hall, in the U.S. Capitol building. Mary, with the encouragement of her parents, decided in her teens to become a novelist. Her first published novel was mostly completed while she was still a schoolgirl. Mears said in 1920 that she considered The Breath of the Runners to be her most individual work.

See also: Books about 19th Century American Women Authors

The Lure O’ Gold

Millard, Bailey
NY: Clode 1904

Born in Markesan, Green Lake County, WI, Bailey Millard (1859-1941) did not receive much formal education. He started his career as a ‘printer’s devil’ and worked his way west through a succession of newspaper and printing shops. In the 1890s he was an editor of the San Francisco Call, and in 1918 he was the managing editor of the San Francisco Evening Bulletin. He published a number of new writers, including Jack London.

The Wisconsin Almanac

being a loosely-organized compendium of facts, history, lore, remembrances, puzzles, recipes, and both household and gardening advice with which to offer elucidation, assistance, and occasional amusement to the conscientious reader

Minnich, Jerry
North Country Press 1989

The Rest of Us: Dispatches from the Mother Ship

Mitchard, Jacquelyn
Viking 1997

Jacquelyn Mitchard (born 1956) was a journalist in the early 1980s when she began writing a regular column called “The Rest of Us” for the Madison “Capital Times”. In 1984 she moved the column to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. In 1997 her novel “The Deep End of the Ocean” became the first selection of Oprah’s Book Club and reached the top of the New York Times’ Best Seller list. “The Rest of Us: Dispatches from the Mother Ship” is a large selection of her newspaper columns.

Birds of America

Moore, Lorrie
Faber and Faber 1998

Contents: Willing; Which is more than I can say about some people; Dance in America; Community life; Agnes of Iowa; Charades; Four calling birds, three French hens; Beautiful grade; What you want to do fine; Real estate; People like that are the only people here: canonical babbling in peed onk; Terrific mother “These stories chart the intersection of the ridiculous and the tragic.. . Moore peers into America’s loneliest perches, but her delicate touch turns absurdity into a warming vitality.” New Yorker

Self-Help; Stories by Lorrie Moore

Moore, Lorrie
Warner 1995

Lorrie Moore (born 1957) taught creative writing at University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1984 until 2013. According to her profile in Wikipedia, she is known mainly for her humorous and poignant short stories.

From This Condensery: The Complete writing of Lorine Niedecker

Niedecker, Lorine. ed. by Bertholf, Robert J.
Jargon 1985

Lorine Niedecker (1903-1970) spent most of her life on or near Blackhawk Island, near Fort Atkinson, WI. This volume includes many poems, several radio plays, reviews, and some other prose.

Rascal: A memoir of a better era

North, Sterling
E.P. Dutton 1963

“During a difficult year of his boyhood in Edgerton, WI, a raccoon was North’s closest companion and scampish co-star in small-town misadventures.” – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Books that take place in Wisconsin.

A Man Named Yuma

Olsen, Theodore V.
Thorndike 2010

T. V. Olsen is mainly known as a best-selling author of western-themed novels.

A Prayer for the Dying

O’Nan, Stewart
Holt 1999

“Soon after the Civil War, Jacob Hansen, a Union veteran, is working as pastor, sheriff, and undertaker in the town of Friendship, Wisconsin; while some resist the intensity of his faith, Jacob sees himself as the town’s spiritual caretaker. When diphtheria breaks out, he takes increasingly harsh measures to prevent it from spreading, and the consequences of his right-minded actions unfold with accelerating horror.” New Yorker. Novels that take place in Wisconsin.

Big Flat

Oyen, Henry
NY: Doran 1919

Olaf Henry Oyen (1882-1921) was born in Norway and immigrated with his parents to Waupaca, WI, where he lived on a farm and roamed the woods with his brothers as a small boy. His father died, and a few years later the widow moved the family to Chicago. Henry was eventually hired as a reporter at the Chicago Tribune, and began writing fiction in his spare time. At age 27 he moved to New York to try to make a living writing fiction, but without success, so he moved back to Waupaca and lived with his brothers in a cottage on Otter Lake. Then he began writing adventure stories set in the Wisconsin woods, and quickly became a popular and successful writer. Big Flat was one of those stories.
– Biographical info from Wayne Guyant, Waupaca County Post Feb 28, 1991

A story of the pioneer farmer of the lake region. Martin Calkins starts out in life with an apparently worthless stretch of timber land and promise of ruination by a speculating company. He has refused to sell the latter his land and has also influenced his neighbors not to sell theirs. Although they were at first opposed to innovations of any kind, he forms a cooperative association of the farmers in the flat, low-lying country. They buy tractors with which to clear the land and one year later are all well on the way to prosperity. In the meantime, they have defeated the plans of the speculating company. Interwoven with Martin’s struggles for the land is his romance with “the little school chum,” who has grown up to be a capable business woman and help-meet.
– Book Review Digest. Books set in Wisconsin.

Gaston Olaf

Oyen, Henry
NY: Doran 1917

See the biographical note about the author at Big Flat, on this web page.
“His full name, Gaston Olaf Francois Thorson, revealed his mixed French and Scandinavian parentage, and this joint heritage was apparent in his nature too. There were times when Gaston Olaf was wholly French, other times when he was all Norwegian. His entry Into Havens Falls was spectacular. Gaston Olaf arrived in the nick of time, to make himself, as he always seemed able to do, center of a dramatic little scene in which an attractive girl played the other part. Tom Pine, his woods partner, scenting-danger, tried to guide Gaston Olaf out of town. It was Tom Pine’s fear that someday his friend would like a town so well that he would settle down and stay there. His fears seem for a time to be justified, for when Gaston learns of the plot of Dave Taggart, of the La Croix lumber company, to steal Rose Havens’s timber, he feels that this town is the place for him. He foils Taggart and helps to make Havens Falls a place fit to live in, and then the choice that Tom Pine has foreseen faces him: town or trail? And the instinct that is deepest seated within him wins.” – Book Review Digest. Books set in Wisconsin.

Scroll to Top
Share to...