Whether you’re looking for a spellbinding read filled with bold characters or a coming-of-age novel, or a collection of fascinating sport profiles, this summers must-reads cover all the bases.
These books make great beach reads or can entertain during the longer hours of light. They are inspirational and satisfying.
Here are some of our picks.
“In West Mills” by De’Shawn Charles Winslow (Bloomsbury Publishing)
North Carolina native De’Shawn Charles Winslow created a smart, defiant black woman in Azelea “Knot” Centre. “In West Mills” follows Knot, her neighbor Otis Lee others in a town resembling Winslow’s native Elizabeth City. The novel spans decades as the characters reckon with secrets, gossip and hidden romances in a segregated mill town.
Garden & Gun describes it as an “impressive debut novel, set in a small black community in North Carolina in the 1940s.” Publisher’s Weekly gives Winslow a starred review and wrote, “Winslow has created a character as memorable and colorful as any created by Knot’s favorite writer, Charles Dickens.”
“The Confessions of Frannie Langton” by Sara Collins (Deckle Edge)
Lawyer-turned-author Sara Collins’s historical debut novel, “The Confessions of Frannie Langton” offers a penetrating portrait of a woman condemned to inhumanity by her race, sex and time. Langton, born on a Jamaican sugar plantation, eventually becomes a housemaid for a couple in London. She is on trial for killing her master and mistress. This unforgettable novel examines race through a historical lens. It was listed in Oprah’s magazine as one of the “Best Books by Women of Summer 2019.”
“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong (Penguin Press)
Ocean Vuong’s epistolary novel is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Little Dog starts his poetic letters in his late 20s as he navigates his family’s history in Vietnam that began before he was born. This tender coming-of-age story of a gay man explores race, class, sexuality, masculinity, aging and dying. This book was named one “The Most Anticipated Books of 2019” by Vulture, Entertainment Weekly and numerous other publications. He is the author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection “Night Sky with Exit Wounds,” winner of the Whiting Award and the T.S. Eliot Prize.
“Patsy” by Nicole Dennis-Benn (Liveright)
Jamaican author Nicole Dennis-Benn has dedicated her new novel, “Patsy” to the “unsung stories of undocumented immigrants in search of trees with branches.” Dennis-Benn exposes the injustices, large and small, that immigrants, the working class, and women face on a daily basis. Patsy leaves her daughter behind Jamaica in search of freedom in New York, only to find herself imprisoned caring for wealthy children. “Patsy” has been named one of the “Most Anticipated Books of 2019” by several national publications. Dennis-Benn is also the author of the award-winning “Here Comes the Sun.”
“The Cost Of These Dreams: Sports Stories and Other Serious Business” by Wright Thompson (Penguin Books)
Wright Thompson, an ESPN sportswriter, delivers fully-rendered masterpieces of the most fascinating athletes and coaches. While any profile in this collection reveals character, he gets the small details of these larger-than-life subjects, exposing the complexities of what drives them. He features legendary North Carolina native and NBA star Michael Jordan, just days before his 50th birthday, and golfer Tiger Woods on the day he buried his father. He taps into their physical and mental strengths and vulnerabilities.
“Paris, 7 A.M.” by Liza Wieland (Simon & Schuster)
North Carolina author Liza Wieland ponders what happened to the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Elizabeth Bishop during the 21 days she spent in Paris amidst the imminent threat of World War II. Bishop, a meticulous diarist, didn’t detail her time there. “Striking imagery and sharp, distinctive language shimmer in Wieland’s haunting fifth novel,” describes Publishers Weekly in a starred review of Wieland’s fictional account. Wieland’s novel, “A Watch of Nightingales,” won the 2008 Michigan Literary Fiction Award.
“The Peach Truck Cookbook: 100 Delicious Recipes for All Things Peach” by Stephen K. Rose and Jessica N. Rose. (Scribner, June 25)
Nashville residents Stephen K. Rose and his wife are the owners of The Peach Truck, a food retailer that ships fresh Georgia peaches nationwide. This delicious cookbook features interesting takes on this seasonal fruit as the star of breakfast, small bites, sides, suppers and desserts. The cookbook is part guide, highlighting the distinct characteristics of different peach varieties along with recipes like Savory Peach Fritters, Snapper Peach Crudo and a Peach Dutch Baby. The gorgeous pictures illustrate that the first bite is with the eye.
“Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir” by Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein (Deckle Edge)
The former “Top Chef” contestant takes us on a culinary journey in his remarkable memoir from the Bronx to Nigeria and the American South. His story, told in small bites of vignettes and recipes, is filled with influences and flavors, including selling candy on the subway to raise money for his early restaurant ventures and facing adversity as a man of color. The 29-year-old Onwuachi received the 2019 James Beard Award’s Rising Star Chef of the Year. He is the executive chef at Kith and Kin and owner of the Philly Wing Fry franchise in Washington, D.C.
For younger readers
“The Rest of the Story” by Sarah Dessen (Balzer & Bray)
Chapel Hill author Sarah Dessen is having a moment. A week after Netflix announced three of her novels would be adapted for the screen, her newest book “The Rest of the Story,” debuted at No. 2 on The New York Times’ Young Adult Hardcover list. Her 14th book, favorites among young adults, is about young Emma Saylor, whose trip to her mother’s childhood home proves to be illuminating. Her national book tour will bring her to Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books on June 26. And if you want to catch up the novels before they head to Netflix, look for 2009’s “Along for the Ride,” “This Lullaby” (2002) and “Once and For All” (2017).
“Going Down Home With Daddy” written by Kelly Starling Lyons and illustrated by Daniel Minter. (Peachtree Publishing Company Inc.)
Raleigh children’s book author and teaching artist Kelly Starling Lyons paints a lush portrait of visiting the ancestral home for the annual family reunion in this picture book, complimented by Minter’s illustrations. Lyons spares no details in celebrating family and tradition in this wonderful tale of Lil Alan trying to figure out his gift for this special occasion. Kirkus Review gives this book a starred reviewed and wrote, “A warm, loving, necessary reminder of the power in families coming together.” The book is geared toward ages 4–8.
“Jada Jones: Dancing Queen” written by Kelly Starling Lyons and illustrated by Nneka Myers. (Penguin Workshop, June 25)
Lyon also has a new installment of her Jada Jones chapter book series, “Jada Jones: Dancing Queen.” This time, fourth-grader Jada wants to participate in a school fundraiser to raise money for children without coats. One problem, Jada can’t dance. But of course, Jada, who always dares to shine by being herself, researches and practices her moves and rises to the occasion. “Jada Jones: Dancing Queen” continues to explore the everyday obstacles she faces as she tackles the ups and downs of elementary school and tween life. The other books in this series are: “Jada Jones: Rock Star;” “Jada Jones: Class Act; and “Jada Jones: Sleepover Scientist. The series is geared toward ages 6-9.