Arnow, Harriet Simpson. Seedtime on the Cumberland. Lincoln, NE: Bison Books, 1995. Originally published in 1961, this is the classic narrative of the settlement of southern Kentucky and Middle Tennessee. A classic of Tennessee history, Southern culture, and the act of settlement, this is truly a must-read for those seeking to understand rural life.
Beifuss, Joan Turner. At the River I Stand. Brooklyn, NY: Carlson Pub., 1985. This account of the Memphis  garbagemen’s strike of 1968 is told from the ground up. It places the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in its immediate, if not historical, context.
Bond, Beverley G., and Janann Sherman. Memphis: In Black and White. Mount Pleasant, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2003. This lively history of Memphis  pays special attention to the dynamics of race and class. The slim and easy-to-read volume contains interesting anecdotes, and lots of illustrations. It is an excellent introduction to the city.
Branch, Taylor. Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954–63. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989. The most authoritative account of the Civil rights movement, told through the life of Dr. Martin Luther King. The first in a three-volume account of the movement, Parting the Waters includes descriptions of the Nashville Sit-Ins of 1960. The final volume, At Canaan’s Edge, includes King’s assassination in Memphis .
Callahan, North. TVA: Bridge Over Troubled Waters. South Brunswick, NJ: A. S. Barnes & Co., 1980. A history of the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Crosby, Molly Caldwell. The American Plague. New York: Berkley Books, 2006. A portrait of “the epidemic that shaped our history”: the yellow fever epidemic of 1878 that wiped out New Orleans and Memphis .
Egerton, John. Speak Now Against the Day: The Generation Before the Civil Rights Movement in the South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995. Nashville  native John Egerton tells the relatively unacknowledged story of Southerners, white and black, who stood up against segregation and racial hatred during the years before the Civil rights movement.
Egerton, John. Visions of Utopia. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1977. An accessible and fascinating portrait of three intentional Tennessee communities: Ruskin in Middle Tennessee, Nashoba in West Tennessee, and Rugby in East Tennessee. Egerton’s usual sterling prose and sensitive observations make this volume well worth reading.
Honey, Michael. Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King’s Last Campaign. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2007. Labor historian Michael Honey depicts with academic detail and novelistic drama the Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968. He documents Memphis  of the late 1960s, and the quest for economic justice which brought Dr. King to the city. King’s assassination and its aftermath are depicted in devastating detail.
Potter, Jerry O. Sultana Tragedy: America’s Greatest Maritime Disaster. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, Inc., 1992. The definitive account of American’s worst maritime disaster. The end of the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln grabbed the headlines in April 1864, so much so that the sinking of the Sultana and the death of more than 1,800 men in the Mississippi River near Memphis  went almost unnoticed. This book tells a tale more poignant and moving than the loss of the Titanic.
Sword, Wiley. The Confederacy’s Last Hurrah: Spring Hill, Franklin and Nashville. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004. This is a well-written and devastating account of John Bell Hood’s disastrous campaign through Middle Tennessee during the waning months of the Confederacy. It was a campaign that cost the South more than 23,000 men. With unflinching honesty, Sword describes the opportunities lost and poor decisions made by Gen. Hood.