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Reading good books about the South

There are plenty of good books about the South to read, deciding which one to read first is the problem.

Brent Murphree, Senior Editor, Delta Farm Press

December 11, 2020

2 Min Read
A sampling of Southern subjects.Brent Murphree

A couple of weeks ago I asked my Facebook friends to give me the titles of their favorite books about the South. I was surprised by the responses, from the obvious to the obscure, there are a lot of them. 

I asked the question to garner responses from my friends in the South who I knew would have opinions about Southern literature and would give me titles that were relevant to their experience. But I also received interesting responses from friends across the country who have mental pictures of the South based on the stories and books they have read. 

I have a family Christmas project for which I needed the names of some books. I come from a family of readers. Their homes, and mine, are filled with books. Each library is colored by the interest of the individual. 

As a kid, my parents would reference books that they had both read and I'd sit at the table, not understanding one thing they were talking about. It was like the books were a secret language between the two. 

I soon learned that sharing the experience of a book was like sharing a secret that few others knew. 

In the fifth grade my teacher, Mrs. Bell, read us Where the Red Fern Grows and the Yearling. A room of kids shared the words of Wilson Rawls and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. The other fifth grade classes had no idea what we were talking about when we went out to recess, high on the adventures and sometimes a little emotional from what Mrs. Bell read to us. 

My Christmas project is meant to be a shared experience. One we can talk about at family gatherings or when just two or three of us are together. 

When I asked for book titles, some of them were expected – The Sound and the Fury, A Painted House, Gone with the Wind.  

There were also a few that I had never considered a Southern book because they were so universal in context. Huck Finn has always been about adventure and friendship to me. Where the Red Fern Grows was always about Billy and the dogs, not really about the place they lived.  

A few of the books I'd never heard of – A Confederacy of Dunces, The Fall of the House of Zeus. Others I've put off reading – Absalom, Absalom and So Red the Rose.  Still, others I've read and reread – To Kill a Mockingbird and Rising Tide. 

Now my dilemma is not a lack of resources for books about the South, it is that there are so many books written by good Southern authors about the region that it's hard to decide what books I need to include. 

I don’t think that is a bad thing, it's just going to involve more reading. 

About the Author(s)

Brent Murphree

Senior Editor, Delta Farm Press

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