The Best Southern Books of December 2020

Books are my go-to holiday gift for everyone I know, and though this has been a crazy and often-times terrible year in so many ways, there have been some really fantastic books released in 2020. If you’re looking for holiday gift ideas of your own, check out our monthly lists for some of our favorite Southern books from this year! And if you can, support independent book stores!

The Opioid Epidemic and US Culture
By Travis D. Stimeling
December 1, 2020

West Virginia University Press: “The Opioid Epidemic and US Culture brings a new set of perspectives to one of the most pressing contemporary topics in Appalachia and the nation as a whole. A project aimed both at challenging dehumanizing attitudes toward those caught in the opioid epidemic and at protesting the structural forces that have enabled it, this edited volume assembles a multidisciplinary community of scholars and practitioners to consider the ways that people have mobilized their creativity in response to the crisis.”

Dear Deedee
By Kat Meads
December 4, 2020

Regal House Publishing: “West Coast-based Aunt K (the author) writes to niece DeeDee, ostensibly to bring her up to speed on family history and share anecdotes about their North Carolina relatives, past and present. The letters soon evolve into broader discussions of community, loss, love, ambition, leaving the South (in body, if not mind) and what it means to negotiate life as a female.”

Naked Came the Florida Man
By Tim Dorsey
December 8, 2020

William Morrow: “The ‘compulsively irreverent and shockingly funny’ (Boston Globe) Tim Dorsey returns with an insanely entertaining tale in which the inimitable Serge A. Storms sees dead people and investigates a creepy urban myth that may be all too real.”

Animal Quintet
By Colin Dayan
December 8, 2020

Los Angeles Review of Books: “Colin Dayan meditates on the connection between her personal and family history and her relationship with animals in this lyrical memoir about her upbringing in the South. Unraveling memories alongside family documents and photographs, Animal Quintet takes a raw look at racial tensions and relations in a region struggling to change while providing a disquieting picture of a childhood accessible only through accounts of the non-human, ranging from famed Southern war horses led by Civil War generals and doomed Spanish fighting bulls to the lowly possum hunted by generations of Southerners.”

The Ancient Hours
By Michael Bible
December 15, 2020

Melville House Publishing: “Told in a kaleidoscope of timelines and voices, Michael Bible examines every dimension of a tragic but all-too-American story in The Ancient Hours. The victims, witnesses, perpetrators, and condemned comingle and evolve as the passage of time works its way through their lives. What emerges is a fable of the American South in the highest tradition: soaring, tragic, and eternally striving for redemption.”

This is How We Fly
By Anna Meriano
December 15, 2020

Philomel Books: “A loose retelling of Cinderella, about a high-school graduate who — after getting grounded for the whole summer — joins a local Quidditch league and finds her footing, perfect for fans of Dumplin’, Fangirl, and everyone who’s read and adored Harry Potter.”

Claiming Union Widowhood:
Race, Respectability, and Poverty in the Post-Emancipation South

By Brandi Clay Brimmer
December 18, 2020

Duke University Press: “In Claiming Union Widowhood, Brandi Clay Brimmer analyzes the US pension system from the perspective of poor black women during and after the Civil War. Reconstructing the grassroots pension network in New Bern, North Carolina, through a broad range of historical sources, she outlines how the mothers, wives, and widows of Black Union soldiers struggled to claim pensions in the face of evidentiary obstacles and personal scrutiny.”

I Have Eaten the Rattlesnake; New & Selected Poems
By Laurie Ann Guererro
December 21, 2020

Texas Christian University Press: “This collection of Guerrero’s new and selected work documents the struggle to both honor and disrupt cultural, social, and familial traditions and histories. Hers is an honest and fearless examination of racism, sexism, domestic abuse, illness, and loss. With her unfailingly bold imagery and sharp eye, this collection of Guerrero’s work is a carefully constructed artifact by a poet who works and thinks with her hands.”