5 Great Books by Southern Authors Right Now
Food writer M.F.K. Fisher was famous for bringing food to life on the page, turning meals into stories instead of simple lists of ingredients. She took risks and broke the rules, qualities that made her a great writer, but led to some pretty dramatic turns in her personal life: Talented and beautiful, Fisher went after what she wanted—even when what she wanted was someone else's husband. In this novelization of her life, author Ashley Warlick channels the food writer's passion into a fascinating love story based on Fisher's real-life affair with her editor.
Love between family members runs deep, but it's more complex than we often make it out to be. Ed Tarkington captures the contradictions perfectly in his coming-of-age story Only Love Can Break Your Heart as he pits nostalgia for small-town America in the late ‘70s against the chaos that was about to change the country forever. The book has its share of drama—a possible psychic, a cult leader, a seductress, and a double murder—but at its core, it's a story about brotherly love and about the bonds that connect us deeply to our families.
Southern stereotypes have the man of the family being equal parts heroic and inscrutable, sitting at the head of the table, hunting on Saturdays and going to church on Sundays. Not every Southern man fits that archetype, but Harrison Scott Key's father sure did. The fact that Key himself didn't fit the mold left him feeling disconnected from his dad, but that divide is bridged in his remarkable memoir that manages to be poignant and hilarious without getting sappy or overly sentimental.
At its core, Unbecoming is a book about a heist, a mystery that slowly reveals itself as its narrator, a girl from Tennessee who ended up in Paris under shady circumstances, begins to slowly unravel and spill her story. It has all the things that make mysteries fun to read—name changes, stolen jewelry, prison sentences and old houses filled with treasure—but there's also a deeper theme about exploring social and economic differences. Instead of putting rich and poor and opposite sites, author Rebecca Scherm has them on the same team, and we get to watch as their relationships alternately thrive and self-destruct.
Go Set a Watchman, the controversial prequel to Harper Lee's classic To Kill a Mockingbird, forced us to take a deeper, darker look at long-time American hero Atticus Finch. Confronting the idea that one of our most classic characters wasn't a spotless savior was a shake-up, to be sure, and it's impossible to read Watchman now without seeing it in the shadow of Lee's death earlier this year. When I think of this book as part of Harper Lee's legacy, it seems like a gift, reminding us that our favorite writers are always capable of surprising us, and that the characters we know and love so well can teach us something new when we give them a second look.