And That’s What I Like About the South…Top Fifteen Favorite Books Set in the South

Big wheels keep on turning 

Carry me home to see my kin 
Singing songs about the Southland 
I miss Alabamy once again
And I think it’s a sin, yes 
 
–Sweet Home Alabama
Lynard Skynard
Ya’ll I’ve lived nearly my whole life in the South, minus a couple of years spent out West when I was a kid.
And I definitely consider myself to be a southerner–I like iced tea and porch swings and BBQ and collard greens and red velvet cake.
I know how to fry catfish and make hush puppies and I grow tomatoes, okra, and peppers in my garden.
I love my college football and baseball (Go Noles!)
I say ‘yes ma’am’ and ‘no sir’ and have taught my sons to do the same.
Amazing Grace” is my favorite church hymn
 and yes, I really and truly DO have a cousin called Bubba (swear to God.)
I love living in the South.
Yeah, it’s hot and humid 70% of the year,
and rarely do we have those nice little season’s known as Spring and Fall
(we often move straight from freezing cold to blistering hot)
but hey, I live 15 minutes away from the most gorgeous,
sugar white sands of the Gulf of Mexico, so who am I to complain?
And you know what else I love about the South? Books that feature a southern setting–
often written by a southern author who loves the South just as much as I do.
So here are my top ten fifteen favorite books set in the South

First, the Classics:
 
1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Maycomb, Alabama
 
Guys, this is the quintessential book about the South–at least the South as I think of it when I was a little girl. I was born more than a decade after To Kill a Mockingbird was published, but the small town of Maycomb– with it’s dirt roads that turned to red slop when it rained and “ladies who bathed before noon, after there three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft tea cakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum” could be the mirror image of the little town where my grandmother and aunts and cousins lived. And where I would spend hours entertaining myself on backyard tire swings, in steamy greenhouses, and picking scuppernong’s from an ancient old vine. So this book has the nostalgia factor going for it that will always make it a favorite of mine.
2. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Georgia
 
Are you kidding? OF COURSE this book makes the list. Is there ANYTHING more southern than selfish, stubborn, yet resourceful, Scarlett O’Hara shouting that “As God is my witness, I’ll never go hungry again!”while trying to save her beloved home of Tara? I’ve only read this book once, but like any good southerner I love to watch the Gone With the Wind marathon on AMC every Thanksgiving (after I’ve had my fill of sweet potato pie and college football, that is 😉
3a. Any of Eudora Welty’s Short Stories
Mississippi
 
I’ve read a lot of Welty’s short stories, and like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, they have that old, deep south feel to them. One of my favorites would be “Why I Live at the P.O.” because my grandmother used to take me with her to the Post Office to pick up her mail every day, she lived in such a rural small town that she didn’t have her own mailbox. The ladies who frequented it remind me of Welty’s southern matriarchs.

3b. Cross Creek by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Cross Creek, Florida

I had to come back and add this book in–I can’t believe I forgot it! Like Eudora Welty’s Mississippi books–Cross Creek is the picture of what my mom always calls The Old Florida. Rawlings was a northern transplant who moved to central Florida, bought a house and an orange grove, and fell in love with the land and the people. It’s also the only book on my list that is a memoir of sorts. It reads like a collection of short stories and my favorite is the one about the neighbors pig that Kinnan shot and had for dinner because it wouldn’t stop eating her ruffly-edged petunias:)

Young Adult & Middle Grade Books:

4. The Hourglass Series by Myra McEntire
Ivy Springs, Tennessee

The Hourglass Series, Hourglass, Timepiece and Infinityglass (which just released) are the first of four of my picks that are set in Tennessee and one of two that are based on the Tennessee town of Franklin. I love this series because Myra McEntire isn’t afraid to lay on the metaphors and has her characters think and say things like:

My breath caught in my throat. Hot buttered biscuits and honey.

You’re not what I expected.”

And also? Kaleb Ballard. Good gracious–what a fine specimen. 🙂

5. The Hundred Oaks Series by Miranda Kenneally
Franklin, Tennessee

The Hundred Oaks series, Catching Jordan, Stealing Parker,  Things I Can’t Forget and the upcoming Racing Savannah, are actually set in Franklin, TN (whereas the Hourglass series is set in the fictional town of Ivy Springs which is based on Franklin.) What is it with this town, anyway? Some mighty good writers are coming out of there…

So, straight up this companion series is one of my favorites. I love the down home feeling you get reading them. I feel like I KNOW that town, that high school, those ball fields, those churches and those people at this point. It could be any small-ish town in the South and yes, I CAN relate.

 
6. Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols
Nashville, Tennessee

I have never been to Nashville, ya’ll, but damn if I don’t want to go now that I have read Dirty Little Secret. Besides all the awesome music themes in this book–the city of Nashville plays center stage–from the Grand Ole Oprey, to Broadway where all the country music bars are, to Music Row with all the big label record houses can be found– Jennifer Echols totally brings that city to life in her book. I’m ready to roll up to one of those bars on Broadway and see Sam Hardiman on stage…

7. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Gunshot, Tennessee

John Green has three books set in the South. An Abundance of Katherines, which is my first Green book and still my favorite, as well as Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns. The reason I love this book is that it TOTALLY pokes fun at the South–and hey, I’m not above a good laugh, especially when it comes to Southern stereotypes. I laughed my ASS off while I was reading this book. My favorite part, without a doubt, is the wild hog hunting scene. You should read this book for that scene alone, people. Seriously funny and seriously just like the South:)

8. The Raven Cycle  by Maggie Stiefvater
Henrietta, Virginia

The Raven Cycle Series,  The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves, are set in author Maggie Stiefvater’s home state of Virginia in the fictional town of Henrietta. I love how the town is home to both the prestigious Aglionby Prep School, where Gansey and the rest of the Raven Boys attend classes, and also is the home of Blue Sargent who lives with her mom and “aunts” in house full of psychics. Another side of Henrietta is presented through Gansey’s friend Adam–who, for lack of a better term is as poor white trash as they come. And underneath that layered social strata is the magical world of Cabeswater which ties Blue, Gansey and Adam’s worlds together. Plus I love Maggie’s lush descriptions of the Virginia countryside.

9. This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
Lakeview, North Carolina
I’m pretty sure that all of Sarah Dessen’s books take place in her home state of North Carolina–so really any of them are great examples of a southern setting in a book. Many of her books take place in Colby, a North Carolina beach town–but I believe This Lullaby, my favorite Dessen book, takes place in Lakeview, NC. Remy and her girlfriends hang out at convenience stores and places like “The Spot” an abandoned lot out in the country where they often meet up to drink and discuss life. When I was in high school we used to hang out at an abandoned lot we called “The Cove”  and pretty much did the same thing. I don’t know if that’s a southern thing or a high school life thing, but I love it and I love this book:)

10. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
New Orleans, Louisiana
Ya’ll I live about 3 1/2 hours drive from New Orleans and it is one of my favorite cities. My first trip was to see The Cure in concert when I was sixteen–a trip my mom wasn’t completely aware of– and I have loved it ever since. And Out of the Easy not only captured that real New Orleans feel, it also educated me because it is set in the 1950’s. A favorite line from the book:

The scent of Havana tobacco draped thick from the magnolia trees in the front yard. Ice cubes mingled and clinked against the sides of crystal tumblers. Patrick said hello to a group of men sitting on the veranda. I heard the pop of a champagne cork and laughter from inside.

Gosh, does that little paragraph evoke a mood or what?

11. Lovestruck Summer by Melissa C. Walker
Austin, Texas
Guys, this book is like the best kept secret in YA. I read it after several bloggers talked it up and promptly fell in love. First and foremost, I am obsessed with the city of Austin and it’s alternative/ indie music scene. Attending a SXSW show is on my bucket list. So there’s that. But you know what else rocks about this book besides all the music stuff and awesome coming of age/voyage of self-discovery themes? Texas boys. Got to love them, you guys. And Lovestruck Summer’s Russ is one of the best:) What is it about Texas boys?? Sigh.
12. Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
Ft. Myers, Florida
At last we get to a book from my home state of Florida! So, I totally fell for Travis and Harper and their sweet, sweet romance in Something Like Normal. But you know what else I loved? The small beach town setting.  Dreg bars, beach house keg parties, and trips to the Waffle House in the wee hours of the morning– man that is SO my speed growing up on the Gulf Coast. Clearly Ft. Meyer’s resident Trish Doller is in tune with that part of the Florida life style:)
13. The Ghost Next Door by Wylly Folk St. John
Social Circle, Georgia
My all time favorite book from my childhood–the book that got me interested in reading in fact, was written by a fantastic children’s author and journalist right up the road from me in Social Circle, Georgia. There is more to the story–it turns out I know a grandchild of the late St. John, something I was beyond delighted to randomly discover just a few years back.

This supernatural/ ghost story/ mystery is set among big sprawling magnolia trees, perfect for climbing by the way, old abandoned back yard wells and ponds with slippery, moss covered rocks. It is a gorgeous, creepy, southern setting.

 
Adult Books
 
 
14. The Travis’ Series by Lisa Kleypas
Houston, Texas
Three words.

Hot. Texas. Boys.

And because it is an adult book it’s hot, Texas boys in action. 🙂 But the setting of Houston, with it’s wealthy socialite ladies and big wig oil barons is just plain awesome and the perfect escape for a middle-class girl like me:)

15. The Lives of the Mayfair Witches Series by Anne Rice
New Orleans, Louisiana

I read Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches and Vampire Chronicles books right after high school and became OBSESSED. And that was well before the Tom Cruise movie and  Twilight vampire mania. All you have to do is read a few chapters of The Witching Hour  and it is clear that Anne Rice has intimate knowledge of the city of New Orleans. If you are a fan of the real New Orleans–not just the French Quarter and Bourban Street–but those old graceful homes that flank the Garden District– then do yourself a favor and read some of Anne Rice’s NOLA stuff.  Her descriptions of that part of New Orleans are incredible.

 
There you have it! This southern girl’s favorite books with setting in the South! Do you like books with southern settings? Did I leave any off that you would have included? Drop me a comment and let me hear your thoughts on the subject:)