April 13, 2017

Return to S-Town

Have you listened to the podcast S-Town yet? If you clicked on this, you probably have and you probably have a lot of feelings about it. And maybe you weren’t quite ready to the leave the world it built. Or maybe you've just been hearing the buzz and want to make sure you're in the loop when you get a reader asking you about books or media like S-Town. 

To recap, John B. McLemore is the central focus of S-Town. He’s a clock-fixing, manifesto-writing, polymath whose fascinating life story unfolds over the podcast’s seven episodes. His story provides the narrative momentum that makes this such a compelling podcast. 

When using NoveList to find books with similarly provocative characters, there are several search strategies you may find helpful. I started with a broad subject and genre search to focus on what I was most interested in (the subject) and the style and conventions of the narrative (genre):

GN life stories AND SU eccentrics and eccentricities

There are many ways to adapt and hone this strategy; note that, while extensive criteria makes for a precise search, it can also limit your result pool. Keeping that in mind, let’s look at how we can make some modifications. 

S-Town takes place in a small, rural Alabama town is brought to life through the detailed narration of the podcast host as well as interviews with long-time residents. To access these aspects of the story, try these subject headings:

  • Small towns
  • Small town life
  • Rural life
  • Southern states
  • Rednecks (Southern United States)
  • Social history
  • Working class
  • Social classes

You might also add appeals, like

  • Strong sense of place
  • Atmospheric
  • Moving
  • Descriptive
  • Richly detailed
  • Journalistic
  • Compelling

Mix and match to suit your tastes and interests. If you remove the Life stories genre you’ll get both fiction and nonfiction results. If you just want one, you can refine your results in the toolbar to the left. (And if you really want fiction, you should definitely look into the Southern gothic genre, more on this below.)

Following are different approaches to searching for books that have some affinity to S-Town. You’ll notice they only use a few terms so that we’ll have a larger group of results to work with.

  • SU ( eccentrics and eccentricities ) AND SU small town* 
  • SU gay men AND SU southern states
  • SU southern states social life and customs
  • GN life stories AND SU Southern states
  • GN life stories AND SU small town*
  • GN true crime AND SU small towns 
  • GN true crime AND SU Southern states

If fiction’s what you’re after, I strongly suggest you browse the Southern gothic genre. S-Town’s storytelling is right at home with Faulkner, Carson McCullers, and Flannery O’Connor. As a genre, Southern gothic brings to life grotesque characters which, in literary terms, means larger than life, exaggerated, and always spilling over any perceived boundaries. It’s a genre that pulses with the tension of the Old South, the grand delusion of quaint plantation life and the endemic legacy of violence and slavery. And, since it's region specific, the Southern gothic novel evinces a strong sense of place and a keen awareness of local atmosphere. To find Southern gothic in NoveList, try a simple genre search:

GN Southern gothic 

To learn more about NoveList genres and find more tips for searching NoveList for books similar to your favorite podcast, download our genre guide


Christine Wells is a Metadata Librarian at NoveList.





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