Richard Howorth, Square Books

Home to William Faulkner and Ole Miss, the city of Oxford, Mississippi, has long been a center of southern culture. Just ask the mayor, Richard Howorth—who also happens to be an owner of Square Books, a destination for bibliophiles and history buffs since it opened in 1979. Here Howorth sorts through his extensive selection of southern literature to answer his customers’ most frequently asked question, What book would you recommend to help explain the South? 662-236-2262; squarebooks.com

Elegy for the Southern Drawl

By Rodney Jones (Houghton Mifflin)

“A lamentation, ode, psalm, rap, and rant all in one, this is our store’s top-selling poetry volume ever.”

The Complete Stories

By Flannery O’Connor (Faber and Faber)

“Georgia-born O’Connor was already known as a great American writer—and a champion of southern gothic—when this collection was published posthumously in 1971. It has had a strong influence on subsequent generations of southern writers, such as Lee Smith, Larry Brown, Kaye Gibbons, and Barry Hannah.”

Native Guard

By Natasha Trethewey (Houghton Mifflin)

“A brilliant young poet, Trethewey won a Pulitzer for this solid and moving work. As [the aforementioned poet] Rodney Jones put it, these poems ‘forged a singular art from a mixed racial experience without sacrificing either heritage.’ ”

Long Time Leaving: Dispatches from Up South

By Roy Blount Jr. (Alfred A. Knopf)

“If Charles Wilson, the editor of the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture [University of North Carolina Press] is the Diderot of Dixie, then Blount—who tackles everything from sports, food, and politics to music and Shakespeare with a deep intelligence and droll humor—is our Montaigne.”