What to Read This Summer

Written By: Lissa Poirot

Summer vacations mean we finally have more time to read, so if you’re looking for something fresh to toss into your beach bag, take a look at these new and upcoming releases. Our summer reading list comprises Southern-set stories and tomes by Southern authors, from light-hearted love stories to thought-provoking nonfiction from renowned voices in literature.

THE STARS ARE NOT YET BELLS

by Hannah Lillith Assadi

Riverhead Books

When sitting on a beach on Tybee or Jekyll Island, bring along this new work of fiction, which is set along the Georgia’s Golden Isles. You’ll be drawn into this tale told from the perspective of an older woman recalling her memories. The twist? Elle Ranier is facing dementia and attempting to remember her life before she forgets it completely.

The story follows Elle from her childhood to her marriage into a wealthy family just before World War II begins running through modern day. Elle has secrets, including a longing for another man, but her husband, Simon, has his own secrets, too. Readers see all unfold as Elle pieces together her memories. Dancing between the past and the present as quickly as Elle’s mind is leaping, the story written by Assadi touches on desire and loss in what is a great summer seaside read.

THE SAINTS OF SWALLOW HILL

by Donna Everhart

Kensington Books

Anyone who loved “Where the Crawdads Sing” and wants to find a similar novel will want to pick up this Depression-era historical work, now available in paperback. Beginning in the forests of North Carolina, Rae Lynn Cobb runs a turpentine farm with her husband until things go sour and she has to run off to Georgia, disguised as a man, to escape the law. She finds herself at Swallow Hill, a turpentine camp, where Rae becomes Ray and she meets and befriends an unusual cast of characters.

Through its unique setting and portrayal of survival and friendship, readers will be rooting for Rae/Ray to escape her past and have a second chance at a successful and happy life.

MCMULLEN CIRCLE

by Heather Newton Regal House Publishing Step back in time to a boarding school in the North Georgia Mountains in 1969 – ’70. The Vietnam War dominates the news and this collection of 12 short stories weaves together a cast of inter-connected characters much like the style of bestselling Irish author Maeve Binchy. Each story about one character helps establish more depth into the other characters, but even as standalone stories, they are singularly complex and compelling.

Characters range from students to adults, each dealing with their own conflicts experienced in the mountains as a decade of war and racial change dramatically comes to a close. Characters may not be real, but readers will believe their struggles, feel a connection and want to embrace each protagonist found in the snippets of life in the fictional town of Tonola Falls.

RUN, ROSE, RUN

by Dolly Parton and James Patterson Little, Brown and Company Every Southerner will be reading this new work of fiction written by country legend Dolly Parton and best-selling author James Patterson. Combining Patterson’s gift for suspense with Dolly’s authentic voice, the story follows an aspiring singer-songwriter running from her raggedy past in Texas to become a star in Nashville.

This is not an autobiographic tale of Dolly’s own rags-to-riches success story but instead one woman’s attempt to navigate a dangerous new world, stay on track, fall in love and become a star. Perhaps Dolly incorporates hints of people from her past into the story, but she’ll never tell. Instead, we are let into a world of unsavory agents and managers attempting to take advantage of the future star, AnnieLee, as well as witness the kindness of those who have survived the climb to become stars willing to lend AnnieLee a hand. You’ll know how this story will end, but it’s a fun read nonetheless.

GIRL, FORGOTTEN

by Karin Slaughter

William Morrow and Company

Georgia-bred and based author Slaughter is back with another murder mystery to be released later this summer. An unsolved murder of a prom queen gets reopened 40 years after her death by US Marshal Andrea Oliver on her first assignment. As Oliver learns more about the forgotten girl and the small town she called home, she may uncover secrets so big her own life is at risk.

As a best-selling mystery and crime author, Slaughter has a knack for building cases through her thrilling work and the characters she creates. There is no doubt this new work will be another engrossing page-turner and we’ll be desperate to find out who did it.

THE OMEGA FACTOR

by Steve Berry

Grand Central Publishing

Georgia-born Berry’s career as a trial lawyer aids in his thrillers and has made him an international best-seller. Fans of his work and anyone seeking on-the-edge-of-your-seat reading this summer will want to pick up his newest work, The Omega Factor, expected to release in June. The story takes place in Belgium, where the main character, Nicholas Lee, uncovers a panel from the stolen Ghent Altarpiece.

Lee’s attempt to uncover the missing panels’ mystery goes Dan Brown-like as Berry’s story introduces high-profile characters with secrets and a desire to keep things hidden. So much so, they may be willing to kill to silence Lee as he attempts to piece together the mystery.

BET ON IT

by Jodie Slaughter

St. Martin’s Griffin

If a juicy romance novel is your preference for lakeside reading, pick up this South Carolina-set story that mixes romance with Bingo. (Yes, Bingo!) This funny and sexy book, written by young newcomer Slaughter, takes young would-be lovers dragged to Bingo by their grandmothers to eventually create a Bingo sex pact so they have fun without getting serious.

Of course, one character is from the small town while the other is only visiting and eager to hightail it out. But love never goes the way we plan it, and despite the effort to keep things light and fun, feelings start to come into play. The book will be available July 12, and you can place your bet on whether or not the couple fall in love and if small-town charm will have the couple taking root.

GATHERING BLOSSOMS UNDER FIRE: THE JOURNALS OF ALICE WALKER, 1965-2000

by Alice Walker and Valerie Boyd Simon & Schuster Delve deep into the mind of award-winning author Alice Walker, who took home a Pulitzer Prize for “The Color Purple,” in this collection featuring five decades of her thoughts, meticulously journaled since the 1960s. It will become easy to see how Walker became an activist for women and human rights as she shares current events and decisions that greatly affected her own life, such as breaking interracial marriage laws when she married a white, Jewish man in the 1960s.

Not only are we reminded of American and Southern political events through these real-life notes, but we gather the intellectual insights of one of the nation’s most-revered modern-day authors. Reading her journals will have you wanting to re-read her novels with a new understanding of her mindset when she was creating her masterpieces.

YOU DON’T KNOW US NEGROES AND OTHER ESSAYS

by Zora Neale Hurston

Amistad

One of the most prolific American authors, Hurston may have passed away in 1960 but a new collection of her essays has been uncovered and published in 2022. Hurston’s stories have always been powerful and share trials and tribulations of Blacks in the rural South, where she was born, and across the nation. In these essays, Hurston showcases Jim Crow-era issues taking place across three decades and shares her beliefs on empowerment and the heart and soul of Black people during the Harlem Renaissance, desegregation of schools and more.

The essays are not Hurston’s fiction but rather a collection of her thoughts and readers are given access into her mind and what inspired her to be a strong and vocal advocate for civil and feminist rights in a work that is far from light and meant to inspire deep thought.

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