Compiled by Shannon Purdy Jones
Do you ever sit back and think, “Wow, how did I get so lucky?”
It’s a thought that pops into my head at least once a summer, every summer, usually while I’m out paddleboarding on Lake Brandt or camping with my kids at Badin Lake. Because, really, is there any better place to live than North Carolina in the summertime? Whether it’s trails to be trod in our gorgeous mountains and Piedmont, waves to be surfed on the Outer Banks, or backwaters to be kayaked, our beautiful state has so much to offer. So much, in fact, that I invariably end up with a N.C. summer bucket list too long to ever finish.
While you’re busy exploring all our home state has to offer, you need a good summer read — set in North Carolina, naturally — or two (or five!). Between mysteries and romance, historical fiction and nature exploration, there’s something for everyone. Dive in and get in that North Carolina state of mind this summer.
Smile Beach Murder (Outer Banks Bookshop Mystery) by Alicia Bessette
When Callie is laid off from her reporting job, she returns to her hometown of Cattail Island and lands a gig at the local bookstore — the same one where she found comfort after her mother died, tumbling from the top of the lighthouse.
As the anniversary of her mother’s death approaches, islanders are once again gossiping about the tragedy. Then, devastating news strikes. The lighthouse has claimed another victim, Eva Meeks, of Meeks Hardware.
The police are calling it suicide, but Callie is not buying it.
In Callie’s search for answers, she enlists the help of some beloved books and several new friends, including the handsome local martial arts instructor, Toby Dodge. As she earns enemies in pursuit of the truth, Callie knows she will either uncover the killer or become a victim herself.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Sensitive and intelligent, Kya Clark, known as the Marsh Girl, has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life — until she become a murder suspect.
Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets nature keeps.
The Night Swim by Megan Goldin
Ever since her true-crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall has become a household name — and the last hope for people seeking justice.
The new season of Rachel’s podcast has brought her to a small town being torn apart by the trial of a local golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, accused of raping the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Meanwhile, someone is following her and won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to the anonymous writer’s sister 25 years ago.
Electrifying and propulsive, The Night Swim asks: What is the price of a reputation? Can a small town ever right the wrongs of its past? And what really happened to Jenny?
Under a Gilded Moon by Joy Jordan-Lake
Biltmore House, a palatial mansion being built by American “royalty,” the Vanderbilts, is in its final stages of construction. The country’s grandest example of privilege, it symbolizes the aspirations of its owner and the dreams of a girl, just as driven, who lives in its shadow.
After two years in college in New York City, family obligations call Kerry McGrefor home to the beautiful Appalachians where her family’s land is among the last pieces required to complete the Biltmore Estate. One by one, outsiders descend on the changing landscape — a fugitive from Sicily, a reporter chasing a groundbreaking story, a debutante tainted by scandal and a conservationist prepared to put anyone at risk to stoke the resentment of the locals.
As Kerry finds herself caught in a war between wealth and poverty, innocence and corruption, she must navigate not only her own pride and desperation to survive but also the temptations of fortune and the men who control it.
The Watery Part of the World by Michael Parker
Michael Parker’s vast and involving novel about pirates and slaves, treason and treasures, madness and devotion, takes place on a remote and tiny island battered by storms. Inspired by two little-known moments in history, the tale begins in 1813, when Theodosia Burr, en route to New York by ship to meet her father, Aaron Burr, disappears off the coast of North Carolina. A hundred and fifty years later, the last three inhabitants of a remote island — two elderly white women and the black man who takes care of them — are forced to leave their beloved spot of land. Parker tells an enduring story about what we’ll sacrifice for love and what we won’t.
Book Lovers by Emily Henry (And it’s the Scuppernong Books Romance Book Club’s June read!)
Nora Stephens’ life as a cutthroat literary agent is books — she’s read them all. But she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl and especially not the sweetheart. She’s a hero to her clients and her beloved little sister, Libby.
Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina, for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away — with visions of a small town transformation for Nora. Libby is convinced Nora needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish, brooding editor from the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times — and it’s never been cute.
If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero. But as they are thrown together again and again — in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow — what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.
Forest Walking: Discovering the Trees and Woodlands of North America by Peter Wohlleben and Jill Billinghurst
With Forest Walking, German forester Peter Wohlleben teams up with his longtime editor, Jane Billinghurst, as the two co-author their first book together. Together, they will teach you how to listen to what the forest is saying, no matter where you live or which trees you plan to visit next, such as:
What can you learn by following the spread of a root, by tasting the tip of a branch, by searching out that bitter almond smell? What creatures can be found in a stream if you turn over a rock — and what is the best way to cross a forest stream?
How can you understand a forest’s history by the feel of the path underfoot, the scars on the trees along the trail, or the play of sunlight through the branches? How can we safely explore the forest at night? What activities can we use to engage children with the forest?
How to Read a North Carolina Beach: Bubble Holes, Barking Sands, and Rippled Runnels by Orrin H. Pilkey, Tracy Monegan Rice and William J. Neal
In How to Read a North Carolina Beach, three leading experts in coastal geology provide a guidebook to North Carolina beach characteristics for recreational beachgoers and naturalists. Topics include the interaction of wind, waves and sand in the formation of dunes and barrier islands; smaller features such as sea foam, bubble holes and sharks’ teeth; and strategies for conservation.
What makes sea foam? What are those tiny sand volcanoes along the waterline? You’ll find the answers to these questions and dozens more in this comprehensive field guide to the state’s beaches. Shannon Purdy Jones is store manager, children’s book buyer and one of the co-owners of Scuppernong Books. OH
Shannon Purdy Jones is co-owner of Scuppernong Books.