The Best Southern Novels of All Time

A list of the best southern novels of all time by Oxford American Magazine judged by 130 experts as well as authors.

1. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

Absalom, Absalom! is a Southern Gothic novel by the American author William Faulkner, first published in 1936. It is a story about three families of the American South, taking place before, during,…

2. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

All the King’s Men portrays the dramatic political ascent and governorship of Willie Stark, a driven, cynical populist in the American South during the 1930s.

3. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

The Sound and the Fury is set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County. The novel centers on the Compson family, former Southern aristocrats who are struggling to deal with the dissolution of their fa…

4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Revered by all of the town’s children and dreaded by all of its mothers, Huckleberry Finn is indisputably the most appealing child-hero in American literature. Unlike the tall-tale, idyllic worl…

5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

As a Southern Gothic novel and a Bildungsroman, the primary themes of To Kill a Mockingbird involve racial injustice and the destruction of innocence. Scholars have noted that Lee also addresses is…

6. The Moviegoer by Walker Percy

The Moviegoer tells the story of Binx Bolling, a young stockbroker in post-war New Orleans. The decline of Southern traditions, the problems of his family and his traumatic experiences in the Korea…

7. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

The book is told in stream of consciousness writing style by 15 different narrators in 59 chapters. It is the story of the death of Addie Bundren and her family’s quest — noble or selfish — to honor he…

8. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

The novel addresses many of the social and intellectual issues facing African-Americans in the early twentieth century, including black nationalism, the relationship between black identity and Marx…

9. Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor

Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor’s astonishing and haunting first novel, is a classic of twentieth-century literature. It is the story of Hazel Motes, a twenty-two-year-old caught in an unending strug…

10. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

The main character, an African American woman in her early forties named Janie Crawford, tells the story of her life and journey via an extended flashback to her best friend, Pheoby, so that Pheoby…

11. The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

Written in Charlotte, North Carolina in a house on East Blvd, it is about a deaf man named John Singer and the people he encounters in a 1930s mill town in the U.S. state of Georgia.

12. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

A Confederacy of Dunces is a picaresque novel written by John Kennedy Toole, published in 1980, 11 years after the author’s suicide. The book was published through the efforts of writer Walker Perc…

13. Light in August by William Faulkner

Lght in August is an exploration of racial conflict in the society of the Southern United States.

14. A Death in the Family by James Agee

A Death in the Family is an autobiographical novel by author James Agee, set in Knoxville, Tennessee. He began writing it in 1948, but it was not quite complete when he died in 1955. It was edited …

15. Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe

It is Wolfe’s first novel, and is considered a highly autobiographical American Bildungsroman. The character of Eugene Gant is generally believed to be a depiction of Wolfe himself. The novel cover…

16. Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved (1987) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. The novel, her fifth, is loosely based on the life and legal case of the slave Margaret Garner, about whom Morrison…

17. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

First published in 1899, this novel shocked readers with its open sensuality and uninhibited treatment of marital infidelity. Poignant and lyrical, it tells the story of a New Orleans wife who atte…

18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on female black life during the 1930s in the Southern United States, addressing the numerous issues including their exceedingly low position …

19. Native Son by Richard Wright

The novel tells the story of 20-year old Bigger Thomas, an African American living in utter poverty. Bigger lived in Chicago’s South Side ghetto in the 1930s. Bigger was always getting into troubl…

20. The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty

The Optimist’s Daughter is a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winning 1972 short novel by Eudora Welty. It concerns a woman named Laurel, who travels to New Orleans to take care of her father, Judge McKe…

21. Suttree by Cormac McCarthy

Suttree is a semi-autobiographical novel by Cormac McCarthy, published in 1979.

22. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Gone With the Wind is set in Jonesboro and Atlanta, Georgia during the American Civil War and Reconstruction and follows the life of Scarlett O’Hara, the daughter of an Irish immigrant plantation o…

23. Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner

Go Down, Moses is a collection of seven related pieces of short fiction by American author William Faulkner, sometimes considered a novel. The most prominent character and unifying voice is that of…

24. The Golden Apples by Eudora Welty

25. Cane by Jean Toomer

Cane is a 1923 novel by noted Harlem Renaissance figure and author Jean Toomer. The novel is structured as a series of vignettes revolving around the origins and experiences of African Americans in…

26. The Known World by Edward P. Jones

The Known World is a 2003 historical novel by Edward P. Jones. It was his first novel and second book. Set in antebellum Virginia, it examines issues regarding the ownership of black slaves by free…

27. The Last Gentleman by Walker Percy

28. Deliverance by James Dickey

Narrated in the first person by one of the main characters, graphic artist Ed Gentry, the novel begins with four middle-aged men in a large Georgia city planning a weekend canoe trip down the ficti…

29. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West is a 1985 Western novel by American author Cormac McCarthy. It was McCarthy’s fifth book, and was published by Random House. The narrative foll…

30. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

A Lesson Before Dying is Ernest J. Gaines’ eighth novel, published in 1993. “A Lesson Before Dying” is a story of two African-American men scrabbling to attain their manhood in a deeply prejudic…

31. The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron

The novel is based on an extant document, the “confession” of Turner to the white lawyer Thomas Gray. In the historical confessions, Turner claims to have been divinely inspired, charged with a mis…

32. Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

Bastard Out of Carolina was the first novel published by author Dorothy Allison. The book, which is semi-autobiographical in nature, is set in Allison’s hometown of Greenville, South Carolina. Narr…

Source: www.oxfordamerican.org

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