The Best Southern Books of January 2023

Welcome to the new year! We at the SRB are looking forward to another year celebrating one of the things that makes the South such a wonderful, complex place — our books! We’re excited to have you along for the ride with us.

This month’s roundup includes satire, horror, and suspense novels plus three poetry collections, short stories, and cultural criticism.

The Villa
By Rachel Hawkins
January 3, 2023

St. Martin’s Press: “As kids, Emily and Chess were inseparable. But by their 30s, their bond has been strained by the demands of their adult lives. So when Chess suggests a girls trip to Italy, Emily jumps at the chance to reconnect with her best friend. … Inspired by Fleetwood Mac, the Manson murders, and the infamous summer Percy and Mary Shelley spent with Lord Byron at a Lake Geneva castle — the birthplace of FrankensteinThe Villa welcomes you into its deadly legacy.”

The Kudzu Queen
By Mimi Herman
January 10, 2023

Regal House: “Based on historical facts, The Kudzu Queen unravels a tangle of sexuality, power, race, and kudzu through the voice of an irresistibly delightful (and mostly honest) narrator.”

Moonrise Over New Jessup
By Jamila Minnicks
January 10, 2023

Algonquin: “Based on the history of the many Black towns and settlements established across the country, Jamila Minnicks’s heartfelt and riveting debut is both a celebration of Black joy and a timely examination of the opposing viewpoints that attended desegregation in America.”

Short Film Starring My Beloved’s Red Bronco
By K. Iver
January 10, 2023

Milkweed Editions: “Short Film Starring My Beloved’s Red Bronco sees us through a particular kind of grief — one so relentless, it’s precious. It presses us, also, to continue advocating for a world in which queer love fantasies become reality and queer love poems ‘swaddle the impossible / contours of joy.'”

By Michael Shewmaker
January 11, 2023

LSU Press: “Leviathan offers an innovative reimagining of the book of Job. Set in the landscape of modern East Texas, the poem unfolds in four cycles of interchanging monologues, each compounding the difficulties of a faith placed in a distant God.”

Everybody Knows
By David Wesley Williams
January 16, 2023

Jackleg Press: “The rain-sodden, Southern world of David Wesley Williams’ Everybody Knows overflows with satiric fun as it churns up a rich detritus of Biblical allusions, political backstory, musical opinions, literary puns, and local anecdotes.”

How to Sell a Haunted House
By Grady Hendrix
January 17, 2023

Berkley Books: “When Louise finds out her parents have died, she dreads going home. … Most of all, she doesn’t want to deal with her brother, Mark, who never left their hometown, gets fired from one job after another, and resents her success. Unfortunately, she’ll need his help to get the house ready for sale because it’ll take more than some new paint on the walls and clearing out a lifetime of memories to get this place on the market. But some houses don’t want to be sold, and their home has other plans for both of them.”

Decent People
By De’Shawn Charles Winslow
January 17, 2023

Bloomsbury: “In the still-segregated town of West Mills, North Carolina, in 1976, Marian, Marva, and Lazarus Harmon — three enigmatic siblings — are found shot to death in their home. The people of West Mills — on both sides of the canal that serves as the town’s color line — are in a frenzy of finger-pointing, gossip, and wonder. The crime is the first reported murder in the area in decades, but the white authorities don’t seem to have any interest in solving the case.”

Wade in the Water
By Nyani Nkrumah
January 17, 2023

Amistad: “Set in 1982, in rural, racially divided Ricksville, Mississippi Wade in the Water tells the story of Ella, a black, unloved, precocious eleven-year-old, and Ms. St. James, a mysterious white woman from Princeton who appears in Ella’s community to carry out some research. Soon, Ms. St. James befriends Ella, who is willing to risk everything to keep her new friend in a town that does not want her there.”

Judas Goat
By Gabrielle Bates
January 24, 2023

Tin House: “Gabrielle Bates’s electric debut collection Judas Goat plumbs the depths of intimate relationships. The book’s eponymous animal is used to lead sheep to slaughter while its own life is spared, and its harrowing existence echoes through this spellbinding collection of forty poems, which wrestle with betrayal and forced obedience, violence and young womanhood, and the ‘forbidden felt language’ of sexual and sacred love.”

The Faraway World
Patricia Engel
January 24, 2023

Avid Reader Press: “From Patricia Engel, whose novel Infinite Country was a New York Times bestseller and a Reese’s Book Club pick, comes an exquisite collection of ten haunting, award-winning short stories set across the Americas and linked by themes of migration, sacrifice, and moral compromise.”

Black on Black
By Daniel Black
January 31, 2023

Hanover Square Press: “In his debut essay collection, Black gives voice to the experiences of those who often find themselves on the margins. Tackling topics ranging from police brutality to the AIDS crisis to the role of HBCUs to queer representation in the Black church, Black on Black celebrates the resilience, fortitude, and survival of Black people in a land where their body is always on display. As Daniel Black reminds us, while hope may be slow in coming, it always arrives, and when it does, it delivers beyond the imagination. Propulsive, intimate, and achingly relevant, Black on Black is cultural criticism at its openhearted best.”