The Civil War: A Narrative, 1958-1974 (Nonfiction, History)
This one’s a classic. In this series of three hefty tomes, Foote creates the definitive guide to the Civil War.
The Book of Isaias: A Child of Hispanic Immigrants Seeks His Own America, 2016 (Nonfiction, Sociology)
This book won first place for the Best Political/Current Affairs Book in the International Latino Book Awards 2017, and it was listed as one of Southern Living's Best Books of 2016.
Memphis Rent Party: The Blues, Rock & Soul in Music’s Hometown, 2018
Memphis is weird, and Robert Gordon gets it. This collection encompasses the vast breadth of the myriad of musical moments for which Memphis (and the Delta) is known. From raucous parties at bluesman Junior Kimbrough’s juke joint to Jeff Buckley hitchhiking in the rain, from Tav Falco’s Panther Burns to Cat Power, Memphis Rent Party embraces the many sounds of Memphis.
Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession, 2018 (Nonfiction, Essays/Criticism)
Dead girls were having a moment in American fiction. The runaway success of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girls is just one example of America’s weird obsession with dead girls.
Richard J. Alley
Five Night Stand, 2015 (Fiction)
Three seemingly disparate characters come together, drawn by the power of music. This book by former Memphis magazine contributor Richard Alley has jazz, journalism, estranged families, regret, secrets, and a search for meaning.
Michael Williams and Richard Cahan
Revolution in Black and White: Photographs of the Civil Rights Era by Ernest C. Withers, 2019 (Nonfiction, Biography)
This meticulously researched biography-meets-photo-collection is a mesmerizing look into the life of photographer Ernest C. Withers. Though the writers are Chicago-based, their subject, Ernest C. Withers, was a Memphian, and his photographs make up a good deal of the book.
Bluff City: The Pictures Tell the Story, 2019 (Nonfiction, Biography)
In this biography, author Preston Lauterbach gives a reasoned examination of the complicated legacy of Ernest C. Withers — photographer, chronicler of the civil rights movement, and FBI informant.
Kaitlin Sage Patterson
The Diminished, 2018 (Young Adult, Fantasy)
New rule: No one can be judged for seeking a little escapist entertainment while hunkered down and self-isolating during a global pandemic. Actually, I don’t believe in guilty pleasures, and, much as I love a well-researched history or a weighty work of literature, I have a mile-wide soft spot for good genre fiction. And if you’re hooked and need more, The Exalted, the sequel to The Diminished, was released last year.
Barry Wolverton and Dave Stevenson
Vanishing Island, 2015 (Middle Grade, Adventure)
In the first book in The Chronicles of the Black Tulip series, 12-year-old Bren gets more than he bargained for when he runs away to adventure on the sea. He’s stuck cleaning the vomitorium — at least, until a strange sailor gives him a curious coin.
Camel’s Bastard Son, 2020 (Fiction)
Absurdist, time-traveling love story from Memphis-based novelist, poet, and owner of Burke’s Book Store, Corey Mesler.
Memphis Noir, 2015 (Mystery)
Uncertainty seems to be the new normal, so why not double down with this hardboiled collection of Memphis mystery fiction?
Sing, Unburied, Sing 2017 (Fiction)
This is one of the best books published in recent memory. For Southern readers who missed this novel when it took the literary world by storm, can there be a better time to catch up?
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty, 1980 (Fiction)
Everyone should own this collection of short stories. End of story.
The Secret History, 1992 (Fiction)
Scandal, youth, friendship, murder. Donna Tartt’s first novel is set in New England, but she’s a Mississipian, so we’ll claim her for the Delta. The Secret History tells the tale of six close-knit college students — and one murder.
Dirty Work, 1988 (Fiction)
Two men — one black, one white — share stories from their adjacent beds in a VA hospital. Both men were born and raised in Mississippi, and both fought in Vietnam.
Katy Simpson Smith
The Everlasting, 2020 (Fiction)
Why not trip the light fantastic through a four-part, epoch-spanning story set in Rome? Smith explores the primordial power of love and faith through the shifting lens of history. And, as Smith told me in a recent phone interview, “Looking at the world in terms of 2,000-year chunks of time instead of two-week chunks of time is maybe a healthy way to approach this current crisis, too.”
The Reivers, 1962 (Fiction)
Some Faulkner fans discount his final novel because it eschews the complicated structures he’s famed for in favor of a more straightforward narrative. But this story of Mississippi country boys stealing the first car in Yoknapatawpha County to drive to Memphis is right up there with Absalom, Absalom! for me.
The Last Taxi Driver, 2020 (Fiction)
Absurd. Hilarious. Brutally honest.