Few things compare to the comfort of cozying up and getting lost in a great book. And what’s better - when that book takes you to New Orleans. If you find yourself with a little more free time at home and more space for reading, we rounded up a list of books - both old and new - to take you deep into the incomparable experiences of New Orleans. Some recount the city’s rich and complex history, others bring you directly into the homes and hearts of current day New Orleans natives. If you want to add a few to your reading list, or grab a few already on your list, consider checking in with local booksellers, like Garden District Book Shop or Octavia Books.
Editor’s Note: The descriptions for the books below were provided by Amazon and have been condensed.
by Sarah Broom
For those who want to explore a lesser known but equally interesting neighborhood known by locals.
The Yellow House tells of a hundred years of Broom’s family and their relationship to home in a neglected area of one of America’s most mythologized cities. This is the story of a mother’s struggle against a house's entropy, and that of a prodigal daughter who left home only to reckon with the pull that home exerts, even after the Yellow House was wiped off the map after Hurricane Katrina. The Yellow House expands the map of New Orleans to include the stories of its lesser-known natives, guided deftly by one of its native daughters, to demonstrate how enduring drives of clan, pride, and familial love resist and defy erasure. Located in the gap between the “Big Easy” of tourist guides and the New Orleans in which Broom was raised, The Yellow House is a brilliant memoir of place, class, race, the seeping rot of inequality, and the internalized shame that often follows. It is a transformative, deeply moving story from an unparalleled new voice of startling clarity, authority, and power.
by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
For readers who want to go along the journey of three generations of a Creole family in New Orleans.
Evelyn is a Creole woman who comes of age in New Orleans at the height of World War II. In 1982, Evelyn’s daughter, Jackie, is a frazzled single mother grappling with her absent husband’s drug addiction. Jackie’s son, T.C., loves the creative process of growing marijuana more than the weed itself. He was a square before Hurricane Katrina, but the New Orleans he knew didn’t survive the storm. For Evelyn, Jim Crow is an ongoing reality, and in its wake new threats spring up to haunt her descendants. Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s critically acclaimed debut is an urgent novel that explores the legacy of racial disparity in the South through a poignant and redemptive family history.
by Ned Sublette
For history buffs who want to dig deep into the many facets of New Orleans’ complex history.
The World That Made New Orleans tells the remarkable story of New Orleans’s first century - a tale of imperial war, religious conflict, the search for treasure, the spread of slavery, the Cuban connection, the cruel aristocracy of sugar, and the very different revolutions that created the United States and Haiti. It demonstrates that New Orleans already had its own distinct personality at the time of Louisiana’s statehood in 1812. By then, important roots of American music were firmly planted in its urban swamp - especially in the dances at Congo Square, where enslaved Africans and African Americans appeared en masse on Sundays to, as an 1819 visitor to the city put it, “rock the city.”
by Kate Chopin
For feminists who wish to rejoice in an old classic that was ahead of its time and set in New Orleans.
When first published in 1899, The Awakening shocked readers with its honest treatment of female marital infidelity. Audiences accustomed to the pieties of late Victorian romantic fiction were taken aback by Chopin's daring portrayal of a woman trapped in a stifling marriage, who seeks and finds passionate physical love outside the straitened confines of her domestic situation.
by Dave Eggers
For readers who want to better understand some of the many struggles faced by New Orleans natives during hurricane Katrina.
Zeitoun is the true story of one family, caught between America’s two biggest policy disasters: the war on terror and the response to Hurricane Katrina. Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun run a house-painting business in New Orleans. In August of 2005, as Hurricane Katrina approaches, Kathy evacuates with their four young children, leaving Zeitoun to watch over the business. In the days following the storm he travels the city by canoe, feeding abandoned animals and helping elderly neighbors. Then, on September 6th, police officers armed with M-16s arrest Zeitoun in his home. Told with eloquence and compassion, Zeitoun is a riveting account of one family’s unthinkable struggle with forces beyond wind and water.
by Anne Rice
For readers who want to rediscover one of the dark and mysterious sides of the French Quarter.
Anne Rice’s first book in her popular series offers the confessions of a vampire and tells the story of Louis, as told in his own words, and his journey through mortal and immortal life. Louis recounts how he became a vampire at the hands of the radiant and sinister Lestat and how he became indoctrinated, unwillingly, into the vampire way of life. His story ebbs and flows through the streets of New Orleans. Originally begun as a short story, the book took off, spinning the tragic and triumphant life experiences of a soul. As well as the struggles of its characters, Interview captures the political and social changes of two continents. The novel also introduces Lestat, Anne's most enduring character, a heady mixture of attraction and revulsion. The book, full of lush description, centers on the themes of immortality, change, loss, sexuality, and power.