Top 10: Emily Giffin’s Southern Must Reads

August 17, 2012 | By | Comments (25)
Emily Giffin

Photo by Deborah Feingold

Southerners have a way with words. Take Atlantan Emily Giffin who has penned a slew of international best-sellers. Her sharp, conversational writing brings to life multifaceted heroines sifting through matters of the heart.

We’ve been hanging on her every word since her first novel Something Borrowed debuted in 2004. And there was a collective sigh when the preview copy of her latest book Where We Belong arrived at Southern Livng HQ earlier this spring. The pastel cover, with Emily’s moniker perched across the top in that familiar lowercase typeface, assured us summer days and good reads were just around the corner.

Where We Belong

Photo Courtesy of St. Martin’s Press

Where We Belong, the story of Marian Caldwell a thirty-something television producer whose cushy life is turned on-end with an unexpected visitor from her past (nope, we’re not going to divulge the identity, though it is awfully tempting), hit stands on July 24. In celebration of her new book, we asked Emily–a devotee to the South’s rich literary tradition–to share her Top 10 Southern Must Reads. Here’s her list:

1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
“The original Southern classic and one of the first to be written in the vernacular. Arguably one of the most important books in American—let alone Southern—literature.”

2. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Margaret Mitchell is one of my literary heroines—and Rhett Butler is the fictional character I’d most want to bed.  Need I say more?

3. The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers
“I was in the eighth grade when I first read about Frankie. She made me feel as if I weren’t the only one longing to be part of something larger. One of my favorite books of all time.”

4. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
“A lyrical love story that I read in an African American literature course at Wake Forest. I can still recall how profoundly it moved me.”

5. One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty
“An autobiography of one of my favorite writers. This book was a gift from my mother when I graduated from law school at the University of Virginia. She knew I didn’t really want to be an attorney!”

6. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
“A story of a Confederate soldier deeply wounded, yet yearning to be home with his love, this book is the saddest I’ve ever read. I actually threw it across the room after I read the last page, yet I’ve tortured myself by rereading it.”

7. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
“A coming-of-age tale about the importance of motherhood. Incidentally, it was the first book I read after I moved to Atlanta and my twin sons were born.”

8. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
“A modern classic written by my friend and fellow Atlantan. I remember when Kitty came to my Love the One You’re With launch party and told me about the story about black maids she’d just penned. Little did we all know…”

9. The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor
“Utterly original, colorful, and haunting stories. My favorite, in a grotesque way, is Everything That Rises Must Converge. I consider O’Connor to be the greatest inspiration for my own morally flawed characters.”

10. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
A perfect book. Period.

Where We Belong is available from St. Martin’s Press. Follow Emily on Twitter @emilygiffin, Facebook, or her website.

What Southern read would you add to the list?


  1. Goa Flowers

    What a beautiful garden Pansy, really pretty and such an array of colour, hope we get some rain soon, in fact just started so I need not water the garden yipee!!! Lovely blog enjoyed it very much.

    August 20, 2012 at 5:50 am
  2. jan millu

    I didn’t read the book, Cindy. I will now. Did I see a movie based on this book? It was a tearjerker.

    August 18, 2012 at 8:03 pm
  3. Cindy Pfister

    Children’s book, The Story of Ruby Bridges. I read it to my class every year and tear up over her courage and the sad realities of the time.

    August 18, 2012 at 5:09 pm
  4. C. McGee

    Some of the info provided on my pc provide absolutely nothing of value – Worlds Fattest City (its always in Mississippi or Alabama); Country’s Most Ignorant state (again, Miss or Al); ten best books written by southern authors – some things are best left unsaid. Who are you trying to impress with a list like this. It would be impossible to pick the ten best southern writers.

    August 18, 2012 at 12:43 pm
  5. Ann

    one of my favorits..

    August 18, 2012 at 11:52 am
  6. Jean | Delightful Repast

    Good picks. Some of my favorites are on there as well. Scott Stone is, of course, entitled to his opinion; but I wonder if he has actually read The Help. I’m a pretty serious reader (AND I’m not much influenced by Oprah–nothing against Oprah, just don’t happen to see or read her often) and I thought The Help was not just a good read, but one of the most important books in recent years.

    August 18, 2012 at 10:12 am
  7. Charlene

    No list of southern “must reads” is complete without Pat Conroy. Start with “The Prince of Tides”.

    August 18, 2012 at 9:29 am
  8. Frances

    Anything written by Pat Conroy is on my list. I totally agree with your number one title also! However, my list would have Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird in the number two slot. Kdravenstott, you are right about Dorthea Benton Frank, love her work! Looking forward to reading Ms Giffin’s books.

    August 17, 2012 at 10:21 pm
  9. Sharon

    Cold Sassy Tree would definitely be on my list.

    August 17, 2012 at 9:36 pm
  10. Ann

    Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns…a must read.

    August 17, 2012 at 9:08 pm
  11. Holly Blair

    Willie Morris!!! All iof his books are great!!

    August 17, 2012 at 8:46 pm
  12. jan millu

    Victory Over Japan is a must read for short story enthusiasts by Mississippi born, Ellen Gilchrist. I enjoy all her collections.

    August 17, 2012 at 8:33 pm
  13. kdravenstott

    I throughly enjoy Dorthea Benton Frank and Mary Alice Monroe- perfect summer reads for the beach in Charleston!

    August 17, 2012 at 8:03 pm
  14. Susan Coster

    Mudbound, Page from a Tennessee Journal, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and most other Flagg books, The Kitchen House,

    August 17, 2012 at 7:31 pm
  15. machel

    Great choices Emily! “SECRET LIFE OF BEES” & “Cold Mountain”………I wept with fury at the end of the mountain journey, yet, still one of my top favorites,too. Others that wrote negative remarks are just angry that it hot!

    August 17, 2012 at 7:15 pm
  16. Haley

    Anna Jean Mayhew – Dry Grass of August

    August 17, 2012 at 5:55 pm
  17. juliecottrell

    Great choices, Emily!

    August 17, 2012 at 5:54 pm
  18. Selma Ferris

    Anything by Eugenia Price and Dorothea Benton Frank.

    August 17, 2012 at 5:52 pm
  19. Glee Rice

    When Crickets Cry, by Charles Martin–a great book!

    August 17, 2012 at 5:42 pm
  20. Clarice

    I kept reading through the list thinking where is “To Kill a Mockingbird “? I agree,it is perfect; and it just gets better with each reading.

    August 17, 2012 at 5:24 pm
  21. Ann

    Why don’t more people follow that simple rule?? Sure would be a nicer world..

    August 17, 2012 at 5:15 pm
  22. Alice Harper

    Mr. Stone, it’s pretty embarrassing that you are missing a basic lesson from your Mom. If you can’t say something good……..HUSH!

    August 17, 2012 at 5:13 pm
  23. Ann

    What about Beach Music???

    August 17, 2012 at 5:10 pm
  24. Jan

    Any book by Ann B Ross, her Miss Julia books are wonderful.

    August 17, 2012 at 5:09 pm
  25. Scott Stone (@scottstone9)

    Pretty embarrassing that the list is missing William Gay, Barry Hannah, Sonny Brewer,Tom Franklin, and William Faulkner. Is she serious? “The Help”? Did Oprah help with this list?

    August 17, 2012 at 5:07 pm

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