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14 Books Every Georgian Should Read

Georgia – the Peach state, the home of many beloved musicians – Otis Redding, James Brown, the Allman Brothers, REM, the B-52s, Guadalcanal Diary, and the list goes on and on. A state with country back roads, kudzu-covered cabins, and the ATL – a sprawling metropolitan area that never seems to stop growing, Georgia has a long, rich history of literature.

With that in mind, here’s a list of books we think every Georgian should read. Did we miss your favorite Georgia book? If so, let us know in the comments.

The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor

Winner of the National Book Award. The publication of this extraordinary volume firmly established Flannery O’Connor’s monumental contribution to American fiction. There are thirty-one stories here in all, including twelve that do not appear in the only two story collections O’Connor put together in her short lifetime–Everything That Rises Must Converge and A Good Man Is Hard to Find O’Connor published her first story, “The Geranium,” in 1946, while she was working on her master’s degree at the University of Iowa. Arranged chronologically, this collection shows that her last story, “Judgement Day”–sent to her publisher shortly before her death—is a brilliantly rewritten and transfigured version of “The Geranium.” Taken together, these stories reveal a lively, penetrating talent that has given us some of the most powerful and disturbing fiction of the twentieth century. Also included is an introduction by O’Connor’s longtime editor and friend, Robert Giroux.

Flannery O'Connor - The Complete Stories

A Childhood: The Biography of a Place by Harry Crews

A Childhood is the unforgettable memoir of Harry Crews’ earliest years, a sharply remembered portrait of the people, locales, and circumstances that shaped him–and destined him to be a storyteller. Crews was born in the middle of the Great Depression, in a one-room sharecropper’s cabin at the end of a dirt road in rural South Georgia. If Bacon County was a place of grinding poverty, poor soil, and blood feuds, it was also a deeply mystical place, where snakes talked, birds could possess a small boy by spitting in his mouth, and faith healers and conjure women kept ghosts and devils at bay.At once shocking and elegiac, heartrending and comical, A Childhood not only recalls the transforming events of Crews’s youth but conveys his growing sense of self in a world “in which survival depended on raw courage, a courage born out of desperation and sustained by a lack of alternatives.”

Amid portraits of relatives and neighbors, Bacon County lore, and details of farm life, Crews tells of his father’s death; his friendship with Willalee Bookatee, the son of a black hired hand; his bout with polio; his mother and stepfather’s failing marriage; his near-fatal scalding at a hog-killing; and a five-month sojourn in Jacksonville, Florida. These and other memories define, with reverence and affection, Harry Crews’s childhood world: “its people and its customs and all its loveliness and all its ugliness.” Imaginative and gripping, A Childhood re-creates in detail one writer’s search for past and self, a search for a time and place lost forever except in memory.

Childhood: The Biography of a Place

Retired professor Andrew Lachlan has returned to his family home on a lake in central Georgia to die. And yet he has never felt so alive, so ready to learn about the natural world around him. Having taught all his life, he is ready for solitude. But a young country boy, Willie Sullivan, disrupts Lachlan’s search for order and rekindles memories he thought long dead.

Lachlan also finds Callie McKenzie, a woman he loved years earlier, and they soon begin to see in each other reflections of the lives they once led. Lachlan’s journal of his year by the lake leads him to a deeper understanding of himself and the world.

To Dance With the White Dog by Terry Kay

Sam Peek’s children are worried. Since that “saddest day” when Cora, his beloved wife of fifty-seven good years, died, no one knows how he will survive. How can this elderly man live alone on his farm? How can he keep driving his dilapidated truck down to the fields to care for his few rows of pecan trees? And when Sam begins telling his children about a dog as white as the pure driven snow — that seems invisible to everyone but him — his children think that grief and old age have finally taken their toll.

But whether the dog is real or not, Sam Peek — “one of the smartest men in the South when it comes to trees” — outsmarts them all. Sam and the White Dog will dance from the pages of this bittersweet novel and into your heart, as they share the mystery of life, and begin together a warm and moving final rite of passage.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Gone with the Windis one of those rare books that we never forget. We read it when we’re young and fall in love with the characters, then we watch the film and read the book again and watch the film again and never get tired of revisiting an era that is the most important in our history. Rhett and Scarlet and Melanie and Ashley and Big Sam and Mammy and Archie the convict are characters who always remain with us, in the same way that Twain’s characters do. No one ever forgets the scene when Scarlet wanders among the wounded in the Atlanta train yard; no one ever forgets the moment Melanie and Scarlet drag the body of the dead Federal soldier down the staircase, a step at a time. 

Gone with the Wind is an epic story. Anyone who has not read it has missed one of the greatest literary experiences a reader can have.” — James Lee Burke, bestselling author of The Tin Roof Blowdown

Run With the Horseman by Ferrol Sams

RUN WITH THE HORSEMEN is called fiction, but it is a book of life. To read this book is as dangerous as living – it is delicate, raw, charming, and so honest it makes your teeth hurt. It’s a boy’s account of growing up on an ancestral farm in Georgia, a rueful, humorous story of the people in one rural county, but the telling cuts so deep it breaks through to the universal.

The Boy could remind you of Tom Sawyer or Holden Caulfield, but he is Porter Osborne. He’s indelible, as are the other characters who populate this special place called Brewton County, which will be real forever – thanks to Ferrol Sams.

Down on Ponce by Fred Willard

A book that too few have read, and a book that many would not expect to be on this list. Willard doesn’t write about the genteel Georgia, instead this crime novel explores the seedy characters and settings of mid-town and Downtown Atlanta.

Peachtree Road by Anne River Siddons

Headstrong, independent, and devastatingly beautiful Lucy Bondurant Chastain Venable will never become the demure Southern lady her family requires—while her older cousin, Sheppard Gibbs Bondurant III, is too shy and bookish, a far cry from the suave, gregarious Southern gentleman he’s expected to be. In the Bondurants’ sprawling home on Atlanta’s Peachtree Road, these two will be united by a fierce tainted love—and torn apart by a smoldering rage fanned by the cruelty of years and the unbending demands of privilege.

A masterful tale of love, hate, and rebellion set in an elite world of class and wealth, New York Times bestselling author Anne Rivers Siddons’s Peachtree Road is the unforgettable story of the turbulent growth of a great Southern city and of two people cursed by blood and birth.

The House Next Door by Anne River Siddons

Best-selling novelist and a writer who champions books and reading at every turn, Stephen King, raved about Siddon’s horror novel THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR. Instead of a haunted house novel featuring a kudzu-covered mansion, Siddons horror novel examines a haunted house in one of the many unremarkable suburban neighborhoods ringing Atlanta.

Bon Appetit, Y’all: Recipes and Stories From Three Generations of Southern Cooking by Virginia Willis

The daughter and granddaughter of consummate Southern cooks, Virginia Willis is also a classically trained French chef. These divergent influences come together splendidly in Bon Appétit, Y’all , a modern Southern chef’s passionate and utterly appealing homage to her culinary roots.  Espousing a simple-is-best philosophy, Virginia uses the finest ingredients, concentrates on sound French technique, and lets the food shine in a style she calls “refined Southern cuisine.” More than 200 approachable and consistently delicious recipes are arranged by chapter into starters and nibbles; salads and slaws; eggs and dairy; meat, fowl, and fish main dishes; sides; biscuits and breads; soups and stews; desserts; and sauces and preserves. Collected here are stylishly updated Southern and French classics (New SouthernChicken and Dumplings, Boeuf Bourgignonne), rib-sticking, old-timey favorites (Meme’s Fried Okra, Angel Biscuits), and perfectly executed comfort food (Mama’s Apple Pie, Fried Catfish Fingers with Country Rémoulade). Nearly 100 photographs bring to life both Virginia’s food and the bounty of her native Georgia. You’ll also find a wealth of tips and techniques from a skilled and innovative teacher, and the stories of a Southern girl steeped to her core in the food, kitchen lore, and unconditional hospitality of her culinary forebears on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Bon Appétit, Y’all is Virginia’s way of saying, “Welcome to my Southern kitchen. Pull up a chair.” Once you have tasted her food, you’ll want to stay a good long while.

Heart of a Patriot: How I Found the Courage to Survive Vietnam, Walter Reed, and Karl Rove by Max Cleland

By the time he had reached middle age, Max Cleland thought he had nothing to live for. Vietnam had left him a triple amputee. He had lost his seat in the U.S. Senate, and in the grip of depression he had lost his fiancée, too. But instead of giving up, Cleland discovered that he has what it takes to survive: the heart of a patriot.

Doctors did not give Cleland much hope when he returned from Vietnam, but he overcame his despair through his bonds with other wounded soldiers. Against all odds, he realized his dream of becoming a Senator. But after being smeared as unpatriotic in a reelection campaign, a long-dormant case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder sent him back to Walter Reed Hospital. Surrounded by the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, Cleland again found the faith and endurance to regain control of his life.

In a gut-wrenching memoir that is free of bitterness but frank about the costs of being a soldier, Max Cleland describes with love the ties America’s soldiers forge with one another, along with the disillusionment many of them experience when they come home. Heart of a Patriot is a story about the joy of serving the country you love, no matter the cost—and how to recover from the deepest wounds of war.

Deliverance by James Dickey

Paddle faster, I hear banjo music. While often forgotten in the glare of the iconic movie, James Dickey’s novel of four suburbanites surviving a harrowing backwoods adventure is well worth the read.

An Hour Before Daylight: Memoirs of a Rural Boyhood by Jimmy Carter

In an American story of enduring importance, Jimmy Carter recreates his depression-era boyhood on a Georgia farm, before the civil rights movement that changed it and the country. Carter describes his childhood and the five people who shaped his early life; his friends who he worked the farm with and played slingshot with, but who could not attend the same school as himself. There are portraits of his father, a farmer and strict segregationist who treated black workers with his own brand of “seperate” respect and fairness, and of his mother, a strong-willed nurse who cared for all in need.

A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.

“We’ve got some difficult days ahead,” civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., told a crowd gathered at Memphis’s Clayborn Temple on April 3, 1968. “But it really doesn’t matter to me now because I’ve been to the mountaintop. . . . And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.”

These prohetic words, uttered the day before his assassination, challenged those he left behind to see that his “promised land” of racial equality became a reality; a reality to which King devoted the last twelve years of his life.

These words and other are commemorated in this collection of King’s writings, speeches, interviews, and autobiographical reflections. A Testament of Hope contains Martin Luther King, Jr.’s essential thoughts on nonviolence, social policy, integration, black nationalism, the ethics of love and hope, and more.

If this list doesn’t satisfy your hunger for Georgia books or books written by Georgian authors, you should also check out the Georgia Center for the Book’s list of Books All Georgians Should Read,

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