Reading list

6 books exploring the American South

Loss, truth, alienation and growing up. From Tennessee Williams to Carson McCullers, a selection of southern classics and all-American reads to explore next


The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Carson McCullers

Set in a small town in the middle of the deep South, this is the story of John Singer, a lonely deaf-mute, and a disparate group of people who are drawn towards his kind nature. The owner of the café where Singer eats every day, a young girl desperate to grow up, an angry socialist drunkard, a frustrated black doctor: each pours their heart out to Singer, and he in turn changes their disenchanted lives in ways the could never imagine.

The Ballad of the Sad Café

Carson McCullers

Miss Amelia Evans runs a small-town store. Except for a disastrous marriage that lasted just ten days, she has always lived alone. Then Cousin Lymon appears from nowhere, a strutting hunchback who steals Miss Amelia's heart. Together they transform the store into a popular café where the locals come to drink and gossip. But when her dangerous ex-husband Marvin Macy returns, the result is a bizarre love triangle that brings with it violence, hatred and betrayal.

Other Voices, Other Rooms

Truman Capote

At the age of twelve, Joel Knox is summoned to meet the father who abandoned him at birth. But when Joel arrives at the decaying mansion in Skully's Landing, his father is nowhere in sight. What he finds instead is a sullen stepmother who delights in killing birds; an uncle with the face--and heart--of a debauched child; and a fearsome little girl named Idabel who may offer him the closest thing he has ever known to love.

Pale Horse, Pale Rider

Katherine Anne Porter

This collection gathers together the best of Katherine Anne Porter’s Pulitzer Prize-winning short fiction, including 'Pale Horse, Pale Rider', where a young woman lies in a fever during the influenza epidemic, her childhood memories mingling with fears for her fiancé on his way to war, and 'Noon Wine', a story of tragedy and scandal on a small dairy farm in Texas.


The Glass Menagerie

Tennessee Williams

Abandoned by her husband, Amanda Wingfield comforts herself with recollections of her earlier life in Blue Mountain when she was pursued by 'gentleman callers'. Her son Tom, a poet with a job in a warehouse, longs for escape from his mother's suffocating embrace, while Laura, her crippled daughter, has her glass menagerie and her memories. Amanda is desperate to find her daughter a husband, but when the gentleman caller does arrive, Laura's romantic illusions are crushed.


A Death in the Family

James Agee

On a sultry summer night in 1915, Jay Follet leaves his house in Knoxville, Tennessee, to tend to his father, whom he belives is dying. The summons turns out to be a false alarm, but on his way back to his family, Jay has a car accident and is killed instantly. Dancing back and forth in time and braiding the viewpoints of Jay's wife, brother, and young son, Rufus, Agee creates an overwhelming powerful novel of innocence, tenderness, and loss.


Related articles