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Guides to finding places in Middle Tennessee
If I can't find it on the Internet, I do what everyone did before 1995, crack open a book and read about it. These guides are grouped by theme.
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WaterfallsWaterfalls of Tennessee This is an excellent book, and in my opinion beats any one single internet resource for finding over 250 local waterfalls. They are grouped by regions, such as Highland Rim, South Cumberland Plateau, Smokies, etc. For each waterfall, the author Gregory Plumb gives clear driving directions to each location as well as what to expect when getting there, such as difficulty and length of the hike, or likelihood of it thinning out during dry spells.
Waterfall Walks and Drives in Georgia Alabama and Tennessee This is a good book, but doesn't focus too much on Tennessee. Most of the book is dedicated to Northern Alabama, which is still not too far away for some scenic wonders. There is a 2001 edition of this book, in addition to the 1995 version. It's worth the extra couple of dollars to get the 2001 version.
Tennessee Taproots: Courthouses Of Tennessee This is a fairly simple book. For every county in Tennessee, there is one page of information. The author visited every county in Tennessee and there is a half-page sized picture of the courthouse, plus a paragraph of history about the county and it's courthouses. There are two versions of this book, one from 1977 and an updated one from 1996. If you like courthouses, I'd suggest finding both versions as all of the pictures were updated. It is interesting to see how many changes have occurred in two decades between the time both books were published. Some new Courthouses were built during this time, others were changed and expanded. In some cases, the trees out front were smaller obscuring less of the building.
John W. Carpenter's Tennessee Courthouses: A Celebration of 200 Years of County Courthouses This is an excellent coffee table book, if you can afford it. In fact, I think it's the most expensive book I have ever bought. John Carpenter also visited every county in Tennessee, and each county is represented with a two page spread, with some bonus material in the back of the book. For each county is a full page black and white photo of the current courthouse (as of 1996). In addition, historical photos of the current and/or previous courthouses is provided along with a brief history. The photographer is from Kentucky and has a similar book of Kentucky Courthouses.
Tennessee's Troubled Roots This book is by the same authors as the Tennessee Taproots book above, and is presented in a similar format as their courthouse book. There's only one version of this book from 1979. As a fun bonus, the authors provide data for how many lynchings each county has had.
Rock City Barns
Rock City Barns: A Passing Era This is the definitive guide to Rock City Barns! Sanctioned by the people at Rock City, David Jenkins was given the disorganized files of where about 800 barns had been painted over the years. He set out to find all of the ones which remain, visiting about 250 of them all over the south. In my years of looking, I have only found a couple that he missed, but I have used his book to find several I otherwise would have missed. For each pictured barn is information about what county it is in, plus the highway you'll find it on. Sadly, in the 10+ years since the book was published, a few of the barns are now gone.
See Rock City Barns: A Tennessee Tradition The author of this book is a watercolor artist. She visited about 30 Rock City barns in Tennessee and met with the barn's owners. For each barn, the book has a nice painting and a short biographical sketch of the owners and barn.
Advertising Barns This book doesn't focus on Tennessee as much, but it is a god book if you are interested in painted barns. In addition to Rock City barns, there are pictures of Mail Pouch Tobacco barns, as well as other tourist sites like Ruby Falls and Meramec Caverns on Route 66.
Nature and Parks
Natural Wonders of Tennessee: Exploring Wild and Scenic PlacesTennessee Wonders: A Pictorial Guide to the Parks
Hiking Tennessee I don't get out hiking as much as I used too, but when I do, this book is a good resource to take along with you if you're taking a hike mentioned in the book. The guide points out things you'll see along the way, as well as tips for the trail you're on.
Buildings, Homes and Architecture
Classical Nashville: Athens of the South With a close-up of detail on the Parthenon on the front, the thing that really got my attention when I first saw this at the bookstore was the back cover which was a picture of a billboard in London for Nashville's Parthenon. This book is a guide to architecture in Nashville focusing on how certain buildings use historic design styles in their elements.
Majestic Middle Tennessee (The Majesty Architecture Series) This is a guide to about 50 historic homes within about 100 miles of Nashville. This book is great for anyone who loves mansions.
Architecture of Middle Tennessee: The Historic American Buildings Survey This book from 1977 highlights about 15 buildings in and around Nashville, going in depth about each building
Nashville: A Short History and Selected Buildings This book was published in 1974 and written by the Historical Commission of Metropolitan Nashville. The "Short History" is about a 10 page history of Nashville, but the "Selected Buildings" part is what makes this book important. This book is more encompassing than most guides to historic buildings, as it features 95 different places (mostly homes) in Nashville. For each location, there is a small picture and a paragraph of description. Affixed to the back cover is a map of Nashville which gives you a general idea where each place is located.
The Natchez Trace (and the Parkway)
Traveling the Trace: A Complete Tour Guide to the Historic Natchez Trace from Nashville to Natchez
Natchez Trace: Two Centuries of Travel
Guide to the Natchez Trace Parkway
Guides to driving the backroads (and finding points of interest)
Tennessee's Historic Landscapes: A Traveler's Guide This is the best book in this category. I first checked out this book from the local library and renewed it two times. I found myself referring back to it so many times, I had to own a copy. This book was written by UT professor Carroll Van West and with 500 pages of information, makes for a good value. The book lists several driving itineraries for hundreds of locations all over the state.
Touring the Middle Tennessee Backroads This book is a very similar premise to the previous book, except it focuses only on Middle Tennessee. It makes for a good companion to the previous book as each lists locations not in the other one. This book is 400 pages and also includes more parks and natural areas than the Van West book.
Touring the East Tennessee Backroads This is in the same series as the Middle Tennessee Book, and is just as informative. If you want a copy, make sure you get the 2007 edition over the 1993 edition. There are other regions and states in this series.
Tennessee Off the Beaten Path, 9th: A Guide to Unique Places As the name implies, this book highlights many of the lesser known places to visit. This book is also the most up to date of this kind of book. It seems like they make a new edition every couple of years, as this is the 9th edition. If you're looking for a bargain, search for the 8th, 7th or 6th edition.
Slow Travels-Tennessee As of my writing this, this book is quite new. In the days before the interstates, people used the major U.S. Highways for their long distance driving. This book focuses on four of the U.S. highways that pass through Tennessee, US11, US25, US31 and US70. The book points out many points of interest along each route and describes exactly where you can find it. There are several books in this series covering other nearby states.
Country Roads of Tennessee (Country Roads Of...)
Day Trips from Nashville, 5th Edition
Explore Nashville! a Guide for Children and Their Grown-Up Friends
A Directory of Historical Markers--Nashville-Davidson County
The Tennessee Sampler
Romantic Tennessee: More Than 300 Things to Do for Southern Lovers
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