Often nicknamed the peach state, Delaware may be the second smallest state in the United States, but it is also one of the most densely populated. This list of books set in Delaware explores literature set throughout the region, from the largest city of Wilmington, through to the popular coastal town of Rehoboth Beach.
Please note: This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
Books Set in Delaware: Introduction
This list of books set in Delaware includes some notable titles by Christopher Castellani, who was born and raised in Wilmington. These include The Saint of Lost Things and All This Talk of Love, which both explore the experiences of the Italian-American Grasso family.
My most recent read from this list of books set in Delaware was The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez. This beautiful and heartbreaking novel charts the lives of a diverse group of immigrants, living in a Delaware apartment block.
Books Set in Delaware: Shortlist
If you’re short on time, these are my personal picks for books set in Delaware:
- Beloved by Toni Morrison (partly set in Delaware)
- The Saint of Lost Things by Christopher Castellani
- All This Talk of Love by Christopher Castellani
- The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (partly set in Delaware)
Books Set In Delaware
1. Flappers and Philosophers by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1920
Covering some of the very best of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short fiction, this collection spans his career, from the early stories of the glittering Jazz Age, through the lost hopes of the thirties, to the last, twilight decade of his life. It brings together his most famous stories, including ‘The Diamond as Big as the Ritz’. Note: this short story collection includes ‘Benediction’, which is set in Wilmington, Delaware.
2. Beloved by Toni Morrison, 1987
Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Her new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Note: this book is set between Delaware, Kentucky and Ohio (the main setting).
3. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, 1996
Fight Club’s estranged narrator leaves his lackluster job when he comes under the thrall of Tyler Durden, an enigmatic young man who holds secret after-hours boxing matches in the basement of bars. There, two men fight ‘as long as they have to.’ This is a gloriously original work that exposes the darkness at the core of our modern world. Note: While the novel doesn’t refer to Delaware specifically and its setting is much debated, the afterword does mention a key location at 420 Paper St. Wilmington DE 19886 (Delaware).
4. Devlin’s Light (Enright #1) by Mariah Stewart, 1997
Though India Devlin left her hometown to pursue a brilliant career as a criminal prosecutor, she has always loved historic Devlin’s Light, visiting as often as her busy schedule permits. But when her brother is found murdered on the steps of the lighthouse – the town’s namesake – she returns to uncover who killed Ry. When her brother’s good friend, Nick Enright, offers to help in her investigation, India accepts – after all, he’s the one who found Ry that night, and heard his mysterious last words. Note: this is set in Delaware Bay.
5. And Never Let Her Go by Ann Rule, 1999
The shattering true crime story that shocked the nation: the Thomas Capano murder case. On a June evening in 1996, 30-year-old Anne Marie Fahey, secretary to the governor of Delaware, vanished without a trace following a restaurant rendezvous with her secret lover of more than two years: Thomas Capano. One of Wilmington’s most prominent and respected figures, a millionaire attorney and former state prosecutor, “Tommy” was a charming, softspoken family man.
6. West of Rehoboth by Alexs D. Pate, 2001
Set in the early 1960s, West of Rehoboth is the moving story of twelve-year-old Edward Massey. Each summer, to escape the heat of Philadelphia, Edward’s family moves to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. The “coloreds only” side of a pristine resort on Rehoboth Beach offers work for his mother and a sandy playground for his sister.
7. A Gentleman’s Game by Tom Coyne, 2001
A Gentleman’s Game is the story of young Timmy Price, whose mastery of the game of golf inspires awe among the adult membership and envy among his peers on the shaded fairways and immaculate greens of exclusive Fox Chase Country Club in suburban Delaware. But when his self-made father forces Timmy to become a caddy at the club to teach him a lesson in humility, he is thrown into the hardscrabble world of the behind-the-scenes workers who make the game possible.
8. Hawkes Harbor by S.E. Hinton, 2004
An orphan and a bastard, Jamie Sommers grew up knowing he had no hope of heaven. Conceived in adultery and born in sin, Jamie was destined to repeat the sins of his parents – or so the nuns told him. And he proved them right. Taking to sea, Jamie sought out danger and adventure in exotic ports all over the world as a smuggler, gunrunner – and murderer. But in a quiet seaside town in Delaware, Jamie discovered something that was enough to drive him insane – and change his life forever.
9. The Saint of Lost Things by Christopher Castellani, 2005
Even after seven years in Wilmington, Delaware, Maddalena Grasso is still filled with longing. She misses her mother and the familiar landscape of Italy. As she sews diligently at the factory to meet her daily quota, she dreams of finally finding herself with child, after trying for so long. And she yearns for the company of her husband Antonio, whose pursuit of the American Dream is leading nowhere, and whose nighttime adventures threaten to destroy the fragile new life they’ve built.
10. The Ties That Bind: A Memoir of Race, Memory, and Redemption by Bertice Berry, 2009
When novelist Bertice Berry set out to write a history of her family, she initially believed she’d uncover a story of slavery and black pain, but the deeper she dug, the more surprises she found. There was heartache, yes, but also something unexpected: hope. Peeling away the layers, Berry came to learn that the history of slavery cannot be quantified in simple, black-and-white terms of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ but is rather a complex tapestry of roles and relations, of choices and individual responsibility.
11. Final Price by J. Gregory Smith, 2009
Wilmington, Delaware is one of those cities that feels more like a small town. Neighbors know one another, and businesses cater to the needs of the citizenry. But what happens when the local car salesman suffers one lost sale too many, when one more customer decides to buy from the competition because the price is too high, interest rates aren’t friendly, or that shade of blue just won’t work?
12. Port Mortuary (Kay Scarpetta #18) by Patricia Cornwell, 2010
Patricia Cornwell’s eighteenth Scarpetta novel, is literally a port for the dead. In this fast-paced story, a treacherous path from Scarpetta’s past merges with the high- tech highway she now finds herself on. We travel back to the beginning of her professional career, when she accepted a scholarship from the Air Force to pay off her medical school debt. Note: part of this is set at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.
13. The Most Human Human by Brian Christian, 2011
The Most Human Human is a provocative, exuberant, and profound exploration of the ways in which computers are reshaping our ideas of what it means to be human. Its starting point is the annual Turing Test, which pits artificial intelligence programs against people to determine if computers can “think.” Note: this non-fiction title about artificial intelligence was penned by Christian, who was born in Delaware.
14. The Discreet Charms of a Bourgeois Beach Town by Rich Barnett, 2012
Tucked away on the Atlantic shore in often-overlooked Delaware sits Rehoboth Beach, one square mile of cottages, upscale restaurants, fry joints, plein air bars, art galleries, t-shirt shops, and, of course, sandy beaches. Founded in 1872 as a Methodist summer retreat, this little beach town draws a different congregation today, a delightful and eclectic blend of highbrow and lowbrow, homo and hetero, urban and rural. There’s no place quite like it.
15. The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher, 2012
I’m Adrienne Haus, survivor of a mother-daughter book club. Most of us didn’t want to join. My mother signed me up because I was stuck at home all summer, with my knee in a brace. CeeCee’s parents forced her to join after cancelling her Paris trip because she bashed up their car. The members of “The Unbearable Book Club,” CeeCee, Jill, Wallis, and I, were all going into eleventh grade A.P. English. But we weren’t friends. Note: this one is young adult and set in a fictional Delaware town.
16. All This Talk of Love by Christopher Castellani, 2013
It’s been fifty years since Antonio Grasso married Maddalena and brought her to America. That was the last time she would ever see her parents, her sisters and brothers – everything she knew and loved in the village of Santa Cecilia, Italy. She locked those memories away, as if Santa Cecilia stopped existing the very day she left. Note: this is about an an Italian family in Delaware.
17. Still Life in Blood by Crystal Heidel, 2013
Does seeing the future mean you may have a chance to change it? For Francesca Munro, a successful artist in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, that is a question that plagues her daily thoughts. For years she’s kept her psychic abilities a secret but when a murder she’s dreamt of actually occurs – and then another – her struggle to cope with the deadly visions may be exposed.
18. The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez, 2014
After their daughter Maribel suffers a near-fatal accident, the Riveras leave México and come to America. But upon settling at Redwood Apartments, a two-story cinderblock complex just off a highway in Delaware, they discover that Maribel’s recovery – the piece of the American Dream on which they’ve pinned all their hopes – will not be easy. Every task seems to confront them with language, racial, and cultural obstacles.
19. Cure for the Common Breakup by Beth Kendrick, 2014
Welcome to Black Dog Bay, a tiny seaside town in Delaware known as “the best place in America to bounce back from your breakup.” Home to Better Off Bed-and-Breakfast, the Eat Your Heart Out bakery, and the Whinery bar, Black Dog Bay offers a haven for the suddenly single. Flight attendant Summer Benson lives by two rules: Don’t stay with the same man for too long and never stay in one place.
20. As Close As Sisters by Colleen Faulkner, 2014
Since the age of twelve, McKenzie Arnold has spent every summer at Albany Beach, Delaware, with her best friends Aurora, Janine, and Lilly. The seaside house teems with thirty years of memories – some wonderful, others painful – and secrets never divulged beyond its walls. This summer may be the last they spend together, as Janine contemplates selling her family cottage.
21. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, 2016
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood – where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned – Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. Note: this Pulitzer Prize winner is set across a number of states including Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky.
22. Sunburn by Laura Lippman, 2018
They meet at a local tavern in the small town of Belleville, Delaware. Polly is set on heading west. Adam says he’s also passing through. Yet she stays and he stays – drawn to this mysterious redhead whose quiet stillness both unnerves and excites him. Over the course of a punishing summer, Polly and Adam abandon themselves to a steamy, inexorable affair.
What do you think of these books set in Delaware?
Do you call Delaware home? Do you know some other great books set in Delaware that should be included? What are your favorite books set in Delaware? I’d love to hear more about your tips for books set in Delaware in the comments below!
Looking for more reading ideas?
If you’re looking for more books set across the United States, check out some of these popular posts: