The most recommended books about the South (USA)

Who picked these books? Meet our 224 experts.

224 authors created a book list connected to the South, and here are their favorite South books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of South book?


A Christmas Memory

By Truman Capote,

Book cover of A Christmas Memory

Marnie O. Mamminga Author Of Return to Wake Robin: One Cabin in the Heyday of Northwoods Resorts

From the list on historic memoirs that speak to the love of place.

Who am I?

I've always loved a sense of place. Perhaps it is because I have lived in the same river valley my whole life, my home for 45 years, and shared a cabin with my siblings that has been in our family for 93 years. Even so, I'm always looking for the nuances in familiar landscapes that expand our understanding of ourselves and each other. I have published dozens of personal essays, two memoirs, Return to Wake Robin: One cabin in the Heyday of Northwoods Resorts and On a Clear Night: Essays from the Heartland, and many monthly perspectives for NPR’s WNIJ radio station. As a former teacher, I enjoyed helping my students find their writing voice. 

Marnie's book list on historic memoirs that speak to the love of place

Why did Marnie love this book?

There is no finer memoir celebrating a love of place than Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory. His opening lines take you right into the heart of the kitchen in a rural Alabama home where he lived as a young boy with an elderly distant cousin in the late 1920s. Those few cherished years would influence his writing and life for as long as he lived.

Writing in concise, elegant language, Capote centers his brief memoir around one Thanksgiving and Christmas when he was seven and his beloved cousin, Miss Souk Faulk, was in her late sixties. Perhaps it is because I have hosted Thanksgiving for my family for years, that I so appreciate Capote’s ability to capture, with humor and poignancy, the power of traditions with those you love.

By Truman Capote,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A holiday classic from "one of the greatest writers and most fascinating society figures in American history" (Vanity Fair)!

First published in 1956, this much sought-after autobiographical recollection from Truman Capote (In Cold Blood; Breakfast at Tiffany's) about his rural Alabama boyhood is a perfect gift for Capote's fans young and old.

Seven-year-old Buddy inaugurates the Christmas season by crying out to his cousin, Miss Sook Falk: "It's fruitcake weather!" Thus begins an unforgettable portrait of an odd but enduring friendship and the memories the two friends share of beloved holiday rituals.

No Common Ground

By Karen L. Cox,

Book cover of No Common Ground: Confederate Monuments and the Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice

Harriet F. Senie Author Of Monumental Controversies: Mount Rushmore, Four Presidents, and the Quest for National Unity

From the list on reconsidering memorials.

Who am I?

I have been writing books on public art and memorials since the early 1990s and served on some major public commissions that select memorials and/or determine the fate of problematic memorials. These markers in our public spaces define who we are as a culture at a certain point in time, even though interpretations of them may evolve. They are our link to our history, express our present day values, and send a message to the future about who we are and what we value and believe in.

Harriet's book list on reconsidering memorials

Why did Harriet love this book?

Following on her previous book about the Daughters of the Confederacy and their role in commissioning Confederate memorials, the author presents the history of these tributes, how they changed over time, and what their implicit meaning conveys.

Reading this book can leave no doubt that Confederate memorials must be removed because of their intrinsic valorization of white supremacy. 

It was enormously useful to me in both in my current book project and in public presentations on the topic. 

By Karen L. Cox,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked No Common Ground as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When it comes to Confederate monuments, there is no common ground. Polarizing debates over their meaning have intensified into legislative maneuvering to preserve the statues, legal battles to remove them, and rowdy crowds taking matters into their own hands. These conflicts have raged for well over a century--but they've never been as intense as they are today.

In this eye-opening narrative of the efforts to raise, preserve, protest, and remove Confederate monuments, Karen L. Cox depicts what these statues meant to those who erected them and how a movement arose to force a reckoning. She lucidly shows the forces that…

Book cover of Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady

Mary Glickman Author Of An Undisturbed Peace

From the list on southern themes you’ve never heard of (maybe).

Who am I?

My heart has been Southern for 35 years although I was raised in Boston and never knew the South until well into my adulthood. I loved it as soon as I saw it but I needed to learn it before I could call it home. These books and others helped shape me as a Southerner and as an author of historical Southern Jewish novels. Cormac McCarthy doesn’t describe 19th-century North Carolina so much as immerse his voice and his reader in it. Dara Horn captures her era seamlessly. Steve Stern is so wedded to place he elevates it to mythic. I don’t know if these five are much read anymore but they should be.

Mary's book list on southern themes you’ve never heard of (maybe)

Why did Mary love this book?

There is one very excellent reason to read this book: It’s hilarious. Ms. King delivers her memoir of a 1950s-60s Southern childhood with searing, laugh-til-you-cry wit as she turns classic Southern tropes on their eccentric heads. Everything from the ubiquitous obsession with lineage (“Who are your people?”) to a mother’s nickname for a wayward child (“Mama Tried”) receives its due. It’s a must-read if you want to understand Southern culture or if only to make acquaintance with Ms. King’s most famous one-liner, an admission of the indelible effects of Southern training even in failed ladies: “No matter what sex I slept with, I never smoked on the street.” 

By Florence King,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady is Florence King's classic memoir of her upbringing in an eccentric Southern family, told with all the uproarious wit and gusto that has made her one of the most admired writers in the country. Florence may have been a disappointment to her Granny, whose dream of rearing a Perfect Southern Lady would never be quite fulfilled. But after all, as Florence reminds us, "no matter which sex I went to bed with, I never smoked on the street."

House of Cotton

By Monica Brashears,

Book cover of House of Cotton

Sara Flannery Murphy Author Of The Wonder State

From the list on thriller and horror with “House” in the title.

Who am I?

I have a lifelong fascination with houses and the sway they hold over us. Coming from a family that moved pretty frequently, I’ve experienced the way a house can feel like a true home, or like an unwelcoming space. Unlike the characters in The Wonder State, I don’t break into places to explore (not even abandoned spaces!). But I always take notice of the homes and structures in every neighborhood and city I visit, wondering what the residents’ lives are like and how their houses affect them. I’m a novelist who focuses on the speculative, and all three of my novels feature weird houses in some capacity.

Sara's book list on thriller and horror with “House” in the title

Why did Sara love this book?

When Magnolia’s grandmother dies, the nineteen-year-old protagonist of Brashear’s sultry novel experiences another kind of loss as well. Her predatory landlord turns Magnolia’s home into a hostile space, quite literally forcing her out of the protection her grandmother left behind. 

I love the way fairytales take center stage… Magnolia often imagines herself as part of iconic fables. I devoured fairytales as a child, so I felt particularly drawn into this obsession. 

Without her own house, Magnolia seeks shelter with a mysterious artist named Cotton. But as always happens in such tales, nothing comes without a cost. Magnolia agrees to pose as mourners’ lost loved ones. Just like her house is no longer her own, even Magnolia’s own body doesn’t fully belong to her.

This book is smart, weird, and thought-provoking.  

By Monica Brashears,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An enchanting Black Southern gothic debut, perfect for readers of Mexican Gothic... "Fresh, haunting...In her roller-coaster ride of a gothic debut novel, Monica Brashears upends expectations at every turn." ―The New York Times

“Every page, every scene, every sentence of Monica Brashears’s debut novel House of Cotton dazzles and surprises. An intense, enthralling, and deeply satisfying read!” ―Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

"A new, dazzling, and essential American voice." ―George Saunders, author of Lincoln in the Bardo

Magnolia Brown is nineteen years old, broke, and effectively an orphan. She feels stuck and haunted: by her…

Book cover of The Old Forest and Other Stories

John Milliken Thompson Author Of The Reservoir: A Novel

From the list on non-Faulkner books from the American South.

Who am I?

I grew up in North Carolina and Washington, D.C., and have since lived in Arkansas and Virginia. My two novels are historical, set in the late 1800s and early 1900s in Virginia and North Carolina, and are heavily influenced by the great Southern writers. My books feature family dramas, how the land interacts with characters, questions of fate and personal action, and the decisions that change people’s lives. I love Faulkner, but you’ll find him on every list. He influenced every writer who came later, but there are plenty of other heavy hitters to choose from. Here are a few favorites.

John's book list on non-Faulkner books from the American South

Why did John love this book?

Taylor is one of the authors who made me want to be a writer. He’s a magician of the short story, compressing events and characters from the upper South into luminous stories that can seem more real than life. He wrote longhand in poetic lines, usually drafting about a hundred pages for every ten he kept. The result is a rich reduction of scenes that move us to laughter and tears. Taylor holds the mirror up to life, and you can’t help but be drawn in.

By Peter Taylor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Old Forest and Other Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the grand master of the American short story, these fourteen tales of domestic life in the South during the thirties and forties explore that extraordinary world of manners, expectations and unspoken understanding. The reader is drawn as if by magnetic force into a world rendered in breathtaking, painterly detail. These stories are marvelous entertainments, rich with amusement, yet Taylor renders his characters truly and understands them in a profoundly meaningful way.

Book cover of Something Rich and Strange: Selected Stories

Claire Fullerton Author Of Mourning Dove

From the list on Southern books that touch upon culture, history, and society.

Who am I?

I'm the multiple, award-winning author of 4 novels and one novella, raised in Memphis, Tennessee, and now living in Southern California. The geographical distance gives me a laser-sharp, appreciative perspective of the South, and I celebrate the literary greats from the region. The South is known as the last romantic place in America, and I believe this to be true. The South’s culture, history, and social mores are part and parcel to its fascinating characters, and nothing is more important in the South than the telling of a good story. As a writer, I'm in love with language. I love Southern turns of phrase and applaud those writers who capture Southern nuance. It is well worth writing about Southern sensibilities.

Claire's book list on Southern books that touch upon culture, history, and society

Why did Claire love this book?

Ron Rash is a national, literary treasure. The author of multiple award-winning novels, this book is an assembly of 34 short stories, most set in Appalachia, and depicting the social nuances and landscape of the American rural South. I recommend this because it will provide a great introduction to the incomparable author known as The Appalachian Shakespeare. As a writer, Ron Rash epitomizes the idea of landscape as destiny, and his well-drawn characters come to life from his flawless use of regional language. 

By Ron Rash,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the acclaimed, New York Times bestselling award-winning author of Serena and The Cove, thirty of his finest short stories, collected in one volume.

No one captures the complexities of Appalachia—a rugged, brutal landscape of exquisite beauty—as evocatively and indelibly as author and poet Ron Rash. Winner of the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, two O Henry prizes, and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, Rash brilliantly illuminates the tensions between the traditional and the modern, the old and new south, tenderness and violence, man and nature. Though the focus is regional, the themes of Rash’s work are universal,…

Book cover of Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision

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

Why did Keisha love this book?

This is a book that inspired me as a historian and in my approach to activism. Barbara Ransby’s biography of Ella Baker excavates the activist’s life, placing the reader at the nexus of some of the most important moments in civil rights history. Ella Baker’s life also provides a blueprint for local activism and group-centered leadership. It’s a compelling story of how Ella Baker became a mentor, inspiring, listening to, and supporting local activists. 

By Barbara Ransby,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the most important African American leaders of the twentieth century and perhaps the most influential woman in the civil rights movement, Ella Baker (1903-1986) was an activist whose remarkable career spanned fifty years and touched thousands of lives. In this deeply researched biography, Barbara Ransby chronicles Baker's long and rich political career as an organizer, an intellectual, and a teacher, from her early experiences in depression-era Harlem to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Ransby paints a vivid picture of the African American fight for justice and its intersections with other progressive struggles worldwide across…


By Jessica Machado,

Book cover of Local: A Memoir

Jasmin Iolani Hakes Author Of Hula

From the list on nonfiction to read before your Hawaii vacation.

Who am I?

My passion to write about Hawaiʻi began with a desire to see the world that I knew and loved reflected in literary form, complete with all its complexities and nuance. Growing up alongside Hawaiʻi’s sovereignty movement, there was so much I didn’t understand. School textbooks didn’t mention Hawaiʻi. The little I learned about our culture and history was from dancing hula. So when I started reading some of the books on this list, it put all of my memories into context. Everything about my home became clearer to see (and therefore write about). The true beauty of Hawaiʻi exists behind its postcard image, and this is how you get there!

Jasmin's book list on nonfiction to read before your Hawaii vacation

Why did Jasmin love this book?

Jessica Machado’s father is Hawaiian and her mother is from the American South, a factor that looms large in a place like Hawaiʻi.

As a child, Machado senses that her life is complicated by history and context, but doesn’t have the words to formulate the questions brewing within.

In this touching coming-of-age memoir, Machado grapples with some of the same haunting questions and uncertainties that inspired my writing of my book while taking us on a journey to discover if her unshakeable connection to Hawaiʻi is a blessing, a burden, or a responsibility she’s lucky to have.

A must-read for anyone who has ever left home wondering how to take it with them.

By Jessica Machado,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A powerful, lush memoir about a Hawaiian woman who ran away from paradise to discover who she is and where she belongs.

Born and raised in Hawai'i by a father whose ancestors are indigenous to the land and a mother from the American South, Jessica Machado wrestles with what it means to be "local." Feeling separate from the history and tenets of Hawaiian culture that have been buried under the continental imports of malls and MTV, Jessica often sees her homeland reflected back to her from the tourist perspective-as an uncomplicated paradise. Her existence, however, feels far from that ideal.…

Southern Honor

By Bertram Wyatt-Brown,

Book cover of Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South

James M. Denham Author Of A Rogue's Paradise: Crime and Punishment in Antebellum Florida, 1821-1861

From the list on crime and punishment in the Antebellum South.

Who am I?

I am a professor of history and Director of the Lawton M. Chiles Jr. Center for Florida History at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida. I am a specialist in Southern, social, criminal justice, and legal history. I am the author or co-author of seven books, including three that address criminal justice at the state and federal level. My articles and reviews on criminal justice history have appeared in the America Historical Review, American Journal of Legal History, Journal of Southern History, Florida Historical Quarterly, Florida Bar Journal, and Georgia Historical Quarterly.

James' book list on crime and punishment in the Antebellum South

Why did James love this book?

No book was more fundamental in shaping and revolutionizing our understanding of the mores and values of the Antebellum South than Bertram Wyatt-Brown’s Southern Honor. Using legal documents, letters, diaries, and newspaper columns, this book reveals how the South’s honor system shaped and influenced how southerners lived, worked, and fought with one another. “Primal Honor” also influenced the way that Southerners made, enforced, or did not enforce the law.  Southern men adopted an ancient honor code that shaped their society from top to bottom. By claiming honor and dreading shame, they controlled their slaves, ruled their households, established the social rankings of themselves, kinfolk, and neighbors, and responded ferociously against perceived threats. Honor required men to demonstrate their prowess and engage in fierce defense of the individual, family, community, and regional reputation by duel, physical encounter, or war. Subordination of African-Americans was uppermost in this Southern ethic. Any threat, whether…

By Bertram Wyatt-Brown,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award, hailed in The Washington Post as "a work of enormous imagination and enterprise" and in The New York Times as "an important, original book," Southern Honor revolutionized our understanding of the antebellum South, revealing how Southern men adopted an ancient honor code that shaped their society from top to bottom.
Using legal documents, letters, diaries, and newspaper columns, Wyatt-Brown offers fascinating examples to illuminate the dynamics of Southern life throughout the antebellum period. He describes how Southern whites, living chiefly in small, rural, agrarian surroundings, in which everyone knew…

Book cover of The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935

Marybeth Gasman Author Of Making Black Scientists: A Call to Action

From the list on the history of African American education.

Who am I?

Marybeth Gasman has been writing about African American history – within the educational setting – since 1994 when she began research that led to on an intellectual biography of African American sociologist, Harlem Renaissance architect, and Fisk University president Charles Spurgeon Johnson. Over the years, her work has explored many topics, including the history of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Black medical schools, African American philanthropy, and the production of Black scientists. She is the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Endowed Professor in Education & a Distinguished Professor at Rutgers University and also serves as the Executive Director of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Leadership, Equity, & Justice.

Marybeth's book list on the history of African American education

Why did Marybeth love this book?

In all honesty, Anderson’s book changed my life and put me on the road to becoming a historian and a professor back in 1994 when I read it while pursuing a Ph.D. Before I read it, I didn’t like history. I didn’t realize that history could come alive and that the stories of average people as well as luminaries were equally compelling. I realized after reading his work that I had been starved of African American history by my educational institutions; reading this book made me want to read more and understand American history more fully and completely. And, Anderson’s craft made me want to become a professor.

By James D. Anderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

James Anderson critically reinterprets the history of southern black education from Reconstruction to the Great Depression. By placing black schooling within a political, cultural, and economic context, he offers fresh insights into black commitment to education, the peculiar significance of Tuskegee Institute, and the conflicting goals of various philanthropic groups, among other matters. Initially, ex-slaves attempted to create an educational system that would support and extend their emancipation, but their children were pushed into a system of industrial education that presupposed black political and economic subordination. This conception of education and social order--supported by northern industrial philanthropists, some black educators,…

Under Sentence of Death

By W. Fitzhugh Brundage (editor),

Book cover of Under Sentence of Death: Lynching in the South

Richard Paul Author Of We Could Not Fail: The First African Americans in the Space Program

From the list on race and racism in America during the time of the space program.

Who am I?

I am a long-time public radio documentary producer who now creates podcasts and conducts research for Smithsonian traveling exhibitions. After producing five documentaries on various sociological aspects of the space program, I was named the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Verville Fellow in Space History in 2014. My 2010 documentary Race and the Space Race (narrated by Mae Jemison) was the first full-length exploration of the nexus between civil rights and the space program, and the Fellowship allowed me to expand the story into a book. 

Richard's book list on race and racism in America during the time of the space program

Why did Richard love this book?

Throughout the 1960s, NASA tried in vain to lure Black engineers to its Southern Centers.

The agency had its excuses, but as I began to talk to NASA’s Black pioneers, I began hearing vivid descriptions of the terror that kept their friends from going to work with them at NASA. This thought-provoking examination of one of the darkest chapters in American history helps lay out a source of their reticence.

The book delves deep into the socio-political, racial, and cultural factors that led to the widespread practice of lynching. Brundage skillfully portrays the complex web of prejudice, fear, and power dynamics that fueled this brutal form of violence. Through his detailed analysis, we gain a chilling picture and the backstory of what kept NASA so White.

By W. Fitzhugh Brundage (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the assembled work of fifteen leading scholars emerges a complex and provocative portrait of lynching in the American South. With subjects ranging in time from the late antebellum period to the early twentieth century, and in place from the border states to the Deep South, this collection of essays provides a rich comparative context in which to study the troubling history of lynching. Covering a broad spectrum of methodologies, these essays further expand the study of lynching by exploring such topics as same-race lynchings, black resistance to white violence, and the political motivations for lynching. In addressing both the…

The Potlikker Papers

By John T. Edge,

Book cover of The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South

Charles Reagan Wilson Author Of The Southern Way of Life: Meanings of Culture and Civilization in the American South

From the list on savoring Southern foods.

Who am I?

I'm a retired professor who wrote about and taught about the American South for almost four decades. I directed a research center focused on the South, and I helped found an institute dedicated to the study of Southern food. The South’s creative traditions in music and literature are well known, and its foodways are now recognized as a distinct American cuisine that represents the region’s innovations in culture. Through reading about southern food, readers can explore the traditions of eating and cooking in the region, and the creative contributions of ethnic groups with national and global sources. I've chosen books that give flavor to thinking about the South as a distinct place in the imagination.

Charles' book list on savoring Southern foods

Why did Charles love this book?

This book is a people’s history of the modern south, told through what people in the region have cooked and eaten. 

Edge is my former student who became the founding director of the Southern Food Alliance and the author of more than a dozen books on food.

He tells a story of what the modern South inherited in terms of cooking ingredients, techniques, and traditions, and he shows the central role that cooks and waiters served in the civil rights movement. He is particularly adept at sketching profiles of southern food leaders from Paul Prudhomme to Colonel Sanders.

The book is perhaps best in showing the changes in the southern food scene over the last three centuries so that now southern food has become a shared culinary language for the nation.   

By John T. Edge,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“The one food book you must read this year."
—Southern Living 

One of Christopher Kimball’s Six Favorite Books About Food

A people’s history that reveals how Southerners shaped American culinary identity and how race relations impacted Southern food culture over six revolutionary decades

Like great provincial dishes around the world, potlikker is a salvage food. During the antebellum era, slave owners ate the greens from the pot and set aside the leftover potlikker broth for the enslaved, unaware that the broth, not the greens, was nutrient rich. After slavery, potlikker sustained the working poor, both black and white. In the…

Wish Lists and Road Trips

By Lauren H. Mae,

Book cover of Wish Lists and Road Trips

Kristyn J. Miller Author Of Seven Rules for Breaking Hearts

From the list on travel romance to take you around the globe.

Who am I?

As a romance author, I pull a lot of inspiration from my travels. My husband always says that shared experiences strengthen bonds and I believe that wholeheartedly—which is why I think travel romances just work. Romance as a genre isn’t necessarily known for lush setting descriptions, but travel romances are sort of the exception to the rule, and I eat it up every time. If I close the book feeling like I’ve just got back from a vacation, it’s a five-star read for me. 

Kristyn's book list on travel romance to take you around the globe

Why did Kristyn love this book?

I have a soft spot for a good road trip romance and this one is seriously not talked about enough.

Two strangers—who are, of course, total opposites—miss their cruise ship and are forced to journey home together, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles-style. It starts in Costa Rica but covers the Southern U.S. all the way up the east coast. And you better believe that Lauren H. Mae puts all that forced proximity to good use. The tension. The pining. The rummy bears.

Give this one a try if you’re in the mood for a book that covers a lot of ground and has a lot of heart. 

By Lauren H. Mae,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wish Lists and Road Trips as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Two stranded strangers agree to travel together in order to return home, but when a slew of misadventures derail their plans, it might mean a chance to fall in love . . .

A sexy, opposites attract romance, ideal for fans of Emily Henry, Beth O'Leary and Christina Lauren.

'A steamy, sweet, rummy bear-fueled comedy of errors' Abby Jimenez

'Lauren weaves a beautiful story of self-discovery, loss and love in Wish Lists and Road Trips. My heart is so full. All the stars and more for this stunning, emotional romance' Helena Hunting

Two stranded travellers. One unexpected journey.



By Margaret Walker,

Book cover of Jubilee

Faye Snowden Author Of A Killing Rain

From the list on making you fall in love with reading.

Who am I?

I am a writer who loves to read. In fact when aspiring writers ask me for advice about getting started, I tell them to read widely, and more importantly, to fall in love with reading. So much about craft can be learned from deconstructing good books to see how they work. Each of the five books I’ve selected have influenced the way I tell my stories. They have taught me to examine past works for inspiration and compelling beginnings.

Faye's book list on making you fall in love with reading

Why did Faye love this book?

Walker’s Jubilee extends the slave narrative, a popular weapon used by abolitionists to fight slavery. Instead of ending when the main character escapes their cruel master, Walker tells the story of a woman’s journey from emancipation to reconstruction and beyond.

I included this book not only because of a great beginning, but also because I wanted to give an example of how important story is to the success of a book, and in some cases more important than the language.

Besides, how can you not read on after a first chapter with the title, “Death is a mystery that only the squinch owl knows”? 

By Margaret Walker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Jubilee tells the true story of Vyry, the child of a white plantation owner and his black mistress. Vyry bears witness to the South's antebellum opulence and to its brutality, its wartime ruin, and the promises of Reconstruction. Weaving her own family's oral history with thirty years of research, Margaret Walker's novel brings the everyday experiences of slaves to light. Jubilee churns with the hunger, the hymns, the struggles, and the very breath of American history.

The Sound and the Fury

By William Faulkner,

Book cover of The Sound and the Fury

Jim O'Loughlin Author Of The Cord

From the list on American novels that mess with time.

Who am I?

If this list of books sounds like it would make for a great class, that’s because it is! These books form the core of an American Novels Since 1900 class that I teach at the University of Northern Iowa. I didn’t choose them initially because they mess with time, but after teaching them for a number of years, I couldn’t help but notice the ways in which they spoke to one another, and I guess I couldn’t help but be influenced by them as well.

Jim's book list on American novels that mess with time

Why did Jim love this book?

While no one would call Faulkner’s 1929 masterpiece “a surprisingly accessible read,” it remains a landmark of modernism and one of the finest examples of stream of consciousness prose. Faulkner takes readers deep into the minds of his perspective characters, showing the ways they think in real-time as they navigate a day while consumed by past traumas, unstable identities, and inherited historical burdens.

By William Faulkner,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Sound and the Fury as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A complex, intense American novel of family from the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature

With an introduction by Richard Hughes

Ever since the first furore was created on its publication in 1929, The Sound and the Fury has been considered one of the key novels of this century. Depicting the gradual disintegration of the Compson family through four fractured narratives, the novel explores intense, passionate family relationships where there is no love, only self-centredness. At its heart, this is a novel about lovelessness - 'only an idiot has no grief; only a fool would forget it.

What else…

The Kitchen House

By Kathleen Grissom,

Book cover of The Kitchen House

Diane C. McPhail Author Of The Abolitionist's Daughter

From the list on little-known Civil War era history.

Who am I?

Diane C. McPhail is the award-winning author of The Abolitionist’s Daughter, her debut novel based on family history and little-known impediments to Southern Abolitionism and anti-slavery. Her yet-to-be-titled second novel, a historical 1900 Chicago & New Orleans psychological mystery, is due for release in the spring of 2022. As an experienced therapist, Diane has a passionate interest in the complex, sometimes conflicting, qualities of character and culture, and how those intricacies complicate the plot. Diane holds an M.F.A., M.A., and Doctor of Ministry.

Diane's book list on little-known Civil War era history

Why did Diane love this book?

In this bestseller, Grissom offers an intricate view of little-known history. I am intrigued by stories that open a window onto aspects of life in history that, for one reason or another, are unfamiliar. Grissom’s story of an Irish indentured servant struggling to bridge the gap between race and class is just such a revelation. These issues remain timeless and powerful.

By Kathleen Grissom,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Kathleen Grissom, New York Times bestselling author of the highly anticipated Glory Over Everything, established herself as a remarkable new talent with The Kitchen House, now a contemporary classic. In this gripping novel, a dark secret threatens to expose the best and worst in everyone tied to the estate at a thriving plantation in Virginia in the decades before the Civil War.

Orphaned during her passage from Ireland, young, white Lavinia arrives on the steps of the kitchen house and is placed, as an indentured servant, under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate slave daughter. Lavinia learns to cook,…

Confederate Reckoning

By Stephanie McCurry,

Book cover of Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South

William Barney Author Of Rebels in the Making: The Secession Crisis and the Birth of the Confederacy

From the list on an offbeat look at the Confederacy.

Who am I?

From a youth devouring the books of Bruce Catton to my formative years as a historian, I’ve been fascinated by the Civil War, especially the thinking and experiences of southerners who lived through the cataclysmic war years. In my teaching and writing, I’ve tried to focus on the lived experiences, the hopes and fears, of southerners who seemingly embraced secession and an independent Southern Confederacy in the expectation of a short, victorious war only to become disenchanted when the war they thought would come to pass turned into a long, bloody stalemate. The books I’ve listed share my passion for the war and open new and often unexpected windows into the Confederate experience.

William's book list on an offbeat look at the Confederacy

Why did William love this book?

A great book for teaching me how much the wartime experiences and political resistance of the soldiers’ wives and the slaves impacted the fate of the Confederacy and pushed it in directions never imagined by the planters who created the Confederacy to serve their interests and not the majority of the population they expected to do their bidding. 

By Stephanie McCurry,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Confederate Reckoning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Pulitzer Prize Finalist
Winner of the Frederick Douglass Book Prize
Winner of the Merle Curti Award

"McCurry strips the Confederacy of myth and romance to reveal its doomed essence. Dedicated to the proposition that men were not created equal, the Confederacy had to fight a two-front war. Not only against Union armies, but also slaves and poor white women who rose in revolt across the South. Richly detailed and lucidly told, Confederate Reckoning is a fresh, bold take on the Civil War that every student of the conflict should read."
-Tony Horwitz, author of Confederates in the Attic

"McCurry challenges…

Oil Notes

By Rick Bass,

Book cover of Oil Notes

David B. Williams Author Of Stories in Stone: Travels Through Urban Geology

From the list on geology that aren’t really about rocks.

Who am I?

For the past two decades, I have written about the intersection of people and place, particularly as viewed through the lens of geology and how it influences our lives. My nine books include Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography, Cairns: Messengers in Stone, and Homewaters: A Human and Natural History of Puget Sound. All of them have a goal of helping people develop a better connection with the natural world around them.

David's book list on geology that aren’t really about rocks

Why did David love this book?

A petroleum geologist working in the American South, Rick Bass writes poetically about the geology, personalities, and challenges of an industry that he clearly loves. I don’t agree with him about how great oil extraction is as an industry and feel that he omitted its downsides but I appreciate his insights, observations, and wonderful prose about the life of a geologist in the field. Plus, rarely will you meet someone so into Classic Coke.

By Rick Bass,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The author of this book is a development geologist, advising oil companies where to drill and how to assess oil quantitities. The book describes his reflections on life, on nature and the excitement of discovering oil.

Book cover of Always a Reckoning and Other Poems

Jonathan Alter Author Of His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life

From the list on Jimmy Carter.

Who am I?

Jonathan Alter is an award-winning author, political analyst, documentary filmmaker, columnist, television producer and radio host. He has interviewed eight of the last nine American presidents and lectures widely about the presidency and public affairs.

Jonathan's book list on Jimmy Carter

Why did Jonathan love this book?

During one of my interviews, Carter told me that he had trouble expressing his emotions outside of his poetry. While Carter is not an outstanding poet, he succeeds here in offering glimpses of his inner life and fraught race relations in the American South. And he explores his relationship with his father, wife, son and others.

By Jimmy Carter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Always a Reckoning and Other Poems as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first collection of poetry by former President Jimmy Carter, who shares here his private memories about his childhood, his family and political life, with illustrations by his granddaughter. Always a Reckoning sets a precedent since no other president has published a book of poetry. Gift packaged with ribbon marker. A portion of the proceeds from sales will be donated to charity.

Ticket to Exile

By Adam David Miller,

Book cover of Ticket to Exile: A Memoir

Judy Juanita Author Of De Facto Feminism: Essays Straight Outta Oakland

From the list on how rebels kept up the good fight.

Who am I?

I read bios and memoirs because I need to know what really happened. I read several bios of the same person; then piece together a sense of the truth. As a journalist, I understand that all of a person’s life won’t make it into the final story. Editors have a mission of their own; books are molded by exigent demands and social mores. That’s why The Autobiography of Malcolm X in 1965 had one view of its subject, and Manning Marable’s bio in 2011 another. I’ve read both and other accounts to formulate my own ideas about the man and his times.

Judy's book list on how rebels kept up the good fight

Why did Judy love this book?

This coming-of-age story is set in Depression-era South Carolina. My relatives in Oklahoma from that era also were driven out of the South by racism, segregation, and the threat of death. Adam, who was my mentor and colleague at Laney College in Oakland, California, was a young Black male facing lynching. He was too intelligent to survive in the South. He reminds me of my father, a Tuskegee airman who fought the good fight and left the South for good also. 

By Adam David Miller,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A memoir of an African American childhood in the Jim Crow South

At age nineteen, A. D. Miller sat in a jail cell. His crime? He passed a white girl a note that read, "I would like to get to know you better." For this he was accused of attempted rape.

"Ticket to Exile" recounts Miller's coming-of-age in Depression-era Orangeburg, South Carolina. A closet rebel who successfully evades the worst strictures of a racially segregated small town, Miller reconstructs the sights, sounds, and social complexities of the pre-civil rights South. By the time he is forced into exile, we realize…