HomeArts & LitSummer Reading List 2011

Summer Reading List 2011

The best beach reads, mysteries, chick lit and new releases from down South.

Gone With a Handsomer Man

by Michael Lee West

Teeny Templeton believes her life is finally on track. She’s getting married, baking her own wedding cake and leaving her troubled past behind. Then she finds her fiance playing naked badminton with a couple of gorgeous, skanky chicks. The wedding is off, and when he’s found dead a few days later, all fingers point to Teeny. The sixth novel for West, who lives on  a farm in Tennessee, “Gone’s” cover art alone is worth picking up the book, available now. Follow the author on Twitter @MichaelLeeWest or like her on Facebook.

The Beach Trees

by Karen White

Debuting at No. 15 on The New York Times bestseller list during its first week out in May, “The Beach Trees” is set in a geographical location the author knows well: the Gulf coast. After years of searching for her lost sister, main character Julie travels home to Biloxi, Mississippi, and unlocks her surprising family history in an area that’s almost as broken as the character herself.

The Inheritance of Beauty

by Nicole Seitz

An enchanting story about age and beauty, and the blessings and curses of each, Seitz’s “Inheritance of Beauty,” available now, follows in the footsteps of her other titles in giving the reader a deep, spiritual experience blended with excellent storytelling. At the core of the story are Magnolia and George, childhood sweethearts who grew up in the Lowcountry of South Carolina and now live in Harmony House nursing home. Read our full review here (scroll down). Follow the author on Twitter @nicoleseitz or like her on Facebook.


by Karen Russell

Set in a fading Florida Everglades theme park, “Swamplandia!” is Miami native Russell’s first novel. Based on an earlier short story, Russell expands her tale of an alligator-wrestling dynasty in decline, and the 13-year-old heroine who must try and keep the family business from going under. Described by The New York Times as “bizarre,” “deeply haunted” and having a “strange allure,” “Swamplandia!,” out now, is a must for summer reading. Read our intern Jake Cole’s full review here.

The Secret Lives of Dresses

by Erin McKean

Fans of McKean’s “A Dress A Day” blog will want to pick up her debut novel, out now. With a gorgeous yellow dress on its cover, the book centers around college student Dora, who rushes home to North Carolina after her grandmother has stroke. McKean’s expertise, and her charming stories told from the perspective of dresses themselves, enter the picture when Dora must run Mimi’s vintage clothing shop. Like the author on Facebook.

Silver Sparrow

by Tayari Jones

Set in a middle-class neighborhood in Atlanta in the 1980s, Jones’ third book was released in May and revolves around bigamist James Witherspoon’s two families – a public one and a secret one. When the daughters from each family meet and become friends, only one knows they are sisters in a relationship destined to explode. Follow the author on Twitter @tayari.

Summer in the South

by Cathy Holton

Author of the popular “Beach Trip,” Holton returns with this novel just begging for a summer read now. A tale of dark deeds and family secrets in a small, Southern town, Summer in the South follows Chicago writer Ava to Woodburn, Tennessee, where she is spending the summer an old college friend and his two great-aunts. Ava soon finds herself tangled in a web of family history, rivalry and rumors as she attempts to write their story. Follow the author on Twitter @cathyholton or like her book’s page on Facebook.

Sweet Jiminy

by Kristin Gore

The daughter of Al Gore, Kristin Gore debuted her third book in April, and unlike her other two books, set in Washington, this one is set in the South. Main character Jiminy abruptly quits law school and flees Chicago for her grandmother’s farm in rural Mississippi. Once there, she’s shocked to discover there was once another Jiminy, her grandmother’s housekeeper who was murdered along with her husband four decades earlier in a Civil Rights-related hate crime, and sets out to solve the cold case.

Georgia Bottoms

by Mark Childress

Georgia Bottoms may be Six Points, Alabama’,s finest feature – beautiful, worldly, a splendid cook and faithful churchgoer who cares for her aged mother and sells handmade quilts to her grateful neighbors. But Georgia also has a discreet side business, “entertaining” six local gentlemen on different days of the week. When Saturday’s man, Preacher Eugene Hendrix, decides he must confess their affair publicly, Georgia sets out to stop him before it’s too late. It’s another hilarious tale available now from Alabama’s Childress, know for 1993’s Crazy in Alabama. Follow the author on Twitter @markchildress.

Catfish Alley

by Lynne Bryant

Said to be written in the tradition of “The Help,” Bryant’s debut novel chronicles what happens when wannabe socialite Roxanne Reeves is given the job of researching her town’s African-American history for a local tour. A retired black schoolteacher becomes her guide and takes Roxanne to Catfish Alley, where she is transported back in time and begins to see things differently. Rural Mississippi native Bryant grew up during the Civil Rights Movement and says she wanted to tackle an issue most Southerners can identify with but struggle to understand. Follow the author on Twitter @lynnebryant.

Dead Reckoning

by Charlaine Harris

Fans of Sookie Stackhouse have been eagerly awaiting the latest book in Harris’s Southern Vampire series. In “Dead Reckoning,” Sookie sets out to determine who firebombed Merlotte’s, while also becoming involved in a complicated plot involving Eric Northman and Pam’s plans to kill their vampire master. Filled with the paranormal characters readers have come to love from Arkansan Charlaine Harris, “Dead Reckoning” is available in hardcover now. Want to read the entire series from the beginning? Get started with book No. 1, “Dead Until Dark.” Follow the author on Twitter @charlaineharris.

Iron House

by John Hart

Described as having “Grisham-style intrigue,” North Carolinian John Hart delivers a gut-wrenching, heartstopping tale of two brothers in his fourth novel. Due out in July, “Iron House” starts out in an orphanage, where brothers Michael and Julian have to kill to survive, then moves to the streets of New York, where Michael has been an enforcer in the world of organized crime. When Michael meets Elena and tries for a fresh start, the plot moves back to North Carolina and ultimately back to where the boys began. Follow the author on Twitter @JohnHartAuthor or like him on Facebook.

Folly Beach

by Dorothea Benton Frank

Coming June 14, the latest beach read from South Carolina’s Frank is the story of a young widow named Cate whose life is wrecked. She manages to put things back together on Folly Beach with support from a man named John and along the way discovers the history of the Porgy House and the real story behind Dorothy Heyward (wife of the writer of Porgy and Bess, supposedly written on Folly during the summer of 1934.)

Summer Rental

by Mary Kay Andrews

Also known for her beach reads, Atlanta’s Andrews’ latest, “Summer Rental,” comes out June 7. Best friends since Catholic grade school, Ellis, Julia and Dorrie now find themselves at the crossroads of their life and love, and a month in a rambling beach house in North Carolina’s Outer Banks is just what they need. Follow the author on Twitter @mkayandrews or like her page on Facebook.

Oldies but goodies:

Gone With the Wind

by Margaret Mitchell

As this Southern classic celebrates its 75th anniversary this summer, take the time to read it again, or read it for the first time, and relish in the love story of Scarlett and Rhett.

The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

If you haven’t read Stockett’s bombshell about Jackson, Mississippi’s, Junior Leaguers and their black “help,” what are you waiting for? The movie version comes out in August, and the book remains on the bestseller list after two years. Keep up with movie news about The Help on Facebook.

The Little Friend

by Donna Tartt

Greenwood, Mississippi, native Tartt followed up her debut bestseller, “The Secret History,” with this lesser-known work in 2002, set in her home state. Tartt, who attended University of Mississippi during the time of Barry Hannah and Willie Morris, is a suspenseful storyteller, using the voice of young girl Harriet, who sets out to solve the murder of her older brother during the course of a summer. Like the Donna Tartt fan page on Facebook.

Enter our Summer Book Giveaway for the chance to win one of these titles, and click here to view last year’s list.

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