When planning your trip to the South, it’s important to research where you’re going. So we’ve compiled a list of the best books about Alabama and by Alabama authors to help you prepare. No matter whether you’re a resident looking to learn more about your home state or a first timer curious about history, these books are sure to help you enjoy it more.
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Books by Alabama Authors
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Later made into a popular film, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe tells of two women in two different points in time. Evelyn is struggling after her husband leaves her and confides in Mrs. Threadgoode, who has her own story. She tells Evelyn about Idgie and Ruth who ran the Whistle Stop Cafe.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
A timeless classic, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird tells of the coming of age of young Jem and Scout who follow a trial in the segregated South. Their father, Atticus, is a local lawyer who seeks to combat the inequalities in the small town when a black man is accused of a crime he didn’t commit. It became a film that starred Gregory Peck.
Save Me the Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald
Often overshadowed by her husband, The Great Gatsby author F. Scott, Montgomery native Zelda was a writer in her own right. Save Me the Waltz is her only novel and follows a similar storyline to Tender Is the Night. It tells of an affluent society girl in the 1920s and her eventual downfall.
Wicked City by Ace Atkins
Set in 1954 Phenix City, Wicked City follows the murder of a local man. A group of men seeks to take down his killer. The book takes its inspiration from a 1955 edition of Look Magazine that called the city “the wickedest city in America” for its organized crime and corruption.
Big Fish by Daniel Wallace
Big Fish inspired a film of the same name and centers around a man who is trying to decide which of his father’s outlandish tales are true. His son tracks down the characters from his father’s life, learning that there’s more truth than he realized.
Fiction Set in Alabama
Forrest Gump by Winston Groom
The timeless classic Forrest Gump went on to become an award-winning movie. A simple man from Alabama finds himself playing college football, being drafted in Vietnam, and being a part of American history. Along the way, he follows the woman he loves.
Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund
Four Spirits tells of an idealistic white college student and a black single parent and activist living parallel lives in Birmingham in the 1960s. A peaceful protest turns violent, changing their perspectives on the Civil Rights Movement.
Train Whistle Guitar by Albert Murray
Set in 1920s Alabama, Train Whistle Guitar follows a young boy as he goes through school and learns to play guitar from a train-hopping man at the local barbershop. It is loosely based on the author’s life and was first published in 1975.
The Keepers of the House
The winner of the 1965 Pulitzer Price, The Keepers of the House is set around the Howland family land that has been around since the early 1800s. Abigail learns about her family legacy including her grandfather’s relationship with his black housekeeper. The community is outraged as Abigail feels betrayed by her own town.
The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
Jackson bases many of her novels in Alabama and the South and The Almost Sisters is no different. A graphic novelist gets pregnant by a one-night stand at a comics convention. But before she can tell her conservative family, her step-sister’s marriage breaks down. She returns to her hometown to see her dying grandmother and break the news. But she finds more family secrets waiting for her.
Non-fiction About Alabama
Salvation on Sand Mountain by Dennis Covington
The book Salvation on Sand Mountain is a must-read for religious studies fans as it tells about a church in Alabama that performed snake handling and drinking of strychnine. The author went undercover when a pastor was accused of attempted murder using the snakes.
Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep
Already earning countless praise, Furious Hours tells the story of Harper Lee, who had then become famous for To Kill a Mockingbird and was living in New York. But she traveled back to Alabama to follow a trial in hopes of writing a book similar to Capote’s In Cold Blood. A rural preacher was accused of killing five family members before he himself was shot dead at a funeral, but Lee never ended up writing about it.
Muscle Shoals Sound Studio: How the Swampers Changed American Music by Carla Jean Whitley
The music studios of Muscle Shoals changed the culture of American music, but most people don’t actually know the history. Muscle Shoals Sound Studio tells the history of the Muscle Shoals Studio Rhythm Section, nicknamed “the Swampers,” who played backing music for hits like “Free Bird” and “Brown Sugar.”
The Race Beat : The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation by Gene Roberts
The media played an important role during the Civil Rights Movement and The Race Beat discusses the journalists and publications involved. The stories written helped shift the nation’s opinion towards racial equality, especially in the South.
Soaring to Glory: A Tuskegee Airman’s Firsthand Account of World War II by Philip Handleman and Lt. Col. Harry T. Stewart Jr.
The Tuskegee Airmen, based in Alabama, were American heroes flying planes during World War II. But back home, they still existed in segregation. Soaring to Glory tells the true story of Stewart, one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen pilots who experienced active combat during the war.
Guidebooks on Alabama
Alabama Off the Beaten Path by Jackie Sheckler Finch
This series of travel guides seeks to promote the lesser-known landmarks and Alabama Off the Beaten Path is no different. It appeals to both locals and visitors to the Yellowhammer State with chapters on Civil Rights landmarks, the network of limestone caves, and the popular beaches of the Gulf Coast.
Amazing Alabama by T. Jensen Lacey
The Bicentennial Edition of this Alabama travel guide helps visitors become experts on the state. Amazing Alabama features historic landmarks in each of the 67 counties. Paperback and Kindle versions are available with a foreword by the governor.
Lost Attractions of Alabama by Tim Hollis
The state has been welcoming visitors for generations, especially since the 1930s. Lost Attractions of Alabama discusses the bygone landmarks from Sequoyah Caverns to Birmingham’s Botanical Gardens to Gulf Coast mini-golf courses, all written by an Alabama native.
Alabama Road Trips by Alabama Media Group
A combined effort between Alabama Media Group and Alabama Tourism, Alabama Road Trips is a hardcover book with 52 suggested destinations and routes throughout the state. It features full-color photos and themed itineraries based on interests.
Explorer’s Guide 50 Hikes in Alabama by Johnny Molloy
Hikers don’t usually think of Alabama as an outdoors destination, but 50 Hikes in Alabama showcases just how many there are. This guide features state parks, national forests, and national wildlife refuges. The included hikes include rock formations, plants, and more.
We can’t leave out our own book, This Is My South: The Essential Travel Guide to the Southern States, which includes Alabama. Purchase your copy today!