The Most Popular Books Set in Every Southern State from the Past 10 Years
There are only so many Hallmark movies and Netflix series one can watch. These days, we're finding much comfort, fun, and enlightenment in reading. All the better if it's a book that takes place in the Southern nook of our country. But with so many amazing titles that fit that bill on the market, it can be hard to narrow down what to read next. That's why we reached out to Goodreads—the much-loved reviews platform and personal reading tracker— to help us out. Below, they've compiled a list of the most popular books set in every Southern state that have been published in the last 10 years. To identify the most popular of such tomes, they looked at both number of ratings and average rating on their site. Since Goodreads' focus is on helping people discover their next great read, we hope this list serves as inspiration to roll up your sleeves and discover the South without leaving your couch.
The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
There's something so inviting about Jackson's writing, and it really shines in this 2017 Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fiction as you get to know Leia Birch Briggs, who returns to Alabama and uncovers a life-altering secret. (When you're done with this one, be sure to check out Between, Georgia, about a woman with two competing families and two men in her life.)
Buy It: $8.99; Amazon.com
Calico Joe by John Grisham
Acclaimed author John Grisham tells the story of Joe Castle, a baseball star from Calico Rock, Arkansas, in 1973, and a Mets pitcher and his son, in the yarn of "a fastball that would change their lives forever." Pick it up for any baseball fan in your life pronto.
Buy It: $7.99; Amazon.com
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
The Riveras move from their native Mexico to Delaware in this moving novel set in the modern day. "We're the unknown Americans, the ones no one even wants to know, because they've been told they're supposed to be scared of us and because maybe if they did take the time to get to know us, they might realize that we're not that bad, maybe even that we're a lot like them. And who would they hate then?" Henriquez writes in one poignant line that's just a taste of all the evocative writing you'll encounter.
Buy It: $8.49; Amazon.com
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
This heart-wrenching novel is the follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning best-seller, The Underground Railroad, and like its predecessor, it doesn't disappoint. Set in 1960s Tallahassee, the book's exploration of the Jim Crow South illuminates many issues our country sadly still grapples with today.
Buy It: $11.34; Amazon.com
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Earning an average rating of 3.96 stars on Goodreads, this Atlanta and Louisiana-based book shares what unfurls when a marriage is wrecked when the husband is sent to jail for a crime he didn't commit. Elegantly penned, it's easy to see why it was nominated for a National Book Award in 2018.
Buy It: $9.04; Amazon.com
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
A moving book set in Baileyville, Kentucky, in 1937, the Depression-era work tells of the Pack Horse Librarians of Eastern Kentucky. One Goodreads reviewer summed it up: "This story is a love letter to every person who understands the importance of literacy, of reading for both knowledge and entertainment, and the need for libraries."
Buy It: $10.36; Amazon.com
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
A Goodreads Choice winner for last year, you'll quickly understand why everyone has been recommending this piece of historical fiction within the first few pages of the book. The harrowing story begins in the 1950s about two twin Black sisters, one who secretly passes as white.
Buy It: $16.20; Amazon.com
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Taylor
All aboard for this Baltimore novel that keeps chugging along at a steady clip for all 358 of its pages. A story that could be about any family, it unlocks lessons that will resonate for many.
Buy It: $12.78; Amazon.com
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
4.08 stars for this suspenseful thriller doesn't do it justice. It's hard to put down with so many plot twists, all set to the backdrop of North Carthage, Missouri. We don't want to give too much away, but as the title implies, drama unfolds as a wife goes missing on the couple's wedding anniversary.
Buy It: $9.99; Amazon.com
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Journey to a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi in this unforgettable story of a Black family in contemporary times. With lines like "Ain't no good in using anger just to lash. You pray for it to blow up a storm that's going to flush out the truth" the writing is infused with an almost lyrical quality. Ward is the National Book Award–winning author for Salvage the Bones, so you'll want to buy that one too if you haven't read it already.
Buy It: $15.99; Amazon.com
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Yes, this courtroom drama that is also a love story set on North Carolina's coastline is being made into a movie by Reese Witherspoon. No, nothing could possibly top this book.
Buy It: $11; Amazon.com
Ready, Player One by Ernest Cline
Taking place in both Columbus, Ohio and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, this beautifully written tome examines life in 2044. Ideal for fantasy lovers, take one Goodreads' reviewer's comments to heart: "I believe you can tell the author's passion from what he's written, and it is clear from this book that Ernest Cline is a fellow gamer and geek. I salute him."
Buy It: $12.78; Amazon.com
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Set in Charleston, this powerful story explores slavery in the early 1800s through the lens of an 11-year-old named Sarah Grimke who is given ownership of Hetty "Handful" Grimke for her 11th birthday. Inspired by the real-life Sarah Grimke, the story traces Sarah and Hetty's complicated bond over the next three decades.
Buy It: $13.58; Amazon.com
All We Ever Wanted by Emily Griffin
Let's head on over to Nashville, folks. This Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fiction in 2018 dives into tough topics like racism, privilege, the ills of social media, and more. The novel centers around Nina Browning who marries into Nashville's upper class, Tom Volpe, a single dad struggling to raise his daughter, Lyla, and what happens when a photograph alters the course of their lives.
Buy It: $16.30; Amazon.com
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
With 26,592 five-star reviews on Goodreads, you'll definitely want to pick up this novel set in Texas in the 1870 that was nominated for a National Book Award in 2016. To whet your appetite, consider one of our favorite quotes from Jiles' beautiful prose: "Maybe life is just carrying news. Surviving to carry the news. Maybe we have just one message, and it is delivered to us when we are born and we are never sure what it says; it may have nothing to do with us personally but it must be carried by hand through a life, all the way, and at the end handed over, sealed."
Buy It: $7.99; Amazon.com
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
This stunning novel has a 4.07-star rating on Goodreads and captures "the darkness of slavery and all of its shackles to the brightness of conduction and all of its light," as one Goodreads reviewer put it. Especially now during this time of turmoil in our country, it's an important book for all to read and reflect upon.
Buy It: $16.25; Amazon.com
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Saunders' first novel dazzles in this father-son story of Abraham Lincoln. The tale may be imaginary, but expect plenty of timeless real-life truths to be revealed throughout and stay with you for years to come.
Buy It: $19.99; Amazon.com
Wait for You by Jennifer Armentrout
With an average rating of 4.17 stars on Goodreads, this 322-page book is the kind you can zoom through in just a few sittings. When the protagonist moves from Texas to college in West Virginia, you'll be captivated by the romance and drama that ensues.
Buy It: $6.99; Amazon.com
How many of the above titles have you already checked off your reading list? Any you're particularly excited to check out next?