Summer’s approaching and the time is right for reading on the beach. Martha and the Vandellas may have called everyone out for a bit of dancing in the streets, but summertime’s the right time for other things, too. Consider a good “summer read.” Grab a beach umbrella, a cold drink and a good book. What’s a better way to take a break from the heat?
But, what to read? We turned to our local book experts. Here are works they recommend for a diversion during the hot days to come.
Senior library specialist at the Brookhaven branch of the DeKalb County Public Library.
The “Expanse” novels, James S. A. Corey
I am not usually a fan of science fiction and, in particular, “hard” science fiction. That changed when I began watching the SyFy channel’s series based on these novels. The show is intriguing and the books even more so. “James A. Corey” is actually Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who have collaborated on this series, and the two writers really know how to keep you turning the page. The plots are compelling and the characters are fully fleshed and complex. By all accounts, the science that informs these books is solid. Start with the first book “Leviathan Wakes.”
“The High Tide Club,” Mary Kay Andrews
I think that Andrews writes wonderful beach books and while I haven’t yet read this one, I have it tagged to go on my vacation books list. “Savannah Blues” and “Savannah Breeze” were both tremendously entertaining, as was “Deep Dish.” Delicious, frothy fun!
“David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens or “Emma” by Jane Austen
Summer is a great time to catch up on all those classics that you never read in school. Both of these books are long, particularly the Dickens, but both of them are guaranteed to keep you turning the pages. The plots are complex without being tedious, and each features not only a large cast of intriguing characters, but also a hero or heroine that you can’t help but take to heart. After all, classics are usually considered such for good reason!
Principal librarian and branch manager of the Sandy Springs Library.
“The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue,” Mackenzi Lee
Eighteenth-century party animal Henry “Monty” Montague is all set for his Grand Tour of Europe with his best mate and unrequited crush Percy and younger sister Felicity, when his traveling party runs afoul of a conspiracy of pirates and scheming noblemen. This fast-paced, funny, LGBTQ+ young adult novel reads like “The Da Vinci Code” meets “Jane Austen.”
“The Poet’s Dog,” Patricia MacLachlan
This middle-grade novel packs a heavy emotional punch, as two snowbound children consider questions of family, friends and loss. Poets, children and dog-lovers alike will find talking dog Teddy particularly hard to resist.
“Flat Broke with Two Goats: A Memoir of Appalachia,” Jennifer McGaha
McGaha’s entertaining memoir takes you through her unexpectedly disastrous situation as she lurches from one poor financial decision to another. She finds grace and peace by downsizing to a tiny rural cabin. Her solution to an empty nest is definitely unique! With her youngest off to college, and her house empty of kids, she decides to fill it up with… kids (goats, that is).
“The Royal We,” Heather Cocks
With a royal wedding recently in everyone’s minds, I highly recommend this fun, light-hearted alternate history where an American college student on a semester abroad somehow snags the heart of the most eligible bachelor in the land… the future king of England.
“No One Is Coming to Save Us,” Stephanie Powell Watts
Very loosely based on “The Great Gatsby,” this character-driven novel explores race, social class and the American Dream in an epic family saga. In a poverty-stricken African-American community in North Carolina, newly wealthy JJ returns to his small hometown to build a large home and win over his former sweetheart Ava. Ava is now married and struggling with infertility, even as her husband cheats on her.
Principal librarian at the Dunwoody branch of the DeKalb County Public Library.
“The Book of Joy,” the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu
Refreshingly different from other self-help books, “The Book of Joy” is a dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu, two men who have witnessed hardship and tragedy and by all rights should be a pair of angry curmudgeons – and yet they’re not. Bishop Tutu speaks about handling our natural human feelings without berating ourselves, while the Dalai Lama focuses on how to build “mental immunity” to prepare for when the hard times come. Throughout, these two spiritual leaders express the importance of humility and respect for everyone with whom we share the planet.
“Head On,” John Scalzi
One of today’s most addictive authors sets this mystery novel in the near future after a virulent disease has “locked” many people inside their own bodies with no way to interact with the outside world except through android proxies. Chris Shane is one of these who, as an FBI agent, investigates the on-field death of a “locked-in” athlete whose android was decapitated in a violent sporting match while his real body remained safely at home. Scalzi’s novel is fun and witty while addressing very real issues of surviving with a disability in the modern world.
“The Lost City of the Monkey God,” Douglas Preston
This work of nonfiction from Preston is just as exciting as one of his thrillers. In 2012, the author was invited to participate in an expedition to find the legendary White City, once believed to be a myth until tantalizing clues were located in the jungles of Honduras using airplanes with high-tech laser surveying to map objects, terrain and buildings through the jungle canopy. The journey into the wild to confirm the city’s existence was as fraught with danger and close escapes as any Indiana Jones movie, except that this time the hazards and hidden treasures were real.
“No Time to Spare,” Ursula K. Le Guin
The late Ursula Le Guin has been a literary giant for decades, best known for such seminal novels as “The Left Hand of Darkness” and “A Wizard of Earthsea.” In her later years she took up the fine art of online blogging, from which the essays in this collection are pulled. In this book she covers politics, the writer’s life, the problems of growing old and the adventures of living with a rambunctious cat. For those who have never read Le Guin before, this collection will make a wonderful, if bittersweet, introduction.
Kate Whitman serves as vice president of public programs for the Atlanta History Center, which is located in Buckhead. As part of her job, Kate each year orchestrates more than 60 author programs the Atlanta History Center and Margaret Mitchell House at Atlanta History Center Midtown.
“There Are No Grown-ups: A Midlife Coming-of-Age Story,” Pamela Druckerman
Truth be told, I have only read one parenting book cover to cover and it was Pamela Druckerman’s “Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.” So it is no surprise that I am excited to see Druckerman take on middle age with the same humor and candor that she brought to parenting. This book is filled with hilarious essays sure to bring levity and insight into the middle-age years.
“Love and Ruin,” Paula McLain
Bestselling author of “The Paris Wife” returns once again to Ernest Hemingway, this time detailing the fiery love story between Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, his third wife. A beautifully written and well-researched historical novel that brings Gellhorn into sharp focus as a fiercely independent woman who would become one of America’s great war correspondents.
“Motherest: A Novel,” Kristen Iskandrian
This book actually came out last summer, and I am mad that it wasn’t on my radar until a couple of weeks ago. “Motherest” is a coming-of-age story that deals with loss and love in a compelling way. The central character Agnes is a college freshman when her mom disappears from her life and family — arguably when Agnes needs her most. The book is an epistolary novel, with much of the story being told through letters Agnes writes to her mother detailing her life from the mundane to the profound. I devoured this book and hope Iskandrian writes something else soon.
“You Think It, I’ll Say I: Stories,” Curtis Sittenfeld
This short-story collection is one of the best ones I have ever read. I was already a fan of Sittenfeld’s long-form fiction and was delighted to see her bring her same wit, sensitivity, and depth to the characters in these short stories.