23 Atmospheric Books Set in the South

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Are you looking for the best books set in the South?

The southern United States is a fascinating region that is steeped in rich culture and history. Many people are familiar with the South’s elegant cities like New Orleans, Savannah, and Charleston. And Southern cuisine is famous for its “comfort food” flavors.

But what is the South really about?

That’s what these books set in the South seek to answer. The books on this list span a variety of genres, from classics to contemporaries, set in the South of the past and the South of the present.

If you are looking for great books set in the South that will transport you and make you feel like you are there, look no further than these atmospheric Southern novels:

Savannah, Georgia

Grab these fantastic books set in the South here:

Best Books Set in the South

to kill a mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This classic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is set in a small, rural town in Alabama in the 1930s. It’s a coming-of-age story set in a South poisoned by virulent hatred and prejudice.

It’s told through the eyes of a young white girl, as she witnesses her father, a crusading local lawyer, risks everything to defend a black man who has been unjustly accused of committing a terrible crime.

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where the crawdads sing

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owen

Set in a small coastal town in North Carolina in the 1960s, this story follows the wild and barefoot Kya Clark, who has been abandoned by her family. Nicknamed the “Marsh Girl” by locals, she is treated with disgust and suspicion.

When a popular local athlete is found dead, Kya is the main suspect. This book juxtaposes a profound coming-of-age story with a haunting mystery.

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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

The award-winning novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is set in Savannah and tells a story of intrigue, gossip, and murder.

This fictionalized account of a sensational true event that happened in Savannah, Georgia in the early 1980s paints a lush and vivid picture of this atmospheric Southern city.

For nearly a decade, a shooting in one of Savannah’s grandest mansions and the aftermath of the case reverberated throughout this hauntingly beautiful city of moss-hung oaks and shaded squares.

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the color purple

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

One of the most famous books set in the South, The Color Purple, having won both a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize, is one of the best books set in Tennessee and Georgia.

Celie has grown up poor in rural Georgia, despised by the society around her and abused by her own family. She strives to protect her sister, Nettie, from a similar fate, and while Nettie escapes to a new life as a missionary in Africa, Celie is left behind, married off to a harsh and brutal husband.

In an attempt to transcend a life that often seems too much to bear, Celie begins writing letters directly to God. The letters record a journey of self-discovery and empowerment.

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The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Set in South Carolina in 1964, this novel tells the story of Lily Owens, a young white girl whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed.

Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, this is a touching coming-of-age story.

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Gone with the Wind

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Originally published in 1936, this classic novel tells the story of a privileged young woman, Scarlett O’Hara, coming of age on a Georgia plantation on the eve of the Civil War.

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sing unburied sing

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

This lyrical, poignant novel set in the South follows a drug-addicted black woman named Leonie on a road trip with her two children to bring their white father home from prison.

Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing won the National Book Award in 2017 and is a powerful and moving novel about race, family, and what it means to be human.

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the underground railroad

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. She is an outcast even among fellow slaves and lives in constant fear. When Caesar, a slave who has recently arrived from Virginia, urges her to join him on the Underground Railroad, she seizes the opportunity and escapes with him.

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Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Another great classic novel and one of the best classic love stories set in the South, Their Eyes Were Watching God was originally published in 1937 and tells the story of a woman named Janie living in Florida after the Emancipation when black Americans were freed but still not free.

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Cold Mountain

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

This historical fiction novel follows a disillusioned Confederate soldier named Inman, who deserts the war and decides to walk back to his home in the Blue Ridge mountains to Ada, the woman he loves.

His trek across the disintegrating South allows him to meet slaves, marauders, bounty hunters, and witches. At the same time, the intrepid Ada is trying to revive her father’s derelict farm and learning to survive in a world where the old certainties have been swept away.

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Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Set in Mississippi at the height of the Depression, this is the story of one family’s struggle to maintain their integrity, pride, and independence in the face of racism and social injustice.

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the vanishing half

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

This prize-winning novel tells the story of twin sisters who are raised as light-skinned black women in Louisiana and run away to New Orleans as teens.

As adults, their paths diverge as one sister marries a white man and the other marries a dark-skinned black man. The Vanishing Half explores themes of race, identity, and family in an impactful way.

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transcendent kingdom

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

This contemporary novel is a powerful, intimate, layered novel about a Ghanaian family in Alabama. It’s a deeply moving portrait of a family ravaged by depression, addiction, and grief.

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an american marriage

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career.

But as they settle into the routine of their life together, their life is upended when Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit.

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a good neighborhood

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

Set in the small town of Oak Knoll, North Carolina, this novel examines the complicated relationship and entanglements between two families who live next door to one another.

A gripping Southern novel about racism, corruption, and men abusing their power.

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the help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

This historical fiction novel that was made into a popular movie follows three women in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 who join together to write a tell-all about working as a black maid.

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the kitchen house

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

This book is about a young, white Irish woman named Lavinia who arrives in Virginia and becomes an indentured servant in a plantation home in the years before the Civil War.

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the invention of wings

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Set in Charleston in the early nineteenth century, this historical fiction novel inspired by real characters follows the remarkable lives of two women: one enslaved and one free.

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The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

This classic novel centers around a deaf-mute man named John Singer, who becomes the confidant for various types of misfits in a Georgia mill town during the 1930s.

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the almost sisters

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

Set in Alabama, this is a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality

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the summer girls

The Summer Girls by Mary Alice Monroe

This summery beach read is set on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, and follows three half-sisters who come together at the behest of their grandmother to spend the summer at their family home, Sea Breeze. There, they reconnect in a way that will last long beyond the summer.

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midnight bayou

Midnight Bayou by Nora Roberts

In this atmospheric romantic suspense novel, Declan Fitzgerald purchases a crumbling old mansion called Manet Hall on the outskirts of New Orleans where strange things occur.

Only the companionship of alluring Angelina can distract him from the mysterious happenings in the house, but she has secrets of her own and a surprising connection to Manet Hall.

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the nickel boys

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

In this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel set in 1960s Tallahassee, Elwood is unfairly sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy. he finds himself trapped in a grotesque chamber of horrors. Elwood’s only salvation is his friendship with fellow “delinquent” Turner.

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Best Books Set in the South

These are some of the best books set in the South.

Have you read any of these books set in the South? Do you have any favorite books set in the South that I should add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!

Where next?

Inspire your wanderlust with this list of Travel Memoirs by Women for the best travel books written by women!

More recommended reading from The South:

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