The Official Southern Literary Review 2023 Holiday Gift Guide

No gift is better than a good book, right? Each year Southern Literary Review’s editors let you in on some of their favorite books of the year.

Donna’s Picks

For readers who enjoy historical fiction:

 Yellow Wife by Sadeka Johnson (Enslaved woman living with prison master)

Only Oona by Tamatha Cain (Charlie Chaplin’s wife)

Sister Mother Warrior by Vanessa Riley (Women during Haiti revolution)

The Stockwell Letters by Jacqueline Friedman (Abolitionists)

Traces by Patricia Hudson (Daniel Boone’s story through the eyes of his wife and daughter)

For those who enjoy unusual characters wrapped in a good story:

Snakes of St. Augustine by Ginger Pinholster (Not everyone’s brain works the same!)

For readers seeking an action/adventure series featuring a Black female:

Her Name is Knight and They Come at Knight, and It Ends with Knight by Yasmin Angoe

For the reader who loved All Creatures Great and Small:

Dreams of Arcadia by Brian Porter (Rural veterinarian)

For those who enjoy coming-of-age stores:

Kudzu Queen by Mimi Hearn (A stranger comes to town.)

            The Bystanders by Dawn Major (Dysfunctional family in small town America.)

For those who like environmental sci-fi:

Atomic Family by Ciera Horton (Dread from the Cold War and the Bomb.)

Lark Ascending by Silas House (Post-environmental disaster.)

For Outdoor Explorers:

Tent for Seven: A Camping Adventure Gone South by Marty Ohlhaut and Grace Ly (What can go wrong, does—and then some.)

Discovering Florida’s Coast by Doug Alderson (From the Emerald Northwest to Miami’s Biscayne Jewel and Beyond)

Claire’s Picks


For those who enjoy accurate, thought-provoking literary historical novels about courageous people at the cusp of significant historic changes:

Moonrise Over New Jessup by Jamila Minnicks.

For readers who like literary coming-of-age stories with a strong sense of place about family—the ones we are born into and the ones we create:

Everybody Here is Kin by BettyJoyce Nash.

For those who appreciate stirring literary novels about confused youth, mismatched relationships, and small-town Deep South:

A Glooming Peace This Morning by Allen Mendenhall

For those who value a graceful blend of theme, imagery, and language in well-crafted pieces that display the power of short stories:

Spillway by Kim Bradley.

For those who enjoy richly crafted and intricate classic mysteries and police procedurals in a historical Southern setting:

The Rat Catcher by Rebecca Barrett.


For those who appreciate refined, luminous poems, written with care and displaying a fluent, eloquent use of words in their visions and messages:

Homelight by Lola Haskins.

For those who enjoy eloquent poems exhibiting avid appreciation for nature, domestic life, language, trust in simple things, and often-elusive connections:

The Halo of Bees: New & Selected Poems 1990-2023 by Michael Hettich.

For readers who value rich details and nuanced layers within finely crafted and inventive poems on diverse topics:

The Pearl Diver’s Daughter and Other Poems  by Michael David Blanchard.

For those who relish poems illustrating the magic of Southern flora and fauna, and more, with an abiding sense of grace and understated wisdom:

Magicicada and other Marvels by Kathleen Brewin Lewis

For those who value compelling, imaginative poetry which treads through a grand old Southern literary campground of gothic, beauty and brutalism, religiosity, and nature:

Love Letters from an Arsonist  by David van den Berg.

Dawn’s Picks

For fans who love quirky characters and the eccentricities of small Southern towns:

The Curious Lives of Nonprofit Martyrs by George Singleton (satirical collection of short stories)

End Times by John Williams (a novel that explores human comedy of small towns)

For readers looking for quick and hard-hitting, Southern literature:

The Best of the Shortest: A Southern Writers Reading Reunion edited by Suzanne Hudson, Joe Formichella, and Mandy Haynes

(anthology of short stories and micro-memoirs by the who’s who of Southern literature)

For lovers of Southern Gothic and dark fiction:

Spite House by Johnny Compton (a Gothic thriller novel set guaranteed to terrify)

For those fans of coming-of-age narratives with a social message:

The Girl from the Red Rose Motel by Susan Beckham Zurenda (a novel written by a teacher for teachers)

Red Clay Susie by Jeffrey Dale Lofton (growing up with a physical disability and gay in the Deep South, LGBTQ+ fictionalized memoir)

For readers who like inspirational survivor narratives with compelling perspectives:

The Middle Daughter by Chika Unigwe (retelling of the myth of the abduction and rape of Persephone novel)

For lovers of experimental and weird fiction:

The Gospel of Rot by Gregory Ariail (One-of-kind, Appalachian surrealism novel)

For fans of everything Borden-related, ghost stories, and hauntings:

The Haunting of Borden House by Kim Poovey (Book three novel of the Dreamist series-does not need to be read in order)

For those who seeking inspiration and healing:

All Night, All Day: life, death, & angels edited by Susan Cushman (inspirational collection of personal essays, stories, and poems by outstanding women authors)







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