I love Sharyn McCrumb's Appalachain series. These books, including The Songcatcher, paint an amazing portrait of life in the Appalachains. Each book can stand on its own. Many of the same characters pop in and out of the books, but each books is written to be read by itself. My husband actually discovered Sharyn McCrumb when we lived in Iowa. He was looking for books on the Appalachain Trail and found her book She Walks These Hills. My Dad, voracious and insatiable reader that he is, picked it up off the bookshelf and plowed through it. He said it was absolutely enthralling. Of course I immediately read it--and it was amazing. All of McCrumb's books in this genre (she also has a detective series that I'm not crazy about) weave an "old" story in with a current one. Lots of good history. Anyway, I highly recommend starting with She Walks These Hills and reading all of them. Perhaps the books are more poignant to me because I live in this area, but I think they would have a wide appeal.