Books about the American South

Check out this list of interesting books to read to help you prepare for your next trip to the American South.

The United States is very large and so has different cultural and historical influences in different regions. In this post we’re going to take a look at The American South.

The American South is also called “The Bible Belt” because of the many churches, both large and small, scattered across the land as well as religious influence on society in the area. Texas is one of the most internationally known Southern states, but Southern culture in Texas is very different from what you’d find in South Carolina or Georgia. Many parts of Texas identify with the American Southwest (think cowboys and Spaghetti Westerns) whereas in the states that make up the American South are more closely related to a slower, sweet-tea and fried chicken kind of lifestyle.

The American South is both enchanting and evil. It is the place where the slave trade started in the United States as well as where the first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. It is also home to world-famous Southern hospitality, Gospel, and Soul Food. A place where centuries-old oak trees rustle in the cool Southern breezes. It’s the birthplace of Ray Charles and Hank Williams and where Gullah Geechee culture still thrives today.

In order to give you a chance to experience The American South, we’ve compiled a list of novels and short stories, both fiction and non-fiction, that will transport you among the chaos and beauty of the region.

  1. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – John Berendt

Published: 1999

This non-fiction novel explores the ins and outs of life in Savannah, Georgia while centering around a shocking crime.

  1. The Color Purple – Alice Walker

Published: 1982

The novel explores the lives of two sisters in rural Georgia as they cope with hardship and sacrifice.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Published: 1960

A cornerstone of the American literary canon, this novel depicts both the moral depths of the human conscience as well as a coming-of-age story in a small Southern town.

  1. As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner

Published: 1930

A harrowing tale of one family’s journey across rural Mississippi to bury their wife and mother, Addie.

  1. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café – Fannie Flagg

Published: 1987

This novel ties together two stories of friendship, loss, and adventure, one set in 1980’s Alabama and the other in the 1930’s.

  1. The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor – Flannery O’Connor

Published: 1955

This is the largest compilation of short stories by one of The American South’s most prolific authors.

  1. Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison

Published: 1952

This novel shows the nightmare of the nameless protagonist’s literal journey across The American South to the streets of Harlem as well as the horrors of his figurative journey across the racial divide.

  1. The Water is Wide – Pat Conroy

Published: 1972

The true story of Pat Conroy’s difficult and rewarding year teaching on Yamacraw Island, a land where the way of life is threatened by the fast-growing, overbearing world around it.

 

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