The Best Southern Books of August 2022

Welcome to the dog days of summer, folks. I hope you’ve all made it most of the way through your summer reading lists — though I certainly haven’t. If, by some miracle, you’ve already checked every book off your list, here are some of the best Southern books of the month so you can go ahead and add some more to it.

Storied & Scandalous Charleston
By Leigh Jones Handal
August 1, 2022

Globe Pequot: “In Storied & Scandalous Charleston, storyteller Leigh Jones Handal weaves tales of piracy, rebellion, ancient codes of honor, and first-hand accounts of the madness that ensued as the city fell first to the British in 1780 and then to the Union in 1865. Meet some of the foremost female criminals of the day — lady pirate Anne Bonny and highwaywoman Livinia Fisher. And learn how centuries of war, natural disasters, bankruptcy, and chaos shaped modern Charleston and the Carolina Low Country.”

By Tom Bredehoft
August 1, 2022

West Virginia University Press: “Readers are introduced to Appalachian mountain folk and traditional culture in new ways, even while Big Jim experiences the impact of the opioid epidemic on his own bigfoot kin. By centering a mythical creature as the unlikely protagonist in this enchanting literary murder mystery, Foote offers a winsome redefinition of a cryptid ‘monster’ and breathes new life into the PI genre.”

Walking Gentry Home
By Alora Young
August 2, 2022

Hogarth: “A true American epic in verse, Walking Gentry Home tells the story of Alora Young’s ancestors. The lives of these women come together to form a narrative that speaks of generational curses, coming of age, homes and small towns, fleeting loves and lasting consequences, and the brutal and ever-present legacy of slavery in the American South. Each poem is a story-in-verse and together they form an arresting saga. Both heart-wrenching and inspiring, this unique family memoir finds joy and pride where others might only see despair.”

Doll Apollo
By Melissa Ginsburg
August 3, 2022

LSU Press: “With lush imagery and surprising syntactical turns, the poems in Doll Apollo merge mythology with close attention to the patterns, colors, and contours of the material world. Through the figure of the paper doll, the hoax conspiracy surrounding the Apollo moon landing, and lyrics embedded with violence and beauty, Melissa Ginsburg’s feminist ecopoetics weaves the domestic and celestial into considerations of female identity, desire, spiritual yearning, and doubt. Throughout, Doll Apollo remains rooted in scenery and music, as Ginsburg embraces her subjects with humor and verbal and formal play.”

By Kiki Petrosino
August 9, 2022

Sarabande Books: “‘Bright,’ a slang term used to describe light-skinned people of interracial American ancestry, becomes the starting point for an extended meditation on the author’s upbringing in a mixed Black and Italian American family. Alternating moments of memoir, archival research, close reading and reverie, this work contemplates the enduring, deeply personal legacies of enslavement and racial discrimination in America.”

The Last Karankawas
By Kimberly Garza
August 9, 2022

Henry Holt and Co.: “Carly Castillo has only ever known Fish Village. Her grandmother claims that they descend from the Karankawas, an extinct indigenous Texan tribe, thereby tethering them to Galveston. When word spreads of a storm gathering strength offshore, building into Hurricane Ike, each Galveston resident must make a difficult decision: board up the windows and hunker down or flee inland and abandon their hard-won homes.”

In the Wild Light
By Jeff Zentner
August 9, 2022

Ember: “Life in a small Appalachian town is not easy. Cash lost his mother to an opioid addiction and his Papaw is dying slowly from emphysema. Dodging drug dealers and watching out for his best friend, Delaney, is second nature. He’s been spending his summer mowing lawns while she works at Dairy Queen. But when Delaney manages to secure both of them full rides to an elite prep school in Connecticut, Cash will have to grapple with his need to protect and love Delaney, and his love for the grandparents who saved him and the town he would have to leave behind.”

Black Folk Could Fly
By Randall Kenan
August 9, 2022

W. W. Norton & Company: “Virtuosic in his use of literary forms, nurtured and unbounded by his identities as a Black man, a gay man, an intellectual, and a Southerner, Randall Kenan was known for his groundbreaking fiction. Less visible were his extraordinary nonfiction essays, published as introductions to anthologies and in small journals, revealing countless facets of Kenan’s life and work. This powerful collection is a testament to a great mind, a great soul, and a great writer from whom readers will always wish to have more to read.”

Other Birds
By Sarah Addison Allen
August 30, 2022

St. Martin’s Press: “Between the real and the imaginary, there are stories that take flight in the most extraordinary ways. Right off the coast of South Carolina, on Mallow Island, The Dellawisp sits — a stunning cobblestone building shaped like a horeshoe and named after the tiny turquoise birds who, alongside its human tenants, inhabit an air of magical secrecy. When Zoey comes to claim her deceased mother’s apartment on Mallow Isalnd, she meets her quirky and secretive neighbors, including a girl on the run, two estranged middle-aged sisters, a lonely chef, a legendary writer, and three ghosts. Each with their own story, Each with their own longings. Each whose ending isn’t written yet.”

Diary of a Misfit: A Memoir & a Mystery
By Casey Parks
August 30, 2022

Knopf: “When Casey Parks came out as a lesbian in college back in 2002, she assumed her life in the South was over. Her mother shunned her, and her pastor asked God to kill her. But then Parks’s grandmother, a stern conservative who grew up picking cotton, pulled her aside and revealed a startling secret. “I grew up across the street from a woman who lived as a man,” and then implored Casey to find out what happened to him. Diary of a Misfit is the story of Parks’s life-changing journey to unravel the mystery of Roy Hudgins, the small-town country singer from grandmother’s youth, all the while confronting ghosts of her own.”