Books to Read This Summer

Summer is officially here and now’s the perfect time to catch up on some reading. Whether you’re looking for a book for your beach bag, to take with you on a trip, or to curl up with on the couch in the comfort of the air conditioning, you may find what you’re looking for in this Summer Reads blogpost. Don’t see something that interests you? Browse all of our books by subject area so you can find the perfect book or browse our Fall/Winter catalog for new books coming out in August & September.

book cover for Surfing the South by Steve Estes

Surfing the South: The Search for Waves and the People Who Ride Them by Steve Estes

When most Americans think of surfing, they often envision waves off the coasts of California, Hawai’i, or even New Jersey. What few know is that the South has its own surf culture. To fully explore this unsung surfing world, Steve Estes undertook a journey that stretched more than 2,300 miles, traveling from the coast of Texas to Ocean City, Maryland. Along the way he interviewed and surfed alongside dozens of people—wealthy and poor, men and women, Black and white—all of whom opened up about their lives, how they saw themselves, and what the sport means to them. They also talked about race, class, the environment, and how surfing has shaped their identities.

“Combining history, travelog, and memoir . . . a valuable gift.”—Journal of Southern History

“The author’s contribution to the literature of surfing history in particular is a substantial one . . .”—H-Environment

Book cover for the Armchair

The Armchair Birder Goes Coastal: The Secret Lives of Birds of the Southeastern Shore by John Yow

With his distinctively witty, anecdotal, and disarming voice, John Yow now journeys to the shore and shares his encounters with some of the most familiar and beloved coastal birds. Out of his travels—from North Carolina’s Outer Banks, down the Atlantic coast, and westward along the Gulf of Mexico—come colorful accounts of twenty-eight species, from ubiquitous beach birds like sanderlings and laughing gulls to wonders of nature like roseate spoonbills and the American avocets. Along the way, Yow delves deeply into the birds’ habits and behaviors, experiencing and relating the fascination that leads many an amateur naturalist to become the most unusual of species—a birder.

“Yow ventures from his porch to take readers hunting for shorebirds . . . . [with] his folksy, humorous, and erudite style.”—Publishers Weekly

“Through enchanting descriptions and personal anecdotes, Yow makes characters—the villainous ruddy turnstone, the “drunken” reddish egret—out of his subjects, carefully highlighting each species’ subtleties.”—Audubon Editors’ Choice

Book cover for Step It Up and Go by David Menconi

Step It Up & Go: The Story of North Carolina Popular Music, from Blind Boy Fuller and Doc Watson to Nina Simone and Superchunk by David Menconi

2023 North Carolina Humanities “North Carolina Reads” Selection
2020 North Caroliniana Society Book Award

This book is a love letter to the artists, scenes, and sounds defining North Carolina’s extraordinary contributions to American popular music. Spanning a century of history from the dawn of recorded music to the present, and with sidebars and photos that help reveal the many-splendored glory of North Carolina’s sonic landscape, this is a must-read for every music lover.

“100 years of sound. From American Idol to Nina Simone, NC’s rich musical legacy thrives. . . . Not every state can merit a hefty book about its music history, or fill an index with so many well-known names.”—News & Observer

book cover for The Distance from Slaughter County by Steven Moore

The Distance from Slaughter County: Lessons from Flyover Country by Steven Moore

As a soldier and civilian, Steven Moore has traveled from the American Midwest to Afghanistan and beyond. In those travels, he’s seen what place can mean, specifically rural places, and how it follows us, changes us. . . . These pieces build into a contemplative whole, one that is a powerful meditation on why where we come from means something and how we’ll always bring where we are with us, no matter where we go.

“Steven Moore’s nuanced, hypnotic essays about growing up in the Midwest balance nostalgia with critique, sharing childhood memories that were formative to his identity . . . . If ‘estrangement toward place … is an estrangement toward self,’ these essays, with their sensitive probing of geographical identities, chart the way back to harmony.”—Foreword Reviews (starred review)

book cover for Who We Are Now by Michelle Fishburne

Who We Are Now: Stories of What Americans Lost and Found during the COVID-19 Pandemic by Michelle Fishburne

Michelle Fishburne did the unthinkable during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic: she motor-homed 12,000 miles all over the United States and sat down with hundreds of people face to face. People shared what their lives were like, what made them struggle, and what surprised them. The personal histories in this book show a diversity of American lives, from the young college student who finds unexpected fame on TikTok to a special-education teacher sharing the challenges of remote learning. 

“Readers who believe they’ll never forget the last three years may find Who We Are Now comforting in its ordinariness and everyday-people feel, and it’s lack of divisiveness. This is a book about you and everyone you know. Check it out.”—Philadelphia Tribune

“A compact, accessible oral history documenting what Americans “lost and found” during the pandemic. Highlly recommended.”—CHOICE