The Greatest "Tennessee" Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 273 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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  1. 1. The Civil War by Shelby Foote

    This comprehensive three-volume series provides an in-depth and detailed narrative of the American Civil War. It encompasses the political, social, and military aspects of the war, offering a balanced view of both the Union and Confederate sides. The series also delves into the personal experiences of key figures, including generals and soldiers, as well as civilians affected by the war. This work is known for its meticulous research, vivid descriptions, and engaging storytelling style.

  2. 2. Roots by Alex Haley

    This groundbreaking historical novel follows several generations of an African American family, beginning with Kunta Kinte, a man captured in Gambia in the 18th century and sold into slavery in the United States. Through Kinte and his descendants, the narrative explores the brutal realities of slavery and its aftermath, the struggle for freedom and civil rights, and the perseverance of a family through immense hardship. The story is based on the author's own family history, making it a significant work in the exploration of African American heritage and identity.

  3. 3. A Death in the Family by James Agee

    The novel centers around the tragic death of a young father in a car accident, exploring its profound impact on his family. The narrative delves into the grieving process of his wife, children, and extended family in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1915. The story explores themes of love, loss, and the struggle to find meaning in the face of tragic circumstances. It is a poignant examination of the human condition and the inevitable experience of loss.

  4. 4. Black Boy by Richard Wright

    "Black Boy" is an autobiographical account of a young African-American boy growing up in the South during the early 20th century. The book explores his experiences with extreme poverty, racism, and his struggle to find his place in a society that marginalizes and devalues him. The protagonist's desire for self-expression and understanding leads him to a love of literature and writing, providing him with a means to challenge and critique the oppressive social structures around him.

  5. 5. Suttree by Cormac McCarthy

    Set in 1950s Knoxville, Tennessee, the novel follows the life of a man who has renounced his former existence of privilege to live among society's outcasts on the river. He is an educated man, who has chosen a life of fishing and surviving on the fringes of society. The narrative is filled with his encounters with various characters from the underbelly of the city, including criminals, prostitutes, and other outcasts. Despite his attempts to isolate himself, he finds himself drawn into the problems and tragedies of those around him.

  6. 6. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

    This novel follows the journey of Cora, a young slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia, who escapes and embarks on a journey towards freedom via the Underground Railroad. The book presents a literal version of the historical Underground Railroad, portraying it as a physical network of tunnels and tracks beneath the Southern soil. As Cora travels from state to state, she encounters different worlds and harsh realities, each one illuminating the various forms of oppression Black people faced in America. The narrative is a brutal exploration of America's history of slavery and racism, and a testament to the unyielding spirit of those who fought against it.

  7. 7. A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor

    This novel tells the story of a New York editor who is called back to his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, by his two manipulative older sisters to help them prevent their elderly father from remarrying. As he becomes embroiled in their family drama, he reflects on his upbringing in the South, his father's tyrannical rule over the family, and the impact it had on his life. The narrative explores themes of family, memory, and the passage of time.

  8. 8. William Eggleston's Guide by John Szarkowski

    This book serves as a seminal introduction to the work of a pioneering color photographer, showcasing a collection that was first exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in 1976. The publication presents a series of color photographs that capture the mundane and everyday scenes of the Southern United States with a poetic and profound resonance. Through the use of dye-transfer printing, the images are rendered with exceptional vibrancy and detail, challenging the prevailing monochrome aesthetic and helping to establish color photography as a legitimate and respected medium in the art world. The accompanying essay provides critical context and insight into the artist's unique vision, which has since influenced generations of photographers and artists.

  9. 9. The Firm by John Grisham

    The book centers on a young, ambitious attorney who is seduced into joining a prestigious law firm with a dark secret. Lured by the promise of wealth and status, he and his wife become entangled in a world of luxury that quickly turns into a nightmare. As he discovers the firm's involvement in illegal activities and its ruthless methods of ensuring loyalty and silence, he becomes a target himself. With the FBI pressuring him to help expose the firm's criminal dealings, he must navigate a treacherous path to outwit his employers, protect his family, and escape with his life.

  10. 10. Last Train to Memphis by Peter Guralnick

    "Last Train to Memphis" chronicles the early life and rise to fame of a young musician from Tupelo, Mississippi. It details his humble beginnings, his love for gospel music, and his eventual rise to stardom as a rock 'n' roll icon. The book also explores his complex relationships, his military service, and his struggle with fame, providing a comprehensive and intimate look at a cultural icon's journey to stardom.

  11. 11. The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter

    The book is a heartwarming story of a young orphan boy of mixed ancestry who is raised by his Cherokee grandparents in the Appalachian Mountains during the Great Depression. His grandparents teach him the Cherokee way of life, including their spiritual beliefs, love for nature, respect for all living things, and the importance of tolerance and understanding. Despite the hardship and prejudice they face, they impart wisdom, love, and a unique perspective on life to the young boy.

  12. 12. Christy by Catherine Marshall

    The novel is a historical fiction set in the early 1900s, which follows the journey of a 19-year-old woman who leaves her comfortable city life to become a teacher in a remote, impoverished mountain community in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Through her experiences, she learns about the harsh realities of life, the power of faith, and the strength of the human spirit. Along the way, she also becomes torn between two men, a charismatic and passionate preacher and a pragmatic and grounded doctor.

  13. 13. Collected Stories of Peter Taylor by Peter Taylor

    The "Collected Stories of Peter Taylor" is a compilation of narratives that explore the nuances of Southern life, specifically focusing on the middle and upper-middle classes. The stories delve into the complexities of familial relationships, societal expectations, and the changing cultural landscape of the South during the 20th century. The author's keen observations and rich character development provide a vivid and insightful view into the human condition and the intricacies of Southern life.

  14. 14. Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant by U. S. Grant

    This book is a first-person account of the life and military career of a notable American Civil War general who later became the 18th President of the United States. It covers his childhood, his time at West Point, his experiences in the Mexican-American War, and his crucial role in the Civil War. The memoir also delves into his presidential years, offering a unique perspective on historical events from a key player's point of view. It is widely praised for its honesty, insight, and clear, straightforward style.

  15. 15. Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

    "Days Without End" is a historical fiction novel that follows the life of an Irish immigrant who enlists in the U.S. Army in the 1850s. The protagonist's experiences include fighting in the Indian Wars and the Civil War, as well as falling in love with a fellow soldier. The novel explores themes of identity, love, and survival in a brutal and unforgiving era of American history.

  16. 16. Child Of God by Cormac McCarthy

    The novel follows the life of a dispossessed, violent man living on the fringes of society in the mountains of Tennessee in the 1960s. After being expelled from his community, the protagonist descends into a primitive state of existence, seeking shelter in caves and gradually surrendering to his most base and animalistic instincts. His isolation and alienation lead him to commit a series of heinous acts, including necrophilia and murder, as he becomes increasingly detached from humanity. The narrative explores themes of loneliness, depravity, and the human capacity for evil, painting a bleak and harrowing portrait of a person utterly cast out from social norms and moral grounding.

  17. 17. The Client by John Grisham

    In this legal thriller, an eleven-year-old boy finds himself in the middle of a dangerous conflict after witnessing the suicide of a lawyer who reveals the whereabouts of a murdered senator's body. The boy becomes the target of both the FBI, who wants him to divulge the secret to solve the high-profile murder case, and the mafia, who will stop at nothing to keep him silent. With the help of a feisty female attorney, he must navigate a perilous path to protect himself and his family from the looming threats, all while grappling with the moral dilemmas of his newfound knowledge. This gripping narrative combines legal intrigue with a poignant exploration of the resilience and resourcefulness of a young boy thrust into extraordinary circumstances.

  18. 18. The Rainmaker by John Grisham

    In this legal thriller, a young, inexperienced lawyer takes on a powerful insurance company in a monumental case that could make or break his career. The protagonist, fresh out of law school and struggling to find his footing, stumbles upon a case involving a family denied a life-saving medical claim by a corrupt insurance giant. With the odds stacked against him, he embarks on a David vs. Goliath battle, navigating through a maze of legal challenges, personal dilemmas, and the dark underbelly of corporate America. This gripping tale not only explores the complexities of the legal system but also delves into themes of justice, morality, and the pursuit of the American dream.

  19. 19. The March by E. L. Doctorow

    "The March" is a historical fiction novel that follows the destructive journey of General William Tecumseh Sherman's Union army through Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina during the American Civil War. The narrative is told from multiple perspectives, including those of slaves, soldiers, civilians, and Sherman himself. The book explores the chaos, violence, and often arbitrary nature of war, as well as its profound effects on individuals and societies. It also delves into the complexities of the human condition and the struggle for survival amidst chaos.

  20. 20. Nothing To See Here by Kevin Wilson

    In this captivating novel, a young woman named Lillian is tasked with caring for her estranged friend's stepchildren, who possess a peculiar and dangerous ability: they spontaneously combust when agitated. Despite the challenges, Lillian grows deeply attached to the children, finding purpose and meaning in her new role. Set against a backdrop of family dynamics and political ambition, the story explores themes of acceptance, love, and the true meaning of family. Through its unique premise and heartfelt narrative, the novel delves into the complexities of human relationships and the transformative power of unconditional love.

  21. 21. The Life of Andrew Jackson by Marquis James

    This biography provides a detailed account of the life of Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States, from his early childhood to his presidency. It explores his military career, his controversial presidency, his turbulent personal life, and his lasting impact on American politics and society. The book offers an in-depth look at his role in the War of 1812, his contentious relationship with the Bank of the United States, and his controversial policies regarding Native American tribes.

  22. 22. Summer for the Gods by Edward Larson

    "Summer for the Gods" is a historical account of the 1925 Scopes Trial, also known as the "Monkey Trial," which was a legal case in Tennessee that debated the teaching of evolution in public schools. The book delves into the cultural, political, and intellectual clashes between religious fundamentalism and modernism, highlighting the roles of key figures involved in the trial. It also explores the lasting impact of the trial on American society, particularly in shaping the ongoing debate over the teaching of evolution and creationism in schools.

  23. 23. American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Matteson

    This book provides a comprehensive and detailed account of Andrew Jackson's presidency, offering insight into his personal life, political career, and the significant impact he had on the United States. It explores his controversial decisions, such as his stance on slavery and the Indian Removal Act, as well as his contributions to the expansion of presidential power. The book also delves into Jackson's tumultuous personal life, including his marriage and the scandal that surrounded it, painting a vivid picture of one of America's most influential and polarizing figures.

Reading Statistics

Click the button below to see how many of these books you've read!


If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.