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Call me old fashioned, but I love using books and travel guides to plan a trip. Since we all have considerably more time to plan and dream about future trips while we’re staying safe at home, I wanted to share some of my favorite Midwest travel books.
From helpful travel guides to fiction inspired by real attractions and events, the books on this list hold no shortage of inspiration. Whether you’re looking for the perfect gift or searching for a new read yourself, the Midwest is full of captivating stories.
Especially now, independent retailers need our help to stay afloat. Whatever you’re planning to read, consider ordering your next book from your local independent bookstore. Many of them are currently even offering free shipping! Not sure where to find the closest indie bookstore to you? IndieBound is a phenomenal resource. You can also shop online via Bookshop.org to help support independent booksellers.
Midwest Travel Books
100 Things to Do in Omaha Before You Die
If you’re planning a visit to Omaha, Nebraska, you won’t want to miss 100 Things to Do in Omaha Before You Die. This book is full of incredible local history, amazing places to eat, unique shops and more.
If your travel plans include a road trip through the Husker state, Detour Nebraska is the book for you! Whether you’re a history buff or lover of offbeat attractions, this book will have something for you.
Iowa Curiosities is one of the reasons I became interested in roadside attractions! This book is full of all sorts of offbeat, unexpected attractions around the state.
Iowa Supper Clubs
I might be a little biased, but Iowa Supper Clubs is the perfect book for any foodie’s bookshelf! If you’re feeling nostalgic for classic restaurants (or just the restaurant atmosphere in general), you won’t want to miss this. Learn about supper club history, relive some of Iowa’s iconic clubs, and discover supper clubs you can still visit today.
The Kansas Guide Book for Explorers
I stumbled upon this incredible guide book during my own Kansas road trip a few years go. And it’s no exaggeration when I say that The Kansas Guide Book for Explorers is one of my favorite Midwest travel books. The book breaks the state down by region and no matter where you are, has something interesting for you to see. If you (or someone you know) spend time in Kansas, this book is the perfect glovebox companion.
The Lost Continent
If you haven’t read anything by Iowa-born author Bill Bryson, you’re missing out! The Lost Continent is one of my favorite books of his and it perfectly captures the feeling of a road trip through small rural towns.
Lost Restaurants of Omaha
Whether you’re from Omaha yourself or searching for a gift for your favorite Nebraskan, Lost Restaurants of Omaha is sure to inspire some serious nostalgia. This book dives deep into the stories of some of the city’s now-defunct classic eateries.
Milwaukee Ghosts & Legends
If you love a good ghost story, Milwaukee Ghosts & Legends is the book for you! Author Anna Lardinois is an amazing storyteller and these tales are sure to leave you wanting more. If you ever find yourself in Milwaukee, you can also book your own ghost tour with Anna!
North Dakota Beer
One of the things that surprised me most the first time I visited North Dakota was the number of amazing breweries! If you (or someone you know) is a fan of beer, this heady history of this northern Midwestern state is a wonderful read. Just be sure to pair North Dakota Beer with a pint!
I love an offbeat adventure or a less-traveled path and Secret Chicago delivers! This book holds so many interesting tidbits and little-known facts that are sure to surprise locals and visitors alike.
Wisconsin Supper Clubs
If you still can’t get enough of the Midwest’s classic eateries, pick up Wisconsin Supper Clubs. This book is full of stories and places that are sure to make your mouth water.
Fiction (& Other Books) Inspired by the Midwest
The Bridges of Madison County
Is there a more iconic book about Iowa than The Bridges of Madison County? If you’re not able to visit Madison County in person, at least you can experience its iconic bridges through the eyes of Robert James Waller.
The Devil in the White City
As a fan of true crime, The Devil in the White City is a favorite of mine. Set around Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair, this gripping book follows the story of one of the city’s most cunning serial killers.
Kitchens of the Great Midwest
If you’re looking for a story that feels like stepping into the bustling kitchen of your family home, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is it. This beautifully told story weaves together characters and food in a way that will remind you why cooking is such a special part of our relationships.
I’ve also heard great things about Stradal’s second book, The Lager Queen of Minnesota, which has been on my to-read list for quite some time.
Little House on the Prairie
If you grew up in the Midwest, changes are that you probably read Little House on the Prairie as a kid. While I was more of an Anne of Green Gables girl, there’s a reason these books are iconic. They’re also the perfect gift for a reader growing up in the upper Midwest!
Roadside Attractions Adult Coloring Book
If there’s one thing I really love, it’s a good roadside attraction! And this fun coloring book is full of them. If you’re looking for a good way to relax or need a gift for an avid roadtripper, this coloring book will be just the thing!
Share Your Thoughts
I would love to hear from you! What are your favorite Midwest travel books? How are you keeping the spirit of travel alive from home?