“The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children." G K Chesterton

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Southern Literature Suggestions 1-20

I am participating this year in the Southern Literature Challenge IF I can figure out how that works. Southern Literature is one of my loves. I guess I should participate in a more difficult challenge like Asian Literature, Self-help, or those pesky Puritans, but I am not. I am going to stick to what I love. My affections have been ordered this way.

To start the challenge out I thought I would catalog which books I have already read from this extensive list of Southern Literature.  Perhaps my list will inspire you to check out Southern authors and stories. Many of these books qualify as classics.

Books 1-10

I have read 7 of the first 10. That is an encouraging start.

To Kill a Mockingbird

A book of true depth and insight.

Gone with the Wind 

Our 8th grade Civil War class in Deland, Fl was taken to the theater to see the movie of this book. I wonder if northern schools did that?
By the time I was 16 I had read this at least twice.

Huckleberry Finn

Great family read-aloud.

The Help

A great story which suffers from naive writing but the movie is fantastic. I would not put this high on my list of favorite Southern literature.

The Sound and the Fury

I love this book and I love Faulkner. His writing is the definition of Southern literature: poetic, pathetic and gothic. 

Tom Sawyer

Their Eyes were Watching God

I especially enjoyed this book as I spent my childhood in many of the places she writes about.  Strong, Southern voice.

 I would give 5 of them 5 stars, one of them 4 stars and The Help 3 stars. I really do like Southern Literature.

Things begin to drop off. I have only read 3 of the next 10 but have seen two of the plays and had to quit reading one because it seemed to foul.

(Now for an aside. I have tried to find out the exact rules for capitalizing the words South and Southern to no avail. Therefore, I have decided to make up my own rules. I will capitalize those words and in an act of rebellion against northern aggression I will keep the words north and northern  lower case. We all must do our part.)

Books 11-20

A Good Man is Hard to Find

I am not sure why I struggle with O'Connor. She writes well and pathetic and gothic, maybe just a bit too gothic.  The title story will stay with whomever reads it like a bad Neil Diamond song. A friend almost hit a good Samaritan on the head with a tire iron  once because of this book.  In her defense we were stranded on a south Georgia road in the middle of nowhere not too far from Milledgville. Perhaps those Georgia  roads are haunted by the ghost of Flannery as well as being speed traps.

As I Lay Dying

In another life I would be William Faulkner or maybe just the housemaid who pours his whiskey.

Cold Sassy Tree

This is a thumping good read. If you need a place to start reading Southern literature this would be it. 

(I hope to continue going through the Good Reads list over the course of the next couple of months. Next up 21-40.)


  1. I've never read any Faulkner, nor have I read "Their Eyes Were Watching God", but I have read all the others. Actually, I'm reading Flannery O'Conner right now. I understand the point of A Good Man is Hard to Find, but some of the others have left me scratching my head and saying, "What just happened"? Rather morbid. I think I need some Spark Notes or something ;)
    When you told me the "tire-iron" story a while back, I didn't quite get it...until reading about The Misfit. ;)
    Also, I agree that Cold Sassy Tree is a great place to start. Loved it.

  2. I've read 5 of the first 10, but my 5 include a couple that aren't in your 7. I've only read 1 from the 11-20 group, and it was Carson McCullers. Southern literature (capitalized because it's the first word in this sentence) isn't a favorite genre of mine. I haven't even read Gone With the Wind!

    Since you're read all these...what have you picked for the challenge? (I lived 13 years in the south--FL panhandle, which is like southern AL--but I was always a northern transplant.)

  3. I am reading Wendell Berry and Walker Percy for the challenge.

  4. I just got back from Georgia, where I read a book about John Williams, the protagonist from Murder in Coweta County. That tale was literally a little too close to home, but it was a interesting study in the psychology of a good ol' boy gone bad. Why were people so loyal to this guy?

    O'Connor I think just requires a certain temperament. Being from the same locale as John Williams, I get her. But I can understand how not everyone does. She paints with a chunky brush and bold colors, so the results are not exactly photorealistic. And she was ahead of her time on the kitsch.

    I read one too many Faulkner books in college and started writing bad stream of consciousness journal entries for a while, but got over it when I realized I needed marketable skills. I still admire him, though, for being able to pull off writing a tale told by an idiot when he wasn't. Besides, I like the idea of him riding a horse through his own home. Sort of Teddy Roosevelt-like. No one would do that now.

  5. I do not need any more TBR books but Cold Sassy Tree sounds good. I have a horror of dark country roads and I blame it completely on O'Connor. :)

    I am reading Conroy's "My Reading Life". (I had wanted to read Alan Jacob's book on the pleasures of reading but, alas, my library doesn't have that one). In his second chapter he talks about his mother's love of "Gone with the Wind", which made me want to go pick it up and re-read it. I was 18yo the last time I read it so I suspect it will be a very different experience this time around. I read it three times in high school. I would gulp it down in three days. I need to take the Charlotte Mason approach of reading it slowly this time.

    Wendell Berry's "Hannah Coulter" is on my list to be read when I finish his books of essays. All of the rest of my reading is either English literature or history or those pesky puritans. ;)

    I admire you for doing a challenge. I don't dare commit myself to a schedule of any sort other than my bible reading this year.

  6. There are actually quite a few on that list that I didn't care for. My favorites are Fair and Tender Ladies, A Short HIstory of a Small Place, Cold Sassy Tree, The Help. I love anything by Wendell Berry but the best is Jayber Crow. I also enjoy Clyde Edgerton (start with Raney) and Sharyn McCrumb.

  7. I looked a little further down the list, counting as I went. I've read 16/50, or roughly 1/4 of the top 50. For someone who doesn't look for southern literature on purpose (I'll happily read any excellent book), I'm pretty satisfied with that. :-)

    (How nice of them to include John Grisham. ;-) )

  8. Karen,
    I think I ended up being 25/100.

  9. I haven't looked at the list so I don't know if ge's on it, but may I recommend Rick Bragg? He's a Pulitzer Prize winner who currently teaches writing at the U. Of Alabama. He writes memoirs about growing up in northeast Alabama and about his grandparents. I'm a native Alabamian, and he nails the poor folks of the South like nobody I've read. I have reviewed two if his books on my blog, if you're interested in some quotes for a taste of his style. I also love, love, love Wendell Berry, but otherwise I'm not a big fan of Southern lit.

  10. Okay, I took a peek at the list, and Rick Bragg is on it. And I forgot to say that I'm not a huge fan of Southern lit EXCEPT for To Kill a Mockingbird, Cold Saddy Tree, and the aforementioned authors. :-)

  11. Amy,
    Having lived in northern Alabama, in a rural community, pop. 400, I think I will give Rick Bragg a try. I loved that community.

  12. Don't skip Beloved. I read it twenty years ago and it stays with me still.