In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the best books about Florida, in particular, the Gulf Coast and Sarasota area.
You may be a local looking to learn more about your home, or a visitor planning a trip to this stunning part of the state, either way, these books are sure to enhance your experience. We’ll share our top picks for the best books about Florida’s Gulf Coast so that you can dive deep into the region’s culture and history.
Whether you’re looking for a gripping mystery, a humorous telling, a fascinating history lesson, or a guide to the area’s best beaches and activities there’s a book in here for you.
We’ve scouted what’s available locally and added lots of pictures so you can judge the books by the covers if you want to!
At the end of the article, we’ll share multiple ways that you can get your hands on a copy of these titles.
*Some links in this post may be affiliate links, meaning I may earn a commission when you make a purchase at no extra cost to you. I only link to products I use or really like and would personally recommend to a friend. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Best Books about Florida History
“Cigar City Mafia” by Scott M. Deitche – This book tells the story of organized crime in Tampa, Florida, from the Prohibition era to the present day. It covers the history of the city’s criminal underworld and its key figures, including the notorious Trafficante crime family. This book is sure to please true crime enthusiasts and anyone interested in the history of Tampa.
“An Illustrated History of Siesta Key“ by Jeff LaHurd – This book tells the history of Siesta Key, a barrier island off the coast of Sarasota, Florida. It covers the island’s early settlers, its development as a tourist destination, and its current status as a vibrant community. This book is for those who can’t get enough of the white sand beaches of Sarasota, especially the famous Siesta Key Beach.
“The Rise of Sarasota“ by Jeff LaHurd – This book tells the story of the development of Sarasota, Florida, from a sleepy fishing village to a thriving cultural center. It covers the city’s growth in the early 20th century, including the arrival of the Ringling family and the development of the arts scene. This book would be enjoyed by anyone interested in the history and culture of Sarasota.
“Bubble in the Sun” by Christopher Knowlton – This book tells the story of the real estate boom and subsequent bust that occurred in Florida in the 1920s. It covers the development of Miami and other parts of the state, as well as the speculative frenzy that led to the crash. This book would is highly recommended by anyone interested in economic history and the effects of speculation.
“A History of Smuggling in Florida” by Michael J. Tougias – This book tells the story of the smugglers who have operated along Florida’s coastline throughout history. It covers everything from the pirates of the 17th century to the drug runners of the modern era. This book would be enjoyed by anyone interested in maritime history and the darker side of Florida’s past.
“Ringling: The Florida Years“ by David Howard – This book tells the story of the Ringling brothers and their impact on Florida, particularly Sarasota. It covers their establishment of the Ringling Circus and the building of their winter home, now the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. This book would be enjoyed by anyone interested in the history of circus and entertainment in Florida.
“Finding Florida” by T.D. Allman – This book is a cultural history of Florida, exploring the diverse influences that have shaped the state’s identity over the centuries. It covers everything from the arrival of the first Native Americans to the present day. This book would be enjoyed by anyone interested in the history and culture of Florida.
“Sarasota: A History” by Jeff LaHurd – This book is a comprehensive history of Sarasota, from its earliest days as a Native American settlement to the present day. It covers everything from the city’s founding to its growth as a cultural center. This book would be enjoyed by anyone interested in the history and culture of Sarasota.
Best Humorous Books About Florida
“Florida Man” by Tom Cooper – You know the internet memes! This book is a collection of interconnected short stories about various eccentric characters living in the state of Florida. The stories are darkly humorous, exploring themes of loneliness, desperation, and the surrealism of everyday life. This book would be enjoyed by fans of offbeat, character-driven fiction and those who love the memes.
“Best. State. Ever.” by Dave Barry – This humorous travelogue is a celebration of all things Florida. The book covers the state’s quirks and idiosyncrasies, from its theme parks to its alligator wrestling shows. Dave Barry’s witty observations and hilarious anecdotes make this book a must-read for anyone who loves the State of Florida and its unique culture.
Best Books About The Culture of Florida
“Roaring Reptiles, Bountiful Citrus, and Neon Pies” by Mark Lane – This book tells the story of Florida’s unique history and culture, from the state’s early days as a Spanish colony to the present day. It covers everything from the state’s natural wonders to its famous landmarks and attractions. This book would be enjoyed by anyone interested in Florida’s rich cultural history.
“Oh, Florida!” by Craig Pittman – This book is a humorous and informative guide to the quirks and idiosyncrasies of Florida. It covers everything from the state’s colorful political history to its bizarre criminal cases. This book would be enjoyed by anyone who loves Florida and its unique culture.
“The Tropic of Cracker“ by Al Burt – This book is a humorous and affectionate portrait of Florida’s unique culture and character. It covers everything from the state’s love of seafood to its obsession with theme parks. This book is perfect for the reader who loves Florida and its distinctive culture.
Best Environmental Books About Florida
“The Swamp, the Everglades, and the Politics of Paradise” by Michael Grunwald – This book is a comprehensive history of the Everglades, from its natural origins to the present day. It covers the environmental, social, and political forces that have shaped the region, including the ongoing efforts to restore the ecosystem. If you’re a reader interested in environmental history and conservation, this book is for you. Forward written by Floridian author Carl Hiaasen.
“The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea” by Jack E. Davis – This book is a history of the Gulf of Mexico, covering everything from its geological formation to its role in American history and culture. It explores the natural wonders of the region and the environmental challenges it faces. This book would be enjoyed by anyone interested in the history and ecology of the Gulf Coast.
Best Florida Beach Activity Books
“Shells of Florida’s Gulf Coast“ by Blair and Dawn Witherington – This comprehensive guidebook is a must-have for anyone interested in the shells of Florida’s Gulf Coast. The book features detailed descriptions and photographs of over 300 species of shells, as well as tips on where and how to find them. This book is for anyone who loves beachcombing and shell collecting. Best of all it’s waterproof so you can bring it right on the sand!
“Simply Sarasota” from fresh to fabulous – 200 fresh, healthy recipes inspired by Sarasota and her islands, submitted by members of the Junior League of Sarasota, residents, and award-winning local chefs. This book is a guide to the best restaurants, shops, and attractions in Sarasota, Florida. It includes recommendations for everything from fine dining to family-friendly activities. This book would be enjoyed by anyone planning a visit to Sarasota or looking for recommendations on things to do and see.
“Fish Florida Saltwater” by Boris Arnov – This book is a guide to fishing in Florida’s saltwater bodies, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. It includes information on the best fishing spots, techniques, and equipment. This book would be enjoys fishing and outdoor recreation.
“Canoeing and Kayaking Florida” by Johnny Molloy – This book is a comprehensive guide to the best canoeing and kayaking destinations in Florida. It includes information on rivers, springs, lakes, and coastal waterways, as well as tips on gear and safety. This book is for anyone who loves outdoor recreation and exploring Florida’s natural beauty.
Best Florida-based Fiction
“The Last Resort” by Pamela Morsi – This novel tells the story of a young woman who inherits a rundown motel in a small Florida town. It explores themes of family, community, and the importance of preserving history. This book will resonate with fans of heartwarming fiction and small-town stories.
Best Folktales and Creepy Books About Florida
“Creepy Florida” by Mark Muncy – This book is a collection of spooky stories and legends from around the state of Florida. It covers everything from haunted houses to mysterious creatures and includes stories from both urban and rural areas. This book is for anyone who seeks out ghost stories and the paranormal.
“Freaky Florida” by E. Lynne Wright – This book is another collection of weird and unusual stories from Florida, covering everything from bizarre crimes to strange natural phenomena. It includes stories from throughout the state, from the Panhandle to the Keys. This book would be enjoyed by fans of strange and unusual tales.
“Ghosthunting Florida” by Dave Lapham – This book is a guide to the most haunted places in Florida, from historic hotels to abandoned buildings. It includes firsthand accounts of paranormal experiences, as well as tips on how to conduct your own ghost hunt. This book would delight anyone interested in the paranormal and ghost hunting.
“Haunted Manatee County” by Deborah Frethem – This book is a guide to the most haunted places in Manatee County, Florida. It includes stories of ghosts and other paranormal activity, as well as tips on how to conduct your own ghost hunt. This book would be enjoyed by anyone interested in paranormal and ghost hunting.
“Myths and Mysteries of Florida“ by E. Lynne Wright – This book is a collection of strange and unusual stories from Florida, including legends of buried treasure, ghost sightings, and mysterious disappearances. It covers the entire state, from the Panhandle to the Keys. This book would be enjoyed by fans of strange and unusual tales.
“Spooky Florida“ by S.E. Schlosser – This book is a collection of ghost stories and spooky legends from around Florida. It covers everything from haunted houses to creepy cemeteries and mysterious creatures. This book is for the reader who loves ghost stories and tales of the paranormal.
“Florida’s Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore” by Greg Jenkins is a collection of spooky tales and legends from around the state of Florida. From ghostly apparitions to haunted houses, this book is sure to send shivers down your spine. The author delves into the history and folklore behind each ghostly tale, providing context and background information to enhance the reader’s understanding of the stories. It’s perfect for those who enjoy exploring the eerie side of Florida and want to learn more about the state’s folklore and legends.
A Short List of Best Books About Florida For Kids
Hoot– Environmental advocacy about owls from a kid’s point of view.
Because of Winn Dixie– A heartwarming tale with a puppy!
What I Saw and How I Lied (YA)– For teens, Old Florida, before the crowds.
Because who doesn’t love a delicious tropical cocktail in Florida?
“Miami’s Cocktails” by Gabriel Urrutia – This book is a guide to the best cocktail bars and drinks in Miami. It features recipes for classic and modern cocktails, as well as profiles of the city’s top bartenders. This book is for you if you are interested in mixology and the Miami bar scene.
Read this for a list of yummy treats you can bring home from all over the state of Florida.
Where to Get The Best Books About Florida’s Gulf Coast
If you live locally or are just visiting, the first place to explore is the Sarasota County Public Libraries.
The county has 10 beautiful public libraries and a History Center that all share the same collection. Check the library catalog or talk to the librarian.
If you are searching in Selby Public Library but don’t find it, the book might be at Fruitville Library or Jacaranda Library in Venice. It’s all still part of the same collection. They can have it sent right over to you.
Traveling readers, as well as snowbirds, can access public library services with their local library cards.
Do you prefer listening to audiobooks? The library has those too!
Listen to books anywhere, anytime—when commuting, exercising, running errands, or just washing dishes.
If you would rather purchase your audiobooks and not worry about them expiring on the due dates, try Audible Plus or Audible Premium Plus subscriptions from Amazon. Both plans offer a free trial period so you can take try it out first and then decide if you want it.
Another alternative is to sign up for your library’s online database of e-books. If you’re not sure to do that, the librarians are happy to show you it’s a great option to have instant free books sent to your phone or device.
One option is to shop at bookstores. All these titles were available at Barnes and Noble at UTC (University Town Center) in Sarasota.
In addition, all these titles are clickable if you would like to purchase a copy and have it sent straight to your house.
Florida is certainly an interesting place with a fascinating history and culture.
So grab a beach chair, slather on some sunscreen, and get ready to dive into one of these entertaining books about Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Enjoy reading about the American South? You may also like these books about New Orleans.
Sarasota County Libraries | Sarasota County, FL. https://www.scgov.net/government/departments/libraries. Accessed 7 Apr. 2023.