To choose four Southern novels written in the last century is an overwhelming task, given the richness of American literature. Call it a beginning of our re-examination of the books that kept us up at night when we first read them. The titles The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (Houghton Mifflin, 1940), Absalom, Absalom (Random House, 1936), The Movie Goer (Alfred Knopf, 1961), and The Confessions of Nat Turner (Random House, 1967) will evoke memories of the first time we heard the names Carson McCullers, William Faulkner, Walker Percy, or William Styron. We come to these four remarkable books, perhaps for the second time, and we bring to them our lived history and the accumulation of experience that enriches our reading. As readers, perhaps as Midwesterners, we enter the complicated world of the South, a world exposed as both cruel and beautiful by these giants of American literature.