The Best Books of 2018—So Far

We’re halfway through the year, but still just getting through our pile of great Southern reads. Make time for some—if not all two dozen—of these novels, cookbooks, and coffee table tomes before the second half of the year brings even more goodies for book lovers
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An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Atlanta-born author Tayari Jones’s fourth novel was released in January to rave reviews, including from book-loving Oprah, who selected it for her 2018 book club. Jones was also inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame this year.

Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles

G&G contributing editor Jonathan Miles’s Anatomy of a Miracle is an intense, profound story of a veteran who walks again—and the ins and outs of how people, including his protective sister, interpret his “miracle.” Paramount Pictures recently acquired the novel for film adaptation.

Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”  by Zora Neale Hurston; foreword by Alice Walker

This never-before-published work from the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God is a chance to read a beloved Southern novelist working in a different medium—ethnography. In 1927 in Plateau, Alabama, Hurston recorded the memories of 86-year-old Cudjo Lewis, the last living person brought to America on a slave ship. Between time spent tending his garden, sharing peaches or watermelon, or repairing his fence, he told Hurston stories about his childhood in Africa, the time he crossed the ocean as “cargo,” and the years he spent in slavery. A profound work that shows a writer in the process of gathering a landmark story.

The Beachcomber’s Companion by Anna Marlis Burgard, illustrated by Jillian Ditner

Folks with beach houses across the South take note—you’ll want this beautiful little book displayed proudly, waiting for a guest to thumb through the serene watercolor illustrations to learn the names of what they found on a sea shell–hunting trip.


Related: A Beachcomber’s Guide to Southern Shores

The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma’s Table by Rick Bragg

Rick Bragg, the heralded Southern writer and G&G contributor, pens a loving, recipe-filled ode to his favorite cook in Alabama and on earth—his mother—in The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma’s Table.

Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee

Learn why James Beard Award-nominated chef Edward Lee’s bio reads: Korean-born, Brooklyn-bred chef who found his soul in Kentucky. He was also a recent guest on our Whole Hog podcast.

Calypso by David Sedaris

Humorist David Sedaris’s latest collection of make-you-cry-laugh essays is set primarily in and around Sea Section, the house he bought on Emerald Isle, North Carolina, to spend time with his eccentric, lovable family. Read our interview with Sedaris here.

Edna Lewis: At the Table with an American Original, edited by Sara B. Franklin

“Edna Lewis was a great cook in life. In death, she has become an even greater teacher,” writes G&G contributor Kim Severson in the foreword to Edna Lewis: At the Table with an American Original, which also includes essays by Michael W. Twitty, Mashama Bailey, John T. Edge, and Vivian Howard. It’s a beautiful ode to a grande dame of Southern cuisine.

Florida by Lauren Groff

In an assemblage of moving, nearly unnerving stories, Lauren Groff, who lives in Gainesville, mines the Sunshine State from inside the minds of Old Florida and New Florida residents: a “vanished daughter,” neighborhood gentrifiers, porch sitters, and snake chasers.

For the Love of the South by Amber Wilson

By the Nashville-based blogger Amber Wilson, this recipe collection is a beautifully photographed love song to updated Southern classics like ambrosia salad, an at-home shrimp boil, and perfectly dressed lady peas.

Julep by Alba Huerta

Bartender and business owner Alba Huerta’s cognac-based Antebellum Julep made the cover of our February/March 2014 Great Southern Drinks issue, and when her first book of cocktails came out earlier this year, she graciously shared two recipes—Two Drinks Coming and the Stone Fence Sour.

My Floral Affair by Rachel Ashwell

Known for her lifestyle brand, Shabby Chic, Rachel Ashwell penned this lusciously photographed book to let readers in on her floral-design secrets, take them on tours of her favorite gardens throughout Europe, and invite them for a virtual visit to her Texas bed and breakfast, with its buckets of bluebonnets.


Related: Step Inside a Floral World

Robicheaux: A Novel by James Lee Burke

Anything new from James Lee Burke moves to the top of our bedside table pile—and doesn’t stay there long. Another page-turner from the Gulf Coast-raised writer, Robicheaux brings back Burke’s popular character, Dave Robicheaux, for a gritty mystery set in the backwoods of Louisiana.

Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings by Sally Mann

The first major career survey of work by renowned Virginia-based photographer Sally Mann, this book of portraiture, ghostly still life, and atmospheric landscapes deserves a place of honor on every Southern photography lover’s coffee table.


Related: Sally Mann’s Southern Vision

Seeking Eden: A Collection of Georgia’s Historic Gardens by Staci L. Catron and Mary Ann Eaddy

A tour of personal and public greenspaces in the Peach State, including this Savannah stunner.

Soul: A Chef’s Culinary Evolution in 150 Recipes by Todd Richards

It’s a good Southern sign when a cookbook’s entire first chapter is devoted to collard greens. Thumb through Soul for beautiful images, inspired stories (like how Richards went from Chicago to an Atlanta meat counter and then to the Four Seasons Hotel kitchen) plus recipes for perfect Southern hybrids like Grilled Peach Toast with Pimento Cheese.

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook: Funeral Foods with a Twist by by Perre Coleman Magness

Grieving equals cooking for many Southerners. More practical and fun than grim, this is the essential cookbook for those wanting to help the bereaved, feed a congregation, deliver a meal to a friend in need, and serve up the comforting casseroles, biscuits, fried chicken, and a chocolatey Jack Daniel’s & Coca-Cola sheet cake that will make mourners think they’ve—ahem—gone to heaven.

Southernmost by Silas House

The latest novel from Kentucky writer Silas House starts with a flood and explores family relationships, fear, and belief. The author also wrote a Good Dog column for the June/July 2018 issue, which you can read here.

The Fair Chase: The Epic Story of Hunting in America by Philip Dray

Threads of conservation, patriotism, and politics weave together in the story of sporting life in the United States. Check out G&G contributing editor Jonathan Miles’s review here.

The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton

A powerful memoir of a poor man from Alabama who spent thirty years on death row for a crime he didn’t commit, this book elicits anger, compassion, and—ultimately—hope. Anthony Ray Hinton never lost sight of the truth that eventually set him free.

The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry, selected by Paul Kingsnorth

Whether you’re new to the words of Wendell Berry or a longtime fan of this Kentucky poet, farmer, and land-protector, you’ll want to add this tome of unforgettable, earth-moving Southern outdoors writing to the shelf.

There There: A Novel by Tommy Orange

The fierce, memorable debut everyone will be talking about this summer tells intertwining stories of twelve modern-day Native American characters traveling to a powwow. A new literary voice, Tommy Orange is a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes.

Turnip Greens and Tortillas by Eddie Hernandez with Susan Puckett

The most beloved taco-slinger in Atlanta, Eddie Hernandez shares his life story—and plenty of recipes, like for this tequila-and-tea “Eddie Palmerin this cookbook.

Varina: A Novel by Charles Frazier

The author of the National Book Award-winning Cold Mountain, Frazier brings to the page another unforgettable story, this one set partially in Mississippi, centering on a family of fugitives in the aftermath of the Civil War.