the every Florida book project


I love Florida. I love books too and have set out to catalog every book about the Sunshine State. That means every novel set in Florida, every collection of poetry themed around Florida, every work of history or journalism focused on Florida, every travelogue and memoir where the author is in Florida, et cetera.

 

For many years, a thousand people moved to Florida every day. They arrived and still arrive from other parts of the US, as well as Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Most know little if any Florida history or culture. They know it is warm. There are beaches and Disney World.

 

With 20 million people, Florida is now the third most populous state in America. In addition to massive immigration, most of Florida's development occurred after World War II. Drive through any suburb and most of the buildings, homes, and streets are so new, the people there were the first to live in the houses, the first to drive down the streets. This creates the perception that Florida has no history at all, unlike New England or the rest of the South. But this isn't true.

 

In an essay by Susan Cerulean she argues that Floridians need to "re-story" the state in order to restore it. Stories are the way people connect to the past, to strangers, and to places -- and without Florida stories, people do not know what is being lost to development, nor do they care enough to stop the destruction. In this sense, the Every Florida Book Project is a restoration effort.

a work in progress

I add new books often. Often a new book's bibliography points me to new authors and more books. If you have a suggestion for a book to include, please let me know.

What You Won't Find

The project is not interested in, and does not catalog, tourist guides, vacation guides, or similar publications. This goal of this project is not to aid travelers and tourists, who are after escape and diversion. Instead, I want to help Florida residents dig deeper, see beyond the sunshine, and discover the real Florida that is their home.

Difficult to Organize

This site is very much like a brick-and-mortar book store, with fixed shelving. Unlike a public library catalog or website like Amazon, this website lacks the technical ability to tag each book with  multiple keywords.  I cannot arrange and rearrange the catalog in seconds using search terms. I must judge the content of each book and place it on a single shelf.  Many books could arguably belong on more than one shelf.

What I've Discovered

This project has defied expectations and surprised me from the start. Initially, I didn't anticipate finding Florida-specific books in huge numbers. The Florida sections of local bookstores are usually home to Carl Hiaasen novels and a few titles from the University of Florida Press. To my surprise, it seems every town has a book about its history. Dozens of novels across every genre are set in Florida. There are Florida-specific genres too: westerns set on Florida's frontier called "cracker westerns," and a surprising number of children's books written about celebrating Christmas in Florida.

 

A steady stream of tourists and transplants arrive each day with questions. Those questions force Floridians to tell a story about themselves, their community, their town, and their state. Floridians have to create a narrative for the consumption of others, and perhaps while doing so define themselves and create an identity intended, consciously or unconsciously, to set themselves apart from the tourist or the recent transplant. Floridian-ness then, might be created and maintained by the gaze of the outsider.

 

So there is no lack of stories. Florida is filled with stories about itself. However, there does not seem to be a single story that all Floridians share.