The best books about Alabama 📚

Browse the best books on Alabama as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of You May Plow Here: The Narrative of Sara Brooks

You May Plow Here: The Narrative of Sara Brooks

By Sara Brooks

Why this book?

Sara Brooks was one of seventeen children raised by landowning African American farmers in Alabama. Hers is a lively and evocative account of growing up on the land in a loving family and a harsh coming of age at the hands of an abusive man. Like many southern black women of the era, Brooks is able to escape the bleak conditions of her life by moving first to Mobile and then to Cleveland where she worked as a domestic, eventually acquiring her own home and reuniting with the children she had been forced to leave behind. Hers is a hopeful…

From the list:

The best books for first-person accounts of life in the twentieth century South

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Book cover of All Over But the Shoutin'

All Over But the Shoutin'

By Rick Bragg

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. 

From the list:

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

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Book cover of The Creek War of 1813 and 1814 (Library Alabama Classics)

The Creek War of 1813 and 1814 (Library Alabama Classics)

By H.S. Halbert, T.H. Ball

Why this book?

This book was originally published in 1895 and was a model of scholarship for its period, featuring a significant amount of research, familiarity with the locations where the war raged, and informed by interviews with actual participants. Certainly, contemporary treatments are more informed on many details. But because this book reigned for decades as the essential and virtually the only book-length treatment of the subject and influenced generations of historians of the war, it is an invaluable reference source for anyone interested in the history of the Creek War.

From the list:

The best books to understand the Creek War of 1813 to 1814

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Book cover of It Jes' Happened

It Jes' Happened

By Don Tate, R. Gregory Christie

Why this book?

My favorite books are the ones with heroes and heroines you don’t expect – the ones that remind you that we can all be heroes and heroines if we find our gifts and persevere until others see and benefit from them, too. That’s what It Jes’ Happened does with this story of Bill Traylor, a formerly enslaved man who began to draw pictures based on his memories of rural and urban life in Alabama. Adding to the wonder of his story, this self-taught artist didn’t start painting until he was 85, reminding us it’s never too late to do what…
From the list:

The best children’s books about art

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Book cover of Gods in Alabama

Gods in Alabama

By Joshilyn Jackson

Why this book?

This book. I can hear the cicadas now. I love this book because our main character is guided by self-imposed rules for herself that she desperately wants to abide. At first glance, she seems like she might be just anyone—but she has a wild past you can hardly believe she moved beyond. The women in this book are more powerful than the world they are in.

From the list:

The best books about wasted women

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Book cover of All God's Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw

All God's Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw

By Theodore Rosengarten

Why this book?

Historian Ted Rosengarten assembled this riveting account from hours of conversation with 84-year-old Nate Shaw. Born to a former slave, Shaw began picking cotton for white landowners at the age of nine. Independent and proud, Shaw resisted the Jim Crow system, ultimately joining the interracial Alabama Sharecroppers Union (SCU), organized in the 1930s with the support of the Communist Party. The SCU demanded rights to sell surplus crops and to cultivate gardens, an act often forbidden in order to keep sharecroppers dependent on landowners for food.

When Shaw was 47, he faced down a group of armed white law enforcement…

From the list:

The best books for first-person accounts of life in the twentieth century South

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