13 Books to Read Before Your Southern U.S. Vacation

The southern part of the U.S. is a beautifully wanderlusty area and it has a special place in my heart. I’m from there! Even though I have since moved away from that area I love reading books that have a southern U.S. setting. I’m always finding myself reading a book I haven’t read yet set in the south before we head down there for a vacation. It really gives me alll the southern U.S. vibes. Here are 13 book I recommend you pick up for a great read before your next vacation down south:

  1. The Heat of the Sun by Louis D. Rubin, Jr.: Set in South Carolina in the 1940s, this book has romance and southern twang. What more could you need?
  2. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain: Following The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, I liked this one better. I liked reading about Huck and Jim cruising along the Mississippi River and the shenanigans they get into to.
  3. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin: You guessed it, this book is set in Mississippi (and yes, I sing the song in my head to spell it correctly). I absolutely loved reading this book-it’s hard to find a great southern setting novel set in contemporary times.
  4. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: Wow. This book. It’s probably my favorite classic American novel of all the ones I’ve read. And I’ve read my fair share, believe me. Read about Janie and Tea Cake’s adventures in this beautiful story set in Florida.
  5. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines: I was actually assigned to read this story in high school in English class, but man am I glad I was because it was such a page turner and very deep. Set in Louisiana and about a man who is sentenced to death, and another man who must visit him in jail to educate him during the last days of his life.
  6. True Grit by Charles Portis: This is an awesome story set in Arkansas (my home states, yea!) and follows a girl who wishes to avenge her father’s death.
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Set in 1920s Alabama, this is a wonderful story about a young girl, her recluse neighbor, and an unfair trial happening in town.
  8. The Little Rock Nine by Stephanie Fitzgerald: The Little Rock Nine were the first black students in Little Rock, AR to attend a public all-white highschool. This book recounts the horrors they faced during this process of segregation.
  9. A Painted House by John Grisham: Of course John Grisham must be on this list. My favorite of his has to be A Painted House. Set in the farming days of Northeast Arkansas, this story is told from the viewpoint of a young boy who recounts one summer on the farm and all that went down that season.
  10. The Whisper of the River by Ferrol Sams: This is actually the second book of a three book series, but you can read them out of order. I loved reading about Peter Osborne and his college days at a university in Georgia. He learns a lot and grows as a person over his 4 years away at school, meeting all sorts of characters along the way.
  11. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: This is a bit of a sad story but ends happy, I promise! A little girl is deserted at a young age and raises herself in the marsh of the North Carolina coast. She must learn so much on her own and become independent fast.
  12. Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice: Set in New Orleans when the Parisians first settled in the area, this story follows the lives of three vampires over several decades.
  13. Lightning Bug by Donald Harrington: A strange but interesting book following the lives of the residents of a tiny town in Northwest Arkansas. It has all the humor and mega southern U.S. vibes.

I hope you find that you enjoy reading at least a few from this list. They’re all different genres so it just depends on what you like! I have another recommended list strictly for an Arkansas vacation if you want to check that one out, too. Happy reading!

9 Books for the Best Arkansas Vibes

Planning a Trip to Arkansas Soon? If so, A. I strongly encourage that, and B. then you’re in the right spot because I’m going to list for you 9 awesome books that will give you all the Arkansas feels and vibes you can handle. All the following books are set in different parts of Arkansas and cover quite a different range of genres but I suggest you give them all a try because they’re all written brilliantly and will really kick off your Arkansas trip before you even set foot in the state!

  1. True Grit set in Northwest Arkansas: At the tippity top of my list is True Grit, a story about a young lady who searches Arkansas and Oklahoma for her father’s killer. I like this story because it’s told through the eyes of such an independent, determined girl who will stop at nothing to achieve what she’s after.
  2. Cody: Clicking Beat on the Brink of Nada set in Central Arkansas: This was a very interesting book and written so well it was hard to put down (aren’t those the best ones?). It’s about a homosexual teenaged boy who has two love affairs throughout the story and his hardships with, well, those relationships.
  3. Where Things Come Back: set in Northeast Arkansas: This was another great book set in Arkansas that involves a kid going missing one summer and his family’s search for him.
  4. A Painted House: Set in Northeast Arkansas: When I was in high school, we had to do a ‘reading hour’ where everyone in the class read from a book together like a bunch of first graders. One of the books was a John Grisham book and I remember the teacher saying how Grisham peaked with ‘A Time to Kill’. I never picked up another book by him until years later, A Painted House. I loved it! It’s in the narrative of a young boy and all the adventures he has one summer during harvest season. Some good, some bad.
  5. I know why the Caged Bird Sings Set in Southwest Arkansas: The setting of this classic American novel is set half in Arkansas and half in California. The main character has good, but poor times in Arkansas but things take a turn of some sorts after moving to California.
  6. The Little Rock Nine Set in Central Arkansas: This is a nonfiction book about the integration of the first public high school in Arkansas, Little Rock Central High School. What these nine black teenagers go through is insane to read about, offering so much detail about what they faced on a daily basis as part of this experience.
  7. Sugar Set in Northeast Arkansas: Sugar has been a prostitute her whole life, starting out in Arkansas. After moving around the country some she returns to Arkansas and after befriending her neighbor, both women’s lives begin to change.
  8. Hot Springs set in Hot Springs and various parts of Arkansas: Ok, this book is cool because it talks about the tourist town Hot Springs and the illegal gambling that went down in the 40s and 50s. It was a hot spot for sin, bringing out big name movie stars and gangsters like Al Capone and Mickey Rooney. A crew of men are hired to take it all down.
  9. Lightning Bug set in Northwest Arkansas: This book is a little hard to describe as it is somewhat plot-less to me but the basis of it talks about a small town and it’s wacky characters surrounding two people with a past and the possibility of a future.

After reading these, you will find out that all of these books are sent in the 20th century. It makes me wonder if that’s when Arkansas had it’s glory years? I think perhaps this state is good choice to write about for authors because there are quite a bit of books based there, but not hardly any movies. Interesting, huh? Happy reading from one book worm to another!