The best southern books that transport us

Who am I?

I didn’t get the itch to write till my late fifties then I wrote about Mama’s humble life on a tobacco farm. I was a novice who leaned on critique groups to learn literary rules. Short story contests helped me segue into fiction. I sold a few of those early stories and wrote a practice novel that didn’t sell but I understood the best storytelling transports us to a time and place that feels so authentic your senses respond. That place for me is the South and I wanted to write books that took you there. I was seventy when my debut Appalachian novel, If the Creek Don’t Rise, was released and became a bestseller. 


I wrote...

All the Little Hopes

By Leah Weiss,

Book cover of All the Little Hopes

What is my book about?

All the Little Hopes is set in 1943-45 small-town America when our nation struggles with the trailing end of WWII. Told by two girls in alternating chapters, it moves between mountains and flatlands, tobacco and honey, tarot cards, and Ouija boards. The story is laced with little known history including a Nazi POW camp built on the edge of town. The girls are inspired by Nancy Drew and hope for a mystery to solve. Then a man goes missing, a woman goes mad, and an eccentric gives them a bona fide secret to unravel.

Hopes is a tender story about redemption and forgiveness and coming of age, and answers the compelling question: Do we really know who the enemy is?

The books I picked & why

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The Speckled Beauty: A Dog and His People

By Rick Bragg,

Book cover of The Speckled Beauty: A Dog and His People

Why this book?

The Speckled Beauty by Rick Bragg is as extraordinary as his other books and carries his unique stamp: a small southern story told gloriously big. I’ve read just about everything written by Bragg and am enamored by his sublime, original voice. He began as a journalist and won the Pulitzer Prize in ’96 yet he’s never steered far from his humble roots. If you love great southern writing, put Rick Bragg on your list. 

The Speckled Beauty: A Dog and His People

By Rick Bragg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • From the best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of All Over but the Shoutin', the warmhearted and hilarious story of how his life was transformed by his love for a poorly behaved, half-blind stray dog.

Speck is not a good boy. He is a terrible boy, a defiant, self-destructive, often malodorous boy, a grave robber and screen door moocher who spends his days playing chicken with the Fed Ex man, picking fights with thousand-pound livestock, and rolling in donkey manure, and his nights howling at the moon. He has been that way since the moment he…


The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

By Kim Michele Richardson,

Book cover of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

Why this book?

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson speaks to intense research and reveals unsung superheroes: librarians who carried enlightenment into dark hollers on a pack mule. Richardson’s rich characters are armed with the plucky determination required of our pioneers, but they reach beyond the necessary to survive and tap into the will to thrive thanks to the power of books. 

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

By Kim Michele Richardson,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A USA TODAY BESTSELLER
A LOS ANGELES TIMES BESTSELLER
AN OKRA PICK
The bestselling historical fiction from Kim Michele Richardson, this is a novel following Cussy Mary, a packhorse librarian and her quest to bring books to the Appalachian community she loves, perfect for readers of Lee Smith and Lisa Wingate. The perfect addition to your next book club!
The hardscrabble folks of Troublesome Creek have to scrap for everything-everything except books, that is. Thanks to Roosevelt's Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project, Troublesome's got its very own traveling librarian, Cussy Mary Carter.
Cussy's not only…


Sold on a Monday

By Kristina McMorris,

Book cover of Sold on a Monday

Why this book?

Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris was told from a different angle than I anticipated, and I appreciated the moral dilemma posed by a journalist’s decision that needed undoing. I’m a sucker for hard-time stories set in the 1930s, and I’m reminded of my mother’s childhood. She was one of fifteen children raised by a twice-widowed mother. There was pride in the telling that none of her brothers and sisters were sent away when times were hard. 

Sold on a Monday

By Kristina McMorris,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Sold on a Monday as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A USA TODAY BESTSELLER
A WALL STREET JOURNAL BESTSELLER
A NATIONAL INDIEBOUND BESTSELLER
An unforgettable bestselling historical fiction novel by Kristina McMorris, inspired by a stunning piece of history from Depression-Era America.
2 CHILDREN FOR SALE
The sign is a last resort. It sits on a farmhouse porch in 1931, but could be found anywhere in an era of breadlines, bank runs and broken dreams. It could have been written by any mother facing impossible choices.
For struggling reporter Ellis Reed, the gut-wrenching scene evokes memories of his family's dark past. He snaps a photograph…


Prodigal Summer

By Barbara Kingsolver,

Book cover of Prodigal Summer

Why this book?

Prodigal Summer: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver is set in my favorite place and time—1930s Appalachia. It’s my go-to southern novel I’ve read three times at different stages of my life. Each time I was transported in different ways thanks to Kingsolver masterfully interweaving three plots. Released in 2000, the tale still feels relevant and timeless. 

Prodigal Summer

By Barbara Kingsolver,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Prodigal Summer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It is summer in the Appalachian mountains and love, desire and attraction are in the air. Nature, too, it seems, is not immune. From her outpost in an isolated mountain cabin, Deanna Wolfe, a reclusive wildlife biologist, watches a den of coyotes that have recently migrated into the region. She is caught off guard by a young hunter who invades her most private spaces and interrupts her self-assured, solitary life. On a farm several miles down the mountain, Lusa Maluf Landowski, a bookish city girl turned farmer's wife, finds herself marooned in a strange place where she must declare or…


In the Valley

By Ron Rash,

Book cover of In the Valley

Why this book?

In the Valley by Ron Rash is a haunting collection of ten short stories told as lean and efficient as the author’s other works. Filled with surprise twists, I could hardly close the book at bedtime, so delicious were the varied plots. I particularly loved the stories that expanded our understanding of his captivating character, Serena, that was made into a movie in 2014. 

In the Valley

By Ron Rash,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling, award-winning writer of Serena

"One of the great American authors at work today" (The New York Times) gives us a short story collection of haunting allegories about the times we live in—from the perils of capitalism to the extraordinary acts of decency and heroism that exist within them—and the return of the villainess who propelled Rash’s famed Serena to national acclaim.

Ron Rash has long been a revered presence in the landscape of American letters. A virtuosic novelist, poet, and story writer, he evokes the beauty and brutality of the land, the relentless tension…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in farms, Philadelphia, and dogs?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about farms, Philadelphia, and dogs.

Farms Explore 45 books about farms
Philadelphia Explore 52 books about Philadelphia
Dogs Explore 271 books about dogs

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Braiding Sweetgrass, A Civil Action, and Caste if you like this list.