14

The 50 Best Southern Novels Ever Written

The American South has long been seen as the focus of the country’s Civil Rights Movement, carrying with it the stigma of poverty, racism, and anti-intellectualism. Yet the region has also produced a disproportionate number of intellectuals, poets, and writers, possibly because of the complicated and layered identities each Southerner holds within him- or herself. The South has begotten some of our nation’s most important authors, including prize winners like William Styron, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Ralph Ellison, Harper Lee, and that titan of American letters, William Faulkner. These 50 novels are a reminder that the South cannot be defined solely by its failings; it is also responsible for shaping the minds of countless thinkers who offered to American literature essential insights about not only their region but the world at large

absalom, absalom

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

Sure, alphabetically, Absalom, Absalom! is first on this list. But, coincidentally, it is also the greatest Southern novel ever written. A crowing achievement of William Faulkner’s experimentation in narratives and storytelling, it encapsulates all that defines the post-war (that’s the Civil War, you guys) Southern mentality, perfectly summed up in the book’s final line, revealing  Quentin Compson’s true feelings about the homeland with which he has such a complicated relationship: “I don’t hate it he thought, panting in the cold air, the iron New England dark: I don’t. I don’t! I don’t hate it! I don’t hate it!”