We Southerners love summer. Like a tick on a coonhound, we latch on to each day, extracting all we can before our balmy companion takes leave in late September. Lonely porches and white sand dunes populate with bare feet again. However, our reunion with nature wouldn’t be complete without one most perfect pairing — a comfy porch seat and great summer reading.
For most, the lineup will undoubtedly include the much-anticipated “Go Set a Watchman” by Harper Lee. But besides Lee’s high-profile legacy, here are a few more essentials.
“My Sunshine Away”
by M.O. Walsh
This New York Times Best Seller is set in Baton Rouge and pays homage to the town through its tender, sensually delightful depictions of a lush Southern ambience, complete with crawfish boils and football games. Walsh meticulously crafts the story of 15-year-old track star Lindy Simpson, a carefree and popular girl who experiences a horrible crime one evening near her home. After an idolized childhood unravels and a darker side of the quaint Southern town reveals itself, the power of family and forgiveness emerges as the tie that binds.
by Mary Kay Andrews
What summer reading list would be complete without the quintessential beach-themed novel? Mary Kay Andrews gives us this and so much more with her charming story of Greer Hennessy, a movie location scout in search of the perfect hidden beach town for a new blockbuster movie. She finds just that in a remote Florida panhandle community consisting of one motel and a marina. As Greer envisions the peaceful town engulfed in the setting of a boisterous, action-packed film, she finds herself in direct conflict with Eben Thinadeaux, staunch environmentalist and town mayor. Eben will fiercely protect his recently revived bay community, if only he can overcome his fierce attraction for Greer. Andrews will be signing copies of “Beach Town” at Page and Palette on May 20 at 6 p.m.
“The Marauders: A Novel”
by Tom Cooper
Through a series of colorful vignettes narrated by a cast of rambunctious characters, Cooper paints a gritty and hilarious picture of life in the Louisiana bayous during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. The loosely crafted plot follows Gus Lindquist, who is fiercely driven to discover Jean Lafitte’s buried treasure, if only he can remember where he left his prosthetic arm. Lindquist’s journey leads him face-to-face with shrimp fishermen, marijuana growers and crooks, all trying to make a dime after the oil spill dismantled their livelihoods. The stronghold of greed carries the lead in this novel, and each well-defined, captivating character struggles for survival in a tailspin of adventure in the cypress swamps and waterways of the Gulf Coast.
“Selma, Lord, Selma: Girlhood Memories of the Civil Rights Days”
by Sheyann Webb-Christburg, Rachel West Nelson and Frank Sikora
A compelling memoir with great relevance to this year’s 50th anniversary, “Selma, Lord, Selma” was chosen as the Alabama Book Festival’s Student Readers Group selection. Each year, the ABF selects one book for high school and undergraduate students to read. Afterward, the author is invited to the conference to discuss the book in reference to Alabama’s cultural and literary history. “Selma, Lord, Selma” chronicles the lives of 8-year-old Sheyann and her friend, 9-year-old Rachel, who skipped school to attend the pivotal Brown Chapel meetings. Later petitioning their parents to become active in the marches, the two girls caught the attention of Dr. Martin Luther King, who grew fond of his youthful supporters.
“Journey to the Wilderness: War, Memory, and a Southern Family’s Civil War Letters”
by Frye Gaillard
After “Selma, Lord, Selma, ” follow up with Mobile native and MB contributing writer Frye Gaillard’s newest book, “Journey to the Wilderness.” The former civil rights journalist is admired for his epic work, “Cradle of Freedom: Alabama and the Movement That Changed America, ” the winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award. In his latest work, Gaillard examines the letters of his great-great-grandfather, Thomas Gaillard, and Thomas’ sons Franklin and Richebourg, both Confederate soldiers. With a determined yet eloquent pen, Gaillard reveals the raw, biting pain of a war that deeply affected his family. Reflecting on his family’s artifacts, Gaillard contemplates lessons learned and a history of the South redefined by the wages of war.
text by lee ann kelley