CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – In honor of National Book Lovers’ Day on Aug. 9, 2022, we’ve compiled a list of ten authors who were born right here in the Mountain State.
National Book Lovers’ Day is celebrated every August 9 to promote and celebrate reading and literature.
Stephen Coonts, a spy-thriller and suspense novelist, grew up in Buckhannon, West Virginia. After high school, he went on to West Virginia University where he received a degree in political science, and then joined the Navy. Coonts became a Naval Aviator in 1969, serving in the Vietnam War. His first novel, “Flight of the Intruder,” was published in 1986 and became a movie in 1991.
Some of Coonts books include: The Jake Grafton series, the Tommy Carmellini series, the Deep Black series, “Fortunes of War,” “The Cannibal Queen,” and “The Sea Witch”
#1 New York Times and #1 International Bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout was born in Martinsburg, West Virginia and currently lives in Shepherdstown, according to her website. Her books range from a variety of genres including young adult paranormal, contemporary romance, science fiction and fantasy. She also tells her fans on her website: “All the rumors you’ve heard about her state aren’t true.”
Some of Armentrout’s books include: The Lux Series, the Origin Series, the “Blood and Ash” series, the Flesh and Fire series, “Don’t Look Back,” “Cursed,” and “If There’s No Tomorrow.”
Homer Hickam was born in Coalwood, West Virginia. The Vietnam Veteran and former NASA engineer has written multiple books, and is best known for his second book “Rocket Boys: A Memoir,” published in 1998, which was adapted into the 1999 film “October Sky.”
Some of Hickam’s books include: “Rocket Boys” and the rest of the Coalwood series, The Josh Thurlow series, “Back to the Moon,” “The Dinosaur Hunter,” “Paco: The Cat Who Meowed in Space,” and his first book “Torpedo Junction.”
Pearl Sydenstricker Buck was an American novelist born in Hillsboro, West Virginia June 26, 1892. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author is known for her best-seller “The Good Earth” and also became the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her parents were missionaries who moved to China when she was only four months old. After returning to the United States to pursue her education, she returned to China to serve as a missionary, but later moved back to the US and continued her writing career while becoming an activist for women’s rights and racial equality. Buck died in Vermont in 1973.
Some of Buck’s books include: “The Good Earth,” “Pavilion of Women,” “Imperial Women,” “East Wind: West Wind,” “Sons,” “A House Divided,” and “Peony.
American literary critic, professor, historian and filmmaker Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was born in Keyser, West Virginia and grew up in Piedmont. He studied at Yale Law School before joining Yale’s Afro-American Studies department, eventually becoming an associate professor. He later became the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He also hosts the PBS show “Finding Your Roots.” Throughout his literary career, Gates became an advocate for Black literature that draws “from its culture of origin” rather than Western influence.
Some of Gates’ books include: “Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow,” “The Classic Slave Narratives,” “The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song,” and “Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Dawn of Jim Crow.”
Award-winning American Novelist Denise Giardina was born in Bluefield, West Virginia and grew up in the Black Wolf coal mining camp in McDowell County. While a political activist who has openly criticized coal companies, Giardina, an ordained Episcopal Church deacon, has called her works “more theological than political.” She also ran for West Virginia Governor in 2000, coming in third in the race.
Some of Giardina’s books include: “Storming Heaven,” “Emily’s Ghost,” “The Unquiet Earth,” “Saints and Villians,” and “Thunder on the Mountain: Death at Massey and the Dirty Secrets behind Big Coal.”
Keith Maillard is a Canadian-American novelist as well as a poet and professor. He was born in Wheeling, West Virginia and has written 13 novels and one poetry book. He moved to Canada in 1970 and became a Canadian citizen in 1976. Maillard began teaching at the University of British Columbia in the 1980s. His hometown of Wheeling became the inspiration for the town of Raysburg, where many of his novels are set.
Some of Maillard’s books include: “Gloria,” “The Clarinet Polka,” “Twin Studies,” the “Difficulty at the Beginning” series, and “Two Strand River.”
Ann Pancake was born and raised in the Romney and Summersville areas of West Virginia. She published her first novel, “Strange as This Weather Has Been,” in 2007. The book, which is about a southern West Virginia family devastated by mountaintop removal mining, won two awards, and her short stories and essays have appeared in journals and anthologies in recent years. She currently teaches Appalachian fiction at West Virginia University.
Some of Pancake’s books include: “Strange as This Weather Has Been,” “Given Ground,” “Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley,” as well as multiple anthologies in which her work has been featured.
Pinckney Benedict was born in the Lewisburg area of Greenbrier County, West Virginia. He is a short-story writer who has won literary fellowships and awards for his work. His work has also appeared in many publications including “Appalachian Heritage,” “StoryQuarterly,” and “Esquire.” His works often reflect his Appalachian background, where he grew up on a dairy farm.
Some of Benedict’s works include: “Miracle Boy and Other Stories,” “HACKBERRY,” “Give Us a Kiss,” “Town Smokes: Stories,” “Dogs of God,” and “Wrecking Yard.”
Carlene Thompson is a suspense thriller novelist who was born in Parkersburg, West Virginia and has also lived in Point Pleasant, West Virginia at multiple points throughout her life. She received a degree in English from Marshall University and a Master’s degree and Ph.D. from The Ohio State University. She taught at the University of Rio Grande in Ohio before quitting her job to write full-time. Her first book, “Black for Remembrance,” was published in 1990. An avid animal lover, Thompson also features animals she has known throughout her life in her books.
Some of Thompson’s books include: “Black for Remembrance,” “Can’t Find My Way Home,” “Praying for Time,” “Just a Breath Away,” “Last Seen Alive,” and “All Fall Down.”
Editor’s Note: The names that appear on this list were chosen at random and there are many more authors who were born in West Virginia besides those that appear on this list. For more novelists who were born in the Mountain State, click here.