The best Southern books that touch upon culture, history, and society

Claire Fullerton Author Of Mourning Dove
By Claire Fullerton

Who am I?

I'm the multiple, award-winning author of 4 novels and one novella, raised in Memphis, Tennessee, and now living in Southern California. The geographical distance gives me a laser-sharp, appreciative perspective of the South, and I celebrate the literary greats from the region. The South is known as the last romantic place in America, and I believe this to be true. The South’s culture, history, and social mores are part and parcel to its fascinating characters, and nothing is more important in the South than the telling of a good story. As a writer, I'm in love with language. I love Southern turns of phrase and applaud those writers who capture Southern nuance. It is well worth writing about Southern sensibilities.


I wrote...

Mourning Dove

By Claire Fullerton,

Book cover of Mourning Dove

What is my book about?

An accurate and heart-wrenching picture of the sensibilities of the American South. Millie and Finley Crossan move from Minnesota to their mother’s genteel world of 1970’s Memphis and learn to navigate the social mores of the Deep South, where all that glitters is not gold. Southern nuance, charismatic characters, a sibling relationship, and an opulent setting underlie this 13-time book award winner that asks how it is that two siblings who share the same history can turn out so differently. 

The books I picked & why

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The Prince of Tides

By Pat Conroy,

Book cover of The Prince of Tides

Why this book?

A resounding Southern family saga. A sins-of-the-father story told in the first person by one of the South’s most revered authors. The Prince of Tides is set on a barrier island off the coast of South Carolina and depicts the haunting secrets of the working class Wingo family in a multi-generational story rife with Southern nuance and now considered a literary classic. The story opens when narrator Tom Wingo flies from the South to New York to meet with his sister’s psychiatrist, and the astounding family saga unfolds from there. 

The Prince of Tides

By Pat Conroy,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Prince of Tides as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Pat Conroy's inspired masterpiece relates the dark and violent chronicle of an astounding family: the Wingos of Colleton, South Carolina. No reader will forget them. And no reader can remain untouched by their story.

All Wingos share one heritage ... shrimp fishing, poverty and the searing memory of a single terrifying event - the source of Tom Wingo's self-hatred and of his sister Savannah's suicidal despair.

To save himself and Savannah, Tom confronts the past with the help of New York psychologist Susan Lowenstein.

As Tom and Susan unravel the bitter history of his troubled childhood, in episodes of grotesque…


Peachtree Road

By Anne Rivers Siddons,

Book cover of Peachtree Road

Why this book?

Peachtree Road is considered a modern-day Gone with The Wind, in that it is set in the pivotal, changing times of 1960’s Atlanta, and concerns the opulent area of Buckhead, where the privileged who built modern-day Atlanta live. The story is narrated in lyrical language by Shep Bondurant, an insightful young man born to privilege, who tells the coming-of-age story of Southern traditions and hypocrisy, and the impact of growing up alongside his troubled cousin, Lucy. A deeply probing story on multiple levels concerning society and the impact of family. 

Peachtree Road

By Anne Rivers Siddons,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“A blockbuster of a novel. . . . Peachtree Road is the meaty and absorbing story of a city turned on to power and of the privileged inhabitants who led it to its current station as a mecca of business, culture, and progress. . . . To say this book is potent does not come close to doing it justice. More than merely powerful, it is mesmerizing, enthralling, and totally unforgettable.”  — Chattanooga Free Press

A masterful tale of love, hate, and rebellion set in an elite world of class and wealth, New York Times bestselling author Anne Rivers Siddons's…


Something Rich and Strange: Selected Stories

By Ron Rash,

Book cover of Something Rich and Strange: Selected Stories

Why this book?

Ron Rash is a national, literary treasure. The author of multiple award-winning novels, this book is an assembly of 34 short stories, most set in Appalachia, and depicting the social nuances and landscape of the American rural South. I recommend this because it will provide a great introduction to the incomparable author known as The Appalachian Shakespeare. As a writer, Ron Rash epitomizes the idea of landscape as destiny, and his well-drawn characters come to life from his flawless use of regional language. 

Something Rich and Strange: Selected Stories

By Ron Rash,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the acclaimed, New York Times bestselling award-winning author of Serena and The Cove, thirty of his finest short stories, collected in one volume.

No one captures the complexities of Appalachia—a rugged, brutal landscape of exquisite beauty—as evocatively and indelibly as author and poet Ron Rash. Winner of the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, two O Henry prizes, and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, Rash brilliantly illuminates the tensions between the traditional and the modern, the old and new south, tenderness and violence, man and nature. Though the focus is regional, the themes of Rash’s work are universal,…


All Over But the Shoutin'

By Rick Bragg,

Book cover of All Over But the Shoutin'

Why this book?

Pulitzer prize-winning and best-selling author Rick Bragg depicts hardscrabble, family life in rural Alabama, with a bad-tempered, hard-drinking father and a mother who won’t see her children go without. Bragg’s honest voice is immediate and compelling, and the visceral feel of the setting is the perfect backdrop for this rags to riches story of a man who triumphs over adversity to become a widely acclaimed writer. Bragg’s use of Southern vernacular is what makes this story. 

All Over But the Shoutin'

By Rick Bragg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All Over But the Shoutin' as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • From the Pulitzer Prize–winner and bestselling author, "a grand memoir.... Bragg tells about the South with such power and bone-naked love ... he will make you cry" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

This haunting, harrowing, gloriously moving recollection of a life on the American margin is the story of Rick Bragg, who grew up dirt-poor in northeastern Alabama, seemingly destined for either the cotton mills or the penitentiary, and instead became a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter for The New York Times. It is also the story of Bragg's father, a hard-drinking man with a murderous temper and the habit of running…


The Fighter

By Michael Farris Smith,

Book cover of The Fighter

Why this book?

The Fighter is Southern noir at its best, and the spare, economic voice of the narrator adds to the guttural bleakness of a man down on his luck but willing to persevere against all odds. Set in the sultry Delta, Jack Boucher has put behind him 25 years of bare-knuckle fighting but is given cause to step into the ring one more time. A dark desperation colors this popular novel, and readers will be shown why Michael Farris Smith is considered one of the finest writers now on the American literary landscape.   

The Fighter

By Michael Farris Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The acres and acres of fertile soil, the two-hundred year old antebellum house, all gone.

And so is the woman who gave it to him. The foster mother who saved Jack Boucher from a childhood of abandonmnet now rests in a hospice. Her mind eroded by dementia, the family legacy she entrusted to Jack is now owned by banks and strangers. And Jack's mind is failing too, as concussion after concussion forces him to carry around a notebook of names that separate friend from foe.

In a single twisted night Jack is derailed. Losing the money that will clear his…


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Interested in the upper class, Alabama, and Appalachia?

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