Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Looking Back on 50 Years of Tennessee Books

50 Books / HT50, Part 9: 2012-2017

The mid-2010s were an eventful time on the Tennessee literary scene. Awards were received, some beloved writers left us, and of course, the Southern Festival of Books brought amazing authors to Tennessee every year. There were also plenty of wonderful Tennessee books released. The sampling below features titles with a connection to each region of the state, and — though we didn’t plan it that way — there’s not a traditional novel in the bunch. 

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

The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature by biologist David George Haskell. This account of Haskell’s observations of a small patch of old-growth forest near the edge of the Cumberland Plateau was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and won the Reed Environmental Writing Award. (Viking, 2012)

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II  by Denise Kiernan documents the stories of the women who lived and worked in the secrecy of Oak Ridge during the race to develop the atomic bomb. Jane Marcellus took a close look at Kiernan’s book in a 50 Books / HT50 essay.  (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster 2013)

March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell.  The first in a trilogy of graphic novels depicting John Lewis’ civil rights activism, March: Book One follows Lewis from his rural Alabama childhood to his role in the Nashville Student Movement for desegregation. (Top Shelf Productions, 2013)

Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion is Robert Gordon’s account of the rise and fall of a Memphis record label that defied the racist conventions of its time and place while creating some of America’s most enduring music. (Bloomsbury, 2013)

A Good Cry: What We Learn from Tears and Laughter by Knoxville native Nikki Giovanni. This collection, the 20th by the acclaimed poet and activist, surveys her difficult childhood and pays tribute to her friend and fellow poet Maya Angelou. (William Morrow, 2017)

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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