100 books like A Lesson Before Dying

By Ernest J. Gaines,

Here are 100 books that A Lesson Before Dying fans have personally recommended if you like A Lesson Before Dying. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of To Kill a Mockingbird

Katie K. May Author Of You're on Fire, It's Fine: Effective Strategies for Parenting Teens with Self-Destructive Behaviors

From my list on healing family dynamics and generational trauma.

Why am I passionate about this?

My journey from a teen struggling with self-harm, drug use, and overwhelming emotions to a DBT-Linehan Board of Certification Clinician™ and director of Creative Healing, Teen Support Centers, uniquely positions me to understand the deep emotional challenges teens face. Having navigated my own tumultuous youth and now parenting a "Fire Feeler" teen, I use my personal and professional insights to guide thousands of teens and their parents. I am passionately committed to creating environments where teens are supported while the entire family learns skills to improve and work together.

Katie's book list on healing family dynamics and generational trauma

Katie K. May Why did Katie love this book?

I treasure this book and recently reread it alongside my own teen! It profoundly showcases the courage required to challenge deep-seated prejudices within a community and family.

Witnessing Scout Finch's perspective on her father Atticus' stand against racial injustice amidst moral dilemmas serves as a powerful reminder of the strength needed to confront and transcend the biases we inherit, a journey that resonates with my own experiences of overcoming familial legacies.

By Harper Lee,

Why should I read it?

34 authors picked To Kill a Mockingbird as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.'

Atticus Finch gives this advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of this classic novel - a black man charged with attacking a white girl. Through the eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Lee explores the issues of race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s with compassion and humour. She also creates one of the great heroes of literature in their father, whose lone struggle for justice pricks the conscience of a town steeped…


Book cover of A Confederacy of Dunces

Toby LeBlanc Author Of Dark Roux

From my list on South Louisiana culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in Scott, Louisiana, I didn’t know that everyone else in the United States did not get Mardi Gras off from school and work. I thought everyone knew some French. Crawfish boils were a natural, expectable part of every spring. South Louisiana is a world unto itself. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate my heritage, my Cajun lineage, and the sometimes-befuddling ways we Louisianians look at that world. Between conversations with elders, reading historical documents, and even looking at land transfer maps, I’ve become even more grounded in what being from this little wet corner of the world means. 

Toby's book list on South Louisiana culture

Toby LeBlanc Why did Toby love this book?

This Pulitzer Prize winner remains a time-tested testament to the absurdity that is New Orleans.

I felt like I’d met every one of the characters at least twice in my own walks on the streets of this storied city. I could even taste the Lucky Dogs. This is one of the few books to have me consistently laugh out loud. You can even take a picture with the statue of Ignatius J Reilly (the main character) on Canal Street.

By John Kennedy Toole,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked A Confederacy of Dunces as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

ONE OF THE BBC'S 100 NOVELS THAT SHAPED OUR WORLD

'This is probably my favourite book of all time' Billy Connolly

A pithy, laugh-out-loud story following John Kennedy Toole's larger-than-life Ignatius J. Reilly, floundering his way through 1960s New Orleans, beautifully resigned with cover art by Gary Taxali
_____________

'This city is famous for its gamblers, prostitutes, exhibitionists, anti-Christs, alcoholics, sodomites, drug addicts, fetishists, onanists, pornographers, frauds, jades, litterbugs, and lesbians . . . don't make the mistake of bothering me.'

Ignatius J. Reilly: fat, flatulent, eloquent and almost unemployable. By the standards of ordinary folk he is pretty much…


Book cover of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Karen Conti Author Of Killing Time with John Wayne Gacy: Defending America's Most Evil Serial Killer on Death Row

From my list on books for law lovers, fairness fighters, and true crime connoisseurs.

Why am I passionate about this?

From a young age, I read and watched everything about the Jack the Rippers, Black Dahlias, and Ted Bundys of the world. I think humans are fascinated by these killers, the worst of the worst, in the same way we are drawn to the best of the best. We want to know what makes them tick. One of the reasons I became a lawyer is at a young age I wanted to be a part of making sure justice is done—for everyone, regardless of their societal status. An empathetic person, I wanted to help others, even those who made horrific life choices. The law, true crime, and fighting for fairness are my passions!

Karen's book list on books for law lovers, fairness fighters, and true crime connoisseurs

Karen Conti Why did Karen love this book?

I have probably read this book five times as a kid and three more times as an adult, and every time, I take away another life lesson.

As a kid, you are caught up in the story of Charlie going through the whimsical world of Willy Wonka, with its magical wonders of candy making.

But as an adult you see the other story—the story of Charlie, the underdog who grows up in a home impoverished financially but not emotionally or morally. He succeeds in winning it all in the end due to his respectfully showing self-restraint and honoring his high standards of what is right and wrong.  

By Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A splendiferous new hardback of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, part of a collection of truly delumptious classic Roald Dahl titles with stylish jackets over surprise printed colour cases, and exquisite endpaper designs.

Mr Willy Wonka is the most extraordinary chocolate maker in the world.
And do you know who Charlie is? Charlie Bucket is the hero. The other children in this book are nasty little beasts, called: Augustus Gloop - a great big greedy nincompoop; Veruca Salt - a spoiled brat; Violet Beauregarde - a repulsive little gum-chewer; Mike Teavee - a boy who only watches television.
Clutching their…


Book cover of Presumed Innocent

Karen Conti Author Of Killing Time with John Wayne Gacy: Defending America's Most Evil Serial Killer on Death Row

From my list on books for law lovers, fairness fighters, and true crime connoisseurs.

Why am I passionate about this?

From a young age, I read and watched everything about the Jack the Rippers, Black Dahlias, and Ted Bundys of the world. I think humans are fascinated by these killers, the worst of the worst, in the same way we are drawn to the best of the best. We want to know what makes them tick. One of the reasons I became a lawyer is at a young age I wanted to be a part of making sure justice is done—for everyone, regardless of their societal status. An empathetic person, I wanted to help others, even those who made horrific life choices. The law, true crime, and fighting for fairness are my passions!

Karen's book list on books for law lovers, fairness fighters, and true crime connoisseurs

Karen Conti Why did Karen love this book?

This is the best courtroom murder/whodunnit ever!

It is so educative about the players in a criminal trial and what makes them tick: from the defendant to the prosecutor, to the defense lawyer, and the judge. It’s got sex, drama, and jealousy and keeps you on your toes until the completely unexpected twist at the very end.

I love this book even more, knowing that Scott Turow, a Chicago attorney like me, wrote it on his way to and from work at his law office! And he endorsed my new book!

By Scott Turow,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Rusty Sabich is a prosecuting lawyer in Chicago who enters a nightmare world when Carolyn, a beautiful attorney with whom he has been having an affair, is found raped and strangled. He stands accused of the crime.

This 'insider' book by a Chicago lawyer was one of the great novels of the 1980s, selling more than nine million copies, and was made into a famous film starring Harrison Ford. It's a supremely suspenseful and compelling courtroom drama about ambition, weakness, hypocrisy and American justice.


Book cover of Finding Myself Lost in Louisiana

Toby LeBlanc Author Of Dark Roux

From my list on South Louisiana culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in Scott, Louisiana, I didn’t know that everyone else in the United States did not get Mardi Gras off from school and work. I thought everyone knew some French. Crawfish boils were a natural, expectable part of every spring. South Louisiana is a world unto itself. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate my heritage, my Cajun lineage, and the sometimes-befuddling ways we Louisianians look at that world. Between conversations with elders, reading historical documents, and even looking at land transfer maps, I’ve become even more grounded in what being from this little wet corner of the world means. 

Toby's book list on South Louisiana culture

Toby LeBlanc Why did Toby love this book?

This is another book to tackle the uncommon quirks of this region. Lejeune finds the backroads through this part of the world to tie legends, myths, and history together and then bind them to epochs in his own life.

I felt like I was right next to him the whole time, feeling confusion, appreciation, and awe as every dogleg on the bayou or rise over a chenier brought me on a journey inward as well. This is a book I’d like to read again while traveling.

By Keagan LeJeune,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Finding Myself Lost in Louisiana as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Finding Myself Lost in Louisiana, author Keagan LeJeune brilliantly weaves the unusual folklore, landscape, and history of Louisiana along with his own family lineage that begins in 1760 to trace the trajectory of people's lives in the Bayou State. His account confronts the challenging environmental record evident in Louisiana's landscapes. LeJeune also celebrates and memorializes traditions of some underrepresented communities in Louisiana, communities that are vanishing or have vanished-communities including the author's own.

Each section in the memoir is a journey to a fascinating place, but it's also a search for LeJeune's own sense of belonging. The book is…


Book cover of Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana's Cajun Coast

Toby LeBlanc Author Of Dark Roux

From my list on South Louisiana culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in Scott, Louisiana, I didn’t know that everyone else in the United States did not get Mardi Gras off from school and work. I thought everyone knew some French. Crawfish boils were a natural, expectable part of every spring. South Louisiana is a world unto itself. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate my heritage, my Cajun lineage, and the sometimes-befuddling ways we Louisianians look at that world. Between conversations with elders, reading historical documents, and even looking at land transfer maps, I’ve become even more grounded in what being from this little wet corner of the world means. 

Toby's book list on South Louisiana culture

Toby LeBlanc Why did Toby love this book?

South Louisianians are skeptical of anyone not from here who tries to write about us. We often end up as caricatures. But Mike Tidwell came from the outside and saw us anew.

In his book, he depicts the communities along our coastal areas and wetlands. I was shocked at how he could capture fishermen and traiteurs (faith healers) with such accuracy and respect.

And I can’t forget to mention how he bravely calls attention to one of America’s regions most endangered by climate change, which also happens to be the place I will always call home.

By Mike Tidwell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Cajun coast of Louisiana is home to a way of life as unique, complex, and beautiful as the terrain itself.  As award-winning travel writer Mike Tidwell journeys through the bayou, he introduces us to the food and the language, the shrimp fisherman, the Houma Indians, and the rich cultural history that makes it unlike any other place in the world. But seeing the skeletons of oak trees killed by the salinity of the groundwater, and whole cemeteries sinking into swampland and out of sight, Tidwell also explains why each introduction may be a farewell—as the storied Louisiana coast steadily…


Book cover of Signals: New and Selected Stories

Toby LeBlanc Author Of Dark Roux

From my list on South Louisiana culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in Scott, Louisiana, I didn’t know that everyone else in the United States did not get Mardi Gras off from school and work. I thought everyone knew some French. Crawfish boils were a natural, expectable part of every spring. South Louisiana is a world unto itself. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate my heritage, my Cajun lineage, and the sometimes-befuddling ways we Louisianians look at that world. Between conversations with elders, reading historical documents, and even looking at land transfer maps, I’ve become even more grounded in what being from this little wet corner of the world means. 

Toby's book list on South Louisiana culture

Toby LeBlanc Why did Toby love this book?

When I grow up, I want to write like Tim Gautreaux.

I read this book about five years ago, and it was like I’d just started reading all over again. I felt seen. Gautreaux found the soul of South Louisiana, distilled it, and somehow made it make all the sense in the world. His characters breathe.

I closed the book and stayed in his fictional town of Crapaud. Anytime I am lonesome for my home state I just need to read any one of these stories.

By Tim Gautreaux,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

ONE OF THE WALL STREET JOURNAL AND NPR'S BEST BOOKS OF 2017

Containing twelve new stories and nine classics from previous collections, Signals is Tim Gautreaux at his best. Effortlessly conjuring the heat and humidity of the author’s beloved South, these stories of men and women grappling with faith, small town life, and blue-collar work are alternately ridiculous and sublime. For both longtime fans and readers lucky enough to encounter him for the very first time, Signals cements Gautreaux’s place as an American master.


Book cover of Dead Man Walking: The Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty That Sparked a National Debate

Karen Conti Author Of Killing Time with John Wayne Gacy: Defending America's Most Evil Serial Killer on Death Row

From my list on books for law lovers, fairness fighters, and true crime connoisseurs.

Why am I passionate about this?

From a young age, I read and watched everything about the Jack the Rippers, Black Dahlias, and Ted Bundys of the world. I think humans are fascinated by these killers, the worst of the worst, in the same way we are drawn to the best of the best. We want to know what makes them tick. One of the reasons I became a lawyer is at a young age I wanted to be a part of making sure justice is done—for everyone, regardless of their societal status. An empathetic person, I wanted to help others, even those who made horrific life choices. The law, true crime, and fighting for fairness are my passions!

Karen's book list on books for law lovers, fairness fighters, and true crime connoisseurs

Karen Conti Why did Karen love this book?

Capital punishment has always been a huge social issue for me. Sister Prejean gets you to really confront your own beliefs about it through powerful storytelling and anecdotes, humanizing the players in the death penalty process.

As I have learned through my own death penalty journey as an attorney, it’s easy to say, “Execute him!” but when you know someone and experience their humanity, it is not that simple.

While she makes the points about why she can’t tolerate the ultimate punishment, she is not preachy or maudlin. She is practical. She also does not glorify the condemned and acknowledges the pain caused by his horrific acts.

By Helen Prejean,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A profoundly moving spiritual journey through our system of capital punishment and an unprecedented look at the human consequences of the death penalty • "Stunning moral clarity.” —The Washington Post Book World •Basis for the award-winning major motion picture starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn

"Sister Prejean is an excellent writer, direct and honest and unsentimental. . . . She almost palpably extends a hand to her readers.” —The New York Times Book Review

In 1982, Sister Helen Prejean became the spiritual advisor to Patrick Sonnier, the convicted killer of two teenagers who was sentenced to…


Book cover of Native Son

Kia Corthron Author Of The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter

From my list on the intersection of race, class, and justice in America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up as an African American in the Maryland Appalachian valley, a town that was ninety-five percent white. My father worked for the paper mill and would bring home reams of paper, pens, pencils. I began playing with the stuff—making up stories and stapling them into books, the raw beginnings of a future novelist. Separately, I created dialogue, using clothespins as people: a burgeoning playwright. (We were not destitute—my sister and I had toys! But those makeshift playthings worked best for my purposes.) So, given my working-class racial minority origins, it was rather inevitable that I would be drawn to stories addressing class and race. 

Kia's book list on the intersection of race, class, and justice in America

Kia Corthron Why did Kia love this book?

Unless your first reading has been spoiled by a movie or CliffsNotes, I don’t believe you can fail to be stunned by Wright’s 1940 eons-ahead-of-its-time pièce de résistance. While much has been written addressing racial bias in the courtroom (that is, if the defendant survives the initial encounter with police), the author took the outlandish step of providing head-spinning complexity: presenting a culpable protagonist, albeit one whose crime against an affluent young white woman came about unwittingly, having everything to do with his knowledge that he, a Black man, would invariably be perceived as guilty. Wright never lets us off the hook, forcing readers of all hues to consider the entanglements of race, class, and jurisprudence, beginning the day those of us who are not white and/or privileged are born.

By Richard Wright,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Native Son as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Reissued to mark the 80th anniversary of Native Son's publication - discover Richard Wright's brutal and gripping masterpiece this black history month.

'[Native Son] possesses an artistry, penetration of thought, and sheer emotional power that places it into the front rank of American fiction' Ralph Ellison

Reckless, angry and adrift, Bigger Thomas has grown up trapped in a life of poverty in the slums of Chicago. But a job with the affluent Dalton family provides the setting for a catastrophic collision between his world and theirs. Hunted by citizen and police alike, and baited by prejudiced officials, Bigger finds himself…


Book cover of Solitary

Abigail Leslie Andrews Author Of Banished Men: How Migrants Endure the Violence of Deportation

From my list on the criminalization of immigrant men.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a scholar of gender and state violence, and I live and work at the US-Mexico border. For the past several years, I’ve worked collaboratively with large teams of Latinx-identified students to study the impacts of US immigration policies on migrants from Mexico and Central America. We realized that even though about half of immigrants are women, around 95% of deportees are men. So, we started to think about how US policies criminalize immigrant men. I became especially interested in how immigration enforcement (at the border and beyond) intersects with mass incarceration. In the list, I pick up books that trace the multinational reach of the carceral apparatus that comes to treat migrants as criminals.

Abigail's book list on the criminalization of immigrant men

Abigail Leslie Andrews Why did Abigail love this book?

This is Albert Woodfox’s shocking and amazing life history of spending most of his life in Angola, the most brutal prison in Louisiana.

It’s an exposé of prison brutality and dehumanization. But it’s also a stunning account of his own courage and spirit. On top, the writing is sparse, stark, and beautiful. 

By Albert Woodfox,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Praise for Solitary:

FINALIST FOR THE PULITZER PRIZE IN GENERAL NONFICTION
FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN NONFICTION
Named One of Barack Obama’s Favorite Books of 2019
Winner of the Stowe Prize
Named the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Book of the Year
Named a Best Book of the Year by the New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR, Publishers Weekly, BookBrowse, and Literary Hub
Winner of the BookBrowse Award for Best Debut of 2019
A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice

“An uncommonly powerful memoir about four decades in confinement . . . A profound book about…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in African-American men, death row, and Louisiana?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about African-American men, death row, and Louisiana.

African-American Men Explore 33 books about African-American men
Death Row Explore 15 books about death row
Louisiana Explore 110 books about Louisiana