10 Best Erskine Caldwell Books: American Novels You’ll Love

Discover the short story phenom Erskine Caldwell’s lasting effect on Americana literature by exploring our list of the ten best Erskine Caldwell books.

American short story author and novelist Erskine Caldwell is revered as one of the greatest writers in American history. His stories are known for his no-holds-barred approach to writing about racism, poverty, classism, and social issues in the United States. His works have been met with wide critical acclaim and serve as a framework for understanding what life in America was like for many in the 1930s.

Caldwell tried his hand at college several times but never completed his degree. In his early 20s, the writer worked for the Atlanta Journal. Later, he moved to Maine and, over five years, wrote a work that earned the Yale Review Award. Today, Caldwell is known as much for his great short stories as for his novels.

Here Are The Best Erskine Caldwell Books

Best Erskine Caldwell books
Erskine Caldwell via Wikipedia, Public Domain

1. Tobacco Road

Tobacco Road takes place in rural Georgia in the early 1930s and tells the stories of the Lester family, sharecroppers living in poverty. With their neighbors, the family works hard to find a way to create a different future for their children. This novel is widely known as one of the most accurate, cutting portrayals of life in the rural American South, and cemented Caldwell’s place as one of the most prolific authors in American literary history.

“He still could not understand why he had nothing, and would never have anything, and there was no one who knew and who could tell him. It was the unsolved mystery of his life.”

Erskine Caldwell, Tobacco Road
Tobacco Road
  • Caldwell, Erskine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 146 Pages - 05/04/2017 (Publication Date) - Lulu.com (Publisher)

2. God’s Little Acre

God’s Little Acre takes readers through the tale of a Georgia family constantly searching for wealth. The protagonist of the story, Ty Ty, believes that gold is buried somewhere on his farm and dedicates years to searching for treasure. The story explores how the constant search for more can ruin a family’s morals. The book’s sexual themes made it a topic of debate when published in 1933.

“All you boys seem to think about is the things you can see and touch—that ain’t living. It’s the things you can feel inside of you—that’s what living is made for.”

Erskine Caldwell, God’s Little Acre
God's Little Acre: A Novel (Brown Thrasher Books Ser.)
  • Erskine Caldwell (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 02/01/1995 (Publication Date) - University of Georgia Press (Publisher)

3. Georgia Boy

Georgia Boy is a collection of short stories starring 12-year-old William Stroup, a boy living with the hardships of poverty in Georgia. Readers find the story more lighthearted than Caldwell’s other books. This story touches on the social issues that plagued families in the rural South in the 1930s. If you’re looking for non-fiction, fiction, and short stories to read, you might enjoy our guide on the best Jeffrey Archer books.

“Ma and I were on the back porch when we heard the noise, and we didn’t know what to make of it. Ma said she was afraid it was the crack of doom, and she told me to hurry and turn the wringer handle faster so she could get Mrs. Dudley’s laundry wrung and pinned on the clothesline before something terrible happened.”

Erskine Caldwell, Georgia Boy
Georgia Boy: Stories
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Caldwell, Erskine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 150 Pages - 06/21/2011 (Publication Date) - Open Road Media (Publisher)

4. Journeyman

Journeyman tells the story of a murdering preacher who arrives in Rocky Comfort, Georgia. His presence quickly wreaks havoc on the small town. He quickly begins to help the town’s citizens justify their shortcomings, and then he uses those shortcomings to create a raucous, tumultuous environment.

“With his eyes closed, Clay tried to hear through the ringing of heat in his ears the disturbance of a stranger’s arrival. He could recognize the jabbering of a jaybird and the screech of a tightening plowshare, and all the other familiar sounds that came to him from miles around over the sandy plowlands, but it was hard for him to distinguish strange sounds in his own front yard.”

Erskine Caldwell, Journeyman
Journeyman: A Novel
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Caldwell, Erskine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 220 Pages - 06/21/2011 (Publication Date) - Open Road Media (Publisher)

5. In Search of Bisco

In Search of Bisco follows Caldwell’s real-life search for Bisco, his childhood best friend. Bisco was Black, Caldwell was white, and the two were forced apart decades prior. While Caldwell never finds his friend again, he details eighteen conversations with people who could lead him to Bisco, painting a picture of what life was like in the South in the mid-1960s.

“The scene of my first becoming aware of the existence of color differences among people was my birthplace on an isolated farm deep in the piney-wood country of the red clay hills of Coweta County in Middle Georgia. My introduction to the reality of a dividing line between white-skin people and black-skin people was abrupt.”

Erskine Caldwell, In Search of Bisco
In Search of Bisco: A Memoir
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Caldwell, Erskine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 197 Pages - 06/21/2011 (Publication Date) - Open Road Media (Publisher)

6. You Have Seen Their Faces

You Have Seen Their Faces is a collaboration between Caldwell and photographer Margaret Bourke-White. The pair spent a year and a half exploring the Deep South to share living conditions as a sharecropper. Caldwell captures perfect quotes from the people in photographs, creating a dark portrayal of what life was like for white and Black farmers during the Great Depression.

“A man learns not to expect much after he’s farmed cotton most of his life.”

Erskine Caldwell, You Have Seen Their Faces
You Have Seen Their Faces (Brown Thrasher Books Ser.)
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Caldwell, Erskine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 136 Pages - 02/01/1995 (Publication Date) - University of Georgia Press (Publisher)

7. Place Called Estherville

Place Called Estherville details the lives of biracial siblings Kathyanne and Ganus, who move to a segregated town. The two face unthinkable abuse from community members as they work to care for their sick aunt. This novel offers readers a glimpse into what segregation and racism were like in the Deep South in the pre-Civil Rights era.

“For once in his life he felt as utterly worldly and rake-helly as the Baptist minister said all men were.”

Erskine Caldwell, Place Called Estherville
Place Called Estherville: A Novel
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Caldwell, Erskine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 218 Pages - 06/21/2011 (Publication Date) - Open Road Media (Publisher)

8. The Sacrilege of Alan Kent

The Sacrilege of Alan Kent is semi-autobiographical, as it tells the story of many episodes during Caldwell’s childhood. Readers can see how Caldwell’s concern for his area’s poorest citizens will go on to shape his later work as an author, as well as how Caldwell begins to realize that his talents lie in storytelling.

“At night I saw how beautiful the day could never be.”

Erskine Caldwell, The Sacrilege of Alan Kent
The Sacrilege of Alan Kent
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Hardcover Book
  • Caldwell, Erskine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 88 Pages - 01/01/1996 (Publication Date) - University of Georgia Press (Publisher)

9. The Sure Hand of God

The Sure Hand of God details the story of Molly Bowser and her daughter Lily. Molly attracted men into her life who did not result in healthy relationships, and she wanted to create a different outcome for Lily. Throughout the story, readers watch as Molly’s relentless efforts still lead Lily to a similar fate as her mother.

“When Lily marries she’s going to marry a man who can give her everything.”

Erskine Caldwell, The Sure Hand of God
The Sure Hand of God
  • Hardcover Book
  • Caldwell, Erskine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 243 Pages - 09/09/2023 (Publication Date) - Duell, Sloan and Pearce (Publisher)

10. Call it Experience

Call it Experience is Caldwell’s memoir, and throughout, he shares with readers the ups and downs of his career over thirty years. He explains what it took to find his voice and how hard he had to work to make a name for himself in literature and journalism. Caldwell’s determination and eventual success will inspire aspiring professional writers. Looking for more history books to binge on a weekend? You might find our round-up of the best books on Native American history interesting! You can also use our search bar to search for other best books in any genre you are interested in!

“Probably almost everyone who makes his bread as a storyteller has at some time asked himself how it happened that he did not become an actor or a banker or a shoe salesman but became instead an author.”

Erskine Caldwell, Call it Experience
Call it experience;: The years of learning how to write
  • Hardcover Book
  • Caldwell, Erskine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 239 Pages - 09/09/2023 (Publication Date) - Duell, Sloan, and Pearce (Publisher)

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  • Amanda has an M.S.Ed degree from the University of Pennsylvania in School and Mental Health Counseling and is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. She has experience writing magazine articles, newspaper articles, SEO-friendly web copy, and blog posts.