Reading List and Resources

The Southern Accent Reading List provides an opportunity to delve into our contemporary understanding of the South through the lens of literature. Acknowledging that the idea of the South is built upon a combination of realities, myths, and memories, there is a great argument to be made for the role of fiction in shaping how we envision the South. This list of twentieth- and twenty-first-century works of fiction, including novels, short stories, and poems, is not meant to be a definitive compilation of the greatest works of southern literature. Rather it is a gathering of favorite texts whose vivid imagery has allowed readers from around the world access into the world of the South, from its red clay roads, porches, and kitchens to its complex family dynamics and generations-long legacies.  The list is arranged chronologically, with particular weight given to texts from the most recent decades, and, when applicable, provides the location in the South where the story chiefly unfolds.

We wish to thank our colleagues for their recommendations and guidance in building this reading list. They include William Fagaly, the Françoise Billion Richardson Curator of African Art at the New Orleans Museum of Art; Ashley Farmer and Ryan Ridge of Louisville; Megan Bogard Gettelfinger, MA graduate of the University of Louisville; Emily Wallace, Deputy Editor and Communications Director, Center for the Study of the American South, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Kathy World, Duke University Stores.    -Miranda Lash

Additional Resources

Duke University Libraries offer books, videos, journal articles, encyclopedias, primary source material and e-books on most of the artists in Southern Accent. See the Southern Accent Library Guide for a list of resources and tips for further researching the artists and various subjects in the exhibition.


William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (1929)—Fictional Mississippi

Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel (1929)—Fictional Altamont, Catawba (Asheville, North Carolina)

William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (1930)—Fictional Mississippi

Erskine Caldwell, Tobacco Road (1932)—Georgia

William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom! (1936)—Fictional Mississippi

Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind (1936)—Georgia

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)—Florida

Carson McCullers, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940)—Georgia

William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses (1942)—Fictional Mississippi

Richard Wright, Black Boy (1945)—Chicago, Illinois; Mississippi

Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men (1946)—Southern United States

Eudora Welty, Delta Wedding (1946)—Mississippi

Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire (1947)—New Orleans, Louisiana

Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948)—Mississippi

Elizabeth Spencer, Fire in the Morning (1948)—Mississippi

William Styron, Lie Down in Darkness (1951)—Virginia

Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)—Fictional South and New York

Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood (1952)—Tennessee

Flannery O’Connor, A Good Man Is Hard to Find (1953)—Southern United States

James Agee, A Death in the Family (1955)—Knoxville, Tennessee

Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955)—Mississippi Delta

Truman Capote, A Christmas Memory (1956)—Mississippi

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)—Alabama

Walker Percy, The Moviegoer (1961)—New Orleans, Louisiana

Reynolds Price, A Long and Happy Life (1962)—North Carolina

Wendell Berry, A Place on Earth (1967)—Kentucky

William Styron, The Confessions of Nat Turner (1967)—Virginia

Charles Portis, True Grit (1968)—Arkansas

Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969)—Arkansas

James Dickey, Deliverance (1970)—Georgia

Barry Hannah, Geronimo Rex (1972)—Louisiana

Eudora Welty, The Optimist’s Daughter (1972)—New Orleans, Louisiana; Mississippi

Cormac McCarthy, Child of God (1973)—Tennessee

Harry Crews, A Feast of Snakes (1976)—Georgia

Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire (1976)—New Orleans, Louisiana

Barry Hannah, Ray (1980)—Alabama

John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces (1980)—New Orleans,

Anne Tyler, Morgan’s Passing (1980)—Baltimore, Maryland


Alice Walker, The Color Purple (1982)—Georgia

Mary Hood, How Far She Went (1984)—Southern United States

Jill McCorkle, The Cheer Leader (1984)—North Carolina

Padgett Powell, Edisto (1984)—South Carolina

Andrew Hudgins, Saints and Strangers (1985)—Southern United States

Bobbie Ann Mason, In Country (1985)—Kentucky

Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides (1986)—New York; South Carolina

Winston Groom, Forrest Gump (1986)—Alabama

Reynolds Price, Kate Vaiden (1986)—Southern United States

ABOVE: Kerry James Marshall, Black Goddess of the Silver Screen, 1991. Acrylic and collage on canvas; 27 x 27 inches (68.58 x 68.58 cm). Collection of Alison and Alan Schwartz. Image courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, New York. © Kerry James Marshall.

1982–2000 continued

Shannon Ravenel: Launched New Stories from the South (1986) and edited every volume until 2006

Fannie Flagg, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café (1987)—Alabama

Kaye Gibbons, Ellen Foster (1987)—Southern United States

Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)—Kentucky; Ohio

Anne Tyler, Breathing Lessons (1988)—Maryland; Pennsylvania

Allan Gurganus, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All (1989)—
North Carolina

Allan Gurganus, White People (1991)—Southern United States

Dorothy Allison, Bastard Out of Carolina (1992)—South Carolina

Randall Kenan, Let the Dead Bury Their Dead (1992)—Fictional Tims Creek, Southern United States

Ernest Gaines, A Lesson before Dying (1993)—Fictional Bayonne, Louisiana

John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1994)—Savannah, Georgia

David Bottoms, Easter Weekend (1995)—Macon, Georgia

Melanie Sumner, Polite Society (1995)—Senegal; Tennessee

Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain (1996)—North Carolina

Dorothy Allison, Cavedweller (1998)—Georgia

Tim Gautreaux, The Next Step in the Dance (1998)—Louisiana

Daniel Wallace, Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions (1998)—Alabama

Tom Wolfe, A Man in Full (1998)—Atlanta, Georgia; Northern California

William Gay, The Long Home (1999)—Tennessee

William Gay, Provinces of Night (2000)—Tennessee


Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees (2001)—South Carolina

Alice Randall, The Wind Done Gone (2001)—Georgia

Edward P. Jones, The Known World (2003)—Virginia

Tayari Jones, Leaving Atlanta (2003)—Atlanta, Georgia

Lee Smith, The Last Girls (2003)—Mississippi River

Wendell Berry, That Distant Land: The Collected Stories (2004)—Kentucky

Tim Gautreaux, The Clearing (2004)—Louisiana

Claudia Emerson, Late Wife (2005)—collection of poetry; Southern United States

Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men (2005)—Texas

William Gay, Twilight (2006)—Tennessee

Natasha Trethewey, Native Guard (2006)—collection of poetry; Louisiana

Ron Rash, Serena (2008)—North Carolina

Dave Eggers, Zeitoun (2009)—New Orleans, Louisiana

Tim Gautreaux, The Missing (2009)—Louisiana

Kathryn Stockett, The Help (2009)—Jackson, Mississippi

Maurice Manning, The Common Man (2010)—Kentucky

Tayari Jones, Silver Sparrow (2011)—Atlanta, Georgia

Karen Russell, Swamplandia! (2011)—Florida

Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones (2011)—Mississippi

Dave Smith, Hawks on Wires: Poems, 2005–2010 (2011)—collection of poetry; Southern United States

Wilton Barnhardt, Lookaway, Lookaway (2013)—North Carolina

Kiese Laymon, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America (2013)—Mississippi

Ada Limón, Bright Dead Things (2015)—Kentucky