We’re back for Top Ten Tuesday again. Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly booking meme sponsored by The Broke and the Bookish. This week, we’re all discussing underrated books and/or authors. I’ve decided to return to my Southern literature theme, this time with underrated Southern novels. So, without anymore ado, here’s the list:
1. The Violent Bear it Away–Flannery O’Connor
O’Connor is better known for her short stories than either of her novels, but this one shines, not in spite of, but sometimes because of, its imperfections.
2. Suttree, Cormac McCarthy.
McCarthy is one of those authors who is sometimes-and-sometimes-not considered Southern, but for my part, Suttree cemented the Southern influences on his work and placed him in the category of Southern writer. With a well-cast set of grotesque characters, McCarthy’s novel is both devastating and entertaining, and it’s a shame this novel has been overshadowed by his other works.
3. Oral History, Lee Smith.
A complex picture of an Appalachian town and its inhabitants, Smith’s 1983 novel winds its way through time and place. It meanders a bit, but it’s well worth the meandering, and it’s worth nothing that in doing so, it mimics truly oral histories.
4. True Grit, Charles Portis.
So what is a famous book doing on this list? At this point, many have forgotten or just don’t know what it’s not just a twice-made film, but that it’s a harrowing and smartly written novel, as well.
5. Gods in Alabama, Joshilyn Jackson.
Often dismissed as “chick lit” (which is its own separate fight, that innate dismissal), Jackson’s novel is poignant and cleverly written, and there are moments of piercing clarity in her prose.
6. The Watermelon King, Daniel Wallace.
I laughed, and I cried, and I experienced just about every emotion inbetween. Wallace’s story is a kind of folk-tale, and it’s incredibly layered.
7. Of Love and Dust, Ernest Gaines.
Gaines is one of the most prolific black Southern voices that I’ve ever read. And this is probably one of his best novels, though it often gets overlooked because there is so much other good work in his oeuvre.
8. The Land, Mildred D. Taylor.
We often forget about the children of the South, and about the children’s literature. But there’s a rich history of it. And Mildred D. Taylor, whose Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry won the 1977 Newberry, is a master of Southern children’s literature.
9. The Member of the Wedding, Carson McCullers
McCullers’ first novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, gets most of the attention. But The Member of the Wedding is a neglected and beautiful text, and in Frankie we see the germ of many Southern adolescent girls to come, such as Dorothy Allison’s Bone in Bastard Out of Carolina.
10. A Visitation of Spirits, Randall Kenan.
An odd book to round out the top 10, this one is nothing short of haunting, as its title suggests. I wish I could explain more, but, well…It’s one of those that would be ruined by too much explanation, its magic gone.