Literary Rebel - Atlanta History (Real & Imagined)

Literary Rebel, Sherri Caldwell, blogs about books, reading and literary events in Midtown. This week, offering a Top Six Book List: Atlanta History (Real & Imagined).

Atlanta history fascinates me, especially Piedmont Park. I live across the street and walk in the park every day. On a stormy morning, you can almost feel the ghosts out there, trying to tell their tales. For several years, I have been listening for them and working on a ghost story/historical fiction novel set in Piedmont Park.

Because I love to read almost more than I like to write, I enjoy the research, specific to the park and, more generally, Midtown and Atlanta. This week, I offer my Top Six List of favorite books about Atlanta history:

Literary Rebel Top Six List:  Atlanta History (Real & Imagined)

  1. Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn by Gary Pomerantz
  2. Peachtree Road by Anne Rivers Siddons
  3. Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones
  4. Rage in the Gate City by Rebecca Burns
  5. Piedmont Park: Celebrating Atlanta’s Common Ground
  6. Images of America: The Atlanta Exposition by Sharon Foster Jones


1) Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn: A Saga of Race and Family

by Gary M. Pomerantz

Non Fiction: The very real and fascinating history of the literal and figurative intersection of white business strength in the developing South and Atlanta’s powerful black community, told through the biographies of two of Atlanta’s foundational families: that of Ivan Allen Jr., a white mayor in the 60’s, and Maynard H. Jackson, the city’s first black mayor.

2) Peachtree Road by Anne Rivers Siddons

Yes, imagined: Fiction, but one of my favorite novels about Buckhead polite society, radical change in the 1960’s, scandal and impropriety, centered on that big, old house at 2500 Peachtree Road. I read this book when we first moved to Atlanta, before the historic Randolph-Lucas House was moved 100 feet to the southwest to make room for a high-rise condominium...in the name of progress?

3) Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones

Fiction: Set in Atlanta during the infamous 1979-1981 child murders, when thirty African-American children were abducted and found murdered. Fear and outrage gripped the black community, white authorities were slow to react. A compelling read from an Atlanta native. Tayari Jones was in 5th grade at the time, and tells the story from the perspectives of three fifth grade children trying to live their normal lives in the midst of the crisis.

4) Rage in the Gate City: The Story of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot

By Rebecca Burns

Non-Fiction: A little-known dark cloud in Atlanta's past. In 1906, racial tensions simmered and boiled over during a heated political campaign. Newspapers fanned the flames with sensational reports, incenting white-on-black violence that raged for almost a week. Black and white civic leaders came together “in unprecedented meetings that can be viewed either as concerted public relations efforts to downplay the events or as setting the stage for Atlanta’s civil rights leadership half a century later.”

5) Piedmont Park: Celebrating Atlanta’s Common Ground

In association with the Piedmont Park Conservancy

Edited by Darlene Roth and Jeff Kemph

Non-Fiction: A beautiful coffee table book, and a thoroughly-researched and detailed history, with pictures, information, essays and impressions of Piedmont Park through the years, produced in 2004 by the Piedmont Park Conservancy to celebrate Piedmont's 100th Anniversary as a city park. The editors offer a comprehensive chronology from 1821, when the land was ceded from the Creek Indians, to the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition, through the 20th century and the park's cycle of popularity, overuse, decline and rebirth under the Piedmont Park Conservancy.

6) Images of America: The Atlanta Exposition

By Sharon Foster Jones

Non-Fiction: Granted, my interest in Piedmont Park may be more obsessive than most, but I love this little book, full of photographs and historic detail from the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition at Piedmont Park. Thirty years after the devastation of the Civil War, the New South had a lot to prove:  “Atlantans...resolved to host an exhibition of the world’s cultural, agricultural, and manufacturing products while promoting civil liberties for women and African Americans.”  It is amazing to walk through the park and recognize the remnants and features – like the stone balustrade and huge planters on the east side of the Active Oval – that have survived almost 120 years and serve as echoes of a grand past.


Speaking of great history and Local Historian, Sharon Foster Jones...

Midtown Book Group - September 2012

Atlanta’s Ponce De Leon Avenue: A History

By Sharon Foster Jones

SPECIAL EVENT: Book Signing & Author Discussion

Date:  Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Time:  7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. – Book Signing

          8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. – Book Group Discussion        

Location: Barnes & Noble/Georgia Tech at 5th & Spring

For details & more information, please visit Midtown Book Group on Yahoo!Groups. Midtown Book Group welcomes new members and visitors.

It was tough to choose only six books for the Top Six List – and not mention GWTW (but that's about Scarlett O'Hara, not Atlanta) – and there you have it.  

What is your favorite book about Atlanta – past, present or future?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Stephen Fleming August 29, 2012 at 08:07 PM
I wish you could have found room for "Peachtree Creek" by Dave Kaufman. And "Down on Ponce" (fiction) by Fred Willard. But, still, a great list.
Sherri Caldwell - The Rebel Housewife August 30, 2012 at 01:39 AM
Thanks for your comment, Stephen, and for your suggestions -- I will check them out! I am always up for new & different perspectives of Atlanta history. I've also had a recommendation for The Swan House by Elizabeth Musser (fiction).


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