Gift Guide: Local Author’s Top Southern Lit Picks

Kevin Rinker / WABE


Best-selling novelist Joshilyn Jackson is very connected to southern literature. In addition to the South functioning as the setting in her novels, she frequents local bookstores and works alongside area writers. For those looking to give the gift of reading this holiday season, Jackson has her top picks for books written by southerners.

At the very top of her list is “Darktown” by Thomas Mullen. Jackson says the book will “hit so many readers exactly right,” from fans of historical fiction to mystery, police procedurals to literary fictionSet in 1948 Atlanta, Mullen examines pre-civil rights race relations, the integration of Atlanta’s police department, and the suspicious murder of a black woman. Jackson says that while the book is gritty and has “some dark moments … it’s not a book that’s without hope.”

For fans of science fiction/fantasy, Jackson picks the debut novel by Scott Hawkins, “The Library at Mount Char.” “I’ve honestly never read anything like it,” Jackson says. Part Neil Gaiman, part Stephen King, the book is about a woman named Carolyn, whose mysterious adoptive father might have been God, who is working to protect a library that holds the secrets to the universe.

Up next is Harrison Scott Key’s memoir “The World’s Largest Man.” One of two non-fiction books on Jackson’s list, it takes a humorous look at growing up with a man who, Key says, was not suited for modern America.

Finally, Jackson suggests the posthumously collected writings of Pat Conroy in “A Lowcountry Heart.” Known for writing novels such as “The Prince of Tides” and “The Great Santini,” Conroy died in March from pancreatic cancer. This collection honors Conroy’s life with a series of interviews, articles, speeches and more. Jackson says the book is one of “the perfect gifts to give this year, because we need to remember this man.”