AVL Guides    Lifestyle

25 Asheville authors to add to your reading list

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The Thomas Wolfe Memorial + State Historic Site | Photo by @woodsonbruce
The Thomas Wolfe Memorial + State Historic Site | Photo by @woodsonbruce

If you’re a local author – or a local reader – you’ve come to the write place. Asheville’s reputation as a literary destination has called to authors + readers since Thomas Wolfe penned Look Homeward, Angel, and with events like the upcoming Asheville BookFest (April 13) and AVL WordFest (April 12-14) on the horizon, we wanted to shine a light on the local authors who have made the scene so great – from the 1800s all the way through today.

So, next time you’re looking for a good read, check out these local luminaries – and then hit one of our many bookstores (listed below) to grab a copy. 📚 We’ve included a few of our famous historical authors, plus some of our favorite contemporary writers who have written specifically about the region. And we know this isn’t an exhaustive list – feel free to add your favorite local writers (and your top book recs) in the comments.

Historical

Wilma Dykeman | 1920-2006 | Environmentalist + author of 18 books, including The French Broad (a history of the river + area residents), The Tall Woman, and her posthumous memoir, Family of Earth. Born in Buncombe County.

F. Scott Fitzgerald | 1896-1940 | The author of The Great Gatsby + The Beautiful and Damned spent time at the Grove Park Inn in the summers of 1935 + 1936.

Zelda Fitzgerald | 1900-1948 | The “First American Flapper” + wife of F. Scott penned the semi-autobiographical Save Me the Waltz in 1932. She died in a fire at Highland Hospital in 1948.

O. Henry | 1862-1910 | The Greensboro-born author was famous for his short stories (like “The Gift of the Magi”) and spent time in Asheville during the last few months of his life. He’s buried in Riverside Cemetery (Protip: Look for his real name, William Sydney Porter).

Horace Kephart | 1862-1931 | The regional environmentalist and travel writer penned Our Southern Highlanders, + Camping and Woodcraft – an outdoor guide still used today.

Carl Sandburg | 1878-1967 | Born in Illinois, the poet, Civil Rights activist + biographer of Lincoln moved to Connemara (in Flat Rock) in 1945 with his wife, Lillian.

Thomas Wolfe | 1900-1938 | The author of Look Homeward, Angel + You Can’t Go Home Again was born + raised in Asheville – check out his home, now a historic site, at 52 N. Market St.

Contemporary

Sarah Addison Allen | Author of Garden Spells + First Frost, which follow a family living in the fictional town of Bascom, N.C. modeled on Asheville. She attended UNC Asheville.

Robert Beatty | Beatty’s middle-grade Serafina novels are all set in and around the Biltmore House + feature the Vanderbilt family – and some magical special guests.

Emoke B’Racz | The founder of Malaprop’s has authored poetry collections including Every Tree is the Forest + Raising Voices.

Wiley Cash | Books include A Land More Kind Than Home + The Dark Road to Mercy. The UNC Asheville grad is the writer-in-residence at the university.

Amy Cherrix | The middle-grade nonfiction writer just published Backyard Bears: Conservation, Habitat Changes, and the Rise of Urban Wildlife – just in time for bear season in the mountains.

Meta Commerse | The author of the intergenerational novel The Mending Time founded Story Medicine Asheville, which teaches healing through storytelling.

Mark de Castrique | Hendersonville-born de Castrique writes mystery novels set in WNC, including The Sandburg Connectionabout author Carl Sandburg.

John Ehle | Books set in Appalachia include The Journey of August King, Lion in the Hearth (1961) + The Road (1967). He authored 17 books total and was a founder of the N.C. School of the Arts in Winston-Salem and the Governor’s School program. He grew up in West Asheville.

Charles Frazier | Known best for his novel Cold Mountain, set near the end of the Civil War, the Asheville native recently published Verina, based on Varina Davis (wife of Jefferson Davis of the Confederate States of America).

Gail Godwin | Books include Unfinished Desires (based on her experiences at St. Genevieve’s of the Pines, a Catholic school in Asheville), Grief Cottage + Violet Clay. Several of her books are set in Mountain City, a fictionalized version of Asheville.  

Tommy Hays | The head of the Great Smokies Writing Program at UNC Asheville recently published the middle-grade novel What I Came to Tell You. His novel In the Family Way won the Thomas Wolfe Literary Award in 2000.

David Joy | Joy’s bleak takes on struggling Appalachian residents in Jackson County include The Weight of This World and Where All Light Tends to Go.

Jan Karon | The author of 23 novels, her Mitford series is set in a fictional version of nearby Blowing Rock.

Denise Kiernan | The nonfiction writer released her history of the Vanderbilts + the Biltmore Estate, The Last Castle, in 2017.

Tamiko Ambrose Murray | The award-winning creative nonfiction + prose writer co-founded Asheville Writers in the Schools and is the resident writer. She’s also a coordinator for Alternate ROOTS and LEAF Schools & Streets.  

Heather Newton | The founding member of The Flatiron Writers’ Room published the novel Under the Mercy Trees, set in the mountains of N.C., in 2011.

Ron Rash | Author of WNC-based novels including Serena, The World Made Straight + Above the Waterfall, as well as short stories + poems.

Glenis Redmond | The poet + teaching artist founded the Greenville Poetry Slam and co-founded WordSlam, a youth poetry slam, in Asheville. Her publications include the collection Backbone.

Word on the Street / La Voz de Los Jovenes | The bilingual arts + culture magazine, produced by students involved with Asheville Writers in the Schools, features voices of color in nonfiction, poetry, journalism + more.

Ready to grab your books?

Here are the places to do it.

Buncombe County Library | Various locations | Public library

Bagatelle Books | 428 Haywood Rd. | Used + rare books | opening soon beside Flora

Barnes & Noble | Various locations | New books + periodicals

Battery Park Book Exchange | 1 Page Ave. #101 | Used + rare books

The Captain’s Bookshelf | 31 Page Ave. | Used + rare books

Downtown Books & News | 67 N. Lexington Ave. | Used + rare books, periodicals

Firestorm Books & Cafe | 610 Haywood Rd. | New books

Malaprop’s Bookstore & Cafe | 55 Haywood St. | New books

Mr. K’s | 800 Fairview Rd. | Used books

Spellbound Children’s Bookstore | Inside Bon Vivant, 9 Reed St. Ste. D | Children’s books