Florida books: Last minute gift ideas for the procrastinators among us

Here are a few of our favorite books about Florida or by local authors that could make excellent stocking stuffers for history buffs and other bookworms. Click on the book title to read an excerpt that can give you a feel for the writing and content.

From Saloons to Steak Houses by Andrew T. Huse
A USF Librarian and Florida Historian pieces together first-hand accounts and old newspaper clips to tell the stories of Tampa's historic romp through alcohol and food.

Rising and Other Stories by Gale Massey
In her debut collection of 13 short stories, a seventh-generation Floridian from Tampa explores the lives of girls and women and the moments that shape and alter destiny.
Man Overboard by Susan F. Edwards  
Man Overboard explores the disappearance of the flamboyant developer who created Davis Islands.

The Gulf by Jack E. Davis
In this winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in history, Davis explores the history of the Gulf of Mexico, which is bordered by five states of the United States on the northern and the eastern border, five Mexican states on its western and southern border, and Cuba to the southeast.

Millard Fillmore Caldwell by Gary R. Mormino
In this biography, beloved USF professor emeritus of Florida history Gary Mormino takes a deeper dive into the state’s World War II era and the leadership of former Gov. Millard Fillmore Caldwell through the lens of today.

Seafood Lovers Florida by Bruce Hunt
Readers will crisscross the state visiting seafood places from mom-and-pop fish camps to fine dining establishments, and meet the people who make the places special.

The Palmetto Book by Jono Miller
Educator, activist, and natural historian Jono Miller of Sarasota looks at the natural and cultural history of the iconic palmetto plant, also known as the cabbage palm or Sabal palmetto, which is found in the southeastern American landscape (and is the state tree of Florida and South Carolina).

Call Me Commander by Jeff Testerman and Daniel M. Freed
Set in the 1990s in Florida (mostly Tampa and Ybor City), this is the true story of “A Former Intelligence Officer and the Journalists Who Uncovered His Scheme to Fleece America.’’

Speaking of Florida: My Time Remembered by Terrell Sessums
The late Tampa lawyer Terrell Sessums, a graduate of the University of Florida and a U.S. Air Force veteran, served as a member of the Florida House of Representatives from 1963 to 1974. During the 1972-74 session, he served as Speaker of the House. This is his story.

Made in Florida by Art Levy
Interviews with notable people who got their start in the state and who have helped make it the unique, diverse place it is today.

BEAUT by Don Morrill
University of Tampa creative writing Instructor Donald Morrill won the 2017 Lee Smith Novel prize for BEAUT, his haunting story of Jill Lundgrove, an unforgettable wife and mother who fell into madness.

Son of Real Florida by Jeff Klinkenberg
“HOO-TEEHOO!” If you hear that call, you'll know it's time to gather round for A Swamp Wedding as told by Jeff Klinkenberg, a former newspaper reporter and son of real Florida. In this book, he explores some of the stories that have made the state unique over the last 50 years.

Florida Scrub-Jay by Mark Jerome Walters
Mark Jerome Walters, a journalist, veterinarian, and professor in the Department of Journalism and Digital Communications at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg, explores the plight of the vanishing Florida Scrub-Jay.

Cigar City: Tales From a 1980s Creative Ghetto by Paul Wilborn
A collection of fictional linked short stories set in Ybor City by a former newspaper reporter. Names have been changed to protect the guilty and the innocent. 

Florida's Fishing Legends and Pioneers by Doug Kelly
Clearwater Author Doug Kelly shares Florida fishing stories, including insights into the friendship between sporting greats Sam Snead and Ted Williams. 

Read more book excerpts published in 83 Degrees.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Diane Egner.

Diane Egner is a community leader and award-winning journalist with more than four decades of experience reporting and writing about the Tampa Bay Area of Florida. She serves on the boards of the University of South Florida Zimmerman School of Advertising & Mass Communications Advisory Council, The Institute for Research in Art (Graphicstudio, the Contemporary Art Museum, and USF’s Public Art Program) Community Advisory Council, Sing Out and Read, and StageWorks Theatre Advisory Council. She also is a member of Leadership Florida and the Athena Society. A graduate of the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism, she won the top statewide award for editorial writing from the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors while at The Tampa Tribune and received special recognition by the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists for creative work as Content Director at WUSF Public Media. Past accomplishments and community service include leadership positions with Tampa Tiger Bay Club, USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy (WLP), Alpha House of Tampa Bay, Awesome Tampa Bay, Florida Kinship Center, AIA Tampa Bay, Powerstories, Arts Council of Hillsborough County, and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. Diane and her husband, Sandy Rief, live in Tampa.