Garden & Gun’s Summer Reading List

Each issue of Garden & Gun has at least 20 things worth sharing here, but this little tidbit is one of my favorites. Whether sitting low in a beach chair pushing my toes into the cool, dark sand, or cramped in an airport lounge hoping my flight is not delayed again, the summer brings some “downtime” moments that make me long for a really good read. And when that gorgeous new favorite book is purchased from an independent bookseller (all too uncommon these days), well…it is that much better still! Enjoy! And feel free to leave your own suggestions. One can never know of too many bookstores!


From Garden & Gun

Summer Reading List

We canvassed some of our favorite bookstores around the South to see what summer books have their customers staying up all night. Whether it’s a mystery or a memoir, written by a debut author or a Southern great, set in the Texas oilfields or the streets of Zambia, there’s enough here to satisfy readers of all stripes—and get you through the dog days of summer.

Flyleaf Books
Chapel Hill, NC

Between Wrecks by George Singleton
“If your criteria for a passel of great short stories include blue-collar characters with mouths like sailors and irreverent prose that’ll make you chuckle out loud and then curse under your breath, George Singleton’s your fellow. Read these on a beach with a tumbler of whiskey and an appreciation for the impossibly weird, kudzu-laden South that Singleton evokes with a painter’s precision.”
–Recommended by Linnie Greene, marketing coordinator

Austin, TX

Monday, Monday by Elizabeth Crook
“This is a moving, vividly imagined novel around the tragic tower shooting at the University of Texas in August, 1966, and how it changes the course of three lives. The characters, three students, are entangled that day and reunited decades later when they must confront what changed them and what is most meaningful in their lives.”

Beating Goliath by Art Briles
“A memoir about overcoming loss and keeping faith by the innovative head coach of the highly ranked Baylor football team. Filled with dramatic football stories and lessons learned, this book will inspire and entertain.”
–Recommended by Steve Bercu, owner

Blue Bicycle Books
Charleston, SC

Abroad by Katie Crouch
“Taking the flattened-out, scattered-to-rumor-and-madness story of the Amanda Knox trial, Charleston native Katie Crouch cleans out the guts and inserts her own. She imbues it with completely new and fictional stuffing: wine and Campari, mozzarella and pancetta, cocaine and designer drugs, Ovid and Patricia Highsmith, blood and cigarettes, and mud and clay.”

The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills
“One of the few outsiders to be let into the reclusive world of Harper Lee, Marja Mills chronicles what started as a professional relationship with the author and evolved by 2004 into doing laundry side-by-side.”

Echo’s Bones by Samuel Beckett
“Published for the first time this July, Beckett’s story was originally rejected by his editors for narrative inconsistencies, ironically one of the trademarks of his work.”
–Recommended by Sara Peck, manager, and Jonathan Sanchez, owner

Malaprop’s Bookstore
Asheville, NC

Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal
“McNeal has written a moving coming-of-age story nestled against the vivid backdrop of New Orleans during the ‘60s and ‘70s. Brimming with thought-provoking commentary on the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam, family secrets, and the unfair judgments we sometimes make about the people in our lives. I couldn’t put it down—a powerful debut!”
–Recommended by Laura Donohoe, children’s book buyer/receiving manager

The Witch of Belladonna Bay by Suzanne Palmieri
“This is a magical mystery set deep in the heart of the South with characters you’ll care about from page one.”

The Stories We Tell by Patti Callahan Henry
“A book that keeps the reader riveted. This mystery is set in a lush and decadent Savannah, and unfolds with an ending that’ll stay with you for weeks.”
–Recommended by Cindy Norris, bookseller

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons by Sam Kean
“Quirky, strange, funny, tragic, and delightful. Made me laugh and appreciate how far medical science has come! SO much better than a television episode and a perfect way to spend a summer afternoon learning and laughing.”
–Recommended by Erin Makara, bookseller

Square Books
Oxford, MS

2 a.m. at The Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino
“Madeleine is a singer, has an impressively profane vocabulary, is recently motherless, and is nine years old. Determined to fulfill her dream of singing, her story collides with others when she goes to the Cat’s Pajamas and meets up with her teacher, her principal, and the jazz club owner.”
–Recommended by Lyn Roberts, manager

The Ways of the Dead by Neely Tucker
“A debut mystery novel by the Washington Post journalist and Mississippian. Based on the 1990 Princeton murders, this is a taut thriller.”
–Recommended by Cody Morrison, buyer

Factory Man by Beth Macy
“Third-generation Virginia furniture company owner John Bassett defies globalization and saves a town by keeping it local—a brilliant story we should all take notice of.”
–Recommended by Richard Howorth, owner

That Bookstore in Blytheville
Blytheville, AR

The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison
“Thrillingly suspenseful, romantic, and lyrically told, this book is set largely in Zambia, where human rights attorney Zoe Fleming searches for justice for a young rape victim with Down syndrome, only to uncover a disturbing link between the girl and a powerful and ruthless Zambian family. This one will tear your heart out and make you want to do something to change the world.”
–Recommended by Chris Crawley, owner

Jackson Street Books, Inc.
Athens, GA

Children of the Levee by Lafcadio Hearn
Hearn lived an extraordinary life as a Greek-born writer who explored both the city of New Orleans and Japanese ghost stories in his travels. Co-owner Tony Arnold says, “This is a long-unavailable collection by this historic Louisiana icon and an early writer on Japan.”
–Recommended by Tony Arnold, co-owner

TurnRow Book Co.
Greenwood, MS

Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke
“Working outside of his usual detective series, Burke may well have delivered his masterpiece with this novel about two war heroes who start their own business in the oilfields of Louisiana and Texas during the 1940s.”
–Recommended by Jamie Kornegay, owner

For more recommendations, TurnRow’s top 20 list can be found here.

Parnassus Books
Nashville, TN

Flying Shoes by Lisa Howorth
“Not exactly a crime novel, this is a story of a particular time and place in the South, with a cast of colorful characters, plenty of humor to balance the darkness, and an acute sense of history.”

The Vacationers by Emma Straub
“We’re huge fans of Emma Straub’s The Vacationers and she lived in Nashville and taught at Vanderbilt this spring, so we consider her an honorary Southerner. Expect to see this one sticking out of everyone’s beach bags, for good reason.”

Rural Studio at Twenty: Designing and Building in Hale County, Alabama by Andrew Freear, Elena Barthel, Andrea Oppenheimer Dean, and Timothy Hursley (photographer)
“Here’s a book that looks good, reads well, and leaves you with a warm feeling in your soul. The follow-up to the bestselling Rural Studio (2002) checks in on this amazing project as it reaches its twenty-year anniversary. Architects, community advocates, professors, and students will love it.”
–Recommended by Karen Hayes, co-owner