“I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about, and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it” — Nobel Prize Winner William Faulkner. Mississippi authors have contributed so much to world literature it is hard to narrow it down to a few recommendations, but try these for starters:
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The story is about African Americans working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi, during the early 1960s. The book is narrated by three very different women; Minny, a black maid unable to keep a job due to her hot head, Aibileen, another black maid who is raising her 'seventeenth white child', and Miss Skeeter, at the opposite end of the spectrum, a white woman who wants to be a writer. She has been brought up by black maids since she was young, and longs to find out why her much-loved maid, Constantine, has disappeared.
A Time To Kill by John Grisham
A 1989 legal thriller by John Grisham, this was Grisham's first novel. The novel was rejected by many publishers before Wynwood Press eventually gave it a modest 5,000-copy printing. When Doubleday published The Firm, Wynwood released a trade paperback of A Time to Kill, which became a bestseller.
My Dog Skip by Willie Morris
My Dog Skip is a memoir published by Random House in 1995. My Dog Skip is the story about nine-year-old Willie Morris growing up in Yazoo City, Mississippi, a tale of a boy and his dog in a small, sleepy Southern town that teaches us about family, friendship, love, devotion, trust and bravery.
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
This is a 1930 Southern Gothic novel. Faulkner said that he wrote the novel from midnight to 4:00 a.m. over the course of six weeks and that he did not change a word of it. Faulkner wrote it while working at a power plant. The novel was published in 1930, and Faulkner described it as a "tour de force." Faulkner's fifth novel, it is consistently ranked among the best novels of 20th-century literature. The title derives from Book XI of Homer's Odyssey (William Marris's 1925 translation), wherein Agamemnon tells Odysseus: "As I lay dying, the woman with the dog's eyes would not close my eyes as I descended into Hades." You can stroll upon Faulkner’s native soil at his home Rowan Oak in Oxford.
Mississippi Blood by Grey Iles
With the release of “Mississippi Blood,” Greg Iles has completed the trilogy he began in 2014 with “Natchez Burning” and continued in 2015 with “The Bone Tree.” It’s a major accomplishment for the novelist: three king-size books that are page-turning entertainments with an edge of history and a deep understanding of race relations in the American South.
Those considering “Mississippi Blood” may wonder if it will be understandable without having read the two previous novels. The answer is a great big yes, although anyone who has time should start at the beginning. The anchor of the story is Penn Cage, the mayor of Natchez.
Losing Battles by Eudora Welty
Losing Battles is the last novel written by Eudora Welty. It was released on April 13, 1970. The novel's setting is two days—a Sunday and Monday morning—in a 1930s farm in Mississippi.
Three generations of Granny Vaughn’s descendants gather at her Mississippi home to celebrate her 90th birthday. Possessed of the true storyteller’s gift, the members of this clan cannot resist the temptation to swap tales.
Mississippi Juke Joint Confidential by Roger Stolle
Juke joint—two words often used, often abused. They convey an inherent promise of something real, edgy, from another time. All juke joints are blues clubs, but not all blues clubs are jukes.
Here, artist recollections and insights delve below the murky surface to tell the tales, canonize the characters and explain the special brand of blues bottled in these quasi-legal establishments. Author Roger Stolle works from the inside to educate and entertain with a mix of history, anecdote and discovery. It’s a wild ride.
Dispatches from Pluto by Richard Grant
In Dispatches from Pluto, adventure writer Richard Grant takes on “the most American place on Earth”—the enigmatic, beautiful, often derided Mississippi Delta. This is a book as unique as the Delta itself. It's lively, entertaining, and funny, containing a travel writer's flair for in-depth reporting alongside insightful reflections on poverty, community, and race. It's also a love story, as the nomadic Grant learns to settle down.
Follow the Southern Literary Trail through Mississippi & Alabama to visit the places that influenced well-known 20th century writers. If you are also interested in films set in Mississippi, click here.