10 Southern books for your summer reading list

We’re not even halfway through 2019, and already this has been a banner year for Atlanta authors. Earlier this year, we saw books published by Soniah Kamal (“Unmarriageable”), Jessica Handler (“The Magnetic Girl”), Mickey Dubrow (“American Judas”), Anissa Gray (“The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls”), Snowden Wright (“American Pop”) and Devi S. Laskar (“The Atlas of Blues and Reds”). And among the AJC’s most highly anticipated Southern books this summer, five are by local authors. Running the gamut from contemporary beach reads to thought-provoking investigations of our recent past, here are 10 books we can’t wait to read this season.

“Sunset Beach” by Mary Kay Andrews
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‘Sunset Beach’

If it’s summer, there must be a new book out by Mary Kay Andrews, the self-proclaimed queen of beach reads who specializes in stories about women reinventing themselves. Andrews’ latest page-turner is about Drue Campbell, a professional kiteboarder who’s laid up with a knee injury in a recently inherited beach cottage on the Gulf Coast of Florida. With few other options at her disposal, she begins working for her estranged father, a flashy personal injury lawyer. While on the job, she comes across a cold case involving a murder at a resort hotel and turns amateur sleuth. This seaside murder mystery is less about whodunit and more about who can you trust. (St. Martin’s Press, on sale now)

“Orange World and Other Stories” by Karen Russell
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‘Orange World and Other Stories’

The third collection of short stories by “Swamplandia!” author Karen Russell is equal parts chilling and comic as mundane aspects of everyday life like motherhood, the opening of a new hotel and a trip to a national forest bump up against a fantastical assortment of boogeymen, including an infectious tree spirit and a man who breeds tornadoes. In the title story “Orange World,” previously published in The New Yorker, an anxious new mother strikes a terrifying deal with the devil in order to ensure her child’s safety. In “Bog Girl: A Romance,” a boy falls in love with the body of a girl he discovers buried in the bog. “She doesn’t work, she doesn’t help. All day she lazes around the house,” complains the boy’s mother. Reading these eight tight stories is like seeing one’s own private fears and anxieties unleashed to grimly humorous effect. (Penguin Random House, on sale now)

“Sisters and Rebels: A Struggle for the Soul of America” by Jacquelyn Dowd Hall
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‘Sisters and Rebels’

Written by Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, the founding director of the Southern Oral History Program at the University of North Carolina, this deeply researched historical account of a Georgia family’s evolution of enlightenment was inspired by stories the author collected in 1973 from her principal subjects, sisters Grace and Katherine Lumpkin. Born in the late 1800s in a prominent slaveholding family to a member of the Ku Klux Klan, the women earned college degrees, moved north and became equal rights advocates for women and blacks, although Grace would have a philosophical reversal in her later years. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly calls it “admirably crafted” and “a fascinating window on America’s social and intellectual history.” (W.W. Norton, May 21)

“Grace Will Lead Us Home” by Jennifer Berry Hawes
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‘Grace Will Lead Us Home’

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jennifer Berry Hawes was preparing for bed on June 17, 2015, when she first learned of Dylann Roof’s violent rampage at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (Mother Emanuel) in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. That night she wrote the first of many stories she would file for the local newspaper, the Post and Courier, about the massacre that killed nine people and the resulting trial. In “Grace Will Lead Us Home,” Hawes focuses on the survivors and the loved ones of those who died as she details the healing process that followed this shattering event that sent shock waves through a city and a nation still grappling with its sordid racial history. (St. Martin’s Press, June 4)

“The Favorite Daughter” by Patti Callahan Henry
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‘The Favorite Daughter’

Following the success of her historical fiction debut, “Becoming Mrs. Lewis,” about the wife of “Narnia” author C.S. Lewis, New York Times best-selling author Patti Callahan Henry returns to form with her latest contemporary women’s fiction release, “The Favorite Daughter,” set in the fictitious small town of Watersend, South Carolina. Lena Donohue is a New York-based travel writer who returns home to tend to her father, who has Alzheimer’s. As the family tries to preserve their father’s memories through stories and photographs, Lena is forced to confront her own painful memories of her thwarted wedding day. Along the way, she finds a way to forgive those who betrayed her. (Penguin Random House, June 4)

“Smokin’ Joe: The Life of Joe Frazier” by Mark Kram Jr.
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‘Smokin’ Joe’

Son of Sports Illustrated writer Mark Kram, who wrote about the Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier rivalry in the book “Ghosts of Manila,” Mark Kram Jr. turns his focus to the lesser-known half of that pugnacious duo, Joe Frazier, in his biography “Smokin’ Joe.” Born in Beaufort, South Carolina, the youngest of 13 children raised in a two-bedroom house, Frazier would go on to win an Olympic gold medal and reign as the heavyweight champion boxer from 1970 to 1973, until he was defeated by George Foreman. He would fight Ali three times, the last time at Thrilla in Manila, considered one of the best boxing matches in sports history. (HarperCollins, June 4)

“The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead
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‘The Nickel Boys’

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead, who won the National Book Award for his historical novel “The Underground Railroad,” returns with his highly anticipated follow-up, “The Nickel Boys.” Set in Tallahassee, Florida, in the early ‘60s, it follows the trajectory of two young black men who meet in a brutal reform school. Elwood Curtis is an idealistic follower of Martin Luther King Jr.’s teachings who is headed to college when he’s mistakenly caught up in something that lands him in Nickel Academy. There he meets Turner, a cagey skeptic who’s always working the angles. Their experiences in the Nickel and the choices they make will have a resounding impact on their lives. (Doubleday, July 16)

“Never Have I Ever” by Joshilyn Jackson
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‘Never Have I Ever’

No good has ever come from playing the drinking game Never Have I Ever. Nobody knows that better than Amy Whey, a mom and scuba diving instructor. In New York Times best-selling author Joshilyn Jackson’s new novel, Amy meets her match in the mysterious and diabolical Angelica Roux, a new addition to the neighborhood book club. When they engage in the game one night, both women reveal more than they intend, and before Amy knows it, the deep, dark secret she’s been hiding from everyone is in danger of being revealed. And it could cost her everything she holds dear. (William Morrow, July 30)

“We Are All Good People Here” by Susan Rebecca White
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‘We Are All Good People Here’

Like Whitehead’s “The Nickel Boys,” Susan Rebecca White’s new novel is also set in the early ‘60s and follows the lives of two people who meet at an educational facility, but the setting and circumstances couldn’t be more different. Daniella Gold and Eve Whalen are two privileged young women who meet as freshmen at exclusive Belmont College. They both get caught up in the turbulent times of political unrest, but their attempts to make the world a better place lead them down divergent paths when Eve becomes involved with the radical underground. Spanning 30 years, “We Are All Good People Here” examines how the choices we make in our youth can affect the lives of future generations. (Simon and Schuster, Aug. 6)

“The Last Widow” by Karin Slaughter
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‘The Last Widow’

New York Times best-selling author Karin Slaughter’s new thriller brings back popular recurring characters Sara Linton, an Atlanta medical examiner, and Will Trent, an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Romantically linked, the couple is drawn into the belly of a conspiracy group after a scientist with the CDC is kidnapped and two bombs explode near Emory University. Threatening to destroy thousands of lives, the group responsible for the city’s reign of terror kidnaps Sara, and it’s up to Will to save her and thwart their plans. (William Morrow, Aug. 20)

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