7 Southern Reads for a Hot Summer

Although this list doesn't include all the greats (nor is it pure Faulkner, though we considered it...), we've rounded up some fantastic classic and contemporary Southern literature to help you survive this heat wave, no matter your taste. Grab yourself a cuppa sweet tea and settle into your porch swing for these timeless reads about the South.

Lit In the South: Big themes... and Big Hair

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Although this list doesn't include all the greats (nor is it pure Faulkner, though we considered it...), we've rounded up some fantastic classic and contemporary Southern literature to help you survive this heat wave, no matter your taste. Grab yourself a cuppa sweet tea and settle into your porch swing for these timeless reads about the South.

'Whistling Past the Graveyard' by Susan Crandall

Brand new for July, this sweet coming of age story set in 1963 Mississippi follows nine-year-old Starla as she searches for acceptance, struggles to understand life, and expands her horizons. After being grounded yet again by her grandmother and guardian, Starla attempts to run away to find her mother in Nashville. Starla's slow but genuine discovery of the good and bad present in humanity and the dignity and respect due to all, regardless of racial differences, is particularly affective.

'The Sound and the Fury' by William Faulkner

Now, about that Faulkner. A recap: The Sound and the Fury follows different members of the Compson family in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, home of many of Faulkner's novels. It's all about honor, incest, destruction, and the slow decay of the Compson family and the accepted social order. This complex and tragic American novel is a classic, period.

'The Help' by Kathryn Stockett

The Help has a rare, enduring quality that will make it a classic read, adored and pondered for years to come. The protagonist is a young, spirited white woman in early 1960s Mississippi who becomes interested in the plight of the black ladies' maids working for the white families. She begins collecting their stories about mistreatment, abuse, love, childrearing, and heartbreaks, all just before the Civil Rights revolution. With her novel, Stockett helped shed light on the irony and hypocrisy that defined the era.

'Lookaway, Lookaway' by Wilton Barnhardt

Welcome to Charlotte, North Carolina, where high-society and old Southern money clash with new-money bankers and social climbers, and Jarene Jarvis Johnson, her husband Duke, and their four scandal-prone children are in the middle of it all. The result is a hilarious narrative about family and a changing society. Snatch it up when it hits in August.

'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee

If you haven't read this quintessential Southern coming of age novel since middle school, it's time to pull it back out. The novel follows the bright, rambunctious Scout Finch's self discovery and her lawyer father, Atticus Finch, in his trial to defend an unjustly accused black man. Few novels so affectively express the feelings of childhood and the realities of the Jim Crow laws and rampant bigotry. Each re-read reveals new truths about prejudice, dignity, kindness, and the enduring human spirit.

'Invisible Man' Ralph Ellison'

Chronicling the travels of a young, nameless black man, 'Invisible Man' exposes the brutal American intolerance of the 1950s and questions the integrity of relying on the visual aspects of humanity as a means of learning who we are. The book is passionate, witty, and addresses problems still relevant today.

'Looking for Me' by Beth Hoffman

Bestselling author of Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt returns with the equally charming Looking for Me. The novel follows a scrappy Kentucky farm girl who refurbishes antiques with the dream of one day opening her own shop. Hoffman paints the daily life of a hot, Southern town with believable characters and beautiful language.