Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

100 Must-Read Works of Southern Literature

Emily Gatlin

Staff Writer

Emily Gatlin is a former independent bookstore manager turned freelance writer. Follow her antics on Twitter: @emilygatlin

While we at the Riot take some time off to rest and catch up on our reading, we’re re-running some of our favorite posts from the last several months. Enjoy our highlight reel, and we’ll be back with new stuff on Monday, January 6th.

This post originally ran June 20, 2013.

A Riot reader from the Midwest was so intrigued by my love letter to Flannery O’Connor, she asked if I had a copy of my Southern literature class reading list. She always wanted to dig into Southern lit, but didn’t know where to start. I realized that if you aren’t exposed to Southern lit, it can be difficult to navigate. Sure, you’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird, and yeah… that Faulkner guy was from Mississippi (let’s face it, Faulkner’s words ain’t easy on the brain). But what else is there?

william-faulknerI started to make a list of Southern books I had in my personal library, and I had around 70 that I would be willing to tell a stranger to read. Bookseller extraordinaire Joe Hickman of Lemuria Books in Jackson, Mississippi helped me fill in some gaps, and we exchanged a few notes on upcoming releases. Lemuria is by far the best bookstore in the South because they have a huge staff full of people who know their stuff. Plus, they have ALL THE BOOKS. Seriously. The books overflow off the shelves and are stacked all over the floor. Great place.

A few notes: some authors have so many good books, I just listed the ones I liked the most. In the case of Faulkner, I picked his more accessible novels. There is some really great nonfiction included and a lot of really great nonfiction NOT included. I had to cut it off at some point.

I suggest you pour yourself a glass of single barrel bourbon, make a batch of cheese straws, and start reading.


A Childhood: The Biography of a Place – Harry Crews
A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
A Death in the Family – James Agee
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
Airships – Barry Hannah
A Land More Kind Than Home – Wiley Cash
A Lesson Before Dying – Ernest Gaines
All Over but the Shoutin’ – Rick Bragg
All the King’s Men – Robert Penn Warren
Apostles of Light – Ellen Douglas
As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner
A Streetcar Named Desire – Tennessee Williams
A Time to Kill – John Grisham
The Awakening – Kate Chopin
Bastard Out of Carolina – Dorothy Allison
Bats Out of Hell – Barry Hannah
Big Bad Love – Larry Brown
Black Boy – Richard Wright
Blues All Around Me – B.B. King
Brother to a Dragonfly – Will Campbell
Burning Bright: Stories – Ron Rash
Before Women Had Wings – Connie May Fowler
Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy
Can’t Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters – Robert Gordon
Child of God – Cormac McCarthy
The Civil War: A Narrative(I-III) – Shelby Foote
Cold Mountain – Charles Frazier
Cold Sassy Tree – Olive Ann Burns
*The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty – Eudora Welty
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
The Complete Stories – Flannery O’Connor
The Courting of Marcus Dupree – Willie Morris
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter – Tom Franklin
Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man – Fannie Flagg
Deep Blues – Robert Palmer
Deliverance – James Dickey
Delta Wedding – Eudora Welty
Ellen Foster – Kaye Gibbons
The End of California – Steve Yarbrough
Every Day by the Sun – Dean Faulkner Wells
The Fall of the House of Zeus – Curtis Wilkie
Father of the Blues – W. C. Handy
Fire in the Morning – Elizabeth Spencer
Geronimo Rex – Barry Hannah
Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues – William Ferris
Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
The Great Santini – Pat Conroy
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers
Hell at the Breech – Tom Franklin
House of Prayer No. 2 – Mark Richard
I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down – William Gay
It Wasn’t All Dancing and Other Stories – Mary Ward Brown
Joe – Larry Brown
The Keepers of the House – Shirley Ann Grau
The Kitchen House – Kathleen Grissom
The Known World – Edward P Jones
Lanterns on the Levee – William Alexander Percy
The Last Gentleman – Walker Percy
The Last Girls – Lee Smith
The Last of the Southern Girls – Willie Morris
Light in August – William Faulkner
The Little Friend – Donna Tartt
Long Time Leaving: Dispatches from Up South – Roy Blount Jr.
Look Homeward, Angel – Thomas Wolfe
The Mind of the South – W.J. Cash
The Moviegoer – Walker Percy
Mudbound – Hillary Jordan
The Mysterious Secret of the Valuable Treasure – Jack Pendarvis
Native Guard – Natasha Trethewey
North Toward Home – Willie Morris
Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All – Allan Gurganus
Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored – Clifton Taulbert
One Foot in Eden – Ron Rash
One Mississippi – Mark Childress
The Optimist’s Daughter – Eudora Welty
Other Voices, Other Rooms – Truman Capote
Poachers – Tom Franklin
The Prince of Tides – Pat Conroy
Provinces of Night – William Gay
The Quiet Game – Greg Iles
Raney – Clyde Edgerton
Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 – John Barry
Run with the Horseman – Ferrol Sams
Salvage the Bones – Jesmyn Ward
Salvation on Sand Mountain – Dennis Covington
Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd
Serena – Ron Rash
The Sharpshooter Blues – Lewis Nordan
Shiloh and Other Stories – Bobbie Ann Mason
The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner
Southern Belly: A Food Lover’s Companion – John T. Edge
Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom – Peter Guralnick
Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Victory Over Japan – Ellen Gilchrist
Walking Across Egypt – Clyde Edgerton
Welding with Children – Tim Gautreaux
Wise Blood – Flannery O’Connor
Work Shirts for Madmen George Singleton
Zeitoun – Dave Eggers

New releases and coming soon:

The Death of Santini – Pat Conroy (Nan A. Talese)
Lookaway, Lookaway – Wilton Barnhardt (St. Martin’s Press)
Men We Reaped– Jesmyn Ward (Bloomsbury USA)
The Realm of Last Chances – Steve Yarbrough (Knopf)
The ResurrectionistThe Resurrectionist – Matthew Guinn (W.W. Norton)
Rivers – Michael Farris Smith (Simon & Schuster)
Someone Else’s Love Story – Joshilyn Jackson (William Morrow)
Sycamore Row – John Grisham (Doubleday)
This Dark Road to Mercy – Wiley Cash (January 28, 2014, William Morrow)
The Tilted World – Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly (William Morrow)


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