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9 Summer Must-Reads That'll Make You Nostalgic for Mississippi

The heat is blistering, the air conditioner is blowing nonstop, and the mosquitos are relentless. These are the signs that summer has arrived. For the days you spend relaxing by the pool (or in the comfort of the A/C), here’s a list of some great summer reads with a Mississippi twist:

*All prices indicate the book’s cover price. 

  1. “Dispatches from Pluto” — by Richard Grant, $16

“Dispatches From Pluto” by Richard Grant. Photo courtesy of Amazon.

A New York Times bestseller, Grant brings the reader into his own life when he goes from living in a tiny apartment in New York to purchasing an old plantation house in the Mississippi Delta with his girlfriend, Mariah. Virtually isolated in Holmes County, Mississippi, Grant and Mariah learn to hunt, grow their own food, and fend off all the critters that take residence in the Delta, all while befriending locals like blues legend T-Model Ford and celebrity Morgan Freeman. Mississippi, Grant says, is the best-kept secret in America.

  1. “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter” — by Tom Franklin, $14.99

Based in a 1970s Mississippi, Larry Ott and Silas “32” Jones were the best of friends—even if they were different. Larry was the child of lower-middle-class white parents, and Silas was the son of a poor, black single mother. When Larry took a girl to a drive-in movie, she was never seen nor heard from again. He never confessed and was never charged. Twenty years later, Larry lives in solitude, shunned from existence, while Silas has become the town constable. When another girl disappears, the two men who were once best friends must confront a past they’ve buried for decades.

  1. “High Cotton: Four Seasons in the Mississippi Delta” — by Gerard Helferich, $25

“High Cotton: Four Seasons in the Mississippi Delta” by Gerard Helferich. Photo courtesy of Amazon.

Helerich, from Jackson, Mississippi, embarks on a journey where he spends a full year with Zack Killebrew in the Mississippi Delta. He documents the good, the bad, and the ugly that come with each season in this vigorous occupation of cotton planting, where he learns the significance of farming and the make-or-break difference of the weather.

  1. Sing, Unburied, Sing — by Jesmyn Ward, $26

Thirteen-year-old Jojo struggles to understand what it means to be a man. When his father is released from prison, Jojo’s mother packs up him, his sister, and a friend and travels to Mississippi’s state penitentiary, Parchman. At the prison is another thirteen-year-old boy—the ghost of a dead inmate. Along with all the other men in Jojo’s life, Jojo learns about fathers, sons, legacies, violence, and love.

  1. “Perennials” — by Julie Cantrell, $15.99

“Perennials” by Julie Cantrell. Photo courtesy of Amazon.

Tired of living in her sister’s shadow and taking the brunt of all blame, Lovey decides to leave her hometown of Oxford, Mississippi, and travel to Arizona where she becomes a successful advertising executive. Lovey, however, feels lonelier than ever. Then her father calls and invites her home three weeks early for her parents’ 50th anniversary. A family tragedy brings unexpected lessons of hope and healing amid the flowers of her mother’s perennial garden.

  1. “Southern Writers on Writing” — edited by Susan Cushman, $28

Mississippi native Susan Cushman puts together a collection of essays for writers, readers, and lovers of all things southern. Twenty-six writers from across the South are included in this book, where their works celebrate southern culture and shape the landscape of contemporary southern literature.

  1. “Goat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race, and the Gothic South” — by Karen L. Cox, $26

“Goat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race, and the Gothic South” by Karen L. Cox. Photo courtesy of Amazon.

Richard Dana and Octavia Dockery—better known in the press as “Wild Man” and the “Goat Woman”—enlisted an African American man to rob their reclusive neighbor, when he was actually shot and killed. The murder drew media coverage when it was discovered the alleged murderers lived in the huge, decaying mansion with their livestock, coining the name “Goat Castle.”

  1. “The Tilted World” — by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly, $14.99

When rain overfills the Mississippi, the river is dangerously close to flooding everything in its path, including tiny Hobnob, Mississippi. At the same time, federal agents Ted Ingersoll and Ham Johnson come to investigate the disappearance of two fellow agents. Instead, they find a baby boy abandoned in the middle of a crime scene.

  1. “The Myth of Perpetual Summer” — by Susan Crandall, $16

“The Myth of Perpetual Summer” by Susan Crandall. Photo courtesy of Amazon.

Tallulah James moves away from her life in Mississippi at the age of sixteen. Seven years later, however, she finds herself returning to everything she’s run away from, including her difficult family situation. As she begins to forgive her family and uncover her history, she finally learns the truth that’s been hidden from her for so long.

By hottytoddy.com contributor Kelsey DeVazier

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