Books

The experts’ guide to summer reading

“Hold Still: A Memoir in Photographs” by Sally Mann.
“Hold Still: A Memoir in Photographs” by Sally Mann.

“There is a temperate zone in the mind, between luxurious indolence and exacting work; and it is to this region, just between laziness and labor, that summer reading belongs” is a quote attributed to Henry Ward Beecher, brother of Harriet, whose “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” does not exactly fit our definition of a summer page turner.

The perfect summer reading material, however, depends on the reader. A juicy romance for you, a mystery for me, a thought-provoking history for another. We turned to the staffs of Triangle libraries and local independent bookstores for their suggestions on the perfect books to immerse yourself in the whole summer long.

Sarah Goddin and the staff at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh:

“Circling the Sun” (Ballantine Books) by Paula McLain is the fictional account of Beryl Markham, who grew up in Kenya in the 1920s and ’30s and was a pioneer horse trainer, aviator and novelist and hung out with Isak Dinesen and her “Out of Africa” crowd. Several of us have read the advance copy and loved it.

“A God in Ruins” (Little, Brown) by Kate Atkinson is the companion book to her very popular (with book clubs and others) “Life After Life,” but you don’t have to have read that to enjoy this one. It tells the story of brother Teddy from growing up in Fox Corner to WWII to present-day England.

“Love May Fail” (Harper) by Matthew Quick. The author of “Silver Linings Playbook” recently moved to North Carolina and has written a funny and poignant family drama that would make a great summer read.

“The Story of Land and Sea,” (Harper) by Katy Simpson Smith is an elegant novel that takes place on North Carolina’s Outer Banks in the 1700s and will be out in paperback on July 21.

In case you missed it: If you live in North Carolina and haven’t read Wilton Barnhardt’s “Lookaway Lookaway” (St. Martin’s Press), that would make a terrific summer read.

Hottest summer book: I’d have to go with “Go Set a Watchman” (Harper) by Harper Lee. Will it be any good? We’ll have to wait and see, but we have lots of preorders already and I think everyone is curious.

Travis Smith, marketing coordinator, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill:

“The Secret Game” (Little, Brown) by Scott Ellsworth tells the story of the first integrated collegiate basketball game in the South, played in Durham in 1944, when segregation was still the rule of law. The essential summer book for the local sports fan.

“Welcome to Braggsville” (William Morrow) by T. Geronimo Johnson: A Southern valedictorian, just settled into college life at Berkeley, returns to his hometown to protest its annual Civil War re-enactment, with hilarious and moving results. For fans of Junot Diaz and Ben Fountain.

“Saint Anything” (Viking) by Sarah Dessen. Dessen brought a packed house when she read at Flyleaf in May. Based in Chapel Hill, Dessen is a superstar of young adult literature, and “Saint Anything” (about finding friendship and finding yourself) has delighted (and added to) her legions of fans.

In case you missed it: “Station Eleven” (Vintage) by Emily St. John Mandel. Just out in paperback, this literary post-apocalyptic novel is a page-turner as well. (Flyleaf’s owner Jamie Fiocco read it in the course of a single plane ride).

Hottest summer book: “The Vacationers” (Riverhead) by Emma Straub. Following a lively cast of characters on vacation in Mallorca, Straub conjures beautiful scenery, luscious descriptions of food and compelling drama. This is a sure-fire summer hit with substance.

Dan Brooks, adult services manager, Wake County West Regional Library, Cary:

“In the Unlikely Event” (Knopf ) by Judy Blume. Everybody who’s an adult now remembers reading her books as a kid. Her earlier adult novel “Summer Sisters” was very popular as well.

“Eight Hundred Grapes” (Simon & Schuster) by Laura Dave is a popular pick among librarians. It has romantic elements, but is not a traditional romance novel. Set in Sonoma’s wine country, the novel is about love, marriage, family and wine.

“The Wright Brothers” (Simon & Schuster) by David McCullough. Everybody’s going to be excited about that one. It tells the dramatic story-behind-the-story of Wilbur and Orville Wright.

In case you missed it: “A Man Called Ove” (Washington Square Press) by Fredrik Backman. A curmudgeonly widower finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door. This debut novel by the Swedish blogger and columnist is followed this year by the promising “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry.”

Hottest summer book: “Go Set a Watchman” (Harper) by Harper Lee. Easily the most anticipated book of the summer. The library system has had hundreds of requests already. They have ordered 250 copies of the book, plus large print, audio, downloadable e-book and downloadable audio editions. It’s rare for the library to order titles in all five platforms.

Libbie Hough, communications specialist, Orange County Public Library, Hillsborough:

“Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania” (Crown) by Erik Larson has been called the story that many of us think we know but don’t, transforming a complex event into a thrilling human-interest story.

“Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life by Dear Sugar” (Vintage) by Cheryl Strayed is an advice book by the author of “Wild.” It was actually published in 2012 but is getting new attention since Strayed and Steve Almond launched a podcast of their cult-favorite advice column.

“The Girl on the Train” (Riverhead) by Paula Hawkins has been by far the most popular title at the library year to date. It’s one of many books being called this year’s “Gone Girl” and is holding the top spot on the best-sellers list.

In case you missed it: “All the Light We Cannot See” (Scribner) by Anthony Doerr was popular last fall, but now it has won the Pulitzer Prize, so it is back in the news and back on reading lists.

Hottest summer book: “Being Mortal” (Metropolitan) by Atul Gawande looks at how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending.

Wander Lorentz de Haas of the Regulator Bookshop in Durham:

“Hold Still: A Memoir in Photographs” (Little, Brown) by Sally Mann is a really good book. In addition to excellent photography it’s just remarkable in terms of literary quality. She’s from Lexington,Va., so it has a very Southern feel to it.

“The Meursault Investigation” (Other Press) by Kamel Daoud. A sleeper but personal favorite. (It) is basically a rebuttal to Albert Camus’ “The Stranger.” Daoud has written a novel from the prospective of the brother of the nameless Arab killed (by Meursault in “The Stranger”). It’s a very timely book that deals with a lot of stereotypes.

“All the Light We Cannot See” (Scribner) by Anthony Doerr. It took off right before Christmas. Doerr is popular with book clubs.

In case you missed it: “The Stranger” by Albert Camus. Reading “The Meursault Investigation” kind of forces you to re-read “The Stranger” ... juxtaposed it’s incredible.

Hottest summer book: “Go Set a Watchman” (Harper) by Harper Lee and Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See.”

Pete Mock, book buyer, McIntyre’s Books, Fearrington Village:

“Dietland” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Sarai Walker is a subtly subversive story of empowered women and the men they target. Not my usual cup of tea, but I loved it.

“Empire of Deception: The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated a Nation” (Algonquin) by Dean Jobb. Think “Devil in the White City.” Another slice of excellent narrative nonfiction from Chicago about a conman who could have been Bernie Madoff’s Godfather.

“The Knockoff” (Doubleday) by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza is a wickedly funny novel of fashion and the digital age that Keebe Fitch, owner of the store, can’t stop talking about. The perfect beach book.

In case you missed it: “All the Light We Cannot See” (Scribner) by Anthony Doerr is one of the few books I’ve ever read that deserves all the accolades it has received.

Hottest summer book: “Go Set a Watchman” (Harper) by Harper Lee. There will be no escape from hearing about this one.

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