Reading and travel go hand-in-hand (in my mind), so I always try to select a local book or two to read before visiting a new location. If you're headed to the Lowcountry soon and want to get in the spirit before your trip, here's the scoop on which books about Savannah are worth purchasing and which ones aren't.
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Books About Savannah
In case you're new around here, I guess I should mention that I've written my very own ebook about Savannah! My friends and family were constantly asking me for advice about planning the perfect trip, so that's how my Savannah First-Timer's Guide came about. It's chock full of helpful tips about parking, sightseeing, restaurants, and more. I basically spill tons of insider secrets in it! You can learn more about it here…
OK, enough of the sales-y stuff. I'm just excited to have my very first book out there in the world. Let's move along to some books about Savannah that weren't written by yours truly!
Non-Fiction Books About Savannah
While researching my own book about Savannah, I read a LOT of non-fiction books about the area. In fact, I'm beginning to have the makings of a fairly decent library about the city! Here's a selection of some of the non-fiction books you can find on Amazon.
- Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
- Savannah Architectural Tours by Jonathan Stalcup & Elizabeth Osterberger
- The Weeping Time: Memory and the Largest Slave Auction in American History by Anne C. Bailey
- Savannah Then and Now by Polly Cooper & Ted Eldridge
- Savannah Walking Tour & Guidebook by Paul C. Bland
- A Self-Guided Tour of Savannah by Maryanne Jurkofsky
- Savannah's Little Crooked Houses: If These Walls Could Talk by Susan B. Johnson
- Historic Haunts of Savannah by Michael Harris & Linda Sickler
- Rebels, Saints, and Sinners: Savannah's Rich History and Colorful Personalities by Timothy Daiss
- Hiding My Candy: The Autobiography of the Grand Empress of Savannah by Lady Chablis
- Savannah's Monuments: The Untold Stories by Michael Freeman
- The Owens-Thomas House by Tania June Sammons
- Savannah, Georgia: A Photographic Portrait by Carrie L. Kellogg
- S is for Southern: A Guide to the South, From Absinthe to Zydeko by David DeBenedetto
Guess which one is my favorite…
My Favorites (& Least Favorites)
Here are my thoughts on a few of the books to help you decide if they're worth purchasing or not.
My favorite non-fiction book about Savannah is Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. It was number one on the New York Times Best Seller List for 200+ weeks for good reason! It embodies everything quirky, lovable, and downright weird about Savannah. Amazon includes a free preview, so I highly suggest reading a chapter to see if you get sucked in. (Click where it says “look inside” above the cover image of the book.) Order it here.
Savannah Architectural Tours is very informative! Sometimes I carry it around with me when I walk, because I inevitably have questions about all the intricate buildings I see during my strolls. It's 144 pages and includes 3 self-guided tours. Jonathan really knows his stuff! Order it here.
A Self-Guided Tour of Savannah is VERY thin, just so you know. It doesn't contain a lot of information, and some of it isn't even accurate. For example, the author basically describes Jones Street as a ‘beautiful street with beautiful mansions and townhomes' (which it is) and notes that it's paved with cobblestones (which it isn't — it's paved with vitrified brick). I'd pass on this one. Order it here (or don't).
The Savannah Walking Tour & Guidebook is also very thin. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover how much information was packed inside its 34 pages. It includes 4 walking tours, labeled maps, and contains both historical and modern photos. Order it here.
I thought I'd be a little more excited about the Savannah's Little Crooked Houses book than I was in reality. It's very well-researched and very informative, but it's not as conversational as I personally would've liked. Order it here.
Fiction Books Set in Savannah
I haven't read many fiction books yet (I've been too busy writing!), but I've included a couple recommendations below. If you know if any authors who write books set in Savannah, I'd love for you to let me know in the comments.
- Play Dead | Stay Dead | Pretty Dead | Truly Dead (4-part series) by Anne Frasier
- Savannah…from Savannah by Denise Hildreth Jones
- Dorothea Benton Frank is a popular author who writes about the Lowcountry, but not Savannah specifically. Her books are always fun!
If you only pick up one cookbook, grab the first one! It's written by Dora Charles, who was the head chef at The Lady & Sons for 22 years. She made only $10 per hour (and dealt with racism issues) during her time at Paula Deen's famous restaurant, so she deserves to sell millions of copies for leaving that empire and moving on with class and grace.
- A Real Southern Cook: In Her Savannah Kitchen by Dora Charles
- Back In The Day Bakery Cookbook by Cheryl & Griffith Day
- Savannah Food by Stu Card & Donald Card
- Savannah Style by Junior League of Savannah
The Back In The Day cookbook is also awesome. The bakery is right down the street from my house, and I go there frequently for biscuits and their veggie quiche.
Movies Filmed in Savannah
If you visit Savannah for the first time and it seems all too familiar, it might be because you've seen it in a movie or two! These are just a few of the major films with scenes shot in the area:
- Forrest Gump
- Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
- Forces of Nature
- The Conspirator
- The Legend of Bagger Vance
- The Poison Rose (Anticipated Release Date: Oct. 4, 2019)
- Gemini Man (Anticipated Release Date: Oct. 4, 2019)
I'm currently only aware of two additional movies being filmed in the area. The live-action remake of Disney's Lady & The Tramp is being filmed a few streets over from my house! The production title is called “Goodbye Stranger”. They brought in lots of cute old-timey cars to shoot their scenes and shut down 31st street for a few days. I've been posting sneak peeks in Stories on our Instagram account.
Matt Damon and Christian Bale are also filming an (as-of-yet) unnamed movie here.
The Last Song, Baywatch and Magic Mike XXL aren't included in the list since those were primarily filmed on Tybee Island and not in downtown Savannah.
Here's a quick rundown on where you'll find local scenery in each movie. (Let me know in the comments below if you'd like a more detailed post that includes photos of the locations!)
I rent all of my movies on Amazon Prime so I can watch via TV, laptop, or even on my phone. You can get a free 30-day trial of Amazon Video here.
Who doesn't love Forrest and his box of chocolates?! You'll spot lots of familiar scenery from the movie throughout Savannah.
His famous bench was a prop and only set up in front of Chippawa Square for the movie, but you can see a reproduction in the Savannah History Museum at the Visitor's Center. Jenny's Cafe now goes by the name Debi's Restaurant and is located on State Street.
If you try a Hop-On/Hop-Off tour with Old Savannah Tours, you'll get to see a VERY realistic looking (and sounding) Forrest Gump! Order it here.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Sometimes truth really is better than fiction, and that’s the case with this movie. It’s a rather poor adaptation of John Berendt’s best-selling novel, but it’s worth watching to see the Lady Chablis in action! She passed away in September of 2016, so you can no longer catch her live show. Club One is still the place to go to see drag queens and try karaoke.
There’s also plenty of beautiful Savannah scenery scattered throughout the movie. Many scenes were filmed inside the actual Mercer-Williams house, at Forsyth Park, and out at Bonaventure cemetery. Order it here.
Forces of Nature
This one stars the lovable Sandra Bullock as Sarah Lewis. She blows into Ben Affleck's life like a Category 5 hurricane and causes some major destruction. It's a cute little story that doesn't require much concentration to follow along.
The scene with Sarah's ex was filmed at Wright Square in front of the Federal Courthouse. The El Rocko Bar scene (where Affleck's character danced atop the tables) was shot at 514 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. The train station scene was filmed at Savannah's Amtrack station. Order it here.
I absolutely love the scenery in this one. It seems to have the most authentic “old Savannah” feel to it, thanks to Robert Redford's skillful direction. The movie covers the story of Abraham Lincoln's assassination, and the city of Savannah plays the part of an 1865-era Washington D.C.
You'll spot the Harper-Fowlkes House, Fort Pulaski, the U.S. Customs House on Bay Street, Chatham Square, and the Roundhous Railroad Museum. It's very fun to see so many local spots in one film! Order it here.
The Legend of Bagger Vance
Matt Damon starred in this one as master golfer Rannulph Junah from Savannah, GA. Most of the scenes were filmed in the South Carolina Lowcountry, but Savannah's own City Market managed to make the cut!
This is another Robert Redford-directed movie. Apparently he's a fan of the area, or at least enjoyed the incentives for filming here. Order it here.
Maps of Savannah
These maps are extremely detailed and include lots of fun to read and quirky details about Savannah. I often give them to friends who are visiting, and they end up keeping them as souvenirs!
- Savannah Georgia Historic District Illustrated Map
- Haunted Savannah Illustrated Map
- Bonaventure Cemetery Illustrated Map
I hope this list of books about Savannah was helpful! If there are any others you recommend, please let me know below.