29 Books Set in + About Oklahoma

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You may not realize it, but Oklahoma’s history is pretty bonkers, and these books about Oklahoma will help you learn more about the Sooner State—both its past and present.

But back to that bonkers history. Oklahoma is a state that was settled on Indian territory and in a single day in 1890, approximately 50,000 settlers rushed into Oklahoma to stake claim on their land.

Since then, Oklahoma has seen its share of tension: the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, not to mention the displacement and discrimination the Native American community has faced. These books set in Oklahoma will teach you a lot about these events, but I think they’ll also show you that the determination that once led pioneers out West still persists in Oklahomans today.

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Novels Set in Oklahoma

Where the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson

After his mother is sent to jail, 15-year-old Cherokee teen, Sequoyah, is placed in the foster care system. Living with one family, he meets Rosemary, and they bond over their troubled past and their heritage. But as they grow closer, it could mean trouble for them. For fans of literary fiction.

Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts

Novalee Nation is 17 years old and about to have a baby when she finds herself alone in a Wal-Mart in a small town in Oklahoma. She’s alone and struggling, but she finds hope in the people of the town who do everything they can to help her. For fans of women’s fiction and heartwarming stories.

Paradise by Toni Morrison

In rural Oklahoma, Ruby is a small town founded by nine families who were formerly enslaved. It’s a harshly patriarchal town. But on the outskirts of town there are a group of women who want to change that, and the men of the town won’t have it. There are lots of content warnings for this one, so look it up beforehand if you are concerned. For fans of literary fiction and modern classics.

Cimarron by Edna Ferber

First published in 1929, this novel tells the story of Yancey and Sabra Cravat, who arrive in Oklahoma to lay claim to land during the Oklahoma land rush and work to create a life for themselves on the frontier. But in the backdrop there is the story of all the drastic changes happening in Oklahoma. If you read this, remember the time it was published, because there will definitely be social issues here that haven’t aged well. For fans of classics.

True Grit by Charles Portis

First published in 1968, this Western classic is set partially in Arkansas and partially in Oklahoma in the 1870s. After her father is killed in Arkansas, 14-year-old Mattie Ross joins forces with a US Marshal to track down his killer in a pursuit of revenge. For fans of Westerns.

The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney

In 1986, two tragedies occurred in Oklahoma City: six movie theater employees were killed in an armed robbery, and then a girl disappeared at the State Fair. Neither case was ever solved. Decades later, two survivors of these tragedies—Wyatt and Julianna—have both returned, trying to uncover what truly happened. For fans of literary fiction and suspense.

The Outsider by Stephen King

In Flint City, Oklahoma, the corpse of a murdered boy is found and all evidence points to little league coach Terry Maitland as the murderer. Maitland seems like a solid community member, but who is he really? For fans of thrillers and suspense.

August – Osage County by Tracy Letts

Ok, so technically this isn’t a novel, but rather a screenplay. And if you love dysfunctional family stories, it might be for you. It’s about a large family in Oklahoma who are reunited after the suicide of their patriarch, and nothing good can come from all the secrets they hold and reveal. For fans of plays.

Non-Fiction Books About Oklahoma

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

In 1920s Oklahoma, members of the Osage Nation were incredibly rich because of the oil discovered under their land. But then they started to be murdered. The FBI was new at the time (with director J. Edgar Hoover), and they stepped in to figure what what was really going on. For fans of true crime.

The Ground Breaking: The Tulsa Race Massacre and an American City’s Search for Justice by Scott Ellsworth

This non-fiction book examines the history of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, when a mob of white people destroyed a wealthy Black area of Tulsa and left hundreds dead. But it also dives into the aftermath, and the lengths people went to to cover up this terrible act. For fans of history and narrative non-fiction.

Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-Class Metropolis by Sam Anderson

It’s possible this book wins for longest subtitle ever. But it probably deserves it, because this book covers a lot of territory, from the founding of Oklahoma City where people literally raced into town to stake their claims all the way to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. There’s a lot here, and its perfect for fans of sweeping histories and narrative non-fiction.

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan

Oklahoma was one of many states hit hard by the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. In this National Book Award winner, Egan tells the stories of people from several states who survived the Dust Bowl (and some who didn’t) as they lived through one of the worst natural disasters ever to hit the United States. For fans of narrative nonfiction, tough subject matter, and an interest in natural disasters.

The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory by Edward T. Linenthal

In 1995, the Oklahoma City bombing changed both Oklahoma and the US. This book talks about the bombing itself, but it especially focuses on the aftermath: the way it affected residents of the community and the nation at large. For fans of general nonfiction that lean both political and academic.

The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham

This is John Grisham’s first work of nonfiction. In Ada, Oklahoma, a waitress is murdered, and investigators turn to Ron Williamson, once a promising baseball player whose life has gone off course, as the lead suspect, eventually charging him. But he’s innocent. For fans of legal thrillers and true crime.

Crazy Brave: A Memoir by Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo was the first Native American Poet Laureate of the United States. In this memoir, she recalls her early childhood, living with her abusive stepfather, finding a new future, and how she fell in love with poetry and became a poet. It’s a short book and perfect for fans of reflective writing and memoirs.

Children’s Books About Oklahoma

S Is For Sooner: An Oklahoma Alphabet by Devin Scillian, Illustrated by Kandy Radzinski

This rhyming book teaches young kids about the significant history, culture, and landmarks of Oklahoma. Plus it also has more in-depth texts that older kids and adults will enjoy. Recommended ages: 3-8 years.

Jingle Dancer by Cynthia L. Smith, Illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu

Jenna dreams of jingle dancing just like her grandmother. But to make noise, her dress still needs the traditional jingles and she finds help from her family and neighbors to make it happen. Recommended ages: 4-8 years.

I Have Heard of a Land by Joyce Carol Thomas, Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

When it was announced that Oklahoma was free land for pioneers to settle, thousands of people went West to stake their claim. And while we may not realize it, many of these pioneers were formerly enslaved African-Americans. Joyce Carol Thomas tells readers about these pioneers in this lyrical story inspired by her own family. Recommended ages: 4-8 years.

Tallchief – America’s Prima Ballerina by Maria Tallchief and Rosemary Wells, Illustrated by Gary Kelley

Maria Tallchief grew up on an Osage Indian reservation, where women were not allowed to dance. But she had a special talent for it, and she went on to become a famous ballerina who broke racial barriers in ballet and become America’s first prima ballerina. Recommended ages: 5-8 years.

Someday Is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma City Sit-ins by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Illustrated by Jade Johnson

It may not be talked about as much as the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama, but Oklahoma has its own Civil Rights history. In 1958, teacher Clara Luper, after a life of living in a segregated Oklahoma, led a group of students in lunch counter sit-ins. This book not only points out a lesser-known part of Oklahoma’s history, but is also great for teaching kids about activism. Recommended ages: 6-9 years.

Sprouting Wings: The True Story of James Herman Banning, the First African American Pilot to Fly Across the United States by Louisa Jagger and Shari Becker, Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

James Herman Banning grew up on a farm in Oklahoma, but his dreams led him to become the first African American to fly across the US. He faced a lot of challenges, but he overcame them in this inspiring true story of a famous Oklahoman. Recommended ages: 7-10 years.

Unspeakable – The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

This picture book presents the history of the Tulsa Race Massacre in an age-appropriate way, highlighting the Black community of Greenwood and the tragedy that occurred when a white mob attacked them. It also deals with the aftermath and how the event was covered up. Recommended ages: 8-11 years.

Middle Grade & YA Books Set in Oklahoma

Roll With It by Jamie Sumner

Ellie has big dreams of being a baker and life is pretty good. But then she and her mom have to move to a small town in Oklahoma to take care of her grandparents, and it doesn’t exactly feel welcoming to a kid in a wheelchair. Then she starts to make some friends though, and she starts to realize that maybe this is the home she’s always wanted. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

This children’s classic is set in the Ozark hills of Oklahoma, where Billy’s lifelong dream of having his own two dogs is coming true. They are out exploring and hunting constantly, but tragedy awaits. Recommended ages: 8-12 years (and maybe not for kids super sensitive to animal death).

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

Set in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl, this novel told in verse is about Billie Jo, coming of age amidst tragedy. Not only is her family dealing with the Dust Bowl, but her mother dies in a tragedy and Billie Jo is injured and can no longer play her beloved piano. It’s one tragedy after another for her, but eventually she finds some hope. Recommended ages: 12 and up.

Angel of Greenwood by Randi Pink

In 1921 Tulsa, Isaiah and Angel go to school together but have never really noticed each other. Then they both get a job working in a mobile library. But violence is on the horizon, as they experience the Tulsa Race Massacre and its aftermath together. Recommended ages: 12 and up.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

This YA classic centers around Ponyboy and his friends, known as the “Greasers” as they run into trouble with rivals, the “Socs.” While it’s not explicitly stated in the book, the setting for the book is based on Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Hinton was living when she wrote the book at an incredible 16 years old. Recommended ages: 12 and up.

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

This novel about the Tulsa Race Massacre is told in alternating timelines. In the present day, Rowan finds a skeleton on her family’s property. Then, 100 years earlier, Will finds himself in the midst of racial violence and must make some hard choices. Recommended ages: 14 and up.

Black Birds in the Sky: The Story and Legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre by Brandy Colbert

This YA book dives into the history of the Tulsa Race Massacre, when a white mob devastated a wealthy Black community and left hundreds dead. But this book doesn’t just tell the story of what happened, it also looks into the factors behind what happened. Recommended ages: 14 and up.

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