Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Looking Back on 50 Years of Tennessee Books

50 Books / HT50, Part 1: 1973-1978

A lot happened in 1973. President Richard Nixon was sworn in to his second term, and the simmering Watergate scandal boiled over shortly thereafter. Skylab, the first U.S. space station, was launched. Secretariat won the Triple Crown. And Humanities Tennessee was founded prior to becoming one of the private, nonprofit state councils affiliated with the National Endowment for the Humanities. As we celebrate Humanities Tennessee’s 50th birthday this year, we’ve decided to mark the occasion by highlighting 50 notable Tennessee books published over the past five decades. 

We’ll be sharing all these titles in a series of posts over the coming months, as well as through in-depth essays and online discussions about selected books. We hasten to say that we don’t claim these are the “best” Tennessee books (whatever that means) or the most popular or important. Ours is simply a list of noteworthy books that spoke to their moment and reflected some aspect of the literary life of Tennessee. In the slideshow below, we’ve shared snippets of reviews and other commentary to give a sense of how the books were greeted in their day. We hope you’ll find them worth remembering, reading, or revisiting as we look back at an eventful half-century. You’ll find a collection of all the 50 Books/HT50 material to date here.

Summer of My German Soldier by Memphis native Bette Greene (Dial Press, 1973)

Chattanooga: Poems by Chattanooga-born poet, novelist, and playwright Ishmael Reed (Random House, 1973)

Fletch by Gregory Mcdonald, a Massachusetts native who made his home for many years in Pulaski, Tennessee (Bobbs-Merrill, 1974)

Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley, whose family lived in Henning, Tennessee (Doubleday, 1976)

Whistle by James Jones, the third novel in the author’s WWII trilogy, set in a fictionalized Memphis (Delacorte Press, 1978)


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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