10 Books Set In New Orleans.
My love for Southern Gothic isn’t new. And since so many New Orleans books are Southern Gothic, I’ve unintentionally (but also lately intentionally) read a handful of books set in New Orleans.
Books set in New Orleans are incredibly atmospheric. NOLA is a city that can be felt and heard and tasted. It’s a place that’s colorful and complex, a place that comes alive in almost every book about New Orleans.
I’m led to believe that most authors don’t choose NOLA as a backdrop for their characters. They choose characters as a backdrop for NOLA.
So without further ado, here are ten atmospheric books set in New Orleans.
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Out Of The Easy is riveting. Ruta Sepetys’ historical fiction novel set in New Orleans is a deep dive into The French Quarter. Piped with twists and secrets, this is the kind of book that once you start reading, you can’t put down. The main character Josie is flawed but resourceful. Right off the bat, she’s introduced as spunky. Out Of The Easy is her story – her story (physically) in and (mentally) out of New Orleans. It’s a quasi-mystery novel wrapped in drama and heart. It’s suspenseful and infused with rich NOLA descriptions at every page and turn.
Winner of The First Novelist Award and The Crook’s Corner Prize, A Kind Of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton discusses racial disparity in the South. The story follows three generations of a Black family in New Orleans, from their struggles during World War II to Hurricane Katrina. The book paints New Orleans raw. It’s a masterfully woven story. A Kind Of Freedom isn’t plot-heavy. Instead, Sexton’s debut meanders and runs. It falls apart and comes together and falls apart again. It’s heart-wrenching and emotional. A Kind Of Freedom is far from a light read but it is an important one.
I bought The Beautiful By Renée Ahdieh the day it was released. This was my most highly-anticipated book of 2019 and not going to lie, it was a huge let-down (this is what I get for building my tower of expectations on the moon). The storyline was a bruised mix of been-there-done-that tales. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the setting of New Orleans. NOLA propelled this Southern Gothic young adult vampire novel to the end. And I love Renée Ahdieh’s writing style. It’s meaty and packs a lot. With her prose comes a visceral sense of New Orleans. You feel like you’re in the city (which is why I’m including it in this list of books set in New Orleans).
Evangeline Of The Bayou is a light-hearted middle-grade novel featuring Evangeline Clement, a sassy apprentice haunt huntress. This book is an ode to New Orleans magic. It’s whimsical and fun. The writing is stunning. A lot of middle-grade books have a choked writing style but Eldredge’s words flow freely and craft a spooky and magical mood as thick as heavy fog. If you’re looking for a novel to gift your kids or grandkids before a NOLA trip (or for any reason), I highly recommend Evangeline Of The Bayou!
A Confederacy Of Dunces is a book you either love or hate. There is no in-between. This book is hailed as an American comedic classic (although it was a little too slapstick for my taste, it has a major fan-following). A Confederacy Of Dunces is known for its overtly caricatured larger-than-life cast of characters with outrageous personalities. The main character, Ignatius J Reilly, is despicable. But after trying to read the book, I can say this: A Confederacy Of Dunces can’t be set anywhere other than New Orleans and have the same effect.
It’s no secret I love this book. I mean, I really love vampire fiction in general (not Twilight though – that’s a story for another day). And Interview With The Vampire has an aching dark, tragic atmosphere that made me fall even harder for it. The book, frequently cited as the start of the goth genre, is a classic, right up there with Dracula and Carmilla (don’t let anyone tell you otherwise). Rice is a New Orleans native so when I say that this is one of the best books set in New Orleans, know that it authentically captures the city’s spirit down to a tee.
Gumbo Tales is a love letter to traditional New Orleans food. This book about New Orleans cooking is for foodies, first-time NOLA visitors, and long-term travelers looking for something more. There are so many amazing books about New Orleans history but Gumbo Tales is one of my all-time favorites because it gives us a (quite literal) taste of NOLA’s past. It’s a must before any trip to NOLA (you’ll find so many new dishes to add to your NOLA bucket list). P.S. If you enjoyed our book club picks last month, you’ll definitely enjoy Sara Roahen’s take on New Orleans cuisine.
Dan Baum’s biography is one of the most underrated books set in New Orleans. It’s a well-researched snapshot of NOLA. The writing is brilliant and evocative. I’m of the mindset that good nonfiction reads like fact-checked fiction and Nine Lives: Death And Life In New Orleans hits that note. The New Orleans depicted in Nine Lives isn’t the New Orleans that I see as a tourist but it’s the New Orleans I need to read about as a tourist. This novel is the sum of many perspectives and voices and I loved how each one collided.
I haven’t read The World That Made New Orleans yet but this book has been recommended to me so much that I had to include it on this list of books set in New Orleans. The World That Made New Orleans is for history buffs. This book isn’t about the direct history of New Orleans. Instead, it’s a brief history of the world outside of NOLA and how that world outside of NOLA carved up the New Orleans we know today. It’s hard to translate the complexities of New Orleans history into a compact read but Ned Sublette attempts to the just that in The World That Made New Orleans.
Without a doubt, New Orleans is a foodie city. And the recipes listed in this New Orleans cookbook are the crème de la crème of New Orleans food. Cooking Up A Storm’s recipes are incredibly detailed and easy to follow (there aren’t pictures in the book but trust me, you don’t need them). And they taste amazing (I mean, I haven’t tried every recipe in this book yet but what I’ve tried, I’ve loved to bits and pieces). The recipes were originally published one-by-one by The Times-Picayune. They’ve since been compiled into Cooking Up A Storm so you can bring the NOLA atmosphere back home.
Did you enjoy this list of books set in New Orleans? What are your favorite books set in New Orleans? Let me know in the comments below!