The best books in the tradition of William Faulkner

Why am I passionate about this?

As a writer, I’ve been deeply influenced by Southern literature—especially the work of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. Even though I’m not from the South myself, I am drawn to Southern writers’ immodesty. I believe much of contemporary literature is too timid. It is about the mundane, the everyday.  It does not elevate; instead, it diminishes.  Much of the literature of the South is biblical in its sensibilities.  It is unafraid to deal with the big universal issues with language that is equally big and universal.  It does not pander to modesty or postmodern selfconsciousness. It is audacious. It’s the kind of writing that made me want to write.


I wrote...

Book cover of The Reapers Are the Angels

What is my book about?

For twenty-five years, civilization has survived in meager enclaves, guarded against a plague of the dead. Temple wanders this blighted landscape, keeping to herself and keeping her demons inside her heart. She can't remember a time before the zombies, but she does remember an old man who took her in and the younger brother she cared for until the tragedy that set her on a personal journey toward redemption. Moving back and forth between the insulated remnants of society and the brutal frontier beyond, Temple must decide where ultimately to make a home and find the salvation she seeks.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West

Alden Bell Why did I love this book?

There is something about this book that is behind everything I write. McCarthy inherits from Faulkner that grand, majestical perspective of an author writing through the eyes of God—far above the earth and indifferent to whatever beauty or violence he sees. There is an inevitability to his stories and his language—as though he were simply recording a narrative that is fated and absolute. McCarthy, like Faulkner before him—and Melville and Conrad and Dante—writes at the level of myth. Yes, the book is about the scalp trade along the Texas-Mexico border in the nineteenth century, but it is really about the big abstracts: humanity, good, evil, the apathetic universe.

By Cormac McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked Blood Meridian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy is an epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America's westward expansion, brilliantly subverting the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the Wild West. Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennessean who stumbles into a nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.


Book cover of Sula

Alden Bell Why did I love this book?

Morrison taps into Faulkner’s gorgeously perverse relationship with Sigmund Freud. Her characters seem post-moral, driven by instinct, fundamental desire, and a willingness to tread in the liminal spaces of society where few will follow. The story is a Southern gothic fairytale about two girls whose lives are inescapably entangled against the backdrop of a town obsessed with suicide, violence, and sexual calamity. This book makes you feel lost in the woods—like an abandoned child from a tale by the Brothers Grimm.

By Toni Morrison,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Sula as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Extravagantly beautiful... Enormously, achingly alive... A howl of love and rage, playful and funny as well as hard and bitter' New York Times

As young girls, Nel and Sula shared each other's secrets and dreams in the poor black mid-West of their childhood. Then Sula ran away to live her dreams and Nel got married.

Ten years later Sula returns and no one, least of all Nel, trusts her. Sula is a story of fear - the fear that traps us, justifying itself through perpetual myth and legend. Cast as a witch by the people who resent her strength, Sula…


Book cover of In the Rogue Blood

Alden Bell Why did I love this book?

Mixing Faulkner’s gothic language with McCarthy’s sense of history, Blake writes a story of two brothers torn apart by circumstance and their experiences in the Mexican-American War.  Blake captures that sense of aimless wandering that echoes Faulkner’s stories—the rootless characters meandering across the country, not only unsure of their destinations but maybe even indifferent to them. To me, one of the most profound twists in the book is that the brothers don’t seem to care which side of the war they participate in. They are itinerants whose purpose in the world is simply circumstantial; they are instruments of universal forces that they neither question nor understand. 

By James Carlos Blake,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Rogue Blood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The offspring of a whore mother and a homicidal father, Edward and John Little are driven from their home in the Florida swamplands by a sching parent's treacheries, and by a shameful, horrific act that will haunt their dreams for the rest of their days. Joining the swelling ranks of the rootless--wandering across an almost surreal bloodland populated by the sorrowfully lost and defiantly damned--two brothers are separated by death and circumstance in the lawless "Dixie City" of New Orelans, and dispatched by destiny to opposing sides in a fierce and desperate territorial struggled between Mexico and the United States.…


Book cover of Smonk: Or Widow Town

Alden Bell Why did I love this book?

Franklin’s book is one of the key inspirations for my book, The Reapers Are the Angels. Combining a frontier western sensibility with Faulkner’s wicked gothic brutality, Franklin tells an engrossing tale of a young prostitute who finds herself mired in a world of outlaws, perverts, dandies, and murderers. Frantically running back and forth between high comedy and guttered grotesquerie, this story feels like it’s just barely clinging to its own rails—and that sense of dangerous tipping is what feels so thrilling about it. What Franklin inherits from Faulkner is a wide-eyed beguilement with degeneracy—or what Conrad would call a “fascination of the abomination.”

By Tom Franklin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Smonk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's 1911 and the townsfolk of Old Texas, Alabama, have had enough. Every Saturday night for a year, E. O. Smonk has been destroying property, killing livestock, seducing women, cheating and beating men, all from behind the twin barrels of his Winchester 45-70 caliber over-and-under rifle. Syphilitic, consumptive, gouty, and goitered—an expert with explosives and knives—Smonk hates horses, goats, and the Irish, and it's high time he was stopped. But capturing old Smonk won't be easy—and putting him on trial could have shocking and disastrous consequences, considering the terrible secret the citizens of Old Texas are hiding.


Book cover of The Death of Sweet Mister

Alden Bell Why did I love this book?

Woodrell bridges the gap between Faulkner’s Southern gothic and the noir crime stories of Raymond Chandler and James Cain. This book features all the Oedipal perversion and body horror that reminds us of Faulkner, but this story of a sensitive boy and his debauched mother is also hardboiled and gritty as hell. For such a short book, this novel drops you down a very dark and a very deep well. 

By Daniel Woodrell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Death of Sweet Mister as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shug Akins is a lonely, overweight thirteen-year-old boy. His mother, Glenda, is the one person who loves him -- she calls him Sweet Mister and attempts to boost his confidence and give him hope for his future. Shuggie's purported father, Red, is a brutal man with a short fuse who mocks and despises the boy. Into this small-town Ozarks mix comes Jimmy Vin Pearce, with his shiny green T-bird and his smart city clothes. When he and Glenda begin a torrid affair, a series of violent events is inevitably set in motion. The outcome will break your heart.

"This is…


You might also like...

Return to Hope Creek

By Alyssa J. Montgomery,

Book cover of Return to Hope Creek

Alyssa J. Montgomery Author Of A Spanish Seduction

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an Australian USA Today bestselling romance author who writes contemporary romance and uses the pen name Alyssa James to write medieval romance. I think the makeover trope resonates with me because although I’m no beauty queen now, I was definitely an ugly duckling in my teens. For reasons best known to him, my father insisted on close-cropped hair, and financial circumstances dictated out-of-style hand-me-down clothing. After university, I found my own style, but it wasn’t until I was accepted as an international flight attendant that I believed that I couldn’t be all that ugly if Qantas employed me!

Alyssa's book list on makeover romances

What is my book about?

Return to Hope Creek is a second-chance rural romance set in Australia.

Stella Simpson's career and engagement are over. She returns to the rural community of Hope Creek to heal, unaware her high school and college sweetheart, Mitchell Scott, has also moved back to town to do some healing of his own.

Mitchell, a former NFL quarterback, doesn't need the complication of encountering Stella again so long after the messy end to their relationship, but as each tries to build a new life, they are drawn together and find their chemistry is just as strong as ever.

Will their love be stronger the second time around?

Return to Hope Creek

By Alyssa J. Montgomery,

What is this book about?

When two old flames come back to their home town, sparks are bound to ignite. A rural romance from USA Today bestselling author Alyssa J. Montgomery.


A horrific car accident ended former world number-one Stella Simpson’s tennis career, and a betrayal ended her relationship with her fiancé/coach. When a family friend offers to sell her half of a property in the rural community where she grew up, it seems like the perfect place to escape, heal and begin the next phase of her life. Until she discovers that the man who broke her heart ten years ago has bought the…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the USA Mexico border, the Ozarks, and Ohio?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the USA Mexico border, the Ozarks, and Ohio.

The USA Mexico Border Explore 26 books about the USA Mexico border
The Ozarks Explore 18 books about the Ozarks
Ohio Explore 69 books about Ohio