All 45 Louisiana books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.
Brokenburn: The Journal of Kate Stone, 1861-1868
John Q. Anderson,
Why this book?
Kate Stone was 20 years old when the Civil War came, living as a cherished daughter in a large, loving, wealthy Louisiana family headed by her indomitable widowed mother. The war up-ended Kate’s world. Beloved brothers joined the Confederate Army. First luxuries and then necessities dried up. Union forces helped themselves to Kate’s favorite horse. Neighbors and relations died or left. Eventually Kate and her family did, too, “refugeeing” to Texas where they did not always mingle smoothly with the locals. Meanwhile, the same forces that shattered Kate’s world opened the doors to a new one for the many enslaved…
Acadian to Cajun: Transformation of a People, 1803-1877
Carl A. Brasseaux,
Why this book?
It comes as a surprise to many, but no Acadians were deported to Louisiana. It was a French colony in 1755, and those making the decisions about where the deportees were to go did not want to strengthen any French colony. They chose the Anglo-American colonies so there could be assimilation. The reason so many Acadians—renamed Cajuns—ended up in Louisiana was because of later migrations; voluntary migrations, not forced deportations. This book examines the growth, evolution, and political involvement of Louisiana's large Acadian community between the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and 1877, the end of Reconstruction in…
Donald Marquis takes you firmly by the hand and leads you into that Wonderland that was New Orleans from 1877, when Bolden was born; then through the brief but extraordinary rise of Bolden’s personality and the powerful sound of his trumpet echoing through the streets of New Orleans. The author brings out Buddy’s tragic descent into mental illness, his entrance into the Insane Asylum of Louisiana, and his untimely death in 1930 at the young age of thirty-three. The book is a very sober tale of life in those times, it is rooted in the political and artistic history of…
At the outset, Sookie Stackhouse seems like a normal young woman living the best life she can in a not-so-fabulous part of rural America. She has all the problems you’ve likely faced yourself. But she has a secret that sets her apart from everyone else: you’ll never keep a secret from her. She doesn’t just read a room well, Sookie can hear your very thoughts… and you disgust her, son. But all that changes the day she meets a man whose mind is closed to her.
Harris’ legacy character from Dead Until Dark spawned a powerhouse series filled with vampires,…
Zeitoun reads like a novel, but it's not. Dave Eggers tells the true story of Abdulrahman Zeitoun and his family in New Orleans after Katrina. Known simply as "Zeitoun," Abdulrahman is a Syrian-born American citizen; his wife, Kathy, is a white Louisianan who converted to Islam before meeting her future husband. Zeitoun stayed in New Orleans after the storm, rescuing neighbors and bringing them supplies, until the authorities mistakenly arrested him as a potential terrorist. In this book, the Zeitouns and other ordinary New Orleans residents are the heroes; the villains are the police and especially the feds (FEMA and…
On The Trail of Delusion: Jim Garrison: The Great Accuser
Why this book?
In a similar vein to False Witness, Litwin not only exposes the shortcomings of the Garrison investigation into the JFK murder but in the process uncovers the fraud and false information that are cited to support some of the currently popular conspiracy theories about the assassination. It is filled with new information from Litwin’s own extensive research.
Carole Boston Weatherford,
R. Gregory Christie (illustrator),
Why this book?
This brilliant book tells the story of a lesser-known piece of African American history. Congo Square in New Orleans was a place where slaves were free to set up an open market, sing, dance, and play music...but only on Sundays for half a day. If you ever feel down this is a reminder of how indomitable the human spirit can be in the face of unspeakable adversity.
Forever This Summer is a lovely tale about the power of a family coming together in a tough time. Georgia, her Mama, and the happenings in and around the Sweetings Family Diner are relatable. As Georgia and her Mama look to help Aunt Vie, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, she learns her own family history. It’s a different take on the notion of memories. Aunt Vie’s memories are disappearing and being replaced by those of Georgia’s as she visits the people and places that made the women in her life who they are.
This book stayed in my head for a long time, I think I read it back in high school. I was fascinated by the occult happening in Louisiana. It was my first encounter with this kind of folklore, voodoo, and black magic. It sends me the same vibes as King Diamond’s Voodoo concept album.
I found the ancient curse theme intriguing and the origin of the evil within the Conway house fascinating. All in all, I remember how the convoluted and twisted plot kept the pages turning quickly.
Maddy is a city kid spending her first summer alone at her Grandmère’s house on the bayou in Louisiana. Her grandmother is a little bit strange, but she and Maddy get along perfectly and can even read each other’s minds. At Grandmère’s side, Maddy learns to cook, to care for her chickens, to make healing potions, study the weather and tides, but she also learns not to stare, not to mumble, not to be quick to judge. And when an environmental and emotional disaster occurs, Maddy is called on to lead and to heal all on her own. Her triumph…
In her final novel of the Mayfair Witch Trilogy, Anne Rice really seduced me with the concept of the sympathetic monster. Ash, her Taltos character is inhuman, but so pure and love-filled, I understood that an inhuman character can be used to highlight humanity’s greatest strengths. Around the creation of her creatures, she wove a history of fiction and legend and Celtic history that I found fascinating. I read this book almost thirty years ago, and it’s still one of those books that I hark back to as inspiration.
I love The Story of An Hour: Short Storyby Kate Chopin because this tale has a delicious plot twist and portrays irony at its finest. I resonate with the feminist message — the oppression and the realization of what the heart truly desires and the heartbreak of that being ripped away. Very emotive. I felt what the main character was feeling and didn’t see the ending coming. This is my favorite type of story and the kind I love to write.
I began reading Williams’s biography as research for a recent historical novel, scanning passages listed in the index. Soon enough, I was gulping whole sections and chapters; I couldn’t stop reading the thing. Williams reminded me how exuberant political narrative nonfiction can be and taught me as much about writing as about Huey Long. He showed ways to showcase characters’ traits and tells, portraits-in-miniature, in a “God is in the details” vibe. He showed how to set a story in its historical context while also using history as a mirror for contemporary times. And, through Long himself, Williams made me…
American Hippo: River of Teeth, Taste of Marrow, and New Stories
Why this book?
A reimagining of how one decision could change the American landscape… why Thomas Jefferson decided against introducing hippopotamuses to the swamps and marshes of the American South, I’ll never know. But Sarah Gailey gives us a glimpse into this alternative history and it is full of water bearers as fearsome and loyal as any war horse. Reading this in one sitting on a plane ride, I was fascinated by how vastly different—and dangerous—the Mississippi bayous could be when full of a certain shady type of gunslinger creeping through the water with Spanish moss hanging overhead. I…
This was the first dark fantasy novel I ever read on the matter of divine feminine power, and it remains by far the greatest. Dripping in lush, elegant prose, Anne Rice’s story of the haunted Mayfair family has never left my mind. Rice exposes the histories of thirteen incredible women, each haunted by a diabolical ghost who follows their bloodline through the centuries.
You’ll need a month and an organization chart to ingest every detail, but you won’t regret getting lost in this magnum opus. The sequels are far more digestible and focused, but nowhere near as delicious as this…
With polished language and measured pace, Blow tells a fascinating coming-of-age story of growing up in a small Louisiana town. As the youngest in a family of five boys raised by a schoolteacher mother, with the help of her extended family, he unveils his struggles with sexual identity and masculinity.
The Pirates Laffite: The Treacherous World of the Corsairs of the Gulf
William C. Davis,
Why this book?
The Laffite brothers, Pierre and especially Jean, loom large in the mythology of the Battle of New Orleans, although in truth the contribution of the Baratarian pirates to Jackson’s great victory was rather modest. In this work, Davis fleshes out the life and character of the two brothers, showing how the accepted view of their contribution to Jackson’s success in the campaign has been overstated.
This book, on the younger range of YA, features twelve-year-old King in Louisiana bayou country. Not only is King Black, but he thinks he might be gay. He has a special friendship with Sandy, who is white and whose father is a known KKK member. The story opens with the sudden and unexpected death of King’s big brother Khalid, a soccer star. Khalid had told King not to hang with Sandy because he would appear to be gay and be shunned by his classmates. While suffering deep grief, King complies for a time, but without Khalid, without Sandy, he has…
Building the Devil's Empire: French Colonial New Orleans
Shannon Lee Dawdy,
Why this book?
This book is about the city of New Orleans, and how it came to be, as an outpost of 3 empires in turn (the French, the Spanish, and the nascent United States). Its cultural mix gave it a rich identity, but also practical issues - whose legal system would be followed? What language should be used? This legacy created a particular urban environment, and Dawdy’s work brings out the most fascinating stories in how this city came to be.
The setting is 1988 bayou Louisiana. The protagonist, detective Dave Robicheaux, is an alcoholic who never stops battling to contain his flaws. After leaving the New Orleans Police Department, Robicheaux and his wife have opened a fishing-guide business. The plot is set in motion when he rescues a little girl after a plane crash that sets him on a collision course with the criminally cruel Bubba Rocque. Dimensional characters around Robicheaux add to the story like tesserae to a mosaic, none more than best friend, Clete Purcell.
Caren Gray, the manager of a historic plantation, learns the body of a migrant worker has been discovered on the grounds. Searching for answers, she stumbles upon another crime that occurred over a century ago in the era of slavery and may hold the key to unlocking revelations in the present. Locke does a fantastic job of balancing the two timelines for great effect. History can haunt us, but this book leaves you with the eerie feeling of being surveilled by the past.
I’m a big fan of young adult fiction and I’m also a big fan of supernatural stories that take place in the “real” world. Doll follows a trio of high school students, who, tired of being bullied, seek out the assistance of Tomie’s cousin… who just happens to be a witch. As far as young adult horror goes, Miracle Austin is the best of the best.
Wow, I love this book. I read it out loud with my daughter when she was in seventh grade. It’s the story of a 10-year-old girl, Sugar, who works on a plantation with other Black laborers post-Civil War. She’s an orphan, witnessing first-hand the white plantation owner and his family in the midst of a total meltdown brought on by fear and greed. It’s an effective juxtaposition set against Sugar’s supportive and loving community which widens to include Chinese immigrants who arrive to help in the fields. At first, the Black and Chinese laborers regard each other with skepticism, but…
It's hard to go wrong with any book by this husband and wife team, who fill every book with mystery, adventure, and heart. But Bayou Moon is definitely the best bet for fans of werewolves. Plus, the Edge is an intriguing world where characters shop at Walmart one day then battle magic the next. To ice the cake, the series is easy to dip into since there's a different set of main characters and storylines in each book. Give it a try, and if this isn't your favorite check out the feline shifter world of Magic Bites.
This long-running series is ridiculous fun. It begins here when CIA agent Fortune Redding is sent into hiding in a tiny town in the Louisiana bayou. Turns out that small town holds more than its fair share of crime along with a host of wacky characters. In general, the mysteries hold together fairly well and have plenty of twists and turns. But Jana Deleon fans are really there for the zany humor. It isn’t easy to pull off slapstick in print instead of visual media such as TV, but Deleon does a good job. Realistic these aren’t, but if you…
Historical Memoir of the War: In West Florida and Louisiana in 1814-15
Arsène Lacarrière Latour,
Why this book?
Originally published in 1816, this contemporary account of the battle by Jackson’s chief engineer is rich in detail and includes a valuable appendix of original documents. Although perhaps too favorable to Jackson, an account like this by someone who was there and in the know cannot be ignored. In the new edition, Gene Smith has made some minor changes in Latour’s text and, more importantly, added some new documents. He also includes in a separate envelop the maps that accompanied the original edition
At my first paid reporting job, one college summer for the Lake Charles(La.) American Press, a veteran reporter told me that if I wanted to cover politics, in Louisiana or anywhere else, I had to read Penn Warren’s novel, a classic based on Huey Long’s life. I got a copy – and was hooked from the opening, when Sugar Boy, the boss’s chauffeur and gunsel, whipped their Cadillac around an oncoming gasoline truck and stuttered, “The b-b-b-b-bas-tud . . .” Penn Warren, a poet, brought to life the realpolitik and machine politics I’d studied. He showed me, through…
Mothers of the South: Portraiture of the White Tenant Farm Woman
Margaret Jarman Hagood,
Why this book?
Strictly speaking, this is not a first-person account, but it includes dozens of detailed case studies drawn from interviews with white tenant farm women in North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. It was written in the 1930s by the pioneering sociologist Margaret Jarman Hagood, one of a group of practitioners at University of North Carolina who sought to produce academic studies that advanced solutions to the socio-economic problems that plagued the rural South. Although Hagood feared that “it is impossible for me to do justice to it either in observing or recording,” her study paints a vivid picture of…
This masterpiece will compel anyone who's not yet a lover of historical fiction with elements of fantasy to jump the broom into Remembrance, a voodoo-induced world refuge for 18th and 19th century enslaved people. The lives of a trio of women separated by place and time are deftly braided by this debut author. Evocative escapism at its best.
Be prepared to plunge into the Louisiana swamp and discover the dark side of Baton Rouge. Chloe Davis may have escaped her convicted killer father’s horrific legacy, but when young women start to go missing in the city where she now lives, Chloe is dragged back to the hometown that haunts her. The Louisiana setting feels wholly authentic and adds an eeriness to this dark story. A Flicker in the Dark is a must-read for fans of unpredictable page-turners and tense, high-stakes serial killer thrillers.
Marzano-Lesnevich was a Harvard law student working a summer internship when they encountered the case of Ricky Langley, who was being held on death row in Louisiana. That case opened up a personal wound for the author, and they vividly and powerfully intertwine the two stories. The author uses speculation and imagination to attempt to fill in blanks that are unanswerable. I recently taught this book in a seminar at Columbia on creative license in nonfiction, and my students were floored.
Dark and Shallow Lies is the perfect atmospheric thriller if you crave a mystery festering with swampy paranormal undercurrents. Set in a small coastal Louisiana town, Grey returns home intent on finding out what happened to her best friend Elora who disappeared six months earlier. You get to meet the Summer Children, eleven (but there used to be more!) psychic children who all have different gifts, like Evie’s ability to listen to the dead, Hart’s empathy, and Case’s knack to be in two places at once. This is another one where I wasn’t sure who was the bad guy. The…
My interest in music takes its roots deep into Louisiana because the first music was vocal.
Not only music but all literature had its beginnings in the words of history and folk songs. This book brought light into my young life. It was the beginning to understand American culture through its clearly defined early music. I carried various printings of Gumbo Ya-Ya with me through my early travels through Memphis, Louisiana, Como, Mississippi, etc. The book opened my mind to the history, and because of the book, the traveling opened my mind to the music.
This book didn’t necessarily have a grinding spooky element so much as mysterious unknown indicators, but it’s haunting just the same. And romantic. I believe in second sight or psychic ability, that there are those out there with the true gift. Frankly, I’ve had a few “premonition” dreams myself that led me to an avid interest in the subject. The topic was well-written, relatable, and gave me many story ideas. The setting is an old ancestral home in the Louisiana Bayou, so it hit all the history and boo feels, plus it has a suspense angle. Sharon is an amazing…
Set in a time when New Orleans was still very French, Rene is a unique hero because he serves a foreign régime and has a different mindset when it comes to the governing of a territory that is now a quintessential part of America. Blake does such a good job of putting you in the setting, and the heroine is absolutely resolute, independent, and courageous. Their love affair is so unlikely, yet made believable and there is a tantalizing mystery and plenty of action due to the unsettled and volatile time of this story.
Gilda begins her life as a runaway slave in pre-Civil War Louisiana and this beautifully-written novel explores her life over the next two hundred years as she faces danger, love, and loss. It’s memorable not only for the lens of Black and LGBTQ history that it brings to the vampire myth, but for the main character’s commitment to maintaining her connection to community, both vampire and mortal, and her openness to the world that transforms around her.
The first in the series of Dave Robicheaux novels, this is handled quite well. The main character is very human, flawed by his own admission by a battle with an addiction to alcohol, but nonetheless is a tough and competent cop who definitely sees—and knows well—the seedier side. Set in the deep south, Burke takes you there with description that is so evocative that you can feel it with every sense, and the danger as the story unravels into a tale of corruption and bloody violence. I really wanted the main character to win this battle and it was one…
This book doesn’t just read like a novel – it reads like a great novel: A battle between two compelling characters set against the absurd backdrop of an effort to establish a hippo population in America’s swampland. Mooallem’s understated wit showed me that sometimes the best way to understand history is by tracking the people we’ve never heard of, and the initiatives that never succeeded.
In many ways, this was the thriller that started it all for me.
Perhaps technically a legal thriller, the political dimension shines through in the shadowy forces tailing the fearless and unlikely heroine of legal student Darby Shaw as she uncovers a huge political scandal involving the US Supreme Court.
Its conspiracies may seem tame by modern standards, but for a fledgling writer trying to figure out what kind of stories he wanted to tell, this was thrilling and addictive stuff.
Grisham’s easy style appears effortless, but there’s true craft behind each chase, each plot twist, and each conversation. This…
The book is a collection of short stories by my favorite mystery novel writer. Burke’s series detective, Dave Robicheaux, who is both a Louisiana cop and a moral philosopher, repeatedly strives to overcome his own flaws and set right the cruel catastrophes wrought by human ignorance, stupidity, and cruelty. Jesus Out to Sea is infused with the same narrative and poetic ferocity, but without Robicheaux this time. The collection is set in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and probes the human costs of the devastation wrought by nature and exacerbated by administrative corruption and bad faith.
The first of a series, this book introduces Angel Crawford, a high school dropout with an alcoholic dad, a dead-beat boyfriend, and an addiction to prescription drugs. When things in your life are that bad, waking up as a zombie is more of an opportunity than a setback – especially when her newly undead status comes with a fresh job at the morgue and access to all the brains she can eat. But her new job and secret lifestyle come with a big side portion of murder mystery. This whole series is a fun urban fantasy romp that goes down…
I’ll read anything Kate DeCamillo writes. She is just so good. No matter the heartbreak that Raymie Nightingale faces (her dad’s just recently run off with the dental hygienist), Raymie has a plan. She’s going to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire Competition, her dad will see her picture in the paper, and then surely (maybe?) he’ll come home. Raymie gets through with friends who weren’t always her friends: the “frequently fainting” Louisiana Elefante, and feisty Beverly Tapinski. Together, “the three rancheros” challenge, but ultimately save, one another. Some friendships are not “like at first sight”!
Another work that is wonderfully and winningly hard to pin down, Coming Through Slaughter is an imaginative and fragmentary collage of monologue, memoir, interviews, lyrics, photographs, archival material, hospital files—and white space—that builds a novelistic portrait of the mythical dark life and hard times of cornet player Buddy Bolden, one of the originators of jazz in New Orleans at the turn of the twentieth century. From the little that is known about Bolden and his music, Ondaatje shapes an audacious story that is short, cinematic, dream-like, and devastating, a book that incontrovertibly proved once again to me that there are…
Delivered from Evil: True Stories of Ordinary People Who Faced Monstrous Mass Killers and Survived
Why this book?
Delivered from Evil covers ten incidents of mass murder and serial killing. In each well-written narrative, Franscell tells the story of the crime, the criminal, and the victims. Even the most devoted crime buff will learn something new from Franscell’s thorough research and unique style. I appreciate the attention he gives to the survivor’s stories and their experience with the life-altering effects of trauma.
I love this book so much! It is about a small town in Louisiana, Fawn Creek (known as Yawn Creek to the residents) where the same 12 kids have been going to school forever until one day a new girl, Orchid Mason shows up and begins to mix things up. It’s about friendship, family, self-deception, and following your dreams. I absolutely loved it. Erin Entrada Kelly is such a master at showing the reader multiple perspectives, which greatly enhances the reading experience.