Top Ten NOLA Books
I have been tagged by Ivy Brown. I am supposed to open the book I am currently reading and turn to page 123. Then find the 5th sentence and post the next 3 sentences.
As usual, this meme doesn’t blow my skirt up. So to compromise, I will instead give my top ten list of favorite books. And because “NOLA” is part of my site’s name, I will limit it to books about, authors from, or books set in New Orleans. Here goes:
- “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole. This is the quintessential NOLA read. If you did not read, or were not assigned to read, this book in college, go buy it now. No, really, I’ll wait… Got it? Good. I picked this up just the other day to re-read (for about the third time). It just gets better each read. I am all of 10 pages in and have laughed aloud numerous times. Toole was masterful at describing New Orleans and its denizens.
- “In the Land of Cocktails” by Ti Adelaie Martin and Lally Brennan. This is a new book that I have now had time to enjoy. You can read more about this book here. The only caveat is that this book will definitely leave you thirsty.
- “Lives of the Saints” by Nancy Lemann. This is a great little find. I read it years ago and still remember Lemann’s description of Claude, who broke the narrator’s heart “into a million pieces on the floor.” Lemann made me seek out several other “Voices of the South” authors. None disappointed.
- “Gumbo Ya-Ya: A Collection of Louisiana Folk Tales.” This is new to my library, but I am enjoying the stories it holds. At this stage in its life (it was originally published in 1945), this book is a must-have reference for anyone serious about Louisiana culture. Plus, it’s got cool hexes and charms you can use to cure what ails ya!
- “Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children: And Other Streets of New Orleans.” Another oldie but goodie. This one gives the history behind the (often-changing) NOLA street names. Like Canal Street was supposed to be an actual canal. Or Berlin Street was changed to General Pershing during World War I because it was “too German.”
- “The Lost German Slave Girl: The Extraordinary True Story of the Slave Sally Miller and Her Fight for Freedom in Old New Orleans.” This is truly an amazing read. From the historical aspect of the history of slavery in the South to the immigration of Germans to New Orleans. A true courtroom drama that would not be believed as fiction.
- “French Quarter Fiction: The Newest Stories of America’s Oldest Bohemia.” This is a collection of writers writing in and about the French Quarter. Most are current authors, but some are newly discovered or newly published works of great writers. I generally do not like short stories; I tend to like long stories I can really get absorbed in. But because these are all set in the Quarter, they sort of read like one work–as though you are going from room to room, courtyard to courtyard, to hear stories told. A great summer read.
- “A Streetcar Named Desire. ” I know this is a play, but really, what list of NOLA works would be complete without Tennessee Williams’ classic? And there’s good reason this is a classic. It’s haunting and alive and lusty and depraved, just like NOLA.
- “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin. This was written in 1899 and was scandalous. It deals with issues of race and sexuality and a woman finding herself and the tragedy that ensued. Because it was 1899. And Louisiana.
- “Managing Ignatius: The Lunacy of Lucky Dogs and Life in New Orleans.” I admit that I haven’t yet read this one. It is top on my “to read” list. It was recently discussed on the Twitter tube and it has been one that I want to read. It is written by a man who spent 20 years managing the famous “Lucky Dog company, whose vendors sell wienies out of the seven-foot-long hot dog-shaped carts that can be found on almost any street corner in New Orleans’ French Quarter.”
So get reading! What’s your favorite NOLA book? Or even non-NOLA book? I am always looking for a good book to read!