Y’all, I am southern born and southern raised. I love my roots of sweet tea, football, and Southern literature. So, I jumped at the chance to review New York Times Best Selling author H. Jackson Brown, Jr.’s new book As Southern As It Gets: 1,071 Reasons to Never Leave the South. This charming book of lists reminds me why I love the south and why I never left.
Begining with the cover of the book, draped in blue gingham and adorned with a basket of Georgia peaches, As Southern As It Gets drips with southern beauty. The list begins with Brown’s favorites and then continues with over 1,000 lovely things listed in alphabetical order. Quotes from Southern authors and charming illustrations break up the list.
When the first word of a book is “grits,” you know it’s going to be scrumptious. Brown explains why he made this ever-growing list of all the endearing southern things: “The South I love is magical, mysterious, adaptive, independent, proud, historic, but sometimes rough around the edges. The diversity of people, places, and culture; the tears, pride, and promises; the landmarks and landscape; the little towns, country crossroads, and chrome-plated metroplexes make the South a most distinctive region of our great country.”
His list begins with grits, and I am instantly in sync with him. So many items on his list took me back to my childhood. For example, “accordion” reminded me of the old accordion we played while sitting on the steps of our back porch. I can’t tell you how we acquired it, nor can I boast any ability to play a tune on it. Now I realize it wasn’t such a rarity in these parts.
I remember tying a string to the legs of a June bug and watching it fly around while the Alabama humidity dripped from my brow. The ink drawing of a one-stoplight town reminds me of the solitary red light dangling in the crisp mountain air of my own hometown. Memories of family trips to places like Callaway Gardens, Beale Street, and the Ocoee River surfaced with Brown serving as my tour guide.
The extensive list includes Southern authors, artists, and musicians. You will find landmarks south of the Mason-Dixon Line–from Virginia, down the coast to Georgia, and westward to Louisiana. Art, history, traditions, quirks, and, of course, food give readers a uniquely Southern experience. I tried to keep count of some of the reoccurring topics: five coaches, at least eight fried dishes, six varieties of peaches. I lost count of the named tomatoes. This affection for tomatoes is further expressed with this little gem from Lewis Grizzard: “It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.”
As a lover of words, my favorites are the Southern sayings (read best with a Southern accent). Some of my favorites include: “Long as I’ve got a biscuit, you’ve got half;” “happier than a moth in a mitten;” and “noisier than a choir of tomcats.” Southerners have a way with words, don’t they?
As Southern As It Gets: 1,071 Reasons to Never Leave the South invites nostalgia for those raised in the south. It lures in outsiders and makes us southern residents nestle in a little deeper. As Southern As It Gets would make a great addition to a gift basket of blackberry jam, sorghum syrup, and, of course, stone ground grits.
A New York Times best-selling author, H. Jackson Brown’s publications are universal in appeal, with more than 30 million copies in print, available in 35 languages. His 33 books inspire readers throughout the world. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee. His latest release, As Southern As It Gets, is published by Thomas Nelson, a division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc.