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 Mississippi and by Mississippi, 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.
Books by Mississippi Authors
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Told through the eyes of three narrators, white and wealthy college graduate Skeeter, and two African American maids Aibileen and Minny, The Help tells of the complexities of life in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi.
The three women join forces to expose the realities of life as a member of “the help.” With attention to dialect, moments of humor, and more than a tinge of timeliness this is a story that stays with you.
My Dog Skip by Willie Morris
We’ve all had a deep and unexplainable connection before. Maybe with a lover, a song, or a special place. For young Morris, this connection is with Skip, a fox-terrier pup with a penchant for sports and devotion for his newfound friend.
Shenanigans abound. My Dog Skip is a tearjerker that gives a slice of the South in the 1940s along Mississippi’s Yazoo River.
The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
In Alexandria, Mississippi young Robin has just been found dead on Mother’s Day. Flash forward twelve years and his sister, Harriet, fueled by the adventures in the books she consumes, decides to find the killer.
What follows in The Little Friend is a character study of a changing South and the souls that abide there.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Growing up in the shadow of an interracial relationship between a drug-addicted mother and an imprisoned father, Jojo desperately searches for a father figure.
His black grandfather, Pop showers him with the love his mother is too cloudy to give. The ghost of his dead uncle tries to teach him as well. Suddenly Jojo’s father is out of prison and Sing, Unburied, Sing takes a turn from which it cannot return.
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Written in a style that is wholly Faulkner, As I Lay Dying tells the story of the Bundren family’s odyssey to bury their matriarch in the fictional Jefferson, Mississippi. The classic novel has themes of country life and family drama.
Fiction Set in Mississippi
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
Named for the pneumonic device that helps children spell Mississippi (s becomes “crooked letter”), the novel Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter tells the story of a renewed connection between Silas Jones and Larry Ott. One man is black the other is white.
Joined as boys in racially tense 1970s Mississippi, the duo part ways when Larry, who is white, gets caught up in the disappearance of a local girl. Flashes between adulthood and the bygone days of their youth equate to an engaging and complicated story.
Mississippi Blood by Greg Iles
The concluding entry to a sweeping trilogy, Mississippi Blood returns to Natchez and the unraveling life of Penn Cage. This novel finds him angry and desperate as his love is gone and his father is on trial for murder.
KKK fringe group, the Double Eagles, seem hell-bent on Dr. Cage’s destruction and it is up to Penn and an unlikely ally, black author Serenity Butler, to get to the truth.
A Time to Kill by John Grisham
The rape of a young black girl in rural Mississippi ignites the fuse for the tumultuous events to follow. Her father, seeking justice, grabs a gun and kills the two men.
His guilt seems obvious yet young lawyer Jake Brigance must do all he can to save his client’s life. What follows is a harsh telling of the south’s racial complexities. A Time to Kill was later turned into an award-winning movie.
Jewel by Bret Lott
A feature of Oprah’s Book Club, Jewel tells the story of the title’s namesake and her brood of six children in backwoods Mississippi. Jewel’s youngest, Brenda Kay is born in 1943 with Down’s syndrome, thus changing the trajectory of Jewel’s life forever. What follows is a poignant story of the lengths a mother will go to for her children.
Losing Battles by Eudora Welty
Jackson native Welty shows her penchant for storytelling and voice in Losing Battles, a book centered around the gathering of Granny Vaughn’s family to celebrate her 90th birthday. Storys are swapped much to the reader’s delight.
Non-Fiction About Mississippi
Dispatches from Pluto by Richard Grant
Learning the bare necessities of life in the Delta; hunting, growing crops, and fending off alligators, Grant and Mariah get a glimpse of the beauty and brokenness of this incredible part of the world in Dispatches from Pluto.
Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody
This autobiography tells of Moody’s beginnings as the daughter of poor black tenant farmers in the pre-civil rights South. In Coming of Age in Mississippi, she sets her sights high and goes to college, later joining the NAACP and gaining a front-row seat to the upheaval and violence that would accompany the fight for civil rights.
The Civil War: A Narrative by Shelby Foote
The Civil War is an exhaustive look at America’s Civil War and the people involved. With a penchant for getting to the motivations of history’s key players, this three-volume series is a thoughtful look at the dark days of the Civil War.
Three Lives for Mississippi by William Bradford Huie
Three Lives for Mississippi is an unflinching look at the Freedom Summer Murders in which Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and Mississippi native James Chaney all lost their lives.
The murder of the three activists shocked the country prompting Huie, a reporter from the New York Herald Tribune, to journey down to Neshoba County to parse through the tragedy’s players and motivations.
Mississippi Juke Joint Confidential by Roger Stolle
Juke Joint is a term often misunderstood. At least according to music marketer and writer Stolle in Mississippi Juke Joint Confidential. In an effort to alleviate this confusion, he brings readers on a journey of the history, heroes, and humor of these blues clubs.
Guidebooks on Mississippi
Mississippi Off the Beaten Path by Marlo Carter Kirkpatrick
True to its word, the guide Mississippi Off the Beaten Path offers readers the chance to find some of Mississippi’s lesser-known restaurants, attractions, and road stops recommended by Madison resident, and award-winning contributor Kirkpatrick.
Traveling Through History: Civil War Sites in Natchez and Vicksburg, Mississippi by Marcy and Jon Ruesch
Part guidebook part memoir, Traveling Through History serves as a complement to your visit to these Civil War sites. With recommendations on what to see and what to avoid, explore Natchez and Vicksburg with the wisdom of visitors who have gone before you.
Small Town Pleasures by Dean Klinkenberg
This book covers more than just the state of Mississippi. Profiling small towns along the mighty Mississippi River from Minnesota to Louisiana, enjoy a slower pace while taking in the river views.
No town featured in Small Town Pleasures has above 10,000 residents thus ensuring an intimate experience from each recommendation.
Road Trip USA: Great River Road by Jamie Jensen
A mile by mile look at the Mississippi River’s Great River Road, Road Trip USA takes readers along one of America’s most notable waterways via a two-lane road. Enjoy kitschy stops and hidden gems using this small but robust guide.
Guide to the Natchez Trace Parkway by F. Lynne Bachleda
From Native American trail to 19th-century trade route, the Natchez Trace Parkway is a historical byway worth tempting even the most hesitant of road trippers.
Running from Natchez to just outside Nashville, there is no shortage of good food, friendly locals, and thought-provoking history to enjoy. Guide to the Natchez Trace Parkway is a good intro to the trip.
We can’t leave out our own book, This Is My South: The Essential Travel Guide to the Southern States, which includes Mississippi. Purchase your copy today!