Books about historic New Orleans to add to your summer reading list

New Orleans has long been a muse for creatives and writers. The historic architecture, unique culture and spirited personalities in our city have inspired countless authors to create stories that are as vibrant as New Orleans.

Britton Trice at the Garden District Book Shop has curated this summer reading list of books set in New Orleans that highlight the city’s history, architecture and culture. A mix of classics and contemporary literature, these page-turners are perfect for reading this summer while traveling, sitting by the pool or passing the time on a stormy New Orleans afternoon.


Tin Roof Blowdown

by James Lee Burke

“In the waning days of summer, 2005, a storm with greater impact than the bomb that struck Hiroshima peels the face off southern Louisiana.”


Feast of all Saints

by Anne Rice

“In the days before the Civil War, there lived a Louisiana people unique in Southern history. Though descended from African slaves, they were also descended from the French and Spanish who enslaved them. Called the Free People of Color, this dazzling historical novel chronicles the lives of four of them–men and women caught perilously between the worlds of master and slave, privilege and oppression, passion and pain.”


New Orleans Observed: Drawings and Observations of America’s Most Foreign City

by Errol Barron

“A collection of drawings and observations made primarily while Errol Barron was on sabbatical from the Tulane University School of Architecture (2009). Each day for several hours he would drive or ride a bicycle through the neighborhoods of the city stopping where something caught his eye. The book is loosely organized by areas the old quarter, downtown, the center, uptown with scattered examples of local buildings, places, and oddities.”


Island Beneath the Sea

by Isabel Allende

“From the sugar plantations of Saint-Domingue to the lavish parlors of New Orleans at the turn of the 19th century, the latest novel from New York Times bestselling author Isabel Allende (Ines of My Soul, The House of the Spirits, Portrait in Sepia) tells the story of a mulatta woman, a slave and concubine, determined to take control of her own destiny.”



by Laura Lane McNeal

“A big-hearted coming-of-age debut set in civil rights-era New Orleans, a novel of Southern eccentricity and secrets.”


Ghost Stories of Old New Orleans

by Jeanne Delavigne, Charles Richards (Illustrator), Frank de Caro (Foreword by)

“Ghosts are said to wander along the rooftops above New Orleans’ Royal Street, the dead allegedly sing sacred songs in St. Louis Cathedral, and the graveyard tomb of a wealthy madam reportedly glows bright red at night. Local lore about such supernatural sightings, as curated by Jeanne deLavigne in her classic Ghost Stories of Old New Orleans, finds the phantoms of bitter lovers, vengeful slaves, and menacing gypsies haunting nearly every corner of the city, from the streets of the French Quarter to Garden District mansions.”


The Moviegoer

by Walker Percy

“Winner of the 1961 National Book Award, the dazzling novel that established Walker Percy as one of the major voices in Southern literature is now available for the first time in Vintage paperback.”


A Separate Country: A Story of Redemption in the Aftermath of the Civil War

by Robert Hicks

“Set in New Orleans in the years after the Civil War, A Separate Country is based on the incredible life of John Bell Hood, arguably one of the most controversial generals of the Confederate Army–and one of its most tragic figures.”


A Confederacy of Dunces

by John Kennedy Toole, Walker Percy (Foreword by)

“A Confederacy of Dunces is an American comic masterpiece. John Kennedy Toole’s hero, one Ignatius J. Reilly, is ‘huge, obese, fractious, fastidious, a latter-day Gargantua, a Don Quixote of the French Quarter. His story bursts with wholly original characters, denizens of New Orleans’ lower depths, incredibly true-to-life dialogue, and the zaniest series of high and low comic adventures.”


Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder and the Battle for Modern New Orleans

by Gary Krist

“From bestselling author Gary Krist, a vibrant and immersive account of New Orleans’ other civil war, at a time when commercialized vice, jazz culture, and endemic crime defined the battlegrounds of the Crescent City.”


Cemeteries of New Orleans: A Cultural History

by Peter B. Dedek

“In The Cemeteries of New Orleans, Peter B. Dedek reveals the origins and evolution of the Crescent City’s world-famous necropolises, exploring both their distinctive architecture and their cultural impact. Spanning centuries, this fascinating body of research takes readers from muddy fields of crude burial markers to extravagantly designed cities of the dead, illuminating a vital and vulnerable piece of New Orleans’s identity.”


Hope & New Orleans: A History of Crescent City Street Names

by Sally Asher

“New Orleans is a city of beautiful contradictions, evidenced by its street names. New Orleans crosses with Hope, Pleasure and Duels. Religious couples with Nuns, Market and Race. Music, Arts and Painters are parallel. New Orleans enfolds its denizens in the protection of saints, the artistry of Muses and the bravery of military leaders. The city’s street names are inseparable from its diverse history.”


Gulf: The Making of An American Sea

by Jack E. Davis

“When painter Winslow Homer first sailed into the Gulf of Mexico, he was struck by its “special kind of providence.” Indeed, the Gulf presented itself as America’s sea–bound by geography, culture, and tradition to the national experience–and yet, there has never been a comprehensive history of the Gulf until now. And so, in this rich and original work that explores the Gulf through our human connection with the sea, environmental historian Jack E. Davis finally places this exceptional region into the American mythos in a sweeping history that extends from the Pleistocene age to the twenty-first century.”


The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square

by Ned Sublette

“The World That Made New Orleans offers a new perspective on this insufficiently understood city by telling 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.”

For additional information about these books, call the Garden District Book Shop at 504-895-2266, or visit their store at 2727 Prytania St.