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Local Summer Reading List

Books to read while the summer simmers on.

Written By:  Kate Parrish

Photographers:  Supplied

The Midnight Cool by Lydia Peelle (Harper)

When Billy and Charles, two conartists in the business of trading horses, find themselves conned by Leland Hatcher, the wealthiest man in the fictional town of Richfield, Tennessee, they end up with a murderous mare impossible to sell. It’s 1916, and the United States is on the verge of entering World War I in this debut novel by Nashville resident Lydia Peelle. Following a terrible accident with the horse, the history that binds Billy and Charles starts to unfold in the face of an uncertain future. As Charles falls in love with Catherine, Hatcher’s daughter, the two horse traders turn their business dealings into supplying the government with mules, an unlikely but valuable commodity, to support the war effort. Charles begins to pull away from Billy, and love, money, war, and secrets converge to reveal a man fighting a war as much inside as out.

One Good Mama Bone by Bren McClain (The University of South Carolina Press)

In her debut novel, Ashland City-based author Bren McClain presents the story of Sarah Creamer, a recently widowed single mother trapped in poverty. Set in rural South Carolina in the 1950s, Sarah, who has believed her whole life she will never be a good mother, is now responsible for raising Emerson Bridge, the son of her deceased husband’s mistress. Sarah buys a calf for Emerson Bridge to enter into a local cattle competition with the hope that a first prize showing will help them stay afloat. Before Sarah can say no, the calf’s mother, Mama Red, takes up residence, as well, giving Sarah the education in motherhood she desires. As the competition approaches, Sarah also learns what the high cost of winning first prize will be, and she must decide if she can live with knowing she might be sending the calf to his death.

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner (Crown Books)

Zentner, a Nashville-based singer-songwriter turned young-adult fiction author, returns with his second novel, Goodbye Days. Following the death of his three best friends in a car accident that might be linked to a text message he sent, Carver Briggs finds himself pursued by a local attorney bent on pinning the deaths on him. As Briggs grieves the loss of his friends, he leans on unexpected allies to help him say goodbye.

Gizelle’s Bucket List by Lauren Fern Watt (Simon & Schuster)

When Watt, a former Nashville resident, learns that her 160-pound English Mastiff, Gizelle, is dying, she sets out to make their last days together as memorable as possible. The pair checks off everything Watt imagines might be on her dog’s bucket list, including visiting Times Square and traveling along the coast of Maine. A coming-of-age tale, Watt, then 25, struggles with the pain of death and the joy of living.

City of Light, City of Poison by Holly Tucker (W.W. Norton)

Murder, deception, and romance. Torture chambers, love potions, and poison. While it might read like a true-crime novel, there is nothing fictional about City of Light. Tucker, a professor at Vanderbilt University, follows Nicolas de la Reynie, the first police chief of Paris, as Louis XIV tasks him with conquering the “crime capital of the world.”

Change of Seasons by John Oates (St. Martin’s Press)

In his debut memoir, John Oates shares what it’s like to be half of Hall & Oates, the most successful musical duo of all time. Now a Nashville resident, Oates writes about growing up outside Philadelphia, the false starts and setbacks of getting the duo off the ground, and what it was like to walk away from it all at the height of their careers.

The Songs of Trees by David Haskell (Viking)

Can something without a voice still speak? David Haskell, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated author and Sewanee, Tennessee-based biologist, says yes. Using trees as an entry point, Haskell explores what it means to find connection in biology, human nature, and ethics. Part science, part meditation, The Songs of Trees makes it impossible to ignore how all living things are telling their own kind of story.

An Outlaw and a Lady by Jessi Colter with David Ritz (Harper Collins)

For more than three decades, Jessi Colter was married to country music outlaw Waylon Jennings. In her debut memoir, Colter writes about what it was like living with a troubled legend while working to establish her own musical career. As Jennings plunged further into his addictions, Colter shares how she found her way back to a faith that would keep her spirit afloat.

Dolly on Dolly: Interviews and Encounters with Dolly Parton Edited by Randy L. Schmidt (Chicago Review Press)

She has sold more than 100 million records worldwide in a career spanning five decades. She is a singer, songwriter, actress, author, Broadway composer, theme park owner, and humanitarian. Dolly Parton is a living legend whose impact not only in the music world, but also American history, is undeniable. For the first time, the best of Parton’s interviews and self-penned articles are brought together in Dolly on Dolly, giving readers the full breadth of a remarkable career that hasn’t slowed down yet. 

The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South by John T. Edge (Penguin Press)

From esteemed writer John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance plus author and editor of more than a dozen books, comes his next exploration of food as a lens in which to better understand history. Papers begins in 1955 with the rise of the Civil Rights movement, when black cooks and maids played an integral role in feeding and supporting those fighting for racial equality. Concluding in 2015, Edge follows the countries, individuals, and dishes responsible for the continuing evolution of Southern identity. 

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate (Ballantine Books)

For nearly three decades, Georgia Tann, operator of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis, kidnapped and sold more than 5,000 impoverished children to wealthy families. In Wingate’s latest novel, she uses the true story of child trafficking in Tennessee as the backdrop for 12-year-old Rill Foss’s struggle to keep her sisters and brother together in 1930s Memphis. Meanwhile, in present-day South Carolina, Avery Stafford, born to a well-to-do family, begins to unravel a family secret.

The Seven Mindsets of Success by Sten Morgan (Morgan James)

For Nashvillian Sten Morgan, success is all in your head. Your mindset, that is. After going from $40 in his bank account to a six-figure salary in just three years, the 30-year-old financial advisor shares in his first book how anyone can redirect their financial future, as well as any area of life. Mindsets walks readers through real-world examples and techniques for shifting your perspective, dealing with discomfort and conflict, and getting out of your own way so you can be successful. (Available July 4.)

The Bookshop at Water’s End by Patti Callahan Henry (Berkley)

Following a tragic mistake in the ER, Dr. Bonny Blankenship needs to get out of dodge. Longing for the comfort of a familiar place that reminds her of happier times, she heads to Water’s End, the sweet seaside town with the bookshop she and her best friend Lainey called home each summer. But they’re not kids anymore, and life isn’t simple for either one of them. Bonny struggles with the uncertainty of her future, while Lainey wrestles with a dark past. (Available July 11.)

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