The most recommended books set in Memphis Tennessee

Who picked these books? Meet our 26 experts.

26 authors created a book list connected to Memphis Tennessee, and here are their favorite Memphis Tennessee books.
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Book cover of It Came from Memphis

Ronald Kidd Author Of Lord of the Mountain

From my list on American roots music.

Why am I passionate about this?

From my earliest days I was surrounded by music, from Friday night family band to our musical Christmas card on a bright red record to trumpet trios played with my dad and brother. I went to the University of Southern California on a trumpet scholarship, then took a detour from music and tried writing. I liked it. To this day, one of my favorite things is combining these two interests to create novels, stories, and plays about music. Since moving to Nashville, I’ve immersed myself in American popular music and have loved returning to my roots. 

Ronald's book list on American roots music

Ronald Kidd Why did Ronald love this book?

In Memphis during the 1950s, there was Black and there was White, but the two rarely met. One of the few places where they did was in clubs and recording studios, and the sparks they struck started a fire that came to be called rock ’n’ roll. 

In this wonderfully rich stew of a book, author and filmmaker Robert Gordon walks the streets of Memphis, exploring the sights and sounds and smells of a unique, endlessly fascinating world. 

As Gordon’s publisher says, “This is a book about the weirdos, winos, and midget wrestlers who forged the rock ’n’ roll spirit.” As Rolling Stone says, “If you haven’t read this book, do it now.”

By Robert Gordon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked It Came from Memphis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Vienna in the 1880s. Paris in the 1920s. Memphis in the 1950s. These are the paradigm shifts of modern culture. Memphis then was like Seattle with grunge or Brooklyn with hip-hop―except the change was more than musical: Underground Memphis embraced African American culture when dominant society abhorred it. The effect rocked the world. We’re all familiar with the stars’ stories, but It Came From Memphis runs with the the kids in that first rock and roll audience, where they befriended the older blues artists, the travails of blazing a rock and roll career path where one had not existed (nor…


Book cover of Graceland

Karen Samuelson Author Of Weaving Dreams in Oaxaca

From Karen's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Adoptive mother Dancer Lover of Latin America Dog person

Karen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Karen Samuelson Why did Karen love this book?

I loved this book by Nancy Crochiere because I read it at a time this past year when I needed a lift. It has a light-hearted, humorous tone but also has depth.

It centers around the fraught relationship between a zany grandmother, a ready-to-please mother, and an off-beat daughter. Their road trip from Boston to Memphis is filled with hilarity and poignant moments as secrets are revealed, causing them to bond in new ways. 

By Nancy Crochiere,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Graceland is a sparkling, warm-hearted, witty debut. I so enjoyed joining these three generations of women on their action-packed road trip to Memphis!" -Liane Moriarty, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Hope Robinson can't seem to please anyone lately, especially not her mother, the flamboyant soap star Olivia Grant. Olivia loves Elvis more than Jesus and, convinced she's dying, insists on a final visit to Graceland. Unfortunately, that's the one place Hope can't take her. Hope fled Memphis years ago with a shameful secret and a vow never to return.

Olivia, though, doesn't understand the word no. Instead, she wrangles…


Book cover of Last Train to Memphis

Ronald Kidd Author Of Lord of the Mountain

From my list on American roots music.

Why am I passionate about this?

From my earliest days I was surrounded by music, from Friday night family band to our musical Christmas card on a bright red record to trumpet trios played with my dad and brother. I went to the University of Southern California on a trumpet scholarship, then took a detour from music and tried writing. I liked it. To this day, one of my favorite things is combining these two interests to create novels, stories, and plays about music. Since moving to Nashville, I’ve immersed myself in American popular music and have loved returning to my roots. 

Ronald's book list on American roots music

Ronald Kidd Why did Ronald love this book?

When my wife and I moved to Nashville, I was stunned to realize that most forms of American popular music had been born within 500 miles of our new home, in an arc from New Orleans (jazz) to the Mississippi Delta (blues) to Memphis (rock ’n’ roll) to Nashville (bluegrass) to Bristol (country). 

I began reading eagerly about American popular music, and my reading led to writing—most recently my novel about the birth of country music, Lord of the Mountain. This list gives you some of my favorite books.

The best of these is also one of my favorite biographies of any kind, Peter Guralnick’s magnificent Last Train to Memphis, the first volume of his essential two-volume story of Elvis Presley and the birth of rock ’n’ roll.

By Peter Guralnick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Last Train to Memphis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Written with grace, humor, and affection, Last Train to Memphis has been hailed as the definitive biography of Elvis Presley. It is the first to set aside the myths and focus on Elvis' humanity in a way that has yet to be duplicated.

A New York Times Notable Book

Winner of the Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award

"Elvis steps from the pages. You can feel him breathe. This book cancels out all others." --Bob Dylan

From the moment that he first shook up the world in the mid 1950s, Elvis Presley has been one of the most vivid and…


Book cover of The Deal Dilemma

Dakota Davies Author Of Falling for My Best Friend

From my list on friends to lovers books for those in their romance era.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been drawn to the idea of a friendship turning into lasting love. When two people are friends first, they can be vulnerable with each other, support each other, and develop a tender intimacy before the fireworks. My young adult years as a tomboy and outdoor education instructor meant I was often the only girl among many guys, and I developed some very deep and meaningful friendships. My first love was also a tender friend first, and I’ll never forget the power of our bond. Writing friends to lovers stories always feels like home to me. Enjoy these five friends to lovers “must-reads”!

Dakota's book list on friends to lovers books for those in their romance era

Dakota Davies Why did Dakota love this book?

This story had so much unique and charismatic personality! The characters leapt off the pages, and their “dilemma” created an irresistible hook.

Davis is about to graduate from college and has yet to lose her virginity. She turns to the one man she’s wanted for the job, her childhood crush, lifelong family friend, best friend to her brother, and bad boy extreme, Crew Taylor. These two have an intense history together that involved Davis’s older brother Memphis, and this relationship and how Memphis fell into addiction, dragging Crew down with him, was beautifully crafted by the author and the highlight of the story for me.

The angsty buildup between these two people who clearly were destined for each other was incredibly satisfying! I was on the edge of my seat, rooting so hard for Crew to overcome the demons of his past and just let Davis into his heart. I…

By Meagan Brandy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'The chemistry they have is amazing and the steaming moments are HOT'
'It's one of the best romance books/best friends sister relationship books I've EVER read! And I read A LOT!'

I want her. She wants to feel wanted. Those are two very different things...

I never expected my best friend's little sister to become the one I craved, but it happened anyway. In the beginning, we were both young, then she was too young, and then suddenly...she wasn't.

Unfortunately for me, things got complicated, so I took off, but this girl? She followed.

Now she's sitting across from me,…


Book cover of Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy

Melanie Rehak Author Of Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her

From my list on beloved children’s books.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent my childhood reading for pleasure, for escapism, for humor, for reassurance, for different views of the world, and even out of sheer boredom sometimes when there was nothing else to do. I have no doubt it’s what made me into a writer. In retrospect, it makes total sense that my first book was about the history and power of a children’s series. When I found myself immersed in not just my old Nancy Drews but the fascinating stories of the people and times that produced her, it was like being back in my childhood bedroom again, only this time with the experience to understand how what I read fit into the larger story of America, feminism, and literature. I hope the books I’ve recommended will inspire you to revisit your old favorites with a new eye.

Melanie's book list on beloved children’s books

Melanie Rehak Why did Melanie love this book?

As a native New Yorker and lifelong fan of Harriet the Spy (one among legions) reading the product of Leslie Brody’s detective work into the life of her creator is a special pleasure. Born in 1928, Fitzhugh was the product of a high society Memphis marriage that ended in scandal. She went on to live a vibrant, turbulent life in the queer artist and writers scene in New York. It makes total sense that someone who straddled so many different worlds had such a deep understanding of the multiple lives we all lead, and such a keen ability to perceive other people, all of which she poured into her characters. I also recommend her other incredible YA novel, Nobody’s Family Is Going to Change, which tackles race, children’s rights, and the profound beauty of tap dancing.

By Leslie Brody,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sometimes You Have to Lie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The protagonist and anti-heroine of Louise Fitzhugh's masterpiece Harriet the Spy, first published first in 1964, continues to mesmerize generation after generation of readers. Harriet is an erratic, unsentimental, and endearing prototype--someone very like the woman who dreamed her up, author and artist Louise Fitzhugh.

Born in 1928, Fitzhugh was raised in a wealthy home in segregated Memphis, and she escaped her cloistered world and made a beeline for New York as soon as she could. Her expanded milieu stretched from the lesbian bars of Greenwich Village to the dance clubs of Harlem, on to the resurgent artist studios of…


Book cover of The Passage

Stephen M. Sanders Author Of Passe-Partout

From my list on dystopian and sci-fantasy novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a sci-fi/fantasy fan ever since my dad introduced me to the original Star Trek (in reruns) and The Lord of the Rings in my youth. I’ve always loved thinking about possibilities—large and small—so my work tends to think big when I write. I also write poetry, which allows me to talk about more than just the everyday or at least to find the excitement within the mundane in life. These works talk about those same “possibilities”—for better or worse, and in reading, I walk in awareness of what could be.

Stephen's book list on dystopian and sci-fantasy novels

Stephen M. Sanders Why did Stephen love this book?

This book scratches my genre itch and is also “literary” at the same time. Cronin’s superb world-building is so subtle that you don’t realize that the book’s world and ours are separate until you are half-way through the book and see that there were clues all along the way.

By Justin Cronin,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Passage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Amy Harper Bellafonte is six years old and her mother thinks she's the most important person in the whole world. She is. Anthony Carter doesn't think he could ever be in a worse place than Death Row. He's wrong. FBI agent Brad Wolgast thinks something beyond imagination is coming. It is. THE PASSAGE. Deep in the jungles of eastern Colombia, Professor Jonas Lear has finally found what he's been searching for - and wishes to God he hadn't. In Memphis, Tennessee, a six-year-old girl called Amy is left at the convent of the Sisters of Mercy and wonders why her…


Book cover of Me and a Guy Named Elvis: My Lifelong Friendship with Elvis Presley

Deanna Cabinian Author Of One Night

From my list on unlikely friendships.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by the intensity of friendships, whether they last a few months or a lifetime. For me, unlikely friendships have always been the most interesting, whether it be differences in class, age, hobbies, etc. I think all people can find common ground if they just listen to one another and talk for a minute. I love books featuring unlikely duos and almost always include them in my own novels. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I do, and they remind you of the best friends you’ve ever had.

Deanna's book list on unlikely friendships

Deanna Cabinian Why did Deanna love this book?

Me and a Guy Named Elvis is a book I couldn’t put down. My sister and I took a road trip to Graceland years ago and ever since we’ve been a bit fascinated by Elvis. Jerry is a regular guy who happens to meet Elvis right before he becomes a star. Jerry is several years younger, but that doesn’t matter. What ensues is a decades-long friendship that takes Jerry on many adventures -- some out of this world and some heartbreaking. It’s an inside look at Elvis the superstar as well as Elvis the “regular guy.”

By Jerry Schilling, Chuck Crisafulli,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Me and a Guy Named Elvis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On a lazy Sunday in 1954, twelve-year-old Jerry Schilling wandered into a Memphis touch football game, only to discover that his team was quarterbacked by a nineteen-year-old Elvis Presley, the local teenager whose first record, "That's All Right," had just debuted on Memphis radio. The two became fast friends, even as Elvis turned into the world's biggest star. In 1964, Elvis invited Jerry to work for him as part of his "Memphis Mafia," and Jerry soon found himself living with Elvis full-time in a Bel Air mansion and, later, in his own room at Graceland. Over the next thirteen years…


Book cover of Groundswell: Grassroots Feminist Activism in Postwar America

Melissa Estes Blair Author Of Revolutionizing Expectations: Women's Organizations, Feminism, and American Politics, 1965-1980

From my list on U.S. grassroots feminism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have loved history since I was a girl, visiting my grandparents in Virginia and reading American Girl books. I began to focus on women’s history when I learned in college just how much the women’s movement of the generation before mine had made my life possible. So much changed for American women in the ten years before I was born, and I wanted to know how that happened and how it fit into the broader political changes. That connection, between women making change and the bigger political scene, remains the core of my research. I have a B.A. in history and English from the University of Kentucky, and a Ph.D. in American history from the University of Virginia.

Melissa's book list on U.S. grassroots feminism

Melissa Estes Blair Why did Melissa love this book?

By looking at three local NOW chapters around the country, Gilmore shows that the leading organization of 1960s feminism wasn’t nearly as centralized as people think. Memphis NOW, for example, was a radical feminist group simply by being a feminist group in the South. San Francisco NOW, by contrast, made coalitions with many more radical groups as they worked together to make change. A great read and an important insight into how NOW actually worked as an organization.

By Stephanie Gilmore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Groundswell: Grassroots Feminist Activism in Postwar America offers an essential perspective on the post-1960 movement for women's equality and liberation. Tracing the histories of feminist activism, through the National Organization of Women (NOW) chapters in three different locations: Memphis, Tennessee, Columbus, Ohio, and San Francisco, California, Gilmore explores how feminist identity, strategies, and goals were shaped by geographic location.

Departing from the usual conversation about the national icons and events of second wave feminism, this book concentrates on local histories, and asks the questions that must be answered on the micro level: Who joined? Who did not? What did they…


Book cover of Her Darkest Secret

Jaime Jo Wright Author Of The Souls of Lost Lake

From my list on to mix crime and romance.

Why am I passionate about this?

I adore suspense, mystery, and romance, but more so, I love books that inspire me and also aren’t necessarily easy to figure out. I’m a published and Christy award-winning author in this genre myself, but I have been reading this genre for over thirty-three years. I would definitely have to say my qualifications as a reader of suspense and mystery far outweigh those of an author. When I read suspense and romance, I look for two key elements: hard-to-figure out suspense and believable romance. I’m not out for bells and whistles as a reader, but instead look for well-crafted stories that are more like a puzzle that must be solved. 

Jaime's book list on to mix crime and romance

Jaime Jo Wright Why did Jaime love this book?

Jessica Patch is putting on her crown as the master of psychological creepy and she has made her mark with this novel. As an avid fan of the television show Criminal Minds, this book delivered all of that intrigue, creep, serial killer, and shivers while also merging it with faith and solid relationships. I thoroughly enjoy Jessica Patch, but definitely leave a light on!

By Jessica R. Patch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Her Darkest Secret as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



When a cold-case serial killer returns, FBI special agent Fiona Kelly has one last chance to stop him before he claims the prize he’s always wanted—her.

The sight of a goose feather at a murder scene modeled after a children’s poem is enough to make FBI special agent Fiona Kelly's blood turn to ice. Almost two decades ago, a feather was left with her sister's body—and with every subsequent victim of the Nursery Rhyme Killer. Now he's back. Only this time, his latest gruesome murder is a message to the only one who ever got away: Fiona.

Finding “Rhyme” is…


Book cover of Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion

Richard J. Alley Author Of Five Night Stand

From my list on culture of mid-20th century music and musicians.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in 1970. From my earliest memory there was music. But it’s never been just about the music, I have a natural curiosity for the people who make that music. The artist on the album cover, but also the side musicians, the producers, engineers, and promoters. I’m also fascinated by the roadmap from blues to rock to Laurel Canyon to disco to punk and on and on. Real music infuses and informs the fiction I write — by reading real-life accounts and listening to the songs, I’m put in the world from which it was all born.

Richard's book list on culture of mid-20th century music and musicians

Richard J. Alley Why did Richard love this book?

Growing up in Memphis, I heard a lot about Elvis Presley. From there, it was just a side step to Sun Studio and Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis. But there was this place across town — Stax. It was in a place called Soulsville, and it was magical. An old movie theater where Blacks and whites came together in the 1960s and ‘70s to make some of the best music anywhere — soul music. Not the polished sounds of Motown, but gritty, stirring music from the gut. In my writing a fictional world of music, the very real world of Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, Booker T. & the MG’s, and so many others provided inspiration against a backdrop of exultation, innovation, beauty, and tragedy. 

By Robert Gordon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The story of Stax Records unfolds like a Greek tragedy. A white brother and sister build a record company that becomes a monument to racial harmony in 1960's segregated south Memphis. Their success is startling, and Stax soon defines an international sound. Then, after losses both business and personal, the siblings part, and the brother allies with a visionary African-American partner. Under integrated leadership, Stax explodes as a national player until, Icarus-like, they fall from great heights to a tragic demise. Everything is lost, and the sanctuary that flourished is ripped from the ground. A generation later, Stax is rebuilt…