12 Books Set in Our Favorite Southern Cities

Idea House 2020
Photo: Robbie Caponetto; Styling: Kendra Surface

When you're on the hunt for a new novel to read, turn to books set in Southern cities. Even if you don't have a trip scheduled, these books will transport you to cities near and far. These stories are set in Nashville, Houston, Birmingham, Atlanta, D.C., and Lexington. Some are new, some are classic; some are by debut authors, some are by prolific writers. All of them deserve a place on your bookshelf. No matter what genre you're in the mood for, there's an option for you on this list. These books spin tales about mysteries, family dramas, love stories, and much more. One thing is for sure: With a book set in a Southern city, you're guaranteed that it won't be boring.

01 of 12

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

Anne Tyler has explored Baltimore life in many of her novels, including A Spool of Blue Thread, her 20th novel, which was published in 2015.

02 of 12

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

Location: Nashville, Tennessee

This Nashville-set novel is a story about the drama and scandal that erupts in one of the city's private schools and the repercussions for the families involved.

03 of 12

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke

Attica Locke

Location: Houston, Texas

Attica Locke's debut novel is set in Houston, Texas, in 1981 and is a crime thriller about a lawyer and the mystery that threatens to engulf his life.

04 of 12

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

Location: Birmingham, Alabama

This 1987 novel is set in Alabama. The Whistle Stop Café is an establishment located "right outside of Birmingham" that's "always good for a meal or two" (20).

05 of 12

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Sue Monk Kidd

Location: Charleston, South Carolina

Set in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early nineteenth century, this book is a sweeping journey through the century and through the South following a character inspired by Sarah Grimké, an American abolitionist and suffragist.

06 of 12

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Lincoln in the Bardo

Location: Washington, D.C.

This experimental novel is set near Washington, D.C. It takes place in a Georgetown crypt in 1862 after the death of Abraham Lincoln's son, Willie Lincoln.

07 of 12

Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow


Location: Memphis, Tennessee

This novel takes place in Memphis, Tennessee, over 70 years in the life of a Black Southern family and explores ideas of family, connection, art, and inheritance.

08 of 12

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

John Berendt

Location: Savannah, Georgia

The iconic cover of this book features Bird Girl, a statue with a cast placed first in Savannah's Bonaventure Cemetery and now relocated to Telfair Academy, part of the Telfair Museums.

09 of 12

Terms of Endearment by Larry McMurtry

Larry McMurtry

Location: Houston, Texas

A mother and her daughter are at the heart of this story, which is set in the River Oaks neighborhood of Houston, Texas, and was made into a 1983 film directed by James L. Brooks.

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The Pelican Brief by John Grisham

The Pelican Brief

Location: New Orleans, Louisiana

Made into a 1993 movie starring Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington, this novel is set in New Orleans, where a law student flees when she uncovers a government conspiracy.

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The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis

Walter Tevis

Location: Lexington, Kentucky

A spotlight fell on this book thanks to a recent miniseries adaptation of the story, which follows Beth Harmon, a chess prodigy in 1950s Lexington, Kentucky.

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Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Tayari Jones

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Set in Atlanta in the 1980s, Tayari Jones's novel Silver Sparrow explores the relationship between two young neighbors and the complications that arise when family secrets begin to surface.

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