30 Books Set in + About Mississippi

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Mississippi is a state with complex stories. From Freedom Summer to Hurricane Katrina, these books about Mississippi dive into the complicated history of the Magnolia State.

And while there is a lot of tough stuff here (think, racism and rural poverty), there are also books that celebrate the rich literary history of Mississippi and the determination of people to make a better world for themselves.

For more Southern reading, check out these books set in Alabama.

Novels Set in Mississippi

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn Ward is one of Mississippi’s best writers, and this novel was her first novel to win the National Book Award. It’s about a Black family in rural coastal Mississippi. Esch is fourteen and pregnant. Skeetah, her brother, is trying to save his new litter of pitbull puppies. They are struggling in poverty with no mother and an absent father. And the ominous threat of a hurricane shadows the book until its dramatic conclusion. For fans of literary fiction.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Sing, Unburied, Sing is Ward’s second novel to win the National Book Award. It’s a road trip novel, as a Black mother and her children travel through Mississippi to pick up their white father when he is released from prison. This is a novel about what it means to be Black in the South, and it’s also a ghost story (one of the narrators is a ghost). For fans of literary fiction.

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

In 1946 Mississippi, two men return home from war. One, Jamie McAllan, is white and struggles with his memories of the war. The other, Ronsel Jackson, is the son of Black sharecroppers on the McAllan farm, and although he is a war hero he still faces racism in the South. The story of these two men, as well as Laura McAllen (Jamie’s sister-in-law) shows what life was like in 1940s Mississippi. For fans of historical fiction.

The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian

In 1920s Mississippi, Ada has reluctantly returned home. She has no other options, and she knows things won’t be good living with her father again. Meanwhile, Matilda is the daughter of a sharecropper looking to leave and head north. Their lives come together, and secrets about their past could have big consequences. For fans of historical fiction.

A Time To Kill by John Grisham

John Grisham is maybe the most well-known of Mississippi authors (even if people don’t realize he’s from Mississippi). He’s known for his legal thrillers, and in this book the father of a Black girl who is raped by two white men takes justice into his own hands. And the man’s lawyer, Jake Birgance, faces danger as he tries to defend his client. For fans of thrillers.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

In a small town in Mississippi, Larry and Silas are friends in school. But then one day, Larry took a girl on a date and the girl disappeared. The case was unsolved, and now, years later Silas has come back to town as a constable. But when another girl goes missing, Larry is suspected again and the two old friends are forced to cross paths again. For fans of suspense and mysteries.

Salvage This World by Michael Farris Smith

In southern Mississippi, there’s a new woman in town capitalizing on religious fervor. Meanwhile, Jessie and her toddler son are traveling to find her son’s father, who has mysteriously disappeared. And you know these two plotlines are going to converge in dramatic ways. For fans of literary thrillers (i.e. books that lean more literary but also have a element of suspense).

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

William Faulkner is one of the most well-known Mississippi writers, and As I Lay Dying is one of his most well-known works. It’s a story about a dysfunctional family, told from varying perspectives, as they travel across Mississippi to lay their matriarch to rest. For fans of modern classics and literary fiction that definitely makes you work a bit in the reading.

The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty by Eudora Welty

Eudora Welty is, of course, another writer in Mississippi’s well-known literary history. And you may recognize some of these stories from high school English class. (I still remember studying her story “Why I Live at the P.O.” in high school.) This book collects some of her most well-known stories and has an introduction by Ann Patchett(!). For fans of short stories and literary fiction.

Non-Fiction Books About Mississippi

Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward

This book is a tough read but it is SO SO GOOD. Here, Ward dives in what it means to be a Black man in the South, as she walks through five deaths of men she was close to, including her own brother. She also tells us the story of her family: their poverty, her parents’ fractured marriage, the racism she encountered at her mostly-white school, and more. It’s a beautiful and important book and I loved reading it, but it’s also deeply sad. For fans of memoirs and books about grief.

A Place Like Mississippi: A Journey Through a Real and Imagined Literary Landscape by W. Ralph Eubanks

Mississippi’s history has included so many literary greats, including William Faulkner and Eudora Welty. This book examines Mississippi’s literary history, the stories that have come from this state’s writers, and how storytellers have drawn from the history and landscape of Mississippi. It’s full of beautiful photographs of Mississippi landscapes too. For fans of books and writers and beautiful books.

In the Pines: A Lynching, A Lie, A Reckoning by Grace Elizabeth Hale

Hale unflinchingly dives into her family’s history to examine the truth of a story she has always heard. In 1947, her grandfather stopped a mob from lynching a Black man in his custody (he was a sheriff), only for the man to die in an attempted escape the next day. But as Hale looks deeper into the story, new truths come out about what actually happened. For fans of narrative non-fiction and investigative journalism.

Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta by Richard Grant

Tired of their life in NYC, Grant and his girlfriend randomly decide to move down to the Southern Mississippi for more space and a different way of life. There, they encounter an interesting cast of characters, learn what it means to live off the land, and see the racism still present in every day life. For fans of travel writing.

The Deepest South of All: True Stories from Natchez, Mississippi by Richard Grant

The Deepest South of All is Grants follow-up to Dispatches from Pluto. Here, he shares stories about people from Natchez. It’s a town rooted in the Confederacy, but also progressive in surprising ways. For fans of travel writing.

Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues by Elijah Wald

The blues have their roots in Mississippi (in fact, you can travel the Blues Trail on a visit to Mississippi), and Robert Johnson was a legend in the development of the blues. In this biography, Wald discusses both the history of the blues and why Johnson was largely ignored in his time but celebrated today. For fans of music history.

Hattiesburg – An American City in Black and White by William Sturkey

Mobile Street in Hattiesburg, Mississippi was once the heart of a thriving Black community. This book looks at that area, as well as the surrounding white populations, during the Jim Crow era and how that time changed the lives of residents on both sides of the racial divide. For fans of historical non-fiction and stories about small towns.

Sons of Mississippi: A Story of Race and its Legacy by Paul Hendrickson

The picture on the front of this book is from a 1962 Life Magazine, and it shows white men with a club in hand getting ready for the integration of Ole Miss. This book tells not only the story of who those men are, but who their sons have become and how the legacy of racism is carried through generations. For fans of narrative non-fiction.

Vicksburg – Grant’s Campaign That Broke the Confederacy by Donald L. Miller

Vicksburg, Mississippi is one of the most famous Civil War sites in the South. It was a stronghold of the South for so long, until General Grant sieged the city. This book tells the story of that, and shows how Vicksburg made Grant such a famous general. For fans of Civil War and military history.

Children’s Books About Mississippi

M is For Magnolia: A Mississippi Alphabet Book by Michael Shoulders, Illustrated by Rick Anderson

I love including these state alphabet books in my book lists because they are so great for all ages! Here, learn about Mississippi animals, geography, and people with each letter of the alphabet. The text is simple and rhyming, but the sidebars of each page add more information for older kids and adults. Recommended ages: 6 and up.

Daddy Played the Blues by Michael Garland

When it gets too tough to make a living on the farm in Mississippi, Cassie and her family pack up the car and drive to Chicago. But the blues always connect them back home. Recommended ages: 7-10 years.

Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School by Janet Halfmann, Illustrated by London Ladd

Lilly Ann Granderson was an enslaved woman in Mississippi who believed in the power of an education. This book tells the story of how she started a secret school at night to teach other enslaved people how to read and write, even though it was illegal. Recommended ages: 8 and up.

The Secret World of Walter Anderson by Hester Bass, Illustrated by E.B. Lewis

Walter Anderson was a prominent Mississippi artist. His own museum calls him “The South’s Most Elusive Artist,” so you’ve likely never heard of him. But he was a fascinating person who rowed out to remote islands to paint and was fairly reclusive. And his work is incredible. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.

Middle Grade and YA Books Set in Mississippi

Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles

Ruby Lavender and her grandmother Miss Eula are thick as thieves. But when Miss Eula travels to Hawaii for the summer to visit her new grandchild, Ruby isn’t sure what to do with herself. But she finds all kinds of new adventures, even without her beloved grandmother nearby. (Don’t worry, she writes to tell Miss Eula all about her adventures.) Recommended ages: 8-12 years.

Revolution by Deborah Wiles

In Greenwood, Mississippi, Sunny feels like everything is changing. It’s 1964, Freedom Summer, and people are showing up in droves to help people register to vote. And her family life is changing too, with a new stepmother and siblings. So how can she find herself and stand up for what is right with everything changing? Recommended ages: 8-12 years.

Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood

In a small town in Mississippi in 1964, Glory is struggling with growing up. Her older sister is too cool for her, and her relationship with her best friend suddenly seems complicated. Plus, there’s drama brewing at the local public pool about segregation. Recommended ages: 9-12 years.

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Cassie Logan and her family live in Depression-era Mississippi and face racism regularly. But they are determined to keep their pride and their land, as they are united in their love for each other. Recommended ages: 10 and up.

Midnight Without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson

In 1955 Mississippi, Rose is looking forward to moving out of the South. But then Emmett Till is killed in a nearby town, and Rose is inspired to take action. This book combines real history with a fictional protagonist, so it would make for a great supplemental book for those learning about Emmett Till and/or the Civil Rights Movement. Recommended ages: 10 and up.

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Ramona Blue lives in a trailer in a small town in Mississippi. She knows she destined for great things, but she also feels the responsibility of taking care of her dysfunctional family. Then her old friend comes back to town, and it makes her question all kinds of things. Recommended ages: 13-17 years.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Starr Carter is torn by her two worlds. She is a Black student who attends a fancy prep school but lives in a poor neighborhood. Then, one day, her childhood best friend is killed by police, and she’s the only one who can answer questions about what happened. While it’s not explicitly stated in the book, the town of Garden Heights, where the book takes places, is probably a fictionalized version of an area of Jackson, Mississippi (Angie Thomas is from Jackson). Recommended ages: 14 and up.

The Black Queen by Jumata Emill

Set at a high school on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, this novel is a murder mystery, but also an examination of race and the police. After Nova Albright becomes Lovett High School’s first Black homecoming queen, she is found murdered. And her best friend is sure that Tinsley, a white girl who thought she would be homecoming queen, did it. Recommended ages: 14 and up.

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