79 books like The World That Made New Orleans

By Ned Sublette,

Here are 79 books that The World That Made New Orleans fans have personally recommended if you like The World That Made New Orleans. 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 Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America

Karl F. Seidman Author Of Coming Home to New Orleans: Neighborhood Rebuilding After Katrina

From my list on understanding and appreciating New Orleans.

Why am I passionate about this?

After hurricane Katrina, I was shocked by the scale of displacement and devastation, and the failed government response. I decided to use my planning classes at MIT to assist with rebuilding efforts. Over the next ten years, my students and I worked with several dozen organizations across New Orleans and provided ongoing assistance to three neighborhoods. Through this work and my relationships with many New Orleanians, I learned so much about the city and came to appreciate how special New Orleans, its way of life and people are.   

Karl's book list on understanding and appreciating New Orleans

Karl F. Seidman Why did Karl love this book?

There is no New Orleans without the Mississippi River.  

Rising Tide tells the story of government and engineers’ flawed efforts to control this mighty river, and how they contributed to the disastrous 1927 flood that left over one million people homeless and destroyed scores of towns. 

It provides a rich picture of the enduring social and racial divides in early twentieth-century New Orleans.

Moreover, it reveals how the city’s wealthy white leaders chose to flood neighboring communities to protect the city while undermining efforts to compensate the victims—creating a precedent for injustice and corruption, and ensuring a long-standing distrust of the city’s levees and flood control system.    

By John M. Barry,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year, winner of the Southern Book Critics Circle Award and the Lillian Smith Award.

An American epic of science, politics, race, honor, high society, and the Mississippi River, Rising Tide tells the riveting and nearly forgotten story of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. The river inundated the homes of almost one million people, helped elect Huey Long governor and made Herbert Hoover president, drove hundreds of thousands of African Americans north, and transformed American society and politics forever.

The flood brought with it a human storm: white and black collided, honor…


Book cover of Life on the Mississippi

Peter B. Dedek Author Of The Cemeteries of New Orleans: A Cultural History

From my list on the history of life, death, and magic in New Orleans.

Why am I passionate about this?

Being from Upstate New York I went to college at Cornell University but headed off to New Orleans as soon as I could. By and by I became an instructor at Delgado Community College. Always a big fan of the city’s amazing historic cemeteries, when teaching a world architectural history class, I took the class to the Metairie Cemetery where I could show the students real examples of every style from Ancient Egyptian to Modern American. After coming to Texas State University, San Marcos (30 miles from Austin), I went back to New Orleans on sabbatical in 2013 and wrote The Cemeteries of New Orleans. 

Peter's book list on the history of life, death, and magic in New Orleans

Peter B. Dedek Why did Peter love this book?

Life on the Mississippi is the autobiographical story of Mark Twain’s career as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River in the mid-1800s.

I first read this book when living in the French Quarter in the 1990s and could hear ship horns out on the river as I took in Twain’s fascinating, often silly and sarcastic narrative about his life and the river.

When describing New Orleans cemeteries, Twain writes, “Many of the cemeteries are beautiful, and are kept in perfect order. When one goes from the levee or the business streets near it, to a cemetery, he observes to himself that if those people down there would live as neatly while they are alive as they do after they are dead, they would find many advantages in it.

By Mark Twain,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Life on the Mississippi as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Life on the Mississippi (1883) is a memoir by Mark Twain of his days as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River before the American Civil War. It is also a travel book, recounting his trip up the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Saint Paul many years after the war.


Book cover of Necropolis: Disease, Power, and Capitalism in the Cotton Kingdom

Peter B. Dedek Author Of The Cemeteries of New Orleans: A Cultural History

From my list on the history of life, death, and magic in New Orleans.

Why am I passionate about this?

Being from Upstate New York I went to college at Cornell University but headed off to New Orleans as soon as I could. By and by I became an instructor at Delgado Community College. Always a big fan of the city’s amazing historic cemeteries, when teaching a world architectural history class, I took the class to the Metairie Cemetery where I could show the students real examples of every style from Ancient Egyptian to Modern American. After coming to Texas State University, San Marcos (30 miles from Austin), I went back to New Orleans on sabbatical in 2013 and wrote The Cemeteries of New Orleans. 

Peter's book list on the history of life, death, and magic in New Orleans

Peter B. Dedek Why did Peter love this book?

Necropolis describes how the yellow fever shaped New Orleans society in the 1800s.

While the fever was killing tens of thousands of people for almost two centuries from the founding of the city in 1718 until the last yellow fever epidemic in 1905, giving its victims horrible deaths in which they cried blood and vomited tar-like bile in the process, the disease helped preserve the city’s Creole culture by killing off a large proportion of immigrants to the city who were more susceptible than native-born New Orleans.

Before reading this book, I had no idea that being “acclimated” to yellow fever by surviving a case of this horrible disease was what made white transplants into bonafide citizens of the city. 

By Kathryn Olivarius,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Disease is thought to be a great leveler of humanity, but in antebellum New Orleans acquiring immunity from the scourge of yellow fever magnified the brutal inequities of slave-powered capitalism.

Antebellum New Orleans sat at the heart of America's slave and cotton kingdoms. It was also where yellow fever epidemics killed as many as 150,000 people during the nineteenth century. With little understanding of mosquito-borne viruses-and meager public health infrastructure-a person's only protection against the scourge was to "get acclimated" by surviving the disease. About half of those who contracted yellow fever died.

Repeated epidemics bolstered New Orleans's strict racial…


Book cover of A New Orleans Voudou Priestess: The Legend and Reality of Marie Laveau

Peter B. Dedek Author Of The Cemeteries of New Orleans: A Cultural History

From my list on the history of life, death, and magic in New Orleans.

Why am I passionate about this?

Being from Upstate New York I went to college at Cornell University but headed off to New Orleans as soon as I could. By and by I became an instructor at Delgado Community College. Always a big fan of the city’s amazing historic cemeteries, when teaching a world architectural history class, I took the class to the Metairie Cemetery where I could show the students real examples of every style from Ancient Egyptian to Modern American. After coming to Texas State University, San Marcos (30 miles from Austin), I went back to New Orleans on sabbatical in 2013 and wrote The Cemeteries of New Orleans. 

Peter's book list on the history of life, death, and magic in New Orleans

Peter B. Dedek Why did Peter love this book?

Written by accomplished historian Carolyn Morrow Long, A New Orleans Voudou Priestess tells the true story of Voodoo queen Marie Laveau based on extensive archival research.

In telling her readers about this Creole woman of color who was deeply embedded in the culture of New Orleans in the 1800s, we learn the real story of a woman who was often glorified and denigrated by the press and by local authors who wrote many fantastical tales about her life misleading many about her character and her religion. 

By Carolyn Morrow Long,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A New Orleans Voudou Priestess as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Legendary for an unusual combination of spiritual power, beauty, charisma, showmanship, intimidation, and shrewd business sense, Marie Leveau also was known for her kindness and charity, nursing yellow fever victims and ministering to condemned prisoners, and her devotion to the Roman Catholic Church. In separating verifiable fact from semi-truths and complete fabrication, Carolyn Morrow Long explores the unique social, political, and legal setting in which the lives of Laveau's African and European ancestors became intertwined in nineteenth-century New Orleans.


Book cover of New Orleans: The Making of an Urban Landscape

Karl F. Seidman Author Of Coming Home to New Orleans: Neighborhood Rebuilding After Katrina

From my list on understanding and appreciating New Orleans.

Why am I passionate about this?

After hurricane Katrina, I was shocked by the scale of displacement and devastation, and the failed government response. I decided to use my planning classes at MIT to assist with rebuilding efforts. Over the next ten years, my students and I worked with several dozen organizations across New Orleans and provided ongoing assistance to three neighborhoods. Through this work and my relationships with many New Orleanians, I learned so much about the city and came to appreciate how special New Orleans, its way of life and people are.   

Karl's book list on understanding and appreciating New Orleans

Karl F. Seidman Why did Karl love this book?

New Orleans is a historic, intriguing, and complicated city. 

So many forces have shaped its settlement, development, culture, and character.

Pierce Lewis helped me understand how New Orleans’s location and geography brought it into being and influenced how it has grown, along with how different immigrants and the blending of their cultures have shaped the city. 

He traces how the city’s economy has evolved in relationship to national economic trends and local political decisions on where and how to invest. The book is full of maps, photos, and images that enhance and illustrate the narrative and is written in an engaging style. 

It ends with a clear-headed perspective on the problems faced by New Orleans at the turn of the 21st century. 

By Peirce F. Lewis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In his now classic work of historical geography, published in 1976, Lewis traces the rise and expansion of New Orleans through four major historic periods. This revised and greatly expanded second edition brings that story up-to-date, illustrating how the city continues to overcome its site on the Mississippi Delta - ""a fearsome place, difficult enough for building houses, lunacy for wharves and skyscrapers.


Book cover of The Yellow House: A Memoir

Christy Cashman Author Of The Truth About Horses

From my list on coming of age YA books with strong voices.

Why am I passionate about this?

Books were a way to navigate life, my love for my horse, and just being an awkward feeling person. For me, the most powerful thing that stories provide is revealing that everyone is awkward. No one really feels like they fit in, have everything figured out, and know what this whole, crazy existence is about. A book offers a perspective that makes me see my world just a little more clearly. When I find relatable characters in books, I feel comforted because it makes me realize that no one is all good and no one is all bad. We are flawed and beautiful all at once, just like the characters that draw me into their worlds.

Christy's book list on coming of age YA books with strong voices

Christy Cashman Why did Christy love this book?

I always love a strong voice. The fact that there was this horrific past in her family, and it hung like a dark cloud over them, gave such an interesting juxtaposition to the sweet, innocent voice of Sarah.

I felt the strain of the relationships with her brothers, her dad, and her mother. I felt her pain around her relationship with her brother, Cassie. I was filled with that sense of love and loss you can only have for a sibling that you’re fighting with one minute and having the best time of your life the next. 

By Sarah M Broom,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR NONFICTION

'A major book that I suspect will come to be considered among the essential memoirs of this vexing decade' New York Times Book Review

In 1961, Sarah M. Broom's mother Ivory Mae bought a shotgun house in the then-promising neighborhood of New Orleans East and built her world inside of it. It was the height of the Space Race and the neighborhood was home to a major NASA plant - the postwar optimism seemed assured. Widowed, Ivory Mae remarried Sarah's father Simon Broom; their combined family would…


Book cover of The House of Dance and Feathers: A Museum by Ronald W. Lewis

Karl F. Seidman Author Of Coming Home to New Orleans: Neighborhood Rebuilding After Katrina

From my list on understanding and appreciating New Orleans.

Why am I passionate about this?

After hurricane Katrina, I was shocked by the scale of displacement and devastation, and the failed government response. I decided to use my planning classes at MIT to assist with rebuilding efforts. Over the next ten years, my students and I worked with several dozen organizations across New Orleans and provided ongoing assistance to three neighborhoods. Through this work and my relationships with many New Orleanians, I learned so much about the city and came to appreciate how special New Orleans, its way of life and people are.   

Karl's book list on understanding and appreciating New Orleans

Karl F. Seidman Why did Karl love this book?

Unique cultural and social traditions are a big part of what makes New Orleans a special place. 

This book helped me gain a much deeper appreciation of how these traditions build and sustain communities, serve as artistic and political expression and draw on New Orleans’ African and Caribbean connections. 

The House of Dance and Feathers is a rare and beautiful book that presents the Mardi Gras Indians, Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs, Second Line parades (and a lot more) from a practitioners’ perspective as told by Ronald W. Lewis, founder of the museum of the book’s title. 

The scores of photos by Lewis and others provide rich documentation of the arts, crafts, practices, and communities that constitute these traditions.   

By Rachel Breunlin, Ronald W. Lewis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Ronald W. Lewis has assembled a museum to the various worlds he inhabits. Built in 2003, the House of Dance & Feathers represents many New Orleans societies: Mardi Gras Indians, Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs, Bone Gangs, and Parade Krewes. More than just a catalogue of the artifacts in the museum, this full-color book is a detailed map of these worlds as experienced by Ronald W. Lewis.


Book cover of Storyville, New Orleans: Being an Authentic, Illustrated Account of the Notorious Red-Light District

Peter B. Dedek Author Of The Cemeteries of New Orleans: A Cultural History

From my list on the history of life, death, and magic in New Orleans.

Why am I passionate about this?

Being from Upstate New York I went to college at Cornell University but headed off to New Orleans as soon as I could. By and by I became an instructor at Delgado Community College. Always a big fan of the city’s amazing historic cemeteries, when teaching a world architectural history class, I took the class to the Metairie Cemetery where I could show the students real examples of every style from Ancient Egyptian to Modern American. After coming to Texas State University, San Marcos (30 miles from Austin), I went back to New Orleans on sabbatical in 2013 and wrote The Cemeteries of New Orleans. 

Peter's book list on the history of life, death, and magic in New Orleans

Peter B. Dedek Why did Peter love this book?

This book provides an intimate look at Storyville, the legal New Orleans red-light district that operated in a grid of streets nestled between St. Louis Cemeteries no. 1 and 2 near the French Quarter from 1897 to 1917.

Although the book is a bit dated (it was published in 1974) and includes a few wild and unsubstantiated stories about certain historic New Orleans personalities, such as Marie Laveau, this mostly factual volume is a fascinating and detailed portrait of the "District," as Storyville was often called, and the colorful, sometimes tragic stories of the people who lived and worked there.

By Al Rose,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A true-to-life impression of Storyville, the only legally established red light district in the US

At the turn of the twentieth-century, there were hundreds of red-light districts in the United States, ranging in size from a discreet “house” or two in or near small towns and cities to block after bawdy block of brothels in larger cities such as Chicago and San Francisco. Storyville, New Orleans: Being an Authentic, Illustrated Account of the Notorious Red Light District seeks to offer the reader a reasonably true-to-life impression of Storyville, the most famous of the large districts and the only such district…


Book cover of Freedom in Congo Square

Idris Goodwin Author Of Your House Is Not Just a House

From my list on books to read aloud to children.

Why am I passionate about this?

From my work as a playwright and breakbeat poet, Artistic Director of Seattle Children’s Theatre, and full-time co-parent, I've dedicated my career to crafting engaging narratives that resonate across generations. With over sixty original plays to my name, I've honed a unique approach that intertwines hip-hop rhythms with rich storytelling. My debut picture book is a testament to this approach—inviting children and parents to discover the boundless creativity that can be found in everyday spaces. It’s my hope that this book inspires families to explore their homes with fresh eyes and open hearts, turning reading into an adventure of imagination.

Idris' book list on books to read aloud to children

Idris Goodwin Why did Idris love this book?

This is not just a book; it's a portal to a pivotal piece of history.

As an artist deeply intertwined with music and performance, I am drawn to how this book celebrates the cultural significance of Congo Square as a place of solace and communal joy for enslaved people. The lyrical storytelling and vibrant illustrations resonate with the power of music and dance, echoing the importance of cultural expression in our lives.

This book is a vital read for its historical significance and its ability to inspire through resilience.

By Carole Boston Weatherford, R. Gregory Christie (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Freedom in Congo Square as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Winner of a Caldecott Honor and a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2016
A School Library Journal Best Book of 2016: Nonfiction
Starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and The Horn Book Magazine
A Junior Library Guild Selection

This poetic, nonfiction story about a little-known piece of African American history captures a human's capacity to find hope and joy in difficult circumstances and demonstrates how New Orleans' Congo Square was truly freedom's heart.

Mondays, there were hogs to slop,

mules to train, and logs to chop.

Slavery was no ways fair.…


Book cover of Life of a Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy

Fergus M. Bordewich Author Of Klan War: Ulysses S. Grant and the Battle to Save Reconstruction

From my list on the bloody history of Reconstruction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have written widely on themes related to race, slavery, 19th-century politics, the Civil War, and its aftermath. The Reconstruction era has sometimes been called America’s “Second Founding.” It is imperative for us to understand what its architects hoped to accomplish and to show that their enlightened vision encompassed the better nation that we are still striving to shape today. The great faultline of race still roils our country. Our forerunners of the Reconstruction era struggled to bridge that chasm a century and a half ago. What they fought for still matters.

Fergus' book list on the bloody history of Reconstruction

Fergus M. Bordewich Why did Fergus love this book?

This is a fitting companion to Ball’s earlier book Slaves in the Family, a meticulous account of his paternal ancestors’ slave-owning history and their biracial progeny.

In this book, Ball, a talented and engaging writer, dives deep into the buried story of a maternal forbearer in New Orleans, Constant Lecorgne, a working-class white creole. With novelistic flair, Ball takes us along with Lecorgne in his peregrinations through Louisiana’s violent and chaotic reactionary politics in the 1860s and 1870s. Ball faced a daunting challenge: to humanize Lecorgne without either sugarcoating his reprehensible behavior or forgiving him for it.

Few books I’ve read have so vividly captured the mentality of outspoken white supremacist “foot soldier.” I was often repelled by Lecorgne, but I wanted to keep reading. This is an essential book if we’re to begin to understand why ordinary white men were willing, even eager, to participate in the racist counter-revolution…

By Edward Ball,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"A haunting tapestry of interwoven stories that inform us not just about our past but about the resentment-bred demons that are all too present in our society today . . . The interconnected strands of race and history give Ball’s entrancing stories a Faulknerian resonance." ―Walter Isaacson, The New York Times Book Review

A 2020 NPR staff pick | One of The New York Times' thirteen books to watch for in August | One of The Washington Post's ten books to read in August | A Literary Hub best book of the summer| One of Kirkus Reviews' sixteen best books…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Louisiana, New Orleans, and civilization?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Louisiana, New Orleans, and civilization.

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