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Best Books to Read Before You Visit the Great Smoky Mountains

Updated: Feb 19, 2022

Are you debating which book to read by the campfire or longing for a return to the blue hills? Try one of our favorite books about or set in the Great Smoky Mountains. Don't forget to check your local library for these titles, too!

Books Set in the Smoky Mountains

Cataloochee: A Novel

By Wayne Caldwell

An epic story told over the lifetime of multiple Appalachian families living in the Cataloochee Valley before its establishment as part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Escaping the crowds of nearby Ashville and the abusive home of his youth, Ezra Banks moves to the Cataloochee seeking land, a wife, and the opportunity to mold a farm out of the wilderness. The story is sprinkled with homespun humor and wisdom and gives you a better sense of life in the Smokies following the Civil War and up until the early 1930s.


By Catherine Marshall

Christy tells the story of a nineteen-year-old who moves deep into the Smoky Mountains in 1912 to teach the poverty-stricken children of Cutter Gap. The young teacher feels transported back in time after leaving her home in Asheville, North Carolina, and is overwhelmed by the living conditions, traditions, and superstitions of the Appalachian highlanders. Christy must discover if her determination is enough to both survive and make a difference in the community. Christy is based on the real-life stories of the author's mother and was turned into a CBS television series in the 1990s.

Be Not Far From Me

By Mindy McGinnis

The world is not tame and that truth is no more evident than when you're lost in the woods. Ashley hikes into the Smoky Mountains for a night of partying with her high school friends, but bad decisions take a turn for the worse when she drunkenly runs off after catching her boyfriend with another girl. Despite her vast experience in the woods growing up, her injuries and lack of gear make her chances of survival slim. This gritty survival story may have your eyes rolling at main character's decisions and predicament, but you won't be able to put it down and may even learn a thing or two to do (or not to do) if you ever find yourself in her shoes.

Books About the Smoky Mountains

Bear in the Back Seat

By Kim DeLozier & Carolyn Jourdan

Kim DeLozier shares the unique adventures he experienced over his 30+ years as a park ranger, from airlifting a bear on a questionable dose of tranquilizers to relocating 77 skunks. His tales are humorous and to the point, but also provide a look at the Park's conservation efforts and what rangers do to keep humans and the region's critters safe. It's clear that leaving no trace behind doesn't just keep the backcountry pleasant, it saves the lives of our furry friends, too. A must-read for wildlife enthusiasts and Park visitors.

Living Stories of the Cherokee

Collected & Edited by Barbara Duncan

This collection includes seventy-two traditional and contemporary tales from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina. The Cherokee have lived in the Smoky Mountains region for more than a thousand years, but the majority were relocated to Oklahoma in the 1830s during what is now known as the "Trail of Tears." The remaining residents can primarily be found today in the Qualla Boundary, or Cherokee Indian Reservation. This remarkable book features animal stories, creation myths, legends, and ghost stories that will make you laugh, cry, and better understand the region's rich heritage.

Our Southern Highlanders

By Horace Kephart

Kephart is an Appalachian legend for being one of the first to chronicle the life and culture of the mountaineers living there in the early 1900s and his efforts to start The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From hog hunts to moonshine, Kephart will transport you to a time and place lost to history but still glimpsed from time to time in the hidden hollers of Appalachia. A must-read for history and Appalachian culture buffs.

Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics

By Dolly Parton

You can't visit the GSMNP area without learning more about the patron saint of Sevier County, Dolly Parton. In Songteller, Dolly shares stories from her life, including her upbringing in the Smoky Mountains of Sevierville, TN. The hardcover version of the book contains exceptional photos, but it's too large and heavy to tote around while traveling. We highly recommend the audiobook narrated by Dolly herself. After listening, you'll have a deeper level of respect for the musician and may need to make a stop at Dollywood on your way through Pigeon Forge after all.

More Reading Recommendations

What are your favorite Smoky Mountain books?

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