The Best Southern Nonfiction of All Time

The best southern United States nonfiction books of all time judged by 130 literary experts and authors.

1. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is a book with text by American writer James Agee and photographs by American photographer Walker Evans first published in 1941 in the United States. The title is from …

2. Black Boy by Richard Wright

Black Boy is an autobiography by Richard Wright. Depicting Wright’s life in great detail, the book tells the story of his troubled youth and race relations in the South. It is about the struggles t…

3. The Mind of the South by W.J. Cash

4. One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty

Eudora Alice Welty (April 13, 1909 — July 23, 2001) was an award-winning American author who wrote short stories and novels about the American South. Her book, The Optimist’s Daughter, won the Puli…

5. The Civil War by Shelby Foote

The Civil War: A Narrative (1958–1974) is a three volume, 2,968-page, 1.2 million-word history of the American Civil War by Shelby Foote. Although previously known as a novelist, Foote is most famo…

6. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no appar…

7. Killers of the Dream by Lillian Smith

8. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is a memoir and treatise on abolition written by famous orator and ex-slave, Frederick Douglass. It is generally held to be the most famous of a number o…

9. North Toward Home by Willie Morris

With his signature style and grace, Willie Morris, arguably one of this country’s finest Southern writers, presents us with an unparalleled memoir of a country in transition and a boy coming of age…

10. A Childhood: The Biography of a Place by Harry Crews

11. Mystery and Manners by Flannery O’Connor

12. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is a book that was published in 1861 by Harriet Jacobs, using the pen name “Linda Brent”. While on one level it chronicles the experiences of Harriet Jacobs as…

13. Lanterns on the Levee by William Alexander Percy

The Southern poet’s memoirs recreate his childhood years on the Mississippi Delta, his service in Belgium with Hoover, and his conflict with the Ku Klux Klan in Greenville

14. The Habit of Being by Flannery O’’Connor

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Special Award “I have come to think that the true likeness of Flannery O’Connor will be painted by herself, a self-portrait in words, to be found in her l…

15. Salvation on Sand Mountain by Dennis Covington

Dennis Covington (b. October 30, 1948) is an American writer. He studied fiction writing, and earned a BA degree from the University of Virginia. He served in the US Army. He earned an MFA in the e…

16. All Over But The Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg

17. Mary Chestnut’s Civil War by Mary Chesnut

Mary Boykin Chesnut began her diary on February 18, 1861, and ended it on June 26, 1865. She was an eyewitness to many historic events as she accompanied her husband to significant sites of the Civ…

18. Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain

Life on the Mississippi is a memoir by Mark Twain detailing his days as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River before and after the American Civil War.

19. I’ll Take My Stand by Twelve Southerners

The Southern Agrarians (also known as the Twelve Southerners, the Vanderbilt Agrarians, the Nashville Agrarians, the Tennessee Agrarians, or the Fugitive Agrarians) were a group of twelve American …

20. The Message In the Bottle by Walker Percy

The Message in the Bottle: How Queer Man is, How Queer Language is, and What One Has to Do with the Other is a collection of essays on semiotics written by Walker Percy and first published in 1975….

21. The Burder of Southern History by C. Vann Woodward

22. Origins of the New South by C. Vann Woodward

23. The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry (born August 5, 1934, Henry County, Kentucky) is an American man of letters, academic, cultural and economic critic, and farmer. He is a prolific author of novels, short stories, poem…

24. The Earl of Louisiana by A.J. Liebling

Originally this book was a three-part profile in The New Yorker. It’s a breezy portrait of the last 15 months of Earl Long’s lusty career. Liebling believes that Governor Earl Long, brother of the …

25. Rising Tide by John Barry

Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America

Source: www.oxfordamerican.org

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