Top Picks for Summer Reading

 In Summer Reads

Welcome to another beautiful summer on the Outer Banks! We know you’re ready to hit the beach, set up your umbrella and crack a spine on a brand new book. Local history, fiction by Outer Bankers, children’s books and stories of nostalgia – we’ve got a few you should look into.

Desperately Seeking Colonists 

It’s the question no one can leave alone: What happened to the Lost Colonists? Every year, researchers hit the Outer Banks and surrounding mainland with their teams and theories looking for evidence of the fate of England’s first settlement in the New World. Andrew Lawler, contributing writer to The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Smithsonian, became intrigued by the Lost Colony during childhood visits to the Outer Banks and decided to take on the mystery for himself in his new book The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke (Doubleday, hardcover, $29.95). 

At the crux of the puzzle is the secret token – a Greek cross – which colonists were to carve into the wall of the Roanoke settlement should they have been forced to leave against their will, signifying duress. But no secret token was found, leaving history to ponder where they went and why they left apparently of their own free will. On his quest, Lawler talks to everyone from esteemed university professors, archaeologists, and scientists to renowned local historians, even conspiracy theorists. In seeking answers, he examines how the centuries old unanswerable question of what became of our first settlers has played on the country’s fears and defined parts of our national identity. Relying on family trees and DNA testing, artifacts found in Hatteras and inland, and oral history, Lawler leads the reader to draw their own conclusions about the fate of the Lost Colony. 

Local Novelists Hit it Big

Colingtonian Michelle Young-Stone’s previous novels of magical realism, akin to Alice Hoffman, received national critical acclaim. In her latest endeavor, Lost in the Beehive (Simon & Schuster, paperback, $16), Young-Stone tells the story of Gloria Ricci, a closeted gay woman of 1960s and 70s New Jersey who is visited by visions of compassionate, spectral bees. When her marriage to a North Carolina man takes an unexpected turn, she must find the strength to stand up for herself with the help of her family, friends – and hive. Young-Stone was inspired to write the book based on meeting a young Outer Banks man while vacationing here as a teenager; the man confessed he could never admit to his friends and family he was gay. She based one of the main characters in the book on him in hopes that he was able to find a way to live an open and happy life.

Cass Morris has spent part of every summer of her life on the Outer Banks (not to mention a few seasons working at the Island Bookstore) and calls this area her second home. All those who know her recognize Morris as the girl with either her nose in a book or a pen in her hand. So, it comes as no surprise that Cass is now joining the ranks of Published Author. This year sees the release of Morris’ debut novel From Fire Unseen, Book 1 Aven Cycle (Daw, hardcover, $26), an epic historical fantasy set in an alternate Rome. The first in a series, this spellbinding page-turner melds Roman politics with romance and magic, perfect for fans of Game of Thrones.

Ralph Webster broke onto the local book club scene two years ago with his debut historical fiction novel, A Smile in One Eye, a Tear in the Other, based on the true story of his family’s survival in WWII Europe. The book received rave reviews and Webster is back this summer with a new historical novel, One More Moon: Goodbye, Mussolini! One Woman’s Story of Fate and Survival (CreateSpace, paperback, $15.99). Elsa, nearing 100 years old and ensconced in a Portland nursing home, recounts her days in Naples as the co-owner of a pension with her husband at the beginning of World War II. At first a joy to leave behind England for the glorious sunrises and moonlit nights of Italy, Elsa and her family find their business struggling as the noose of anti-Semitism under Mussolini’s rule tightens around their world. It soon becomes clear that Elsa and her family must flee Italy to America before it’s too late. Webster perfectly captures the voice of middle-aged Elsa, based on his grandmother, plunging the reader into her world with this highly readable, fast-paced novel.

Because Education Can be Fun

Celebrating her 30th anniversary as the Crabby Lady, Suzanne Tate returns with the thirty-ninth entry in her Outer Banks Nature Series for children. Merri-Lee Monarch: A Tale of a Big Trip (Nags Head Art, paperback, $4.99) is beautifully illustrated by James Melvin, artist for the series since its conception. Merri-Lee flew merrily all day long. She liked to fly around in a garden that was full of flowers. Fun for children of all ages and a collectible for those in the know, the Crabby Lady never disappoints.

The story of the Wright Brothers’ first flight on a sand dune in Kitty Hawk (now part of Kill Devil Hills) is a true tale of American innovation and invention, fascinating to both adults and children. And while the story has been told many times throughout the years, it never gets old. And in The Wright Brothers’ First Flight: A Fly on the Wall History (Capstone, paperback, $7.95), learning is fun when the tale is narrated by Maggie and Horace, two flies who happened to be present to watch the brothers – from their small bicycle shop in Ohio through to their multiple test flights in North Carolina. Included in the back of the book are a glossary of terms and list of resources for children who want to further explore flight.

For the Love of Reading

In a world that has become obsessed with goals and daily planners, we suggest you throw one more list in the mix: 100 Books that Changed the World (Universe, hardcover, $29.95). Listed in chronological order beginning in 2800 BC to the present and giving two full-color pages to each title, authors Scott Christianson and Colin Salter identify the one hundred manuscripts that have defined modern humanity and continue to be relevant. These books are not only still accessible to current readers, they are entertaining, funny and mind-bending. Philosophy, history, fiction, business, parenting, graphic novels and children’s literature are all represented in this comprehensive list. From the I Ching, Aesop’s Fables and Don Quixote to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, A Brief History of Time, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, this book contains the ultimate Reader’s Goal List.

So, after you’ve completed your morning shell collecting adventure, walked a daily mile to Duck Donuts and back, worked on the family jigsaw puzzle, seen at least one site of educational value, and spent a few hours on the beach, you can feel the wonderful goal-achieving satisfaction of sitting down with a good book.

Meaghan Beasley is celebrating fifteen years of working at Island Bookstore, where every year her To Be Read pile spills further off the bed table and covers the surrounding floor. She lives in Kitty Hawk with her fabulous husband and 12-year-old dog – but let’s face it, he pretty much lives like an only child.

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