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LIST: The Rest of the Best Southern Nonfiction

Here it is—the list you've been waiting for! Every work of nonfiction outside the top five that received at least one vote from our judges. (The number of votes each book received is indicated in parentheses after the author’s name.)

For more information about our esteemed Judges, please click here.

“Judging by my list alone, an anthropologist from Mars might conclude that Southern writing was a literature of diaspora—two thirds of the authors I’ve voted for left the South. Jean Toomer and James Baldwin were New Yorkers, and Go Tell It On The Mountain is as much a great novel of northern urban life as it is of exile from the South (as is Invisible Man). This is no great mystery: The South has tended to drive off its finest writers. Race, clearly, is an enormous factor, but so, too, is the dissonance between the South’s sense of itself as a storytelling culture and its peculiar lack of affection for its most brilliant storytellers. This magazine’s ongoing financial struggle is yet one more indicator of the South’s failure to support one of its greatest resources: its literature of place, too often written from afar.” —from Jeff Sharlet's ballot

 

 


6. IN COLD BLOOD

by Truman Capote (19 votes)

“Truman Capote wrote a bona fide masterpiece with IN COLD BLOOD. Not many books give birth to an entirely new genre. This one did.” —J.E. Pitts

 

7. KILLERS OF THE DREAM

by Lillian Smith (16)

“An attack on the dangers of segregation, especially on women and children and even on herself.” —Thomas Bonner, Jr.

 

8. NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS

by Frederick Douglass (15)

“Douglass escaped the South as fast as he could, but returned to it over and over in prose and was building a house there when he died. Sometimes you can’t help but go home again.” —John Grammer

 

Tied for #9 with 14 votes each

A CHILDHOOD: THE BIOGRAPHY OF A PLACE

by Harry Crews

 

NORTH TOWARD HOME

by Willie Morris

“I’d have to disown my twenty-year-old self if I didn’t mention Morris’s first book, a young man’s memoir that won my heart thirty years ago and still occupies a big place there.” —John Grammer

 

10. MYSTERY AND MANNERS

by Flannery O’Connor (13)


Tied for #11 with 11 votes each

ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTIN’

by Rick Bragg

“All OVER BUT THE SHOUTIN’ is flat-out amazing. If there’s a unique way to explain your past, and the past of your forefathers, Rick Bragg can do it.” —J.E. Pitts

 

THE HABIT OF BEING

by Flannery O’Connor

“Everything a person would ever need or want to know is in THE HABIT OF BEING. It is to my mind an even better and more ‘significant’ book than O’Connor’s works of fiction, though I suspect O’Connor would demur.” —Wendy Brenner

 

INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL

by Harriet Jacobs

 

LANTERNS ON THE LEVEE

by William Alexander Percy

 

SALVATION ON SAND MOUNTAIN: SNAKE HANDLING AND REDEMPTION IN SOUTHERN APPALACHIA

by Dennis Covington

“Shows the links to which we’ll go to connect with the sacred.” —Melissa Delbridge

 

12. MARY CHESNUT'S CIVIL WAR

by Mary Chesnut, ed. C. Vann Woodward (8)

 

Tied for #13 with 7 votes each

I'LL TAKE MY STAND: THE SOUTH AND THE AGRARIAN TRADITION by Twelve Southerners


LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI by Mark Twain


Tied for #14 with 6 votes each

THE BURDEN OF SOUTHERN HISTORY by C. Vann Woodward

 

THE MESSAGE IN THE BOTTLE by Walker Percy

“Walker Percy’s first essay in THE MESSAGE IN THE BOTTLE opens with a famous litany—‘Why does man feel so sad in the twentieth century?’—a long list of questions that knocked me flat the first time I read it in 1975 in THE SOUTHERN REVIEW. It still does.” —William Caverlee

 

Tied for #15 with 5 votes each

THE EARL OF LOUISIANA by A.J. Liebling


ORIGINS OF THE NEW SOUTH, 1877-1913 by C. Vann Woodward


RISING TIDE: THE GREAT FLOOD OF 1927 AND HOW IT CHANGED AMERICA by John M. Barry

“RISING TIDE is even more compelling in light of America’s post-Katrina politics. History repeated itself in many aspects. The book just gets better the longer it exists.” —Moira Crone

THE UNSETTLING OF AMERICA: CULTURE AND AGRICULTURE by Wendell Berry

 

 


 

The following books received 4 votes each
THE ART OF THE COMMONPLACE by Wendell Berry
BREACH OF FAITH by Jed Horne
BROTHER TO A DRAGONFLY by Will D. Campbell
CONFEDERATES IN THE ATTIC: DISPATCHES FROM THE UNFINISHED CIVIL WAR by Tony Horwitz
FROM SLAVERY TO FREEDOM: A HISTORY OF AFRICAN AMERICANS by John Hope Franklin
HUEY LONG by T. Harry Williams
IN SEARCH OF OUR MOTHERS’ GARDENS: WOMANIST PROSE by Alice Walker
MULES AND MEN by Zora Neale Hurston
ON FIRE by Larry Brown
PARTING THE WATERS: AMERICA IN THE KING YEARS, 1954-1963 by Taylor Branch
PILGRIM AT TINKER CREEK by Annie Dillard
ROLL, JORDAN, ROLL: THE WORLD THE SLAVES MADE by Eugene D. Genovese
SOUTHERN HONOR: ETHICS AND BEHAVIOR IN THE OLD SOUTH by Bertram Wyatt-Brown
SPEAK NOW AGAINST THE DAY by John Egerton

The following books received 3 votes each
BLOOD HORSES: NOTES OF A SPORTSWRITER’S SON by John Jeremiah Sullivan
COMING OF AGE IN MISSISSIPPI by Anne Moody
CONFESSIONS OF A FAILED SOUTHERN LADY by Florence King
THE COURTING OF MARCUS DUPREE by Willie Morris
CROSS CREEK by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS by Maya Angelou
LAST TRAIN TO MEMPHIS: THE RISE OF ELVIS PRESLEY by Peter Guralnick
THE LIARS’ CLUB by Mary Karr
MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL by John Berendt
PATH TO POWER (THE YEARS OF LYNDON JOHNSON, VOLUME ONE) by Robert A. Caro
PRAYING FOR SHEETROCK by Melissa Fay Greene
THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK by W.E.B. Du Bois
THE STRANGE CAREER OF JIM CROW by C. Vann Woodward
UP FROM SLAVERY by Booker T. Washington

The following books received 2 votes each
AGEE ON FILM: CRITICISM AND COMMENT ON THE MOVIES by James Agee
AIR GUITAR: ESSAYS ON ART AND DEMOCRACY by Dave Hickey
ALL GOD’S DANGERS: THE LIFE OF NATE SHAW by Theodore Rosengarten
THE ATTACK ON LEVIATHAN: REGIONALISM AND NATIONALISM IN THE U.S. by Donald Davidson
AVA’S MAN by Rick Bragg
BLOOD DONE SIGN MY NAME by Timothy Tyson
A CHRISTMAS MEMORY by Truman Capote
CLEAR PICTURES: FIRST LOVES, FIRST GUIDES by Reynolds Price
CRACKERS by Roy Blount, Jr.
FATAL FLOWERS: ON SIN, SEX, AND SUICIDE IN THE DEEP SOUTH by Rosemary Daniell
FAULKNER: A BIOGRAPHY by Joseph Blotner
LETTER FROM BIRMINGHAM JAIL by Martin Luther King, Jr.
NIGHT COMES TO THE CUMBERLANDS by Harry M. Caudill
NOTES ON THE STATE OF VIRGINIA by Thomas Jefferson
OUR SOUTHERN HIGHLANDERS by Horace Kephart
THE RACE BEAT: THE PRESS, THE CIVIL RIGHTS STRUGGLES, AND THE AWAKENING OF A NATION by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff
RED HILLS AND COTTON: AN UPCOUNTRY MEMORY by Ben Robertson
THE SAME RIVER TWICE by Chris Offutt
SLAVES IN THE FAMILY by Edward Ball
SOUTH TO A VERY OLD PLACE by Albert Murray
SOUTHERN POLITICS IN STATE AND NATION by V.O. Key
STRANGE FRUIT by Lillian Smith
TWO OR THREE THINGS I KNOW FOR SURE by Dorothy Allison
WALLACE by Marshall Frady
WHITE OVER BLACK by Winthrop D. Jordan
WHY WE CAN’T WAIT by Martin Luther King, Jr.

The following books received 1 vote each
A SOUTHERN RENAISSANCE: THE CULTURAL AWAKENING OF THE AMERICAN SOUTH, 1930-1955 by Richard H. King
AMERICAN BRUTUS: JOHN WILKES BOOTH AND THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACIES by Michael W. Kauffman
THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE by H.L. Mencken
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAIN by Mark Twain
A BALANCE OF QUINCES: THE PAINTINGS AND DRAWINGS OF GUY DAVENPORT by Erik Reece and Guy Davenport
NOTES OF A NATIVE SON by James Baldwin
BAPTIZED IN BLOOD: THE RELIGION OF THE LOST CAUSE, 1865-1920 by Charles Reagan Wilson
BATTLE CRY OF FREEDOM: THE CIVIL WAR ERA by James McPherson
BEARING THE CROSS: MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., AND THE SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE by David Garrow
BENEATH THE UNDERDOG: HIS WORLD AS COMPOSED BY MINGUS by Charles Mingus
BLACK LIKE ME by John Howard Griffin
BLESS YOUR HEART, TRAMP: AND OTHER SOUTHERN ENDEARMENTS by Celia Rivenbank
THE BLIND SIDE: EVOLUTION OF A GAME by Michael Lewis
BLOOD AND GRITS by Harry Crews
BLOOD ORCHID: AN UNNATURAL HISTORY OF AMERICA by Charles Bowden
BOONE: A BIOGRAPHY by Robert Morgan
BOY WITH A LOADED GUN: A MEMOIR by Lewis Nordan
CARRY ME HOME: BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA: THE CLIMACTIC BATTLE OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT by Diane McWhorter
CHILDREN OF PRIDE: THE TRUE STORY OF GEORGIA AND THE CIVIL WAR by Robert Manson Myers
THE COLLECTED ESSAYS OF RALPH ELLISON by Ralph Ellison
CONJECTURES OF ORDER: INTELLECTUAL LIFE AND THE AMERICAN SOUTH, 1810-1860 by Michael O’Brien
CROSSED OVER: A MURDER, A MEMOIR by Beverly Lowry
DARKNESS VISIBLE: A MEMOIR OF MADNESS by William Styron
LOST MOUNTAIN: A YEAR IN THE VANISHING WILDERNESS: RADICAL STRIP MINING AND THE DEVASTATION OF APPALACHIA by Erik Reece
DEER HUNTING WITH JESUS: DISPATCHES FROM AMERICAN’S CLASS WAR by Joe Bageant
THE DISPOSSESSED GARDEN: PASTORAL AND HISTORY IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE by Lewis P. Simpson
DIXIE: A PERSONAL ODYSSEY THROUGH EVENTS THAT SHAPED THE MODERN SOUTH by Curtis Wilkie
DOG PHOTOS by William Eggleston
DOLLY: MY LIFE AND OTHER UNFINISHED BUSINESS by Dolly Parton
DOUBLE DOWN: REFLECTIONS OF GAMBLING AND LOSS by Frederick and Steven Barthelme
DUST TRACKS ON A ROAD: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY by Zora Neale Hurston
ECOLOGY OF A CRACKER CHILDHOOD by Janisse Ray
THE ENDURING SOUTH: SUBCULTURAL RESISTANCE IN MASS SOCIETY by John Shelton Reed
ESSAYS AND REVIEWS by Edgar Allan Poe
THE EVERGLADES: RIVER OF GLASS by Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Robert Fink
EVERY FORCE EVOLVES A FORM: TWENTY ESSAYS by Guy Davenport
FALLING THROUGH SPACE: THE JOURNALS OF ELLEN GILCHRIST by Ellen Gilchrist
FIRE ON THE BEACH: RECOVERING THE LOST STORY OF RICHARD ETHERIDGE AND THE PEA ISLAND LIFESAVERS by David Wright and David Zoby
GATHER AT THE RIVER: NOTES FROM THE POST-MILLENNIAL SOUTH by Hal Crowther
THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE IMAGINATION: FORTY ESSAYS by Guy Davenport
GOAT: A MEMOIR by Brad Land
THE GOOD PIRATES OF THE FORGOTTEN BAYOUS: FIGHTING TO SAVE A WAY OF LIFE IN THE WAKE OF HURRICANE KATRINA by Ken Wells
GOODBYE TO A RIVER: A NARRATIVE by John Graves
THE GREAT DELUGE: HURRICANE KATRINA, NEW ORLEANS, AND THE MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST by Douglas Brinkley
HELLFIRE: THE JERRY LEE LEWIS STORY by Nick Tosches
THE HUNTER GRACCHUS: AND OTHER PAPERS ON LITERATURE AND ART by Guy Davenport
I REMEMBER by Joe Brainard
THE IDEA OF THE AMERICAN SOUTH, 1920-1941 by Michael O’Brien
ILL NATURE by Joy Williams
IN THE COUNTRY OF COUNTRY: A JOURNEY TO THE ROOTS OF AMERICAN MUSIC by Nicholas Dawidoff
IT CAME FROM MEMPHIS by Robert Gordon
LESSONS FROM LITTLE ROCK by Terrence Roberts
LOOK HOMEWARD: A LIFE OF THOMAS WOLFE by David Herbert Donald
THE MAKING OF A SOUTHERNER by Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin
MAKING WHITENESS: THE CULTURE OF SEGREGATION IN THE SOUTH, 1890-1940 by Grace Elizabeth Hale
ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY by David Sedaris
MEMOIRS by Tennessee Williams
MEMPHIS AFTERNOONS: A MEMOIR by James Conaway
A MENCKEN CHRESTOMATHY: HIS OWN SELECTION OF HIS CHOICEST WRITING by H.L. Mencken
MILKING THE MOON: A SOUTHERNER'S STORY OF LIFE ON THIS PLANET by Eugene Walter as told to Katherine Clark
MOTHERS OF INVENTION: WOMEN OF THE SLAVEHOLDING SOUTH IN THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR by Drew Gilpin Faust
MY FATHER'S PEOPLE: A FAMILY OF SOUTHERN JEWS by Louis D. Rubin, Jr.
MY LOSING SEASON: A MEMOIR by Pat Conroy
MY OWN COUNTRY: A DOCTOR'S STORY OF A TOWN AND ITS PEOPLE IN THE AGE OF AIDS by Abraham Verghese
MY SOUL IS RESTED: THE STORY OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT IN THE DEEP SOUTH by Howell Raines
NEGROES WITH GUNS by Robert F. Williams
THE NEW ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SOUTHERN CULTURE (edited by various, including M. Thomas Inge and Charles Reagan Wilson)
NEW ORLEANS, MON AMOUR: TWENTY YEARS OF WRITINGS FROM THE CITY by Andrei Codrescu
NEW YORK DAYS by Willie Morris
NINE LIVES: DEATH AND LIFE IN NEW ORLEANS by Dan Baum
THE ORCHID THIEF: A TRUE STORY OF BEAUTY AND OBSESSION by Susan Orlean
PISSING IN THE SNOW AND OTHER OZARK FOLKTALES by Vance Randolph
POETRY AND THE AGE by Randall Jarrell
THE PROMISE OF THE NEW SOUTH: LIFE AFTER RECONSTRUCTION by Edward L. Ayers
RECONSTRUCTION: AMERICA'S UNFINISHED REVOLUTION, 1863-1877 by Eric Foner
THE REDNECK WAY OF KNOWLEDGE by Blanche McCrary Boyd
THE RIGHT STUFF by Tom Wolfe
THE RITZ OF THE BAYOU: THE NEW ORLEANS ADVENTURES OF A YOUNG NOVELIST COVERING THE TRIALS OF THE GOVERNOR OF LOUISIANA, WITH DIGRESSIONS ON SMOLDERING NIGHTCLUBS, JAZZ-CRAZED BARS, AND OTHER ASPECTS OF LIFE IN THE TROPIC ZONE by Nancy Lemann
ROBERT PENN WARREN: A BIOGRAPHY by Joseph Blotner
ROOTS: THE SAGA OF AN AMERICAN FAMILY by Alex Haley
SHADOW AND ACT by Ralph Ellison
SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME: THE RE-ENSLAVEMENT OF BLACK AMERICANS FROM THE CIVIL WAR TO WORLD WAR II by Douglas A. Blackmon
SOMEHOW FORM A FAMILY: STORIES THAT ARE MOSTLY TRUE by Tony Earley
SONS OF MISSISSIPPI: A STORY OF RACE AND ITS LEGACY by Paul Hendrickson
SOUL BY SOUL: LIFE INSIDE THE ANTEBELLUM SLAVE MARKET by Walter Johnson
THE SOUTH AND THE SOUTHERNER by Ralph McGill
THE STAINLESS STEEL KIMONO by Elliott Chaze
AND STILL THE WATERS RUN: THE BETRAYAL OF THE FIVE CIVILIZED TRIBES by Angie Debo
THIS STUBBORN SOIL: THE CLASSIC MEMOIR OF A FRONTIER BOY’S ESCAPE FROM POVERTY AND HUNGER by William A. Owens
THE SWAMP: THE EVERGLADES, FLORIDA, AND THE POLITICS OF PARADISE by Michael Grunwald
TASTE OF COUNTRY COOKING by Edna Lewis
TELL MY HORSE: VOODOO AND LIFE IN HAITI AND JAMAICA by Zora Neale Hurston
THE THANKSGIVING VISITOR by Truman Capote
TRUTH: FOUR STORIES I AM FINALLY OLD ENOUGH TO TELL by Ellen Douglas
TRUTH AND BEAUTY: A FRIENDSHIP by Ann Patchett
UP IN THE OLD HOTEL by Joseph Mitchell
THE WATER IS WIDE: A MEMOIR by Pat Conroy
WHISTLING IN THE DARK: TRUE STORIES AND OTHER FABLES by George Garrett
A WHOLE NEW LIFE: AN ILLNESS AND A HEALING by Reynolds Price
WITH THE OLD BREED: AT PELELIEU AND OKINAWA by E.B. Sledge
WOMENFOLKS: GROWING UP DOWN SOUTH by Shirley Abbott
THE WORLD DON’T OWE ME NOTHING: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF DELTA BLUESMAN HONEYBOY EDWARDS by Honeyboy Edwards
WORLD THAT MADE NEW ORLEANS: FROM SPANISH SILVER TO CONGO SQUARE by Ned Sublette
THE WORLD’S BODY by John Crowe Ransom

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