Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Looking Back on 50 Years of Tennessee Books

50 Books / HT50, Part Three: 1991-1994

The third installment in our 50 Books / HT50 project features books from the first half of the 1990s, a period that saw the opening of the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, a record-breaking blizzard in East Tennessee, and the election of a Tennessean, Al Gore, to the vice presidency.

Speaking of Al Gore, he’s one of the five authors on this list, joining a pathbreaking Black journalist, an astrophysicist turned novelist, an acclaimed chronicler of American music, and a writer who devoted his career to the politics and culture of the South.

Learn more about the 50 Books / HT50 project here, and go here to see all the project posts to date.

Breaking Barriers: A Memoir by Carl T. Rowan, who was born in Ravenscroft, Tennessee and raised in McMinnville. Rowan was a journalist, author, and nationally syndicated opinion columnist. He also served in the State Department during the Kennedy administration and directed the United States Information Agency during the Johnson administration. (Little, Brown and Comoany., 1991)

Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit by Al Gore Jr., the son of U.S. Senator Al Gore Sr. with family roots in Carthage, Tennessee. The younger Gore, who turned to politics after a brief stint as a journalist, was Tennessee’s junior senator when Earth in the Balance was published in June 1992, and he would be elected vice president later that same year. (Houghton Mifflin, 1992)

Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman, who was born and raised in Memphis. Lightman is a physicist as well as a writer and published Einstein’s Dreams, his debut novel, when he was in his mid-40s. The book, an international bestseller, has been the basis of numerous stage and musical adaptations. (Pantheon Books, 1993)

Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick. This first volume of Guralnick’s two-part biography of the iconic singer covers Elvis’ life until age 24, when he was at the peak of his early stardom. (Little, Brown and Company, 1994) The second book, Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley, was published in 1999.

Speak Now Against the Day: The Generation Before the Civil Rights Movement in the South by John Egerton, a Georgia-born, Kentucky-raised journalist and historian who spent much of his life in Nashville, where he died in 2013. The book explores the little-known history of the struggle for civil rights in the South prior to 1954. (Knopf, 1994)

Looking Back on 50 Years of Tennessee Books

Humanities Tennessee is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Founded in 1973, we continue to develop ways to connect, learn, and grow as a community.

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