Mountain Vacation Reading List: Books to Enjoy in the Smoky Mountains

Nestled in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg emerge as top choices for a mountain holiday. Renowned for their family-friendly attractions, outdoor adventures, and scenic beauty, they're the perfect places to relax, forget about the world, and feel time melt away.

A trip to the Great Smoky Mountains region is a chance to commune with nature, breathe in the fresh mountain air, and steep yourself in the rich history and culture of the Appalachian region. To enhance your experience, consider packing a book (or two) that captures the essence of the Smokies.

Why Take a Book on Your Vacation?

A book is the perfect companion to fill those gaps between exploring the surrounding area. It also allows you to unwind and disconnect from daily life.

Whether you crave a light and breezy beach read, a thrilling mystery, or a thought-provoking novel, there's a book out there to perfectly complement your mountain escape. Plus, reading local literature can deepen your appreciation for Appalachian culture and history.

Wondering what to read? Look no further! In this blog, we'll bring you a list of titles perfect for your Smoky Mountains trip.

Are you ready to embark on a literary journey?

Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business, by Dolly Parton

Legendary country music singer and songwriter, Dolly Parton, is arguably the most famous person associated with the Smokies - and it's a great idea to learn about her stratospheric success in the music industry when heading to her home region. In her autobiography published in 1994, Parton candidly shares her rags-to-riches story, including her childhood experiences growing up in a large, poor family, her early forays into music, the struggles and triumphs of her career, and her personal philosophies.

It's an honest, warm, and humorous account of the facts, and Parton doesn't shy away from difficult aspects of her life. Her down-to-earth personality comes across and indeed shines through the pages.

This autobiography would be a delightful way to connect with the cultural heritage of the region and makes for a great incentive for you to visit Dollywood in Pigeon Forge.

Gatlinburg and the Great Smokies by Ernie Pyle

Gatlinburg and the Great Smokies by Ernie Pyle is a book that focuses on the human element of the Great Smoky Mountains, rather than just the scenery.

Published in 1940, the book highlights articles that surrounded the town of Gatlinburg, a popular tourist destination even back then. To Pyle, while he agrees the mountains are a wonder to behold, the true wonder lies in the local people. Therefore, this book explores early settlers who made the mountains their home, the rich history of the Cherokee people in the region, and the lives and stories of the residents themselves.

Pyle, who is considered one of the great writers of our time, was an American journalist who wrote as a roving correspondent for a newspaper chain until his death in combat during World War II. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1944. His folksy style feels much like a personal letter to a friend.

This collection of essays is about things close to the heart of all who love the Smokies. They are simple (as is all great writing), sincere, and touched by a quaint and whimsical humor.

Our Southern Highlanders by Horace Kephart

Published in 1913, "Our Southern Highlanders" recounts Horace Kephart's adventures living among the mountaineers in the remote Hazel Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountains during the early 1900s. You'll encounter stories of his encounters with the locals, including thrilling moments like a raid for moonshiners.

The book delves into the unique customs, traditions, and way of life of the Appalachian people. Kephart provides a window into their language, music, folklore, and daily routines, giving a deeper understanding of the region's cultural heritage.

This firsthand account brings the Smokies of the past to life and, in its own way, will allow you to better connect present-day Smokies and its people.

Horace Kephart: An adventurer and writer who fell in love with the Smokies. He spent years living among the mountain folk, immersing himself in their culture. His writing is engaging and descriptive, and will surely enrich your understanding of the Smokies on your vacation.

101 Travel Bits: Great Smoky Mountains National Park by Sarah Ferguson

Instead of the usual guidebook format with maps and photos, this book delves into 101 "bits" of information about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including interesting historical tidbits, fun facts about the flora and fauna, lesser-known sights and attractions, and cultural aspects of the region.

The author, Sarah Ferguson, aims to provide details to enhance your overall vacation experience. She goes beyond the basics, talking about hidden gems and intriguing stories beyond the usual tourist spots. There's also a lot in there about history and culture, and understanding the stories behind the scenery will make your visit to the park more meaningful.

Sarah Ferguson has other guidebooks on similar experiences in the USA, including Shenandoah National Park, Acadia National Park, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. She lives with her husband in a small town in southern Wisconsin, along with their two cats and her dog.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

This travel memoir comes highly praised as a discovery of the great outdoors. A Walk in the Woods recounts Bill Bryson's attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail, which stretches over 2,100 miles from Georgia to Maine.

The book chronicles his misadventures alongside his old friend Katz and their encounters with colorful characters, and the physical and mental challenges they face. It all amounts to an insightful look at the history and ecology of the Appalachian Trail.

Bill Bryson is a renowned author known for his engaging, humorous, and informative travel writing. A Walk in the Woods will definitely make you want to grab your boots and hit up the wild side.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

On to the wilderness of the West Coast, with another memoir: Wild follows Cheryl Strayed's 1,100-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from the Mojave Desert in California to the Bridge of the Gods on the Oregon-Washington border. This is the journey Strayed embarked on after the devastating experience of losing her mother to cancer.

Through flashbacks, the narrative revisits Strayed's struggles, such as her failing marriage, battles with addiction, and feelings of sadness and insecurity.

Strayed is an acclaimed American author known for her deeply personal and introspective memoirs. This is her best-known work. It became a New York Times bestseller and in 2014 it was adapted into a film starring Reese Witherspoon.

Great Books to Enjoy on a Trip to the Smoky Mountains

Picking one or two titles from the list above is sure to add an extra layer of enjoyment to your mountain vacation in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Picture yourself reading a few pages between exploring the stunning landscape or feeling the cozy ambiance of a local cafe — it sounds amazing, doesn't it?

Here are some extra tips for reading while traveling on vacation:

  • Explore Local Bookstores: Seek out independent bookstores or local shops at your destination. Not only will you find unique reads that offer insight into the culture and history of the area, but you'll also be supporting local writers and businesses.

  • Research Local Authors: Before your trip, research authors from the region you're visiting. Look for novels, short stories, or poetry collections that capture the essence of the destination. Reading works by local writers can provide a deeper understanding of the culture and landscape.

  • Find Inspiring Spots: Seek out scenic spots where you can immerse yourself in a good book. Whether it's a cozy cafe or a peaceful park, finding the perfect reading spot can enhance your vacation experience.

  • Try Audiobooks for Convenience: If you prefer an alternative medium or want to multitask while traveling, audiobooks are a great option. Download audiobooks onto your smartphone or portable device to enjoy while sightseeing, during long journeys, or maybe as you take a long hike up the mountains.

  • Embrace Digital Books: You can also opt for digital books while traveling to save space and weight in your luggage. Plus, you'll have a wide selection of titles at your fingertips wherever you go!

For more tips and recommendations on what to do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, head to our destination blog. We've written about everything from the best restaurants in the region and the best breakfast spots in the area to a full guide to fishing and much more.

Are you wondering where to stay in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and The Smoky Mountains?

Why not enhance your vacation with the stunning backdrop of the Smoky Mountains in a great rental property?

At Stony Brook, we offer an exceptional array of cabins and chalets in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and Cosby, ranging from one to 16 bedrooms. As a family-owned service, we guarantee you'll have the best experience in the Smokies!

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