When you’re going to the American South for the first time, I think it’s a good idea to read a little about the culture first to get a sense of what it’s like. Everyone should read these books about the South before they go. They are the best ones.
Those books aren’t just set in the South; the South shapes them. The South is everywhere.
They aren’t all elegant and polite, but there are some of them, and they aren’t all of them.
Some of these books might even make you angry or make you cry, but all of them will help you learn more about Southern culture before you go there.
Let’s get in there.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This book is known as one of the best Southern novels for a good reason. Harper Lee wrote a classic book about one man’s struggle for personal integrity as he fights with his conscience in the 1930s. He is under a lot of pressure to conform to social norms. When the Pulitzer Prize was given out in 1961, Alabama was the winner.
If you like To Kill a Mockingbird and are also into writing and publishing, you might also want to read Go Set a Watchman. During 2015, this early draft of Mockingbird was made public.
There are a lot of people who call this book a sequel because it takes place 20 years after the main events in Mockingbird. It was written long before Mockingbird was even published.
The movie adaptation with Gregory Peck is great, but everyone should read the book first.
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Scarlet O’Hara and Rhett Butler are two people who like each other very much Those are some great balls of fire!
You know what to do.
Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird are both great books about the Deep South.
Also, this book shows how 1930s people in Georgia thought about the Civil War. It tells the story of one woman’s journey from pre-Civil War privilege to war and poverty.
It’s the only book Margaret Mitchell, a native of Atlanta, wrote while she was alive. Harper Lee is also a good person to think about, now that I think about it. Won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the National Book Award, and both. Gone with the Wind
If you’ve only seen the movie, read Gone with the Wind. It’s a good idea.
The Adventures Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the best book written in the United States. Fight with me.
He fakes his own death and sets off on a raft with a runaway slave named Jim to go down the Mississippi River.
These three states are on their way. Huck is always having to think about how the values of the society he grew up in don’t match up with his feelings for and friendship with Jim, a black man.
There is a lot of “n” word use in this book because of how Twain used English language.
Make sure you don’t waste your time with any movie adaptations of this book
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Abolitionist novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin is one of the best books about the South. It is set mostly in Kentucky and Louisiana, but it also takes place in other parts of the South.
You can’t read this book while having a cup of hot chocolate. It’s hard to read.
During both times I read it, I cried.
A young woman named Eliza runs away with her young child to find freedom in The King and I. If you’ve seen the movie, at least you know this part of the story.
A bad thing happened, though: The name “Uncle Tom” has become a bad thing for black people who have “sold out.” No one who says “Uncle Tom” in that way has read this book.
I think it’s hard to overestimate how important Uncle Tom’s Cabin was to American literature. During the 19th century, only the Bible sold more copies than Uncle Tom, and that was in the 1800s.
When President Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe, he said, “So this is the little lady who sparked this great war.”
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
The Giver of Stars is a book by Jojo Moyes that tells the story of Alice, an Englishwoman who just married the son of a coal mine owner in rural Kentucky in the 1930s. As a way to broaden her horizons, Alice signs up for the Works Progress Administration Pack Horse Library Project.
When the Great Depression was at its worst, the Packhorse Librarians took books to people in remote parts of Appalachia. The project hired about 200 women and gave books to people who didn’t have access to public libraries.
Some people in the town don’t like the library project or the women who work there. Alice has to learn how to get around and deal with them.
The Known World by Edward P. Jones
Prize-winning book The Known World is set in Virginia before the Civil War. It was chosen as the winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2004.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin looks at slavery from many different perspectives, but this book also looks at the history of black slave ownership.
When black plantation owner Henry Townsend dies, the order he built starts to fall apart. It spreads to everyone around it, whether you’re a slave or a free person, black or white.
The book is very well-made and written well, but only in a good way. It is very deep and dense, but only in a good way. Definitely not in a way that makes it hard to read. In the sense that the world Jones made up is real and true. He is said to have said that he did little to no research before writing, and that he only used memories of stories and his own imagination to write the story.
Black Boy by Richard Wright
Black Boy is one of the few books about which I can say that I couldn’t stop reading.
As a memoir, Black Boy isn’t like most of the other books on this list. It was written in 1945 and tells the story of Richard Wright’s early life.
Wright lived in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee when he was young. He moved to Chicago when he was a young man. Black Boy is an important book about Southern life at the time. It shows how poor and hungry he was as a child, as well as how he was racially discriminated against.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas
Frederick Douglas escaped slavery in Maryland to become one of the most important people in the fight against slavery.
Seven years after he was free, he wrote his story and put it out in 1845. It was against the law for slaves to learn how to read or write in a lot of states. It’s easier to keep them in servitude if they don’t have the education or literacy they need to be successful in social, economic, or political ways.
His narrative is still important today, and it’s a cornerstone in the slave narrative genre as well.