Calonius, Erik. The Wanderer: Last American Slave Ship and the Conspiracy That Set Its Sails. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 2006. A page-turning tale of the last illegal slave shipment to land in the United States, on Jekyll Island, Georgia.
Fraser Jr., Walter J. Savannah in the Old South. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2005. An insightful and balanced history of Georgia’s first city, from founding through Reconstruction.
Georgia Writers Project. Drums and Shadows: Survival Studies Among the Georgia Coastal Negroes. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1986. Arising from a government-funded research project during the Depression, this still ranks as one of the best oral histories ever assembled, using firsthand accounts from African American residents of Georgia’s Sea Islands to paint a picture of a lifestyle gone by.
Greene, Melissa Fay. Praying for Sheetrock. New York, NY: Ballantine, 1992. In this modern classic, Greene explores the racism and corruption endemic in McIntosh County, Georgia, during the civil rights movement.
Kemble, Fanny. Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838–1839. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1984. A famed English actress’s groundbreaking anti-slavery account of her stay on a rice plantation in McIntosh County, Georgia.
Morgan, Philip (ed.). African American Life in the Georgia Lowcountry: The Atlantic World and the Gullah Geechee. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2010. The best book I’ve come by on the history and folkways of Georgia’s Gullah/Geechee people. Balanced, scholarly, yet still readable in the extreme.
Seabrook, Charles. Cumberland Island: Strong Women, Wild Horses. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2002. An even-handed journalistic look inside the tension between environmentalists and the residents of Cumberland Island.
Wood, Betty (ed.). Mary Telfair to Mary Few: Selected Letters, 1802–1844. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2007. The revealing, chatty letters of a great arts patron and member of a major Savannah slave-owning family, to her best friend who left the city and moved North because of her abolitionist leanings. We know that Mary Few replied, but her letters remain undiscovered.
Fraser Jr., Walter J. Charleston! Charleston! The History of a Southern City. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1991. Another typically well-written and balanced tome by this important regional historian.
Gessler, Diana Hollingsworth. Very Charleston: A Celebration of History, Culture, and Lowcountry Charm. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 2003. A quick, visually appealing insider’s perspective with some wonderfully whimsical, cartoon-style illustrations.
Klein, Maury. Days of Defiance: Sumter, Secession, and the Coming of the Civil War. New York, NY: Vintage, 1999. A gripping and vivid account of the lead-up to war, with Charleston as the focal point.
Rogers Jr., George C. Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys, Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1980. This 1969 history is a classic of the genre.
Rosen, Robert. A Short History of Charleston. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997. Quite simply the most concise, readable, and entertaining history of the Holy City I’ve found.
Woodward, C. Vann (ed.). Mary Chesnut’s Civil War. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1981. The Pulitzer Prize–winning classic compilation of the sardonic and quietly heartbreaking letters of Charleston’s Mary Chesnut during the Civil War.
Aberjhani and Sandra West. Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance. New York, NY: Checkmark Books, 2003. A brilliantly researched account of the great African American diaspora out of the South that eventually gave birth to the Charleston dance craze of the 1920s.
Lewis, Lloyd. Sherman: Fighting Prophet. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1993. Though first published in 1932, this remains the most thorough, insightful, and well-written biography of General William Sherman in existence.
Robinson, Sally Ann. Gullah Home Cooking the Daufuskie Island Way. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2007. Subtitled “Smokin’ Joe Butter Beans, Ol’ ‘Fuskie Fried Crab Rice, Sticky-Bush Blackberry Dumpling, and Other Sea Island Favorites,” this cookbook by a native Daufuskie Islander features a foreword by Pat Conroy.
Stehling, Robert. Hominy Grill Recipes. Charleston, SC: Big Cartel, 2009. This humble, hand-illustrated, self-published little tome features 23 great recipes from one of Charleston’s most-respected Southern cooking joints, Hominy Grill on Rutledge Avenue. At only $12.95, one of the best cookbooks for the value you’ll find.
© Jim Morekis from Moon Charleston & Savannah, 4th Edition