The most recommended books about the Deep South

Who picked these books? Meet our 12 experts.

12 authors created a book list connected to the Deep South, and here are their favorite Deep South books.
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Book cover of Emergency Contact

Brandy Woods Snow Author Of As Much As I Ever Could

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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

Brandy Woods Snow Why did Brandy love this book?

Talk about an all-out emotional whirlwind in this Texas-based book that explores that all-too-often overlooked time of incredible growth during the college years for main characters Penny and Sam. Woven together through a textual relationship, love grows in a charmingly authentic, open, and honest way. Well-developed secondary characters, a deep exploration of a range of emotions, and some yummy baked goods make this book unputdownable! 

By Mary H. K. Choi,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Emergency Contact as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

"Smart and funny, with characters so real and vulnerable, you want to send them care packages. I loved this book." -Rainbow Rowell

From debut author Mary H.K. Choi comes a compulsively readable novel that shows young love in all its awkward glory-perfect for fans of Eleanor & Park and To All the Boys I've Loved Before.

For Penny Lee, high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she'd somehow landed a boyfriend, they never managed to know much about each other. Now Penny is heading to college in Austin, Texas, to learn…


Book cover of Mrs. Wiggins

Suzette Harrison Author Of My Name Is Ona Judge

From my list on portraying African-American historical heroines.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a youthful spirit, but an old soul. Perhaps, that’s why I love African American history and gravitated to Black Studies as my undergraduate degree. My reverence for my ancestors sends me time and again to African-American historical fiction in an effort to connect with our past. Growing up, I was that kid who liked being around my elders and eavesdropping on grown-ups' conversations. Now, I listen to my ancestors as they guide my creativity. I’m an award-winning hybrid author writing contemporary and historical novels, and I value each. Still, it’s those historical characters and tales that snatch me by the hand and passionately urge me to do their bidding. 

Suzette's book list on portraying African-American historical heroines

Suzette Harrison Why did Suzette love this book?

Clearly, I’m a fan of small, southern town tales depicting amazing African American females who make magic out of the injustices stacked against them. Well, meet Maggie Wiggins. She and her best friend, Hubert, turn life tragedies and situations into a “perfectly suited” marriage of deception. Outwardly, they live an enviable existence; but only they know the cost of their happiness. I love Mary Monroe’s ability to infuse humor into the most chilling situations, as well as her small town cosmoses and complicated, “countrified” characters. They frustrate me to no end, yet I find myself rooting for them, just as I rooted for Maggie to win. She does in the end but at such a horrific cost that I’ll never look at a bowl of gumbo the same way again. 

By Mary Monroe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of the classic, captivating, and scandalous Mama Ruby series, comes a church-going matriarch’s rags to riches Depression era story set in the Deep South. The respectable family she has built means everything to her, and she’ll do anything to keep them.
 
The daughter of a prostitute mother and an alcoholic father, Maggie Franklin knew her only way out was to marry someone upstanding and church-going. Someone like Hubert Wiggins, the most eligible man in Lexington, Alabama—and the son of its most revered preacher. Proper and prosperous, Hubert is glad to finally…


Book cover of Ava's Man

Mary S. Palmer Author Of Boyington Oak: A Grave Injustice

From my list on understanding people and their motivations.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was intrigued to write this creative nonfiction book because it is a true story. It’s Mobile’s oldest and most famous legend. After extensive research, I discovered Boyington had two unqualified jurors, and all was based on circumstantial evidence. Still, he was hanged at age nineteen. A group of Mobilians formed the Boyington Oak Society, and we’ve applied for a posthumous pardon. My play is produced annually at Oakleigh Historic Museum. It has also been optioned for a movie, and the script is written.

Mary's book list on understanding people and their motivations

Mary S. Palmer Why did Mary love this book?

Rick Bragg’s obsession with a grandfather he ever knew was fascinating. This was a man who lived during the Great Depression. He didn’t wear clothes with holes in them because that was popular, he did it because those were the only clothes he owned. It unveiled the ability of an ordinary man to do extraordinary things, an impressive accomplishment.

By Rick Bragg,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ava's Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • With the same emotional generosity and effortlessly compelling storytelling that made All Over But the Shoutin’ a beloved bestseller, Rick Bragg continues his personal history of the Deep South.

This time he’s writing about his grandfather Charlie Bundrum, a man who died before Bragg was born but left an indelible imprint on the people who loved him. Drawing on their memories, Bragg reconstructs the life of an unlettered roofer who kept food on his family’s table through the worst of the Great Depression; a moonshiner who drank exactly one pint for every gallon he sold; an unregenerate…


Book cover of For Us, the Living

Derek R. King Author Of The Life and Times of Clyde Kennard

From my list on lesser-known Civil Rights.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by the Civil Rights Movement in the Deep South in the 1950s and 60s for many years. Keen to understand not just events in that timeframe, I also needed to understand how those entrenched and diametrically opposed positions had occurred. What triggered the responses of water cannon, German shepherd dogs, and Billy clubs to seemingly peaceful students marching or seated in a particular section of a café? Over a period of seventeen years, I amassed a private collection of books, magazines, newspapers, over two hundred in all, along with material from various state-run Departments of Archives of History, further amplifying my fascination and providing fodder for my book.

Derek's book list on lesser-known Civil Rights

Derek R. King Why did Derek love this book?

This was the book, which truly drew me into the world of the Civil Rights struggle in America, a personalized account by Myrlie Ever’s of her life (and that of their children), with her civil rights worker husband and father, until his untimely assassination in 1963.

It is a very personal and moving account of their family life, their passion, and pursuit of the American Dream of equal rights for their family, set against the backdrop of a deeply segregated social order of their time in the Deep South. 

I found this book compelling, enlightening, and touching.

By Myrlie Evers Williams, William Peters,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1967, when this brave book was first published, Myrlie Evers said, ""Somewhere in Mississippi lives the man who murdered my husband.""Medgar Evers died in a horrifying act of political violence. Among both blacks and whites the killing of this Mississippi civil rights leader intensified the menacing moods of unrest and discontent generated during the civil rights era. His death seemed to usher in a succession of political shootings--Evers, then John Kennedy, then Martin Luther King, Jr., then Robert Kennedy.

At thirty-seven while field secretary for the NAACP, Evers was gunned down in Jackson, Mississippi, during the summer of 1963.…


Book cover of The South Strikes Back

Derek R. King Author Of The Life and Times of Clyde Kennard

From my list on lesser-known Civil Rights.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by the Civil Rights Movement in the Deep South in the 1950s and 60s for many years. Keen to understand not just events in that timeframe, I also needed to understand how those entrenched and diametrically opposed positions had occurred. What triggered the responses of water cannon, German shepherd dogs, and Billy clubs to seemingly peaceful students marching or seated in a particular section of a café? Over a period of seventeen years, I amassed a private collection of books, magazines, newspapers, over two hundred in all, along with material from various state-run Departments of Archives of History, further amplifying my fascination and providing fodder for my book.

Derek's book list on lesser-known Civil Rights

Derek R. King Why did Derek love this book?

While many books are written after the event or events contained in the book, this book is contemporary to the events it relates to. In this case the birth and growth of the Citizens Councils in the Deep South in the mid-1950s. 

The author and then managing editor of the Greenville Democratic Times sets out, in a clear and readily understood way, the mood of the day among the white-collar political and business classes in the months and years immediately following the Brown v Board of Education decision.

It’s a worthy read and a touchstone of the rising political temperatures of those times.  

By Hodding Carter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In The South Strikes Back, Hodding Carter III describes the birth of the white Citizens' Council in the Mississippi Delta and its spread throughout the South. Carter begins with a brief historical overview and traces the formation of the Council, its treatment of African Americans, and its impact on white communities, concluding with an analysis of the Council's future in Mississippi.

Through economic boycott, social pressure, and political influence, the Citizens' Council was able to subdue its opponents and dominate the communities in which it operated. Carter considers trends working against the Council-the federal government's efforts to improve voting rights…


Book cover of God's Little Acre

Lillah Lawson Author Of Monarchs Under the Sassafras Tree

From my list on Southern Gothic with a heart.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the author of three novels (with two more set to release next year); Monarchs Under the Sassafras Tree; The Dead Rockstar Trilogy; and I'm happiest when straddling literary genres. I have published works of historical fiction, as well as southern gothic, horror, speculative fiction, dark fantasy, and literary fiction. My debut, Monarchs Under the Sassafras Tree was nominated for Georgia Author of the Year in 2020. In addition to writing, I am a genealogist and recently went back to school to obtain my history degree. My love of writing, history, and family all intersect to inform my writing and I always set my characters in good old Georgia.

Lillah's book list on Southern Gothic with a heart

Lillah Lawson Why did Lillah love this book?

Erskine Caldwell is deeply underrated; for my money, he’s one of the best southern gothic writers in the genre. Perhaps it’s down to the risque nature of his books and characters, which were especially provocative (and in some cases, downright despicable) for the time period. However, beyond the depravity there is a real beating heart in his books that perfectly capture the desperation and grief of depression-era Georgia. 

By Erskine Caldwell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Like Tobacco Road, this novel chronicles the final decline of a poor white family in rural Georgia. Exhorted by their patriarch Ty Ty, the Waldens ruin their land by digging it up in search of gold. Complex sexual entanglements and betrayals lead to a murder within the family that completes its dissolution. Juxtaposed against the Waldens' obsessive search is the story of Ty Ty's son-in-law, a cotton mill worker in a nearby town who is killed during a strike.

First published in 1933, God's Little Acre was censured by the Georgia Literary Commission, banned in Boston, and once led the…


Book cover of Jonah's Gourd Vine

Chuck Redman Author Of A Cottonwood Stand: A Novel of Nebraska

From Chuck's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Old trial lawyer Actor Wonderer Wascally wabbit

Chuck's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Chuck Redman Why did Chuck love this book?

It’s the colorful story of John Pearson, a son of emancipated slaves, and his struggles to advance himself and achieve security, respectability, and spiritual fulfillment in the face of cultural barriers and irresistible temptations.

John is a human being with the full set of human strengths and weaknesses in an era when much of the human race was not universally regarded as human. Thus, the novel is an unadorned portrayal of the lives and culture of rural black Americans in the Deep South after Reconstruction.

It is a valuable resource, memorializing their language, their lifestyle, their beliefs, and their legacy. The dialogue is rendered in slavery-era dialect, and there is so much wit and wisdom; it’s pungent with the atmosphere of that long-lost era of the African-American past.

By Zora Neale Hurston,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A story of love and community, written by the hand of Zora Neale Hurston, one of the 20th century’s greatest authors, and a woman who truly understands her characters’ motivations. This modern classic edition of Jonah's Gourd Vine features an updated cover and a P.S. section which includes insights, interviews, and more.

Jonah's Gourd Vine, Zora Neale Hurston’s first novel, originally published in 1934, tells the story of John Buddy Pearson, “a living exultation” of a young man who loves too many women for his own good. Lucy, his long-suffering wife, is his true love, but there’s also Mehaly and…


Book cover of Maybe This Time

Brandy Woods Snow Author Of As Much As I Ever Could

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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

Brandy Woods Snow Why did Brandy love this book?

Set in small-town Alabama, Sophie is working at the local florist while dreaming all the big city dreams but slowly falling for love interest, Andrew. I’m a sucker for slow-burn romances told in unconventional ways while enjoying a good Southern setting, and this book has it! Enemies-to-lovers over the course of a year’s events and with a heavy dose of family dynamics bubbling to the surface? Yes, please!

By Kasie West,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Maybe This Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Beloved author Kasie West brings her signature witty banter and rom-com fun to a bold, fresh format. Think Four Weddings and a Funeral for YA.

One year. Nine events. Nine chances to . . . fall in love?Weddings. Funerals. Barbecues. New Year's Eve parties. Name the occasion, and Sophie Evans will be there. Well, she has to be there. Sophie works for the local florist, so she can be found at every big event in her small hometown, arranging bouquets and managing family dramas.Enter Andrew Hart. The son of the fancy new chef in town, Andrew is suddenly required to…


Book cover of Deep South

Catyana Skory Falsetti Author Of Facing Death: A Julia Rawson Mystery

From my list on solve mysteries & learn something at the same time.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've always wanted to be a detective. I remember writing stories on my mom's old typewriter and playing pretend investigator with my childhood friend. I have had an appetite for stories and mysteries for as long as I remember. I was intrigued by human behavior and had the desire to find justice. This led me to study forensics and use my fine art ability and critical mind to get answers for victims and their families. I have a Master's Degree in Forensic Science and years of government and experience as a forensic artist and investigator, making my writing as authentic as possible. My story and personal struggles, and life's discoveries are highlighted by my stories.

Catyana's book list on solve mysteries & learn something at the same time

Catyana Skory Falsetti Why did Catyana love this book?

I enjoy murder mystery series where you can get to know the protagonist and be exposed to things I would never imagine. Nevada Barr does this in a fun way through the eyes of Anna Pigeon, a National Parks Ranger. The details about the job ring true because Barr herself worked as a ranger in National Parks. Through Deep South, we learn about sexism in the workplace. She highlights society's and nature's complexity and how it feels to be an outsider and hold onto your own worth.

By Nevada Barr,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Nevada Barr's ever-popular Anna Pigeon series is consistently praised as "exceptional" (Denver Post), "stunning" (Seattle Times), and "superb" (New York Times Book Review). In Deep South, Park Ranger Anna Pigeon heads to Mississippi, only to encounter terrible secrets in the heart of the south...

Anna Pigeon finally gives in to her bureaucratic clock-and signs on for a promotion. Next thing she knows, she's knee-deep in mud and Mississippi. Not exactly what she had in mind. Almost immediately, as the new district ranger on the Natchez Trace, Anna discovers the body of a young prom queen near a country cemetery, a…


Book cover of A Feast of Snakes

Eli Cranor Author Of Don't Know Tough

From my list on football from a quarterback turned novelist.

Why am I passionate about this?

I scored my first touchdown at nine and went on to play quarterback at both the collegiate and professional levels. By twenty-six, I was the head coach of a backwoods high school in Arkansas. My debut novel, Don’t Know Tough, is a football-centric thriller and was named one of the “Best Crime Novels” of 2022 by the New York Times. After that book's publication, I’ve had readers reach out and ask about my favorite football novels, so I was thrilled to get the chance to compile them all into one list. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have. 

Eli's book list on football from a quarterback turned novelist

Eli Cranor Why did Eli love this book?

A Feast of Snakes is about a washed-up high school football star. It’s heart-wrenching and hilarious. So much so, I can remember reading lines out loud to my wife more than once when I first encountered this book. Set in Georgia, Crews’s home state, this novel also features the “Rattlesnake Roundup," which I can promise, you won’t want to miss.

By Harry Crews,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the acclaimed author of such novels as "Blood and Grits" and "Childhood" comes a wildly weird and breathtakingly original visit to the rural South that reveals the exotic subculture that erupts in all its glory at the Rattlesnake Roundup in Mystic, Georgia. "No number of adjectives in the thesaurus can do full justice to the dazzlingly bizarre nature of Crews' creations"-- "Washington Post Book World"