13 Terrific Books Set In Tennessee To Take You There

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Travel across the South with the best books set in Tennessee, including nonfiction, historical fiction, thrillers, and more.

Since we moved to North Carolina, our weekend trips involve following the whiskey and beer trails in TN. We enjoy Knoxville, Clarksville, and, of course, Nashville.

Plus, Tennessee is home to Austin Peay, which trains many creative writers in Clarksville. And, everyone knows Memphis for its music scene.

Not to mention that Tenessee gave us Dolly Parton and Dollywood – and she’s a huge supporter of reading.

It’s not surprising, then, that there are so many great books about Tennessee to take you there and teach you more.

Below, we asked our favorite bookstagrammers, bloggers, readers, and contributing writers for the best books set in Memphis, Nashville, the Smoky Mountains, and across the state.

Find historical fiction, thrillers, indie titles, and romance novels set in Tennessee. Be sure to share your favorites in the comments. Let’s get started!

Next, travel across the U.S. with these books.

Best Books Set In Tennessee Featured cover photo with image of of Nashville city skyline with buildings and pink and purple sky
Travel to the South with the best books set in Tennessee.

Read more books set in Nashville, Memphis, and more favorite Tennessee cities here:

  • Audible Plus: From Amazon, listen to Amazon Originals, podcasts, and audiobooks. They add new titles every week.
  • Book of the Month: Get the month’s hottest new and upcoming titles from Book of the Month. You might snag an early release or debut author. Along with selecting a book a month, find terrific add-ons, both trendy and lesser-known titles.
  • Amazon Prime Video – Stream thousands of ad-free movies and TV series on demand with Prime Video.

13 Best Books Set In Tennessee

By Our TUL Community

Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine

Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Cain book cover with person in dark rowing boatPin

Gwen is desperate for a fresh start for herself and her two children after discovering that her husband is a serial killer.

Gwen hopes that moving to secluded Stillhouse Lake, Tennessee will promise them the anonymity they need, away from the Internet stalkers and trolls whose threats may go beyond idle words.

After years of running, Gwen and the kids settle into their idyllic lakeside life.

Unfortunately, the town discovers a woman’s body; shockingly, her death resembles the murders committed by Gwen’s husband.

As Gwen races to exonerate her name and protect her children, she questions everyone she knows.

Stillhouse Lake is one of the most thrilling books that take place in Tennessee. The novel hums with simmering tension and leaves the reader aching for the next book in the series

Tennessee murder mystery and serial killer thriller submission by Funko-amazing bookstagrammer and regular TUL contributor, Jennia.

Read Stillhouse Lake: Amazon | Goodreads

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver book cover with golden background and orange flowersPin

In her book Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver discusses the most pressing issue of our time: climate change.

Our heroine, Dellarobia Turnbow heads into the woods to start an affair with a telephone repairman. Instead, she finds the valley behind her house filled with monarch butterflies.

What makes this story so captivating is that while Kingsolver’s stance on climate change is clear, she helps us see the world from multiple perspectives, including Dellarobia’s impoverished Appalachian family.

Among our book club of middle-class Montanans, we agree that the story itself is a good one (and it’s not only about climate change).

For the best fiction books set in Tennessee and like many thought-provoking books, Flight Behavior helps us glimpse another world, even if it’s one in the same country in which we live.

Maybe if more of us could have seen this perspective in 2012, we wouldn’t be in the political predicament we find ourselves in today.

Submission from Mel of Mel’s Garden. Read more about how you can grow a climate-friendly garden in honor of Flight Behavior.

Read Flight Behavior: Amazon | Goodreads

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Color Purple by Alice Walker book cover with purple and pink geometric patterns and icons like envelopes and branches with leavesPin

TW: violence, rape, incest

If you enjoy Southern Gothic books, The Color Purple is an epistolary novel and winner of the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize.

For novels set in Tennessee – but starting in Georgia – The Color Purple highlights the socioeconomic hardships of southern African American women in the 1930s.

Walker’s novel is one of the most targeted for censorship and makes consistent appearances on banned book lists. The content is explicit and violent.

Celie, the main character writes letters to God and chronicles her abuse. She is raped by her father and has bore two children by him that she believes he killed or sold. 

Celie then enters an abusive marriage with Mister and stops hearing from her sister, who she also believes to be dead.

But, The Color Purple is also about survival. When her husband’s lover moves into their home, Celie is forced to seek more. She begins to notice the strong female voices in her life.

Will Celie find voice and independence? Will she decide that she, too, is deserving of love? Uncover more about the 2023 movie adaptation.

Watch even more Southern Gothic movies.

Historical fiction book submission from our regular writing contributor, Tori of Explore with Tori.

Read The Color Purple: Amazon | Goodreads | Book Information

The Firm by John Grisham

The Firm by John Grisham book cover with image of suit and tie on torsoPin

If you are looking for books set in Memphis, The Firm is a legal thriller that almost everyone has heard of.

A prestigious law firm woos a young attorney.

When the FBI approaches him later with an offer to help reveal their nefarious dealings, he must decide whether to stay loyal or risk his life and expose the dark side of the firm.

This is a classic page-turner set in a high-stakes world.

Grisham brings you into the legal environment with just the right amount of detail and explanation to make the story engaging but not overwhelming.

The Firm was adapted into a popular movie in the early 90s. Watch even more Southern movies.

TN legal thriller submission from Rachael of Never Enough Novels.

Read The Firm: Amazon | Goodreads

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin with blue coverPin

Emily Giffin is largely known for her bestselling chick-lit focusing on romantic relationships. 

All We Ever Wanted is still about relationships but moves beyond romance into more hotly contested territory.

The story covers timely, sensitive issues like social justice, gender equality, bullying, and elitism.

In one of the great books set in Nashville, Tennessee, you witness a part of the South that’s no stranger to long-established and antiquated ideals favoring certain classes, races, and social customs over others.

Giffin admirably confronts these topics while staying true to her signature, effortless style, resulting in a thoroughly entertaining and engrossing story.

She also keeps things lighthearted by introducing the reader to some Nashville food and hot spots, which helped inspire this bookish recipe for Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwiches

TN book submission from CJ of A Well-Read Tart. Check out CJ’s full book review here.

Read All We Ever Wanted: Amazon | Goodreads

The Blind Side by Michael Lewis

The Blind Side by Michael Lewis book cover with image of Black football playerPin

The Blind Side tells the story of Michael Oher and grew in popularity with the 2009 film for which Sandra Bullock won an Academy Award.

Growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in Memphis, Tennessee, the Tuohy family adopts Michael Oher and encourages him to play football.

Through hard work, Oher eventually rises as one of the top college football players and a Super Bowl champion.

However, the book The Blind Side is not just about Michael Oher, but also about the evolution of football.

Michael Lewis narrates the history of the game to show why Oher’s position of left tackle became so important.

One of the best nonfiction books set in Tennessee, you’ll love The Blind Side.

Submission from Rachael of Booklist Queen. If you enjoy nontraditional family stories like this, check out Rachael’s unique books for parents.

Read The Blind Side: Amazon | Goodreads

More books about Tennessee culture, history, and life from Christine

Poke Sallet Queen & The Family Medicine Wheel by Shana Thornton

Poke Sallet Queen & The Family Medicine Wheel by Shana Thornton book cover with purple and yellow flower with green leavesPin

If you are looking for unique indie books set in Tennessee, try Poke Sallet Queen & The Family Medicine Wheel.

A contemporary coming-of-age story set in Nashville and surrounding neighborhoods, Robin Ballard is learning more about her family history for her college writing seminar.

Of course, Robin is in for much more than she bargained for.

Follow along as Robin uncovers more about her homeless and, at times, estranged father as well as dysfunctional family members through stories, recipes, superstitions, and lost journal pages dating back to the 1920s.

There are both tears and joy.

Lyrical and nostalgic, Poke Sallet Queen & The Family Medicine Wheel is guaranteed to transport you to rural TN while making you realize that some part of Robin lives within us all.

Read Poke Sallet Queen & The Family Medicine Wheel: Amazon | Goodreads

The Girls Of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan

The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan book coverPin

Denise Kiernan is one of our favorite historians and local Asheville authors.

She writes one of the best books about Tennessee, The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II.

Set during WWII in Oakridge, Tennessee, readers meet the women who helped build the atomic bomb and are left to deal with the aftermath.

At the time, much of this history remained secret, and we learn about the government’s mysterious and obscure ongoings in a city that no one knew about.

The Girls Of Atomic City is narrative nonfiction at its best for readers of WW2 books, friendship stories, and biographies.

P.S. If you enjoy Denise Kiernan, be sure to read her in-depth account of the construction of Biltmore Estate, The Last Castle, on our North Carolina reading list.

Discover even more great Southern authors out of North Carolina.

Read The Girls Of Atomic City: Amazon | Goodreads

Southernmost by Silas House

Southernmost by Silas House book cover with two shadowed people looking over orange, yellow, and green mountainsPin

TWs: homophobia

For emotional LGBT books set in Tennessee as well as Florida, uncover a story about family, courage, toxic religion, and forgiveness in award-winning author Silas House’s Southernmost.

Asher Sharp is an evangelical preacher in small-town Tennessee, and the people of his town as well as his wife are set in their religious prejudices.

When a flood devastates the area – leaving townspeople homeless – Asher shelters a gay couple, which jeopardizes his job and marriage, especially as he begins questioning all of his past actions and set ways.

Asher flees to Key West, Florida with his son, hoping to find and reconcile with his brother, Luke, who he judged and turned away for being gay.

Read Southernmost: Amazon | Goodreads

Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow

Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow book cover with illustrated Black person in chair with others around them and yellow doorPin

TWs: racism, sexual assault, domestic abuse, and more

True to its title, Memphis is one of the newer books set in Memphis, Tennessee.

In a gripping story that spans 70 years, readers follow three generations of a Southern Black family as they learn about the past, themselves, and their legacy.

In 1995, fleeing from domestic abuse, Joan’s mother brings Joan and her sister to their ancestral home in Memphis.

Joan’s grandfather built the house but was lynched just days after becoming the city’s first Black detective.

Throughout the course of her life, Joan begins to learn more and more about her family’s past, as we watch family dynamics and witness the effects of generational trauma.

For books set in Tennessee, Memphis is one of the most heartbreaking but is filled with incredible strength, family bonds, and resilience.

Read Memphis: Amazon | Goodreads

More books that take place in Tennessee from contributing writer, Jeremy Paterson

Last Ride to Graceland by Kim Wright

Last Ride to Graceland by Kim Wright book cover with motel sign in pink and blue hued sky with cloudsPin

Blues musician Cory Ainsworth has had it rough since her mother died, but her luck takes a turn when she finds something extraordinary in the shed behind her family’s house.

It’s a Stutz Blackhawk, and its previous owner was one Elvis Aaron Presley.

Sure, Cory was aware her mom used to be one of Elvis’ backing singers, and that she left Graceland in a hurry on the day of Elvis’ death – and that Cory was born that year…

But this is just too much.

Cory decides to return the car by driving it down to Memphis, and on the way, she’ll have to ponder one burning question: is Elvis her father?

A road trip that turns into a journey of self-discovery and reflection, Last Ride to Graceland is one of the most interesting books set in Memphis and one of the best books set in Tennessee overall.

Find even more great books about music, or take a road trip with this reading list.

Read Last Ride to Graceland: Amazon | Goodreads

March: Book 1 by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin

Art by Nate Powell

March: Book 1 by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, art by Nate Powell book cover with people's legs walking on top and bottom of people's from torso to head Pin

This graphic novel is one of the most important books about Tennessee and tells the story of Congressman John Lewis’ first-hand experiences at the heart of the Civil Rights Movement.

We start with Lewis and his upbringing in rural Alabama, followed by his life-changing first meeting with Dr Martin Luther King Jr., and the creation of the Nashville Student Movement.

Through the illustrations of artist Nate Powell – and the power of Lewis’ recollections – we are shown the struggles and turmoil of those who stood up against the idea of segregation.

Beginning with peaceful protest and reaching a climax on the steps of City Hall, few books set in Tennessee manage to capture both the highs and lows of the Civil Rights Movement so evocatively.

March: Book 1 is the first of three installments from John Lewis, with the second volume also taking place in Tennessee as Lewis joins the Freedom Riders in the deep South.

Read March: Amazon | Goodreads

Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo

Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo book cover with skeleton hand and human hand reaching outPin

With a mixture of Southern gothic and dark academia, as well as some supernatural horror elements, Summer Sons blends more subgenera together than most books set in Nashville.

Young students Andrew and Eddie share a bond that many brothers would envy, and both are thrilled to be attending Vanderbilt together, albeit six months apart.

However, tragedy strikes when Andrew learns that Eddie has died of an apparent suicide, just a few days before Andrew was to join him at Vanderbilt.

After arriving himself, Andrew searches for evidence of the truth, not believing that Eddie killed himself.

Little does he know that he will have to contend with the remnants of Eddie’s life – remnants he didn’t know were a part of that life – and a ghoulish, grizzly apparition.

Summer Sons is one of the best queer mystery books set in Tennessee, and a genuinely rewarding slow-burn read.

Discover even more of the best queer horror books to read.

Read Summer Sons: Amazon | Goodreads

More Tennesse novels: Memphis by Kelly A Walker & Breaking Cursed Bonds by Elisabeth Zguta

Grab your favorite Tennessee books here:

  • Audible Plus: From Amazon, listen to Amazon Originals, podcasts, and audiobooks. They add new titles every week.
  • Book of the Month: Get the month’s hottest new and upcoming titles from Book of the Month. You might snag an early release or debut author. Along with selecting a book a month, find terrific add-ons, both trendy and lesser-known titles.
  • Amazon Prime Video – Stream thousands of ad-free movies and TV series on demand with Prime Video.

Save Your Favorite Books For Later:

Books About Tennessee Pinterest Pin with image of Nashville city skyline with buildings and pink and purple sky and book covers for Memphis, Southernmost, Summer Sons, March, Flight Behavior, The Girls of Atomic City, Poke Sallet Queen, and Last Ride to GracelandPin
Did you find new books to read? Save this list for later, and travel around the world with The Uncorked Librarian.

What are your favorite books about Tennesse living, culture, and history? Which books have transported you there?

Are we missing any of your favorite novels set in Tennessee? Which ones have you read? Please let us know in the comments.

Before You Go…

If you love books that promise to transport you across the United States, especially books set in Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and more, head over to our Southern books reading list. Find contemporary and classic books set in the South.

Related Book Lists:

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Christine Frascarelli

Christine (she/her) is the owner, lead editor, and tipsy book sommelier of The Uncorked Librarian LLC, an online literary publication showcasing books and movies to inspire travel and home to the famed Uncorked Reading Challenge. With a BA in English & History from Smith College, an MLIS from USF-Tampa, and a U.S. Fulbright Fellowship in Christine's back pocket, there isn't a bookstore, library, or winery that can hide from her. Christine loves brewery yoga, adopting all of the kitties, and a glass of oaked Chardonnay. Charcuterie is her favorite food group.


  1. I loved the movie the Blind Side, never thought of reading the book. Of course, being that I hate sports, I wonder if I’ll appreciate it as much as the movie. Hmmm…

    The Color Purple is one book that I’ve been avoiding because I know it will be emotionally hard to get through. It’s been on my list for a long time. One of the days, I’ll get the courage to read it.

    I’ve added Poke Sallet Queen’s book to my list. It sounds like a book I’d connect with.

    This is a great list! Never been to Tennessee, so I’ll have to read a book set there before I visit one day.

    1. Sandra Bullock is truly one of my absolute favorite actresses. I was always told that I sorta resemble her too?! Now, I’m getting older soooo my pointy Italian nose makes the resemblance harder to see lol! I usually think that nonfiction books paired against the movie turn out OK. Directors seem to take fewer liberties.

      The Color Purple is a tough one. I’ve read it quite a few times on my own and then for college courses. It’s triggering and a tad depressing–even with its uplighting moments. I value those stories so much in literature, but I don’t seek them out often.

      I will have to send you my copy of Poke Sallet. I also just received 4 books from a publisher for And Then We Grew Up. I have no idea why. I was debating a giveaway, but ehhhh; we all know how I felt about that one. I should send you that one too since I know you wanted to check it out!

  2. I really, really need to read STILLHOUSE LAKE. It’s been on my TBR list forever, and I never seem to get around to it. Maybe 2020 is the time! lol

    Thanks for including me in your list of titles!! A great post overall! 🙂

  3. You know, I don’t think I have read any books set in Tennesse yet. These ones sound really good, especially Stillhouse Lake. I always feel like there are so many books out there that I haven’t read yet, which is true, but lists like this really help me discover new authors and books.

    1. I hadn’t read many books set in TN either, which is definitely why I was so glad to have contributors for this book list. I also decided to have indie authors contribute since I was really lacking there. Now that we live in the south (not that FL wasn’t the south–it just felt different), I’m trying to read more literature set in the places that we visit frequently along with local Asheville history.

      I’m glad that you are finding this Tennessee book list helpful! I haven’t read Stillhouse Lake either yet.

  4. The Firm sounds soooo ineresting. I’ve had The Girls of Atomic City on my TBR for so long now, and I really want to get around to reading it in 2020. I didn’t know The Blind Side had so much on the evolution of the game; since I’m a huge fan of the sport, I’d love to read about both his story and football!

    1. I remember reading a lot of John Grisham in high school because my dad collected and read his books. I watched the movie way back when too!

      The Blind Side is such a good story!

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