Books about New Orleans

There are many interesting books about the city of New Orleans, written both before and after Hurricane Katrina. Prepare for your visit by reading several.

* Very New Orleans: A Celebration of History, Culture, and Cajun Country Charm by Diana Hollingsworth Gessler (2006) - This attractive sketchbook recommends sites to see and places to eat. It also illustrates common New Orleans architecture and culture.

* Why New Orleans Matters by Tom Piazza (2005) - The author tells why he chose to live in New Orleans (the jazz, the cuisine, the people) and about his experiences in the months just after the hurricane.

* A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1987) - The classic New Orleans novel. If you haven't read it.. or if you have... pick it up before visiting. No other work of fiction or film comes as close to capturing the unique character of this city. While the book appears to outsiders to be a farce, most locals will claim it is closer to documentary. These characters do exist in New Orleans.. and probably couldn't anywhere else.

* Lords of Misrule: Mardi Gras and the Politics of Race in New Orleans by James Gill (1997) Times-Picayune political columnist, Gill, explores the history of the city's "Old Line" Carnival Krewe aristocracy and its role in the city's complex and contentious racial politics. The book is framed by Gill's first-hand reporting on a controversial 1991 attempt by the city to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance regulating the behavior of New Orleans's elite luncheon clubs whose membership is basically interchangeable with that of the old line krewes. A good way to learn a lot about the city's history in a short read.

* New Orleans, Mon Amour by Andrei Codrescu (2006) - This paperback collects twenty years of Codrescu's writings about his adopted city. If you like his commentaries on NPR's All Things Considered, youwill enjoy this book.

* New Orleans: Elegance and Decadence photographts by Richard Sexton (1993) - While this may at first glance appear to be an artistic decorating book, readers will find a good explanation of how New Orleans got to be New Orleans. Urban history, architecture, interior design, gardening, and Mardi Gras are the topics. Recycle, reuse, and work with what you have is the attitude.