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Southern Lady Code: Essays

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  8,106 ratings  ·  1,265 reviews
The bestselling author of American Housewife is back with a fiercely funny collection of essays on marriage and manners, thank-you notes and three-ways, ghosts, gunshots, gynecology, and the Calgon-scented, onion-dipped, monogrammed art of living as a Southern Lady.

Helen Ellis has a mantra: "If you don't have something nice to say, say something not-so-nice in a nice way."
Hardcover, 203 pages
Published April 16th 2019 by Doubleday Books
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Average rating 3.61  · 
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 ·  8,106 ratings  ·  1,265 reviews

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Southern Lady Code: "If you don't have something nice to say, say something not-so-nice in a nice way."

After a couple of books that were misses, Marialyce and I decided to go a different route and read a book of humorous essays, Southern Lady Code. We were ready for some laughs.

At 224 pages this is a quick, easy read, perfect as a palate cleanser. Helen Ellis is witty and snarky and delivers more than a few lines that made me chuckle out loud. Other essays were misses, but overall I would recomm
Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
This was a fun easy read, just a couple of hours of stories that were suppose to inform Southern ladies about the way they act, which of course is always the correct way. Being a transported Southern lady, I was anxious to see what I needed to do to be part and parcel of the Southern Lady culture. Along the way, I picked up a few pointers, chuckled a few times, and pretty much liked the essays presented.
You can't be a Southern lady though without the term "Bless your heart" a phrase that has mor
Mar 10, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: netgalley, read-in-19
Received via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

I love good southern humor. We bless hearts and sip sweet tea and smile sweetly as we mention that your outfit is so daring, we could never pull that off.

This is not good southern humor.

This doesn't even come close to good southern humor.

I believe Helen Ellis is probably a fantastic oral story teller. When you tell a funny story in person, you get to embellish, make hand gestures, enunciate different words. The presentation of
Valerity (Val)
Southern Lady Code: Essays 

This is an entertaining collection of funny essays by Helen Ellis written with wit and candor and touching on family and marriage. Having lived in the South for a couple of decades now, I found plenty to grin at and relate to. If you’re Southern or know someone who is, you’ll likely enjoy it too, or if you like sassy, slightly snarky humor. I enjoyed the style of humor. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Helen Ellis, and th
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Helen Ellis is hilarious, brilliant, and utterly mad. Southern Lady Code will make you a better woman or a better man — once you have cleaned up the coffee you spit through your nose from laughing so hard. I loved this book: every essay and every word.
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
"From here on out I'll consider myself an antique lamp. I am worth something and polished. I may be fragile, but I've survived. I am a conversation starter. I'll never be too old to light up a room." -- Helen Ellis

I have to begin by (again) complimenting my local library system - without them obtaining and then displaying Ellis' Southern Lady Code on their new release shelf I probably wouldn't have even heard of it or read it. I do like a good collection of diverse humorous essays, and this is o
Madalyn (Novel Ink)
A decidedly average essay collection. I loved some of these essays and loathed others. Helen Ellis has a strong voice that shines through all of her writing, but sometimes she misses the mark with humor. She leads such a clearly privileged life that it's often hard to relate to some of the things she deals with (ex. having to buy a new $1,500 Burberry coat after she misplaces her old one). Also, as a born and bred Southern Lady™️ myself, I really wanted this to be more... Southern. With themed e ...more
Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
Apr 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Southern Lady Code: a technique by which, if you don't have something nice to say, you say something not so nice in a nice way.

Just a couple days before the release of Southern Lady Code, Helen Ellis tweeted:

I am the kind of woman who likes to make you clutch your pearls.

— Helen Ellis (@WhatIDoAllDay) April 14, 2019

And bless her heart, she succeeds with this new collection of essays!

 From witnessing a man fake a shooting at a Halloween birthday party full of eighth-graders in Party Foul to bein
Jenny (Reading Envy)
A light read with some giggles for anyone who knows southern women. I like the idea of an Alabama southerner serving onion dip and cheese log to their friends in Manhattan but had a hard time identifying with coats around $1k.. must be a different south from mine!

I had a copy of this from the publisher from NetGalley. The book came out April 16, 2019.
Haley Caldwell
Jun 13, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
I DNF'd this book around halfway through. I wanted to like it so much - I'm from the south and I love witty, honest portrayals of what life is like. But this book was just everything I hated about where I grew up, and none of the good parts.

Ellis is sexist, fetishizes her gay friends, and thinks she's way funnier than she really is.
Beth Dean
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Southern Lady Code gives us a peek into what it is to be a lady.

Imagine me crossing my legs daintily and lifting my teacup while saying “lady.”

While it doesn’t have the same venom and bite of American Housewife, Southern Lady Code gives us more down-to-earth tips and tricks on surviving as a lady in a man’s world.

Some of the tips and observations here are hilarious. For example:

“And then came Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Or as I like to call it: “Surprise, You’re Sti
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Hilarious candid essays by this former "southern lady" now living on the Upper East Side of NYC. If you can wait, get this in audio as I believe it would be entertaining to have the author read these essays. In the meantime, subscribe to her podcast.

Thanks to the publisher for the advance reading copy.
Jun 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: essays, listened
A mixed bag of essays about life as a "Southern lady." The "code," of course, is the mindset, euphemisms, and habits that allow a southern lady to sail gracefully through any situation, blithely accepting family ghosts, rendering men compliant with a withering glance or charming phrase, and confidently justifying her choices with an airy "Well, of course I did." A few of the essays were really fun -- my favorite was "The Ghost Experience" -- but most were just okay. Ellis seems to feel surprisin ...more
Tyler Goodson
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs
SOUTHERN LADY CODE is Southern Lady Code for the perfect essay collection. It’s sharper than a shattered Christmas ornament, but an ornament with a sense of humor. You might cut yourself, but you’ll laugh about it. Would I give just about anything to spend a Friday night at her apartment, drinking and putting together a spooky owl puzzle? Why, yes. Yes, I would.
May 07, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: do-not-recommend
While I enjoyed reading her book of short stories, "American Housewife," this book just did not hold up. Too much of it simply came across as judgmental (i.e., in a section titled 'Young Ladies, Listen to Me', she writes, "Leggings are not pants. Dying your hair gray is not a good idea. And neither are those inner-arm, rib-cage, and finger tattoos" (171)). It's too bad, but I will not be reading any other works she may possibly write in the future. ...more
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
It was a mistake for me to read this book -- and, in retrospect, an obvious one. It would be difficult for the contents to be further from my personal ethos or sense of humor.

My only excuse? I was beguiled by the cover model's excellent lipstick.
Robin Bonne
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir-and-essay
A fast read. These essays weren’t that interesting to me. I couldn’t connect to the topics.
Oct 29, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books
Was an okay read. Not near as funny as I thought it would be from the description.
A book of humorous essays from a Southern lady living in New York City.

I thought this was a super quick and easy read. I read through the whole thing in just 3-4 treadmill work outs where I like to read on my Kindle.

Helen Ellis is funny with a touch of that Southern charm that I've always loved! While none of the stories were laugh out loud funny to me, they were silly and enjoyable. I didn't necessarily relate much to her (wealthy, Southern bred lady), but I enjoyed her take on life and her "S
Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, nf-essays
Such an enjoyable read! I loved her collection of stories (American Housewife), and this book of essays is brilliant as well. She is so funny. I had to put this book away and pick up something else to read during my daughter's cello lesson, because I couldn't hold in my laughter and was about to cause an unwelcome distraction.
I recommend Helen Ellis to pretty much everyone!
As a southern “lady” (heh) myself, I laughed so hard at many of Ellis’s anecdotes. She’s a southerner in NYC trying to stay true to her Alabama roots while embracing the city. These personal essays are mostly surface-level entertaining, but a couple really dive in. This collection was just the distraction I needed. Listened in one afternoon.
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
I'm glad I read American Housewife first and loved it, because if I had read this one first, I never would have read another book by her. She seems spiteful and definitely not like someone I want to know, much less keep reading about. ...more
Mollie Adams
May 20, 2022 rated it it was ok
Southern Lady Code is basically essays written from a privileged white feminist perspective and I was not a fan.
It seems that the author very much thinks she’s in touch with reality, but from what I just read, she is far from it.
I can see why she would maybe think this is not true of her, considering she’s from Alabama and lives in New York City, but it seems that she just molded to what it means to be white and wealthy in a place like NYC.
Basic B's Guide
Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sassy, salty and fresh this was a fun book of essays.

I’m coming up on nearly a decade of living in Texas so I think I can officially call myself a southern lady. Honestly before moving here I thought it was all cowboys and nothing in the world prepared me for the damn heat. Awe she smells sweet is southern lady code for you have massive body odor from the 1000-degree temperature outside so go jump in the shower please.

Some of my favorite essays were; How to Stay Happily Married, Straighten Up an
Sue Fernandez
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Oh my goodness. First, thank you to Doubleday Books and NetGalley for an e-ARC of Southern Lady Code. I started this book in the late evening, in bed, and that might've been a mistake. I was laughing out loud just as my husband was drifting off to sleep. The big surprises 1. I'd never read Helen Ellis' books prior to this; 2. there is also heart and poignancy in her writing mixed in with the humor. It's genuine, a fun read and a little laughter is something we can all use. Best of all: I use mor ...more
Blue Cypress Books
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Funny, smart and Southern. This was my first time reading Helen Ellis and it will NOT be my last!
May 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: owned
Out of my wheelhouse. Yes, there are funny moments but the Southern charm lost some of its luster. (Code for too much bad language for my Southern world.)
Sarah at Sarah's Bookshelves
Thanks to Harper Books and Edelweiss for an advanced copy of this book.

Ellis’s short story collection, American Housewife (my review), was hit and miss for me, but the hits led me to believe I’d love her brand of nonfiction social commentary. And, I was mostly right! Ellis has an inappropriate, outrageous sense of humor (my favorite!). And, pairing it with her spot-on social commentary on the South can be magic. Ellis now lives in New York, which I think gives her some necessary perspective on t
Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Cute, fun, short. And funny.
Jan 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, nonfictions
I read this book in less than two hours. It was funny, I guess, but it was less about cute things Southern ladies say (i.e., "bless their heart" is throwing shade), and more about rich people people problems (i.e., accidentally picking up someone else's $800 coat and feeling so "weird" about the coat's wrongness that you end up buying a new $1800 coat). I’m not mad that I read it, but I probably won’t remember it in two weeks. ...more
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Pelion Branch Lib...: Which essay did you like the most and why? 1 5 Oct 14, 2020 07:51AM  
Play Book Tag: Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis- 3 stars 1 8 Jul 25, 2020 08:56AM  

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HELEN ELLIS is the author of American Housewife and Eating the Cheshire Cat.Raised in Alabama, she lives with her husband in New York City.

You can find her on Twitter @WhatIDoAllDay and Instagram @AmericanHousewife.

Articles featuring this book

Bossy, bumbly, and Betty! Humor books from 2011 until today have unpacked experiences from everyday hilarity to the outright uncomfortable...
45 likes · 31 comments
“If you don’t know what to do with the rest of your life, make your bed. If you’re going to be a couch potato, at least fluff the pillows. If you can’t afford pearls, red nail polish is your best accessory. If you don’t have time to do your nails, smile and stand up straight.” 7 likes
“Mama says, " Helen Michelle, a lot of women have trouble saying no and then find themselves in worse situations because they were afraid of being rude. So, if you have trouble saying no, say 'No, thank you.' Let's practice.” 5 likes
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