anything that moves

Richmond, Virginia in Five Books

Six years ago this August, my husband and I packed up a truck and moved from Michigan to Richmond, Virginia on little more than a whim. Two Junes later, we were moving into our lovely home, which celebrates its 100th birthday this year. Between that timing and all the great porch drinks, summer gets me thinking about and appreciating all the great things my (not so) new city has to offer. Since my brain is permanently tuned to “BOOK”, I started to wonder what titles could do the job of summing up all of Richmond’s wonderful quirks without getting too literal.

anything that moves

Anything that Moves by Dana Goodyear

Fair warning: if you visit me in Richmond, 85% of the things we do will involve food. Not just because I love eating, but because it’s one of the amazing things this city has to offer. For a city its size, Richmond has an incredible number of fabulous restaurants and something new seems to be popping up every week. Though I haven’t ventured into some of the extreme foodie territory Dana Goodyear discusses in her book, I feel like living here has totally opened me up to new food experiences and encouraged me to try things I never would have thought to order before.

lookaway lookaway richmond, va

Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt

The first time I walked down Monument Avenue and through The Fan, I thought I had died and gone to historical architecture nerd heaven. And then I realized that people actually live in the houses on Monument. Wilton Barnhardt’s Lookaway, Lookaway might take place in Charlotte, but Richmond is brimming with the same old money passed through generations of families. I’d imagine some of Barnhardt’s portrayals aren’t too far off either, bless their hearts. Thankfully, there’s a little more to the city so we can balance that craziness out.

love affairs of nathaniel p

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman

What balances out old money better than college kids? Richmond is home to several colleges, including its centerpiece Virginia Commonwealth University (yes, basketball). Even though Waldman’s characters are a little older, the book has that fun, questioning, creative vibe that makes living in a college town a great experience (except for late August when we need to dodge wee ones attempting to cross the street).

Confederates in the attic

Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz

Richmond’s amazing restaurants, fantastic art scene and general fabulosity can’t brush over the bits of dark history left over from its time as the capital of the Confederacy. Though I’m all for preserving and studying the past, there’s still a small (very small) group of residents that continue to fight the “unfinished Civil War” Horowitz explores in his book.

want not

Want Not by Jonathan Miles

The people are what really makes Richmond the great place that it is. Like the characters in Jonathan Miles’ book, the city is a mash-up of people from all over the country mixed in with the well-rooted families that have been here forever. And just like in Want Not, the longer you live here, the more your life begins to overlap with those around you until you feel like you’re somehow connected to everyone.


What books best represent your city?

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  • This is THE coolest post. I really want to visit RVA for all the cool people (you!) and food and awesomeness.

    • It’s such a fun city and the food is AMAZING. My family is coming to visit at the beginning of August and I’m going to eat myself into oblivion.

  • Cynthia@ TheThingsYouCanRead

    Great post and good looking pictures of Richmond! From a born and breed Richmonder

  • What a great idea! I would like to see this for more cities- I hope it catches on!

  • Wesley

    I loved Confederates in the Attic, it cracked me up (and slightly worried me).
    I really don’t know what books I would use to describe Milwaukee. I mean, easiest route would be a book about cheese, a book about beer, and something about Harley Davidson. But I like to think there’s more to us than that. I’ll have to roll it around in my brain a little bit. :)

  • I loved this post. What a great idea. And congratulations on your house turning 100.

    • Thanks!
      I’ve been trying to put together a “birthday party”, but we’ll see if it ever comes through ;)

  • This is SUCH a cool post!! I think I’m going to give it a try, too!

  • Great,original post! Portland, OR “suffers” from a plethora of great authors and books. Right off the bat I think of Chelsea Cain’s “Archie Sheridan” series. And as you know we’re proud to have Smith Henderson and Cheryl Strayed amongst us. Man, the list goes on. And to top it off, Powell’s Bookstore!

  • This is such a great idea!! I feel like I should have an easy job coming up with books that describe Toronto but I am totally blanking!

  • Great books! I haven’t read the first one but it sounds like my kind of book! I liked the Horwitz book though it isn’t my favorite one of his. I’m very intrigued by Lookaway, Lookaway. All of these look like great read. I love this concept as well!

  • What a fun idea! I think Tucson could probably be summed up with books about Wyatt Earp and Mexican food cookbooks. With maybe a modern suburban novel thrown in? :)

  • Oo, tough question! I’m going to have to think about it. Even if you expanded the question to state, I’d have a hard time picking one book that encapsulates Louisiana.

  • Words for Worms

    Did you read The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini? It was set in Richmond during the civil war and I thought of you the whole time! My city isn’t big enough to get its own books… Although… Neil Gaiman’s American Gods does traipse through a number of small Illinois towns I identify with, and since it can be a bit dull amongst the corn, imagining a world with warring deities has a certain appeal…

  • This is quite the creative post!
    Bits & Bobs

  • Liziheartvegetables

    Aw, how cool!! I’m definitely going to check out some of these books. I LOVE Richmond :) I’m sure my husband would enjoy some of these as well!

    • I had to give RVA it’s own little shoutout on the blog ;) Lookaway, Lookaway is a great book and it’s in the works to be an HBO show soon.

  • As we have discussed – I think this is fantastic! I’m brainstorming about Atlanta – and possibly the other places that I’ve lived — bonus on being ex-military, I’ve lived lots of places. :)

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  • You are brilliant with this post!! It’s much better than a boring travel guide. Chicago would be fun to try…got the wheels turning now.

  • How did I miss this post when it first went up?!! I think I was on vacation…in Richmond! Now I really do have to read Lookaway, Lookaway! And – I totally agree with you about the food scene. It’s gotten so good and so interesting – so many creative menus out there…and it definitely wasn’t that way when I was growing up. It’s truly experiencing a food renaissance! I recently tried Foo Dog and loved that…concept is based on Asian street food.

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