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 Louisiana and by Louisiana 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 the history, these books are sure to help you enjoy it more.
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Books by Louisiana Authors
Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice
New Orleans native Anne Rice is known for her gothic novels that portray vampires in the city, but Interview with a Vampire is her most well-known, later turned into a movie starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. It centers around a 200-year-old vampire telling his life story to a newspaper reporter. He was once a young boy who was turned into a vampire by Lestat, who became his longtime companion and mentor. They turn a young girl suffering from plague into a vampire as well, which was inspired by the loss of Rice’s own daughter. Visitors to New Orleans can drive past her Greek Revival Italianate mansion in the Garden District as they read her books.
A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
Written in 1993 and published to much acclaim, A Lesson Before Dying is a fictional account of the real-life events surrounding Willie Francis, a young black man twice sentenced to the electric chair. After witnessing a murder, a man named Jefferson is wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death. His family fights to have him exonerated, but he also develops a friendship with the local deputy and a reverend concerned about his beliefs as he faces death. Gaines comes from Oscar, an unincorporated area north of Louisiana.
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy O’Toole
Perhaps the most well-known book about New Orleans, A Confederacy of Dunces was written by a New Orleans native but wasn’t published until over a decade after his suicide and later won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The main character, Ignatius J. Reilly, is a thirtysomething man living in Uptown New Orleans and interacts with unique individuals around the French Quarter. He is compared to Don Quixote for his bumbling nature. Fans of the book can see a statue of him at the Hyatt French Quarter Hotel or visit one of the locations mentioned in the book.
Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote
While people know Capote for his classics In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, his first novel was actually set in the South, specifically in Louisiana where he spent years of his childhood. Other Voices, Other Rooms was partially inspired by Capote’s upbringing with an effeminate young boy from New Orleans as the main character. He is sent to live with his absent father, after the death of his mother, to a run-down mansion in Mississippi and meets a diverse cast of characters.
Fiction Set in Louisiana
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
The Pulitzer Prize-winning play A Streetcar Named Desire is considered to be Williams’ masterwork. In it, Blanche leaves her Mississippi home after it is taken by creditors to live with her sister and brother-in-law in New Orleans. This creates tension in the couple and Stanley lashes out at his wife and, later, Blanche. The play was performed on Broadway, making the careers of Jessica Tandy and Marlon Brando before it became a film. The building where Williams lived in New Orleans is privately owned but can be viewed from the outside.
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
This fictionalized account of the life of Louisiana governor Huey Long became Warren’s timeless Pulitzer Prize-winning classic. All the King’s Men is about a Southern politician named Willie Stark, narrated by a reporter following him on the campaign trail. He later becomes Stark’s right-hand man, abandoning some of his values along the way. In Baton Rouge, visitors can see where the book’s inspiration worked at the Louisiana Capitol and see the gun that ended his life at the Capitol Park Museum.
Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
Later turned into the popular show True Blood, the Sookie Stackhouse novel series starts with Dead Until Dark. This whimsical series centers around Stackhouse, a telepathic waitress in a small town in northern Louisiana that meets Bill, a centuries-old vampire. The creatures have come out in the open after the creation of synthetic blood. She is immediately attracted to him and later saves him from people trying to harvest his blood, which has drug-like qualities.
The Pelican Brief by John Grisham
While Grisham is known for his ties to Mississippi, one of his greatest works, The Pelican Brief, is set in New Orleans. Later turned into a movie starring Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington, the story starts with two Supreme Court justices from opposite sides of the aisle being simultaneously murdered. A Tulane law student investigates further, writing a legal brief about her theory. Her boyfriend and professor shares it with an FBI agent and is subsequently killed. She is contacted by a reporter who protects her as they find out what really happened, which has political ramifications going to the highest office.
Non-fiction About Louisiana
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
There were a number of books to come out of the tragedies of Hurricane Katrina, but Zeitoun is one of the best. Eggers focuses the story on Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian-American owner of a contracting company that stayed during the storm. His wife and children evacuated to Baton Rouge, but he went out in his canoe and helped his neighbors. But he was later arrested by police officers and the National Guard without cause, held at a makeshift jail at the Greyhound station.
Creole: The History and Legacy of Louisiana’s Free People of Color by Sybil Kein
Louisiana has a number of unique cultural groups, but the Creole people have an important role as people of European, African, or Caribbean mixed descent. Creole is made up of a number of sections about different elements of Creole culture, from their backgrounds to the arts to cooking to treatment in American history.
Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans by Gary Krist
Centered around the Storyville red light district of New Orleans, Empire of Sin tells of the thirty-year-long period where the city’s elites fought the underworld of vice and crime. Tom Anderson was considered to be the godfather of this neighborhood, employing prostitutes, mobsters, politicians, and even a serial killer.
American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment by Shane Bauer
Louisiana has a controversial history with prisons, home to Angola, one of the most brutal places in the nation. But American Prison gives an inside look into modern for-profit prisons from the perspective of one of the underpaid guards. The investigative journalist was employed in Winnfield without any background check, using his real name, which led to his expose. It focuses on the history of African-American labor forces in prison that began around the Civil War.
Guidebooks on Louisiana
All Dat New Orleans: Eating, Drinking, Listening to Music, Exploring, & Celebrating in the Crescent City by Michael Murphy
Murphy’s books, including Eat Dat, Fear Dat, Drink Dat, and Hear Dat, are a love letter to the city, but All Dat encompasses all of these areas of New Orleans’ culture. It includes chapters on shopping, neighborhoods, celebrations, food, history, and much more about what makes the city such a unique place. All Dat is a must-have for visitors to the city.
Louisiana Off the Beaten Path by Gay N. Martin
Get off the main roads when exploring the state with Louisiana Off the Beaten Path, a unique look at the Pelican State. It features places like under-the-radar roadside eateries, the stomping grounds of pirate Jean Lafitte, and quirky attractions throughout every corner of the state. Bring it with you on your next road trip.
Wildsam Field Guide New Orleans by Taylor Elliott Bruce
The stylish Wildsam New Orleans is a pocket-sized guidebook that features some of the city’s one of a kind destinations. It includes interviews with locals, including notable jazz musicians, chefs, historic preservationists, and more. They also cover important topics travelers might be curious about, including styles of architecture, jazz funerals, and styles of cuisine.
French Quarter Off the Record Map by Traveler Broads and Oh Hi Co
The ladies behind Traveler Broads created the French Quarter Off the Record Map as a way to showcase the city they love beyond the well-known attractions. Focusing on the popular French Quarter, they support local businesses like art galleries and shops, under-the-radar restaurants, quirky museums, and day trip recommendations. The stylish map is easy to carry and comes with postcards.
We can’t leave out our own book, This Is My South: The Essential Travel Guide to the Southern States, which has a whole chapter on Louisiana. Purchase your copy today!