The best books about Alabama

Who picked these books? Meet our 68 experts.

68 authors created a book list connected to Alabama, and here are their favorite Alabama books.
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Gods in Alabama

By Joshilyn Jackson,

Book cover of Gods in Alabama

Paige Harbison Author Of Anything to Have You

From the list on wasted women.

Who am I?

I have spent my entire life in the literary industry, first being raised by an author and her two published sisters, then signing my own book deal at age nineteen. So basically, I am completely incapable of seeing the world through anything but a bookish lens. For this little project, I was asked to make some recommendations based on a subject I care about. I chose Wasted Women. These are books about women who deserve more out of life than they have—and about the consequences of letting a clever woman stay caged.

Paige's book list on wasted women

Discover why each book is one of Paige's favorite books.

Why did Paige love 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.

By Joshilyn Jackson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For 10 years Arlene has kept her promises, and God has kept His end of the bargain. Until now. When an old schoolmate from Possett turns up at Arlene's door in Chicago asking questions about Jim Beverly, former quarterback and god of Possett High, Arlene's break with her former hometown is forced to an end. At the same time, Burr, her long-time boyfriend, has raised an ultimatum: introduce him to her family or consider him gone. Arlene loves him dearly but knows her lily white (not to mention deeply racist)Southern Baptist family will not understand her relationship with an African…


Book cover of Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe

Carla Laureano Author Of The Broken Hearts Bakery

From the list on that will make you rush to the kitchen.

Who am I?

I loved cooking and baking since I was a child, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I rediscovered the joy of the kitchen. Even though I may enjoy tossing off a batch of eclairs on a whim or experimenting with sous vide, I can get into a cooking rut of last-minute dinners and grab-and-go meals and forget why I enjoy it in the first place! These five books never fail to remind me of the figurative (and sometimes literal) magic of making delicious food with my own hands.

Carla's book list on that will make you rush to the kitchen

Discover why each book is one of Carla's favorite books.

Why did Carla love this book?

No can deny that pie is magic, but in this book, pies are literal magic: anyone who eats the fruit pies at the Blackbird Café will receive messages from their long-lost loved ones, thanks to the blackbirds who arrive at midnight and sing their dreams.

I adore the touch of magical realism in this gentle novel, and I can never read it without wanting a slice of pie and a glass of blackberry sweet tea. There’s something so quintessentially summery and wholesome about this book that you can practically taste it as you turn the pages.

By Heather Webber,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE USA TODAY BESTSELLER Heather Webber's Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe is a captivating blend of magical realism, heartwarming romance, and small-town Southern charm.

Nestled in the mountain shadows of Alabama lies the little town of Wicklow. It is here that Anna Kate has returned to bury her beloved Granny Zee, owner of the Blackbird Café.

It was supposed to be a quick trip to close the café and settle her grandmother’s estate, but despite her best intentions to avoid forming ties or even getting to know her father’s side of the family, Anna Kate finds herself inexplicably drawn to…


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

Mike Bunn Author Of Battle for the Southern Frontier: The Creek War and the War of 1812

From the list on understanding the Creek War of 1813 to 1814.

Who am I?

I have spent a large part of my career researching and writing about the pivotal era in which these conflicts occurred, and continue to be intrigued by these cataclysmic events and their repercussions. Many conflicts in this nation’s history compete for the title of most unknown war, but the Creek War of 1813-1814 and the related southern campaigns of the War of 1812 have perhaps the best claim on that notoriety. Yet these conflicts nonetheless dramatically altered the United States’ history. They led to the forced removal of native tribes, ushered in the era of slave-based cotton agriculture in the Old Southwest, secured large portions of the Gulf South against European powers, and launched the career of one of America’s most influential military and political leaders. 

Mike's book list on understanding the Creek War of 1813 to 1814

Discover why each book is one of Mike's favorite books.

Why did Mike love 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.

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

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Creek War of 1813 and 1814 (Library Alabama Classics) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This account of the Creek War of 1813 and 1814 includes introductory material and a bibliography revised to reflect the advances in scholarship since the 1969 edition. The facsmile reproduction of the 1895 original provides an account of the Indians' point of view.


Book cover of The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

Keisha N. Blain Author Of Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer's Enduring Message to America

From the list on Black women in the Civil Rights Movement.

Who am I?

I first learned about Fannie Lou Hamer more than a decade ago, and I have been deeply inspired by her life story and her words. I didn’t initially think I would write a book about her. But the uprisings of 2020 motivated me to do so. Like so many people, I struggled to make sense of everything that was unfolding, and I began to question whether change was possible. The more I read Hamer’s words, the more clarity I found. Her vision for the world and her commitment to improving conditions for all people gave me a renewed sense of hope and purpose.

Keisha's book list on Black women in the Civil Rights Movement

Discover why each book is one of Keisha's favorite books.

Why did Keisha love this book?

Jeanne Theoharis’s work takes on the mainstream narrative of the civil rights movement by highlighting Rosa Parks’ long career as an activist and her commitment to racial equality. Her scholarship provides a window into Parks’ interior life, providing greater depth to a historical figure whose contribution is often reduced to a single act—refusing to give up her seat on a bus. The book offers a nuanced and well-rounded perspective on Black women’s lives. I strive to do the same in my own work.

By Jeanne Theoharis,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The basis for the documentary of the same name executive produced by award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien. The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks premieres on Peacock on October 19.

2014 NAACP Image Award Winner: Outstanding Literary Work–Biography/Autobiography
 
2013 Letitia Woods Brown Award from the Association of Black Women Historians

Choice Top 25 Academic Titles for 2013

The definitive political biography of Rosa Parks examines her six decades of activism, challenging perceptions of her as an accidental actor in the civil rights movement.

This revised edition includes a new introduction by the author, who reflects on materials in the Rosa Parks…


Until Friday Night

By Abbi Glines,

Book cover of Until Friday Night

Brandy Woods Snow Author Of As Much As I Ever Could

From the list on YA romances set in the American Deep South.

Who am I?

There’s never been a time I haven’t had a pen in my hand, crafting a good story. And as the YA literature movement grew, so did my love of it. There’s not a more “blooming” time of life when life and love and friendship can grow with such authenticity and excitement. And true to my Deep South roots, I write and gravitate to romance novels that capture the beauty of first love and Southern culture in tandem, from the slow, relaxed pace to the sometimes gritty culture to the never-meet-a-stranger, colorful personas. Where humidity is thick but the accents are thicker, that’s where you’ll find my Southern-fried heart!

Brandy's book list on YA romances set in the American Deep South

Discover why each book is one of Brandy's favorite books.

Why did Brandy love this book?

This Field Party series starter is my go-to when I need a good dose of Friday Night Lights, a splash of steam, and a heavy dose of drama. I mean, football meets love in bloom—can you get any more Southern that that? Main characters West and Maggie are both suffering through a recent/impending significant loss in their families, and this pain unites them on a deeper level than either has known before against the backdrop of a small Alabama town. 

By Abbi Glines,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Synopsis coming soon.......


Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

By James Agee, Walker Evans,

Book cover of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: Three Tenant Families

Andy Merrills Author Of The Vandals

From the list on thinking about history in a different way.

Who am I?

Andy Merrills teaches ancient and medieval history at the University of Leicester. He is a hopeless book addict, writes occasionally for work and for the whimsical periodical Slightly Foxed, and likes nothing so much as reading elegantly-composed works which completely change the way he thinks about everything. (This happens quite a lot). 

Andy's book list on thinking about history in a different way

Discover why each book is one of Andy's favorite books.

Why did Andy love this book?

This isn’t really a history book, but it made me think about many aspects of society and writing in a wholly new way. In 1936, Fortune Magazine commissioned the writer James Agee and the photographer Walker Evans to produce an extended article on families in Alabama during the tail end of the Great Depression. The task proved to be impossible, not just because the topic was too vast to fit into a single article, but also because of the complex responses that both men felt towards the task at hand and the families with whom they worked. The result was the long study Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, which is made up of Agee’s thoughts and reflections, and of Evans’s justly famous images. This is a tough read: not because the language is difficult (it isn’t), but because of the challenges of the theme, and of Agee’s struggles…

By James Agee, Walker Evans,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Let Us Now Praise Famous Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the summer of 1936, Agee and Evans set out on assignement for Fortune magazine to explore the daily lives of sharecroppers in the South. Their journey would prove an extraordinary collaboration and a watershed literary event when in 1941 Let Us Now Praise Famous Men was first published to enourmous critical acclaim. This unspairing record of place, of the people who shaped the land, and of the rhythm of their lives today stands as one of the most influential books of the twentieth century.


The Youngest Marcher

By Cynthia Levinson, Vanessa Brantley-Newton (illustrator),

Book cover of The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist

Annette Bay Pimentel Author Of All the Way to the Top: How One Girl's Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything

From the list on children’s books for young activists.

Who am I?

I grew up watching my older sister march through the world, pointing out to adults what was wrong with society and how they should change it. She included me in her activism sometimes, like the time she and I leafletted the neighbors, reminding them that they should vote in the next election. I want kids who aren’t lucky enough to grow up with an activist sibling to know that their voices matter. I write books about kids, like Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins, who change the world.

Annette's book list on children’s books for young activists

Discover why each book is one of Annette's favorite books.

Why did Annette love this book?

In May 1963, three thousand African American children allowed themselves to be arrested in Birmingham, Alabama to protest segregation. The youngest, Audrey Faye Hendricks, was an elementary school student. This picture book biography tells the story of how she came to march with a bunch of high schoolers and about the bravery she had to summon up for her stay in jail.

By Cynthia Levinson, Vanessa Brantley-Newton (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Meet the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963, in this moving picture book that proves you're never too little to make a difference.

Nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks intended to go places and do things like anybody else.

So when she heard grown-ups talk about wiping out Birmingham's segregation laws, she spoke up. As she listened to the preacher's words, smooth as glass, she sat up tall. And when she heard the plan-picket those white stores! March to protest those unfair laws! Fill the jails!-she stepped right up and said, I'll do…


Fallen Too Far

By Abbi Glines,

Book cover of Fallen Too Far

Jessica Cunsolo Author Of Best Vacation Ever

From the list on fun summer reads for lazy days by the pool.

Who am I?

There’s nothing better than sitting down at the pool to read a fun, engaging story that transports you into another world and keeps you entertained. I’ve always loved reading to escape, and when I started writing and posting my stories for free online at 17 years old, I discovered my true calling. My first story amassed 140 million reads with millions of comments, where people shared how much fun they had reading the story and how it helped them escape from their lives. Since then, I’ve continued writing stories I’m passionate about and sharing them with people who love a good, fun, romance.

Jessica's book list on fun summer reads for lazy days by the pool

Discover why each book is one of Jessica's favorite books.

Why did Jessica love this book?

Abbi Glines is the best at writing fun, steamy, New Adult summer romances.

You can’t help but be immediately immersed into the story, especially with all of the angst and drama and tension that leaves you needing to see how it’ll all work out. This book has got all those fun tropes that make a great poolside read: bad boy/good girl, enemies to lovers, step-siblings, forced proximity, and a coastal beach town.

By Abbi Glines,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestselling novel that launched the beloved world of Rosemary Beach and introduced the world to Rush and Blaire.

The wealthy son of a rocker. A tough farm girl from Alabama. Two step-siblings from different worlds. One summer in Rosemary Beach.

The last thing Blaire Wynn wants is to move in with her father’s new family in Rosemary Beach, Florida. She has no choice. Blaire’s mother has passed away after a long illness, leaving behind a mountain of medical debts and no way for Blaire to keep their small Alabama farmhouse.

Driving into the wealthy resort town…


The Quilts of Gee’s Bend

By William Arnett, Alvia Wardlaw, Jane Livingston, John Beardsley, Paul Arnett

Book cover of The Quilts of Gee’s Bend

Susan Goldman Rubin Author Of The Quilts of Gee's Bend

From the list on quilting created by African American women.

Who am I?

I first saw the quilts of Gee’s Bend at the Whitney Museum in New York. I was wowed! I viewed the quilts as works of art and included some in a book I was doing, Art Against the Odds: From Slave Quilts to Prison Paintings. But I wanted to show and tell more about the quilters. Who were these women who dreamed up incredible designs and made art out of scraps despite their poverty and hard lives? Since I never quilted I had to find out how they did it, and realized that quilting not only produced covers for their families, but expressed individual creativity, and brought women together.

Susan's book list on quilting created by African American women

Discover why each book is one of Susan's favorite books.

Why did Susan love this book?

I used this adult coffee table book as a main reference for writing my children’s book of the same title. The amazing reproductions of the quilts are beautiful. The colors glow. I could see the bits of patterns –flowers, triangles, plaids – ingeniously composed like abstract paintings. Captions give the names of the quilters.  And there are photos of them as well as vintage pictures. Quotes from the quilters tell their histories. One of the most touching stories was by Missouri Pettway who told that when her Daddy died her mother took his old work clothes to make a quilt “to remember him, and cover-up under it for love.” I have seen this extraordinary quilt displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and remembering the story behind it, was deeply moved.

By William Arnett, Alvia Wardlaw, Jane Livingston, John Beardsley, Paul Arnett

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Quilts of Gee’s Bend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since the 19th century, the women of Gee’s Bend in southern Alabama have created stunning, vibrant quilts. Beautifully illustrated with 110 color illustrations, The Quilts of Gee’s Bend includes a historical overview of the two hundred years of extraordinary quilt-making in this African-American community, its people, and their art-making tradition. This book is being·released in conjunction with a national exhibition tour including The Museum of Fine Art, Houston, the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, The Museum of Fine Art, Boston, The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Milwaukee Art Museum, The High Museum of Art, Atlanta,…


Barracoon

By Zora Neale Hurston,

Book cover of Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo"

Errick Nunnally Author Of All The Dead Men: Alexander Smith #2

From the list on history to thrill, disturb, and intrigue.

Who am I?

Errick Nunnally was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, and served one tour in the Marine Corps before deciding art school was a safer pursuit. He enjoys art, comics, and genre novels. A graphic designer, he has trained in Krav Maga and Muay Thai kickboxing. His work has appeared in several anthologies of speculative fiction. His work can be found in Apex Magazine, Fiyah Magazine, Galaxy’s Edge, Lamplight, Nightlight Podcast, and the novels, Lightning Wears a Red Cape, Blood for the Sun, and All the Dead Men.

Errick's book list on history to thrill, disturb, and intrigue

Discover why each book is one of Errick's favorite books.

Why did Errick love this book?

This book is a raw peek into America’s troubled past. It’s a series of interviews that Hurston conducts with a man who was on the last slave ship to make the transatlantic passage. It is a difficult read on two levels: subject matter and English. Hurston presents the words of a man named Cudjo Lewis as authentically as possible. What may seem to some today as parody, is translated to the page with accuracy. For me it communicated first-hand some of the past my main character has lived through. Books like this help to inform my protagonist’s current attitude toward the world (Alexander Smith in Blood For The Sun and All The Dead Men).

By Zora Neale Hurston,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A major literary event: a never-before-published work from the author of the American classic, Their Eyes Were Watching God which brilliantly illuminates the horror and injustices of slavery as it tells the true story of the last known survivor of the Atlantic slave trade-illegally smuggled from Africa on the last "Black Cargo" ship to arrive in the United States.

In 1927, Zora Neale Hurston went to Plateau, Alabama, to interview ninety-five-year-old Cudjo Lewis. Of the millions of men, women, and children transported from Africa to America as slaves, Cudjo was then the only person alive to tell the story of…


Claudette Colvin

By Phillip Hoose,

Book cover of Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice

Robert H. Mayer Author Of In the Name of Emmett Till: How the Children of the Mississippi Freedom Struggle Showed Us Tomorrow

From the list on history that engage and even excite young readers.

Who am I?

First a memory from my twelve years as a high school teacher: One day one of my ninth-grade history students remarked, “You are a nice guy Mr. Mayer. You can’t help it if you teach a boring subject.” That comment energized me, pushing me to show my students just how exciting the discipline of history was. I wanted my students to come to know historical actors, to hear their voices, and to feel their humanity. I then took that same project into my twenty-nine years as a teacher educator and finally into my life as a writer of historical non-fiction for young people. 

Robert's book list on history that engage and even excite young readers

Discover why each book is one of Robert's favorite books.

Why did Robert love this book?

In my writing I love to relate the stories of important historical actors that are unknown. Especially young actors.

Phillip Hoose apparently shares those loves. He gives us the story of Claudette Colvin who, at fifteen, refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus to a White person. This was nine months before Rosa Parks’ famous stand. Through Hoose’s beautifully-rendered narrative, we are on the bus with Colvin that day and we are later in the courtroom when she bravely tells her story. 

As I said previously, I love to use the actual words historical actors spoke in my books. Hoose seems to share that passion as well. The author carried out fourteen interviews with Ms. Colvin. Through her own voice, we come to know this amazing young woman.

By Phillip Hoose,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"When it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it. You can't sugarcoat it. You have to take a stand and say, 'This is not right.'" - Claudette Colvin
On March 2, 1955, an impassioned teenager, fed up with the daily injustices of Jim Crow segregation, refused to give her seat to a white woman on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Instead of being celebrated as Rosa Parks would be just nine months later, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin found herself shunned by her classmates and dismissed by community leaders. Undaunted, a year later she dared to challenge…


It Jes' Happened

By Don Tate, R. Gregory Christie (illustrator),

Book cover of It Jes' Happened

Nancy Churnin Author Of Beautiful Shades of Brown: The Art of Laura Wheeler Waring

From the list on children’s books about art.

Who am I?

I am an award-winning children’s book author who writes stories about ordinary people, like you and me, that discovered their unique gifts and used those gifts, plus perseverance, to make the world a better place. All my books come with free teacher guides, resources, and projects on my website where kids can share photos of the great things they do.

Nancy's book list on children’s books about art

Discover why each book is one of Nancy's favorite books.

Why did Nancy love 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 you love. Author Don Tate is best known as an award-winning illustrator, but here he reminds us that he paints with words, too. Meanwhile, R. Gregory Christie’s warm, wistful art helps us see the world through Traylor’s eyes and heart.

By Don Tate, R. Gregory Christie (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked It Jes' Happened as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New Voices Award Honor, Lee & Low Books
Ezra Jack Book Award Honor, Ezra Jack Keats Foundation
Editor's Choice, Booklist
Best Children's Books of the Year: Outstanding Merit, Bank Street College of Education
100 Magnificent Children's Books, Fuse #8 Production, SLJ
Choices, Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC)
Original Art Show, Society of Illustrators

The inspiring biography of self-taught (outsider) artist Bill Traylor, a former slave who at the age of eighty-five began to draw pictures based on his memories and observations of rural and urban life in Alabama.

Growing up as an enslaved boy on an Alabama cotton farm, Bill…


Blackwater

By Michael McDowell,

Book cover of Blackwater: The Complete Saga

Jill Hand Author Of White Oaks

From the list on Southern Gothic that are dark and twisted.

Who am I?

I’m a lifelong New Jerseyan married to a man whose family comes from Georgia. It gave me an opportunity to observe the white, Southern, upper-class weltanschauung, up close. To hear them talk, you’d think the Civil War had ended just a few days earlier, and if the Yankees had only respected states’ rights, none of that mess would have happened. My book is about a dysfunctional Georgia family who has far too much money than is good for them. Hijinks ensue.

Jill's book list on Southern Gothic that are dark and twisted

Discover why each book is one of Jill's favorite books.

Why did Jill love this book?

I love a sprawling family saga set in a small town. My husband’s father came from a small town in South Georgia that was founded by one of his ancestors. My husband’s grandfather, after visiting Chicago and being impressed by the big department stores he saw there, decided that what his tiny little town needed was a huge department store of its own. He built one, and amazingly, it was a success for many years, with folks coming from all around to marvel at its architectural sophistication and its dazzling array of wares. Like the fictional town of Perdido, Alabama, where the action is centered in Blackwater, everyone there knows everybody else, and nothing secret stays hidden for long.

On Easter Sunday, 1919, a flood engulfs Perdido. Oscar Caskey, the eldest son of the town’s most influential family, discovers a stranger named Elinor Dammert waiting patiently inside a room on…

By Michael McDowell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Blackwater is the saga of a small town, Perdido, Alabama, and Elinor Dammert, the stranger who arrives there under mysterious circumstances on Easter Sunday, 1919. On the surface, Elinor is gracious, charming, anxious to belong in Perdido, and eager to marry Oscar Caskey, the eldest son of Perdido’s first family. But her beautiful exterior hides a shocking secret. Beneath the waters of the Perdido River, she turns into something terrifying, a creature whispered about in stories that have chilled the residents of Perdido for generations. Some of those who observe her rituals in the river will never be seen again…


At the Dark End of the Street

By Danielle L. McGuire,

Book cover of At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance—A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power

Kimberly A. Hamlin Author Of Free Thinker: Sex, Suffrage, and the Extraordinary Life of Helen Hamilton Gardener

From the list on women fighting for bodily and political autonomy.

Who am I?

I was born in 1974 and grew up in a time when, at least on paper, women had equal rights. I also grew up not far from Harriet Tubman’s home, not far from Seneca Falls, not far from Susan B. Anthony’s house. I became a historian of women’s rights and, I sometimes joke, a secular evangelical for women’s history. Writing Free Thinker was, professionally, the most fun I have ever had. I can think of no better time than right now to study the histories of women who understood that bodily autonomy and political autonomy are two sides of the same coin and who dedicated their lives to securing both. 

Kimberly's book list on women fighting for bodily and political autonomy

Discover why each book is one of Kimberly's favorite books.

Why did Kimberly love this book?

Rosa Parks is one of a handful of American women whose names make it into our textbooks and social studies curriculum. However, the textbook version of Parks tends to sanitize her activism and skim the surface of her remarkable life. As one of my students observed, Parks’ powerful story has been reinterpreted “to make white people feel good about themselves,” as if somehow all the problems exposed by the Civil Rights movement were fixed after Parks refused to give up her seat. Danielle McGuire’s At the Dark End of the Street restores the fullness of Parks’ life and work, and places Black women and their fight against sexual violence at the center of the ongoing Civil Rights movement. This book transforms how we understand ourselves as a nation and as people. 

By Danielle L. McGuire,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked At the Dark End of the Street as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here is the courageous, groundbreaking story of Rosa Parks and Recy Taylor—a story that reinterprets the history of America's civil rights movement in terms of the sexual violence committed against Black women by white men.

"An important step to finally facing the terrible legacies of race and gender in this country.” —The Washington Post

Rosa Parks was often described as a sweet and reticent elderly woman whose tired feet caused her to defy segregation on Montgomery’s city buses, and whose supposedly solitary, spontaneous act sparked the 1955 bus boycott that gave birth to the civil rights movement. The truth of…


We've Got a Job

By Cynthia Levinson,

Book cover of We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March

Anthony Grooms Author Of Bombingham

From the list on to teach about the civil rights movement.

Who am I?

I grew up in the American South during the Civil Rights Movement. The movement was nearly constant conversation, approached with cautious optimism, in my household. Years later, I met my wife, whose family lived in Birmingham, Alabama, and participated in various ways in the movement in that city. Soon after I began to study and write about the Civil Rights Movement, especially the Birmingham movement. I’ve published two books of fiction that reflect on the Movement and I’ve taught college courses and given many lectures in the States and abroad about literature and film set during the Civil Rights Movement.

Anthony's book list on to teach about the civil rights movement

Discover why each book is one of Anthony's favorite books.

Why did Anthony love this book?

I wanted a good middle-grade book to introduce my son to the Birmingham Children’s March.   Doing so was important to me since his mother grew up in Birmingham, a little girl in 1963.  Levinson’s book features the stories of four children, one who was my wife’s schoolmate, who marched and were fire-hosed. With historical photographs and interviews, the book is an inviting and moving introduction for middle-graders to the why and how of the Movement and the bravery of the youngest activists.

By Cynthia Levinson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We've Got a Job as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The inspiring story of the 1963 Birmingham Children's March as seen through the eyes of four young people at the center of the action.

The 1963 Birmingham Children's March was a turning point in American civil rights history. Black Americans had had enough of segregation and police brutality, but with their lives and jobs at stake, most adults were hesitant to protest the city's racist culture. So the fight for civil rights lay in the hands of children like Audrey Hendricks, Wash Booker, James Stewart, and Arnetta Streeter.

We've Got a Job tells the little-known story of the four thousand…


Gee's Bend

By William Arnett (editor), Alvia Wardlaw (editor), Jane Livingston (editor), John Beardsley (editor)

Book cover of Gee's Bend: The Women and Their Quilts

Susan Goldman Rubin Author Of The Quilts of Gee's Bend

From the list on quilting created by African American women.

Who am I?

I first saw the quilts of Gee’s Bend at the Whitney Museum in New York. I was wowed! I viewed the quilts as works of art and included some in a book I was doing, Art Against the Odds: From Slave Quilts to Prison Paintings. But I wanted to show and tell more about the quilters. Who were these women who dreamed up incredible designs and made art out of scraps despite their poverty and hard lives? Since I never quilted I had to find out how they did it, and realized that quilting not only produced covers for their families, but expressed individual creativity, and brought women together.

Susan's book list on quilting created by African American women

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Why did Susan love this book?

This huge volume was another reference book for me as I researched The Quilts of Gee’s Bend.  The large reproductions of the quilts showed how the women with the same material used it in different waysStartling to see so many imaginative versions of a pattern called Housetop. Two quilts titled Flower Garden shown side by side are dazzling. And this book contains more photos of the quilters and provides information about their lives and struggles against poverty and racism. The art they produced despite their limited resources and hardships is truly an inspiration. A miracle!

By William Arnett (editor), Alvia Wardlaw (editor), Jane Livingston (editor), John Beardsley (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gee's Bend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hardcover Book


The Heart Mender

By Andy Andrews,

Book cover of The Heart Mender: A Story of Second Chances

Lisbeth Eng Author Of In the Arms of the Enemy

From the list on World War II with unexpected love stories.

Who am I?

I’ve long been enthralled by tales, real and fictional, that transcend the obvious and clichéd. My interest in World War II was piqued years ago while studying in Italy, when our professor regaled us with accounts of the Italian Resistance. Depictions of the “enemy” in fiction are often brutalized, and he is portrayed as less than human, compared with those on the righteous side of the battle. As a romance writer, crafting characters as living, breathing human beings, amidst the abyss of war, became my passion. Conflict is essential to a captivating plot, and what could be more intriguing than pitting heroine against hero in mortal struggle.

Lisbeth's book list on World War II with unexpected love stories

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Why did Lisbeth love this book?

Tales of enemies who become lovers – whether from warring families or rival gangs – are as old as Pyramus and Thisbe, Romeo and Juliet, and Tony and Maria.

Setting this story during an actual war heightens the tension. This book will draw you in from the start.

Josef Landermann sails aboard a German U-boat, hunting Allied supply ships in the waters of the Gulf Coast. Helen Mason is the embittered Alabama widow of a US Army Air Force pilot killed by the Luftwaffe. How Josef and Helen come together is a remarkable, enchanting true story.

Woven around themes of love and forgiveness, The Heart Mender is a thrilling page-turner that will touch your heart.

By Andy Andrews,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Can natural enemies make peace? Actually...can they fall in love? In his classic storytelling style, New York Times bestselling author Andy Andrews delivers an adventure set sharply against the warm waters and white sands of the Gulf of Mexico in WWII America.

Saddened and unable to abandon her resentment toward the Nazi war machine that took her husband's life, Helen Mason is living a bitter, lonely existence. Betrayed and left for dead, German U-boat officer Lt. Josef Landermann washes ashore in a sleepy town along the northern gulf coast, looking to Helen for survival.

As you uncover the incredible story…


Furious Hours

By Casey Cep,

Book cover of Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee

Rob St. Clair Author Of Saving Stacy: The Untold Story of the Moody Massacre

From the list on true crime tragedies.

Who am I?

Working as a prosecutor, trial lawyer for defendants, and as a magistrate, I’m always bothered by the misconception most people have of our criminal justice system. Unfortunately, cops are crooked, judges are corrupt, and witnesses lie on the stand. Not everyone, not every day, but more often than you would ever imagine. I write true crime books about cases where the underlying focus is on officials who are incompetent, derelict in their duties, or simply downright corrupt. The cases are always suspenseful, but justice is rarely served, and both the defendant and the public are the ones who lose.

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Why did Rob love this book?

Everyone loves Harper Lee, but not everyone knows her background as a reporter.

Reverend Willie Maxwell was a rural preacher accused of murdering five of his family members, but with the help of a savvy lawyer he escaped justice for years until a relative assassinated him at the funeral of his last victim. Despite hundreds of witnesses, Maxwell’s murderer was acquitted—thanks to the same attorney who had previously defended the reverend himself.

Sitting in the audience during the vigilante’s trial was Harper Lee, who spent a year in town reporting on the Maxwell case and many more trying to finish the book she called “The Reverend.” In this well-written true-crime story, Cep brings to life the horrifying murders, the courtroom drama, and the racial politics of the Deep South while offering a deeply moving portrait of Harper Lee.

By Casey Cep,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A BARACK OBAMA BOOK OF THE YEAR
WINNER OF THE 2020 CRIME WRITERS' ASSOCIATION ALCS GOLD DAGGER FOR NON-FICTION
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2019 BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION
A SUNDAY TIMES, ECONOMIST AND SPECTATOR BOOK OF THE YEAR

'A triumph on every level. One of the losses to literature is that Harper Lee never found a way to tell a gothic true-crime story she'd spent years researching. Casey Cep has excavated this mesmerizing story and tells it with grace and insight and a fierce fidelity to the truth.'
DAVID GRANN, author of Killers of the Flower Moon
_____________________________
The stunning…


Bad Blood

By James H. Jones,

Book cover of Bad Blood

Allen M. Hornblum Author Of Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America

From the list on human experimentation.

Who am I?

I began working in prisons 50 years ago. I was just out of grad school and I accepted the challenge of starting a literacy program in the Philadelphia Prison System. The shock of cellblock life was eye-opening, but the most unexpected revelation was the sight of scores of inmates wrapped in bandages and medical tape. Unknown to the general public, the three city prisons had become a lucrative appendage of the University of Pennsylvania’s Medical School. As I would discover years later, thousands of imprisoned Philadelphians had been used in a cross-section of unethical and dangerous scientific studies running the gamut from simple hair dye and athlete’s foot trials to radioactive isotope, dioxin, and US Army chemical warfare studies. My account of the prison experiments, Acres of Skin, helped instill in me an abiding faith in well-researched journalism as an antidote to societal indiscretions and crimes.

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Why did Allen love this book?

This in-depth account of the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study is considered a classic in the field of medical ethics. Though Greg Dober and I have recently discovered the true origins of the Public Health Service’s “non-treatment study” and former Surgeon General Thomas Parran’s critical role in the ugly saga, Jones’s book is still the best chronicle available, and lays out a devastating narrative of how a sophisticated but uncaring and racist scientific establishment could annually examine and not treat hundreds of unschooled Alabama sharecroppers suffering from a deadly disease. 

By James H. Jones,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From 1932 to 1972, the United States Public Health Service conducted a non-therapeutic experiment involving over 400 black male sharecroppers infected with syphilis. The Tuskegee Study had nothing to do with treatment. It purpose was to trace the spontaneous evolution of the disease in order to learn how syphilis affected black subjects. The men were not told they had syphilis; they were not warned about what the disease might do to them; and, with the exception of a smattering of medication during the first few months, they were not given health care. Instead of the powerful drugs they required, they…


Fallen Prince

By Donald P. Stone,

Book cover of Fallen Prince: William James Edwards, Black Education, and the Quest for Afro-American Nationality

Jillian Hishaw Author Of Systematic Land Theft

From the list on the history of land dispossession.

Who am I?

My family’s farm was lost due to a dishonest lawyer that my great-grandmother entrusted. Because of that, I have devoted the past 20 years of my career to providing low-cost legal services to aging rural farmers around estate planning and civil rights. As an attorney, I have worked for the US Department of Agriculture and the Office of Civil Rights in Washington DC. I also founded the non-profit organization F.A.R.M.S., which provides services to aging rural farmers such as preventing farm foreclosures, executing wills, and securing purchase contracts. After drafting Systematic Land Theft over the span of several years, I am happy to release this historic synopsis documenting the land theft of Indigenous and Black communities. I have written extensively on the topics of agriculture, environmental, and land injustice in a variety of legal, trade, and other publications.

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Why did Jillian love this book?

William James Edward is the grandfather of the author Donald Stone. The author does a great job of highlighting the importance that William J. Edward placed on lineage at the beginning of the book. The author shows the forgotten legacy of Edwards as one of Tuskegee’s first graduates. Edwards goes on to start a secondary school in Wilcox county Alabama, following the legacy of Booker T. Washington. The school was called the Snow Hill Institute and in its prime employed over 20 teachers and had over a dozen buildings on the campus. The curriculum was like Tuskegee, where the students learned trades and received a formal education. Under the leadership of William James Edwards, the school thrived until it was forced to close in the 1960s. Donald Stone mostly uses primary sources to paint a picture of the opposition that Edwards faced in trying to operate a school outside of…

By Donald P. Stone,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Book by Stone, Donald P.