As the voice behind New York Times best sellers, not to mention a big screen blockbuster, Emily Giffin knows a thing or two about writing a page turner. With her latest set-in-the-South novel, The One & Only, hitting shelves this week, we asked the Atlanta-based author to revisit her favorite Southern reads with a new batch of picks you won’t be able to put down.
Here, Emily’s ultimate list of the hottest reads penned this side of the Mason Dixon.
☐ To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
“This one needs no explanation. A perfect book.”
☐ 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.”
☐ The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.
“A heartwarming 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.”
☐ Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe.
“This thinly-veiled ‘autobiographical novel’ brings to life the Asheville community in which Wolfe was raised. It’s been said that, after the novel’s release, Wolfe wasn’t able to return to Asheville for nearly a decade due to the communal uproar. How’s that for juicy?”
☐ Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons.
“Yet another coming-of-age story on my list. Ellen Foster might be the most savvy among the five young protagonists. I loved rooting for her as she confronted a world defined by class and race. (I also devoured Gibbons’s follow-up novel The Life All Around Me which tells Ellen’s adult story).”
☐ 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!”
☐ Beloved by Toni Morrison.
“A spellbinding masterpiece about the trauma of slavery in America and the power of one mother’s love. Certainly not a light summer beach read, but a must-read nonetheless.”
☐ Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy.
“Set in the South Carolina low country, this epic novel spans forty years and tells the story of Tom Wingo, his twin sister Savannah, and their struggle to overcome their tragic legacy. I read this book aloud to my mother on a long car trip when I was a teenager. I can still remember the shock on her face, reflected in the rearview mirror.”
☐ Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
“A brave, funny, quietly devastating novel about two young girls who share a bigamist father. The book, which is told in narrative halves—one for each of the young women—teems with hard-won wisdom, and tackles a difficult subject with surprising humor and sensitivity.”
☐ Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell by Margaret Mitchell.
“Scarlett O’Hara is one of my literary heroines—and Rhett Butler is the fictional character I’d most want to bed. Need I say more?”