We present you with books that are worth the read. We specifically curated these selections with our LOCAL Life audience in mind. Browse our bookcase below as we have grouped them by theme. All selections by Denise Friday.
Books that haunt your thoughts long after dark.
Home Before Dark
By Riley Sager
When her parents bought Baneberry Hall, an imposing estate in a small Vermont town, Maggie Holt was 5 years old. Twenty days after moving in they fled in the middle of the night. Her dad then wrote a best-selling book about their experience, detailing the ghost story that drove them away. Twenty-five years later, Maggie returns to the house to renovate and sell it. Maggie does not believe in ghosts and thinks her parents are liars. However, the house has a past that is unwilling to move on so quickly. Do not read this book in the dark!
By Gillian Flynn
When Libby Day was 7, her mom and two sisters were murdered in their home in the middle of the night. She ran from the house and hid. Her testimony put her 15-year-old brother, Ben, behind bars. Twenty-four years later she is contacted by a true crime group that thinks her brother is innocent. As Libby starts to consider her brother’s innocence, a list forms of suspects who had a motive. Will the truth set Ben free or place Libby in danger? This book is not for the squeamish but is full of twists that will keep you reading ’til the final shocking end.
By Blake Crouch
Jason Dessen, a college physics professor, was living a normal, happy life when he was abducted and knocked out. When he comes to, he is himself, but his life is different. He has no son, he has a different wife, and he is a celebrated scientific genius. Part thriller, part science fiction, the questions arise; what would your life be like if you chose a different path? Which is the better life? What would you sacrifice to have the life you want? An amazing read that will surprise you at every turn.
I’ll Be Gone in The Dark
By Michelle McNamara
From the mid-‘70s to the mid-‘80s a violent, unknown predator terrorized Northern California with a series of rapes, then murders, carried out by home invasions and a ski mask. He was never caught. Thirty years later McNamara began relentless research on the serial rapist/murderer she named the Golden State Killer. She wrote in-depth about the relentless police work and attempts to find this person, including the later discovery of DNA fingerprinting and how it connected the predator to over 50 crimes, science that was not available in the ’70s. If you are a fan of true crime, you don’t want to miss this obsessive journey to identify a killer.
The Silent Patient
By Alex Michaelides
Alicia Berenson is a successful painter, and she lives in a luxurious house in London with her husband, Gabriel. Alicia’s world shatters when Gabriel is found dead with multiple gunshot wounds, and beside him is Alicia, covered in his blood, holding the gun. She doesn’t speak another word after that incident. Instead she communicates her side of the story through a haunting self-portrait, which she titles “Alcestis.” Alicia is admitted to The Grove, a secure psychiatric facility, where she remains mute. Sleep with the lights on after this one!
All Is Now Lost
By Laura Elizabeth
The first book of The Island Mysteries Series, All Is Now Lost takes place on fictional Mongin Island, which, after a few pages in, any local will recognize as Daufuskie. Carr Jepson has recently moved to Mongin after the sudden death of her husband. She decides to open a book store that will serve as a gathering place for locals and visitors alike to meet, sit, read and come together over their love of the island. When a beloved local realtor turns up dead, Carr and her friends start sleuthing to find the killer and protect the locals.
High-flying tales of love and adventure
Summer reading is in the air
By Nicola Harrison
Hazel Francis is helping the war effort by building planes in her “Rosie the Riveter” job. She is quite talented at it and is promoted up the ranks until the war ends and men return to reclaim their jobs. With nowhere to return to in her hometown in Kansas, she lands in Laguna Beach and quickly secures a job with an eclectic but famous artist as his assistant. She involves herself with the town’s production of the Pageant of the Masters (a real event that still occurs) where works of art are recreated using real people as living pictures. A historical fiction that involves scandal and love, art and planes. Definitely worth a beach read.
The Mostly True Story of Tanner & Louise
By Colleen Oakley
Tanner, a college drop-out who only really wants to play video games, needs a job and a place to live. Louise Wilt’s daughter thinks she needs a caregiver after a slip on a rug. The 21-year-old and 84-year-old live together in equal discomfort. Then one day on the news, Tanner sees a computer-generated image of a jewel thief that looks remarkably like Louise. When Louise insists on a road trip, fun and friendship begin. This adorable book will restore your faith in age being just a number when it comes to adventure.
By Linda Holmes
Laurie Sassalyn returns to her Maine hometown after her wedding is called off. She busies herself by handling the estate of her great-aunt, Dot, who was 93 and never married. Hidden among her things, Laurie finds a wooden duck with a love letter attached. It seems worthless, until it suspiciously disappears. She becomes embroiled in the secrets of Dot’s life and the search for the duck. She becomes quite the sleuth, both for diving into the mystery and also for learning from Dot that she can have love and happiness without marriage and a family.
On Gin Lane
By Brooke Lea Foster
It’s the summer of 1957, and New York socialite Everleigh Farrows has finally satisfied her parents by finding a handsome fiancé willing to marry her after her last failed engagement. He has a delightful surprise for her in Southampton, a beach-side hotel named after her and a leisurely summer spent poolside with other Manhattanites. Yet when the hotel burns down opening weekend, Everleigh fills her time working for a famous photographer while the investigation drags on to find who is responsible. Everyone appears to be a suspect, including Everleigh, who is slowly pulling away from the life she was born into and attempts to discover the life she really wants to live.
By Taylor Brown
Zeno, a former WWI ace pilot, and Della, his wing-walking wife, travel around the U.S. performing acts of daring aerial feats. This romantic couple works their way across the South in order to fund travels to California during the Depression. Along the way they meet many people and sometimes have altercations on the ground and in the air. Alternately, the story is told of William Faulkner’s passion for aviation and attempts to become a pilot, until the author and the dare-devil couple have a chance encounter in New Orleans. Part American history and part love story, Brown, a coastal Georgia native, has produced a historical fiction that is hard to put down.
Journey into the enigmatic South
Embark on a literary adventure into the haunting and mesmerizing world of Southern Gothic.
As I Lay Dying
By William Faulkner
Written in the 1930s, this is a story of a poor, rural family attempting to honor the last wish of matriarch Addie Bundren, to be buried in her hometown of Jefferson, Mississippi. The book is narrated by 15 different characters, including her husband, children and sometimes Addie herself. The book begins with an ill Addie watching out a window as her son builds her coffin. The trek by wagon includes the corpse in the coffin, the husband, five children and some mules. There are ill-fated river crossings, an accidental barn-burning, a broken leg and a series of unfortunate setbacks and difficulties. Faulkner’s prose is not for everyone, but his Southern Gothic is exemplary and was an inspiration for the likes of Cormac McCarthy.
No Country for Old Men
By Cormac McCarthy
While out hunting near the Texas-Mexico border, Vietnam vet Llewellyn Moss comes across several dead bodies surrounding a pickup truck with heroin and $2 million in it. Moss cannot resist the money, thereby setting off a series of events that lead to horrific violence and being pursued by a mysterious psychopath. The sheriff, Ed Tom Bell, does his best to investigate the trail of crimes that result from Moss’s decision but ultimately feels outmatched by the senseless deaths. Not many can write pure violence like McCarthy.
The Little Friend
By Donna Tartt
In a sleepy town in Mississippi, a young boy, Robin, was found hanging from a tree in his own yard on Mother’s Day. Twelve years later his murder is still a mystery. Robin’s 12 1/2-year-old sister, Harriet, a voracious reader and determined soul, sets out to find the killer. Yet this is not a murder mystery. It is a skillfully told story of class in the South, of race also, but more of lives that end up where they are because of the families they were born to or what they’ve endured, such as the death of a child. The ending may make you smile, confust you or anger you, but it will evoke a strong reaction nevertheless. I think you either greatly appreciate the brilliant writing of Tartt or you don’t. For me, I’m a huge fan.
The Violent Bear It Away
By Flannery O’Connor
At a young age Francis Tarwater was an orphan left in his uncle, Rayber’s, care. He is soon kidnapped by his great-uncle, Mason, and raised in the isolated backwoods of Tennessee making moonshine and being brainwashed to become a prophet. When Mason dies, Francis, now 14, makes his way back to Rayber. Rayber was also kidnapped as a child by Mason, and the result is Francis and Rayber struggling with their extreme fundamentalist upbringing and the desire to resist the crazy teachings of Mason. The result is brutal: digging into mental illness, religious fanaticism and sheer violence. O’Connor is the definition of Southern Gothic.
Sing, Unburied, Sing
By Jesmyn Ward
Thirteen-year-old Jojo and his 3-year-old sister live with their grandparents on the Gulf of Mississippi. Their dad is in prison, and their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, is in and out of their lives. Jojo is more a parent to his sister than either his mom or dad, and he accepts this with quiet defeat. When Leonie is high, she is visited by the ghost of her brother, who was shot by a white man in an alleged hunting accident. When the dad is released from prison, Leonie packs up her children and a friend and drives across the state to retrieve him in an attempt to make her family whole again. The trip is filled with hope and promise, but also misery and resignation. Ward is brilliant at creating sympathy for people who do bad things and for portraying the complexities of the South in all its splendor and misery.
Covered in blooms
Five great books with ‘flowery’ titles
The Heirloom Garden
By Viola Shipman
In 1944 while working in her Victory Garden, Iris Maynard receives the news no wife wants to hear: her husband has been killed in the war. Forward to 2003, and Abby Peterson has moved into a rented house in Highland Park, Michigan. Her husband suffers from PTSD from the Iraq war, and she is struggling as a working mom and trying to get her husband the help he needs. Iris does not want to like, never mind interact, with her new renters, but she strikes up a friendship with their daughter, Lily, and is intrigued. She and Abby are drawn together over her beautiful garden, and they help each other survive the trauma of war while finding hope and promise in flowers.
By Martha Hall Kelly
Based on a true story of a group of Polish women who were together in a concentration camp and were used as experimental ‘rabbits’ to study medical treatments for soldiers. The story follows three women. New York City socialite Caroline Ferriday befriends this group and brings them to the U.S. after World War II for medical treatment. Herta Oberheuse was the only female Nazi doctor at Ravensbrück, and Kasia is a composite character based on several of the Polish “rabbits.” A very ambitious first novel of a little-known amazing story. Beautifully written.
The Language of Flowers
By Vanessa Diffenbaugh
The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, sweet peas for goodbye, red roses for love. Victoria Jones has spent her childhood in the foster-care system and has trouble trusting anyone. At eighteen she prefers homelessness in a park to people. She eventually uses her knowledge of flowers to help others and start her own business. Victoria is not always likable and makes self-destructive choices, but her transformation from “root-less moss” to “I surmount all obstacles mistletoe” is beautiful to witness. With each bad choice, you continue to root for her eventual re-growth.
The Magnolia Palace
By Fiona Davis
After losing her mother in the Spanish flu outbreak of 1919, highly sought-after artists’ model Lillian is struggling and in need of stable work. She takes a job as a private secretary for Helen Frick in her New York City mansion. There she is pulled into a web of deceit and family drama. Fifty years later the Frick Manson has been converted to a beautiful museum. Veronica, a model doing a shoot in the museum, happens upon hidden messages that lead her and the museum curator to clues about stolen jewels and a Frick family murder that was never solved. A masterful historical thriller.
The Last Garden In England
By Julia Kelly
A masterfully woven tale of five women living during different time periods who are connected by a single garden. In1904 talented Venetia Smith is hired to design the gardens of Highbury House in England. This will ultimately alter her life. Forty years later the mistress of the house is trying to hold on to her life before the war as her home is converted to a hospital for wounded soldiers. Her cook is desperate to get out and pursue her dreams, while the land girl, Beth, embraces the hard work and house. These three get drawn into a secret that endures for decades. Present day; designer Emma Lovett has been given a great opportunity to restore the Highbury House gardens back to their 1907 glory. She uncovers the long-lost secrets that the gardens have been keeping.
Golf and bird-related books worth adding to your bookshelf.
The Carolina Wren and Other South Carolina Birds
By Beth G. Causey
See other facts and pictures from this hardcover in Beaufort County libraries. Here are some interesting facts about the South Carolina state bird, the Carolina wren:
- It was adopted as the state bird in 1948, replacing the mockingbird.
- It lives year-round in South Carolina but can be found along the East Coast from Canada to Florida and west to Texas.
- A female lays up to three sets of eggs per year. They take 14-16 days to hatch. The hatchlings leave the nest within two weeks, but the parents continue to visit them and feed them for a month.
- There are many wrens, but the Carolina wren male is the only one who sings loudly to attract a mate (rather than the female).
- The wren parents build a nest together, and they remain together for life.
- It sings a high-pitched song that sounds like a fast-whistled “tea-kettle-tea-kettle-tea-kettle-tea.”
The Legend of Bagger Vance
By Steven Pressfield
Set during the Depression era in 1931, two golf legends agree to a match-play event in an effort to revive the area of Georgia on Krewe Island outside of Savannah. Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen meet for a 36-hole showdown and are joined by Savannah local and war hero Rannulph Junah. His caddy, Bagger Vance, takes on an angel-like role for all players involved in their pursuits of golf, and in life. In the movie, made in 2000, locals will recognize the Lucas Theatre and Forsyth Park in Savannah, The Jekyll Island Club Hotel and the Pete Dye course at Colleton River Club, which acts as the fictional Krewe Island.
Birds of Coastal South Carolina
By Roger S. Everett
Author and photographer Everett has captured beautiful images of the many bird species that live in and migrate through the South Carolina coast. The book is divided by habitats, so you can see which birds you are most likely to find in your backyard, during a walk in the woods or along the beach. The author’s captions are concise and informative and will open your eyes to the more common species of wrens, chickadees and cardinals, as well as the abundant but spectacular great egret, great blue heron, osprey and red-tailed hawk. The rarer birds include the yellow-headed blackbird, Caspian tern and golden-crowned kinglet.
A Good Walk Spoiled: Days and Nights on the PGA Tour
By John Feinstein
An oldie but goodie. The author traveled with PGA TOUR golfers for a year in the mid-‘90s. It features golfing greats and newcomers who are struggling to make a go of the tour. Read about Nick Price, Paul Azinger, Ernie Els, Davis Love III and wild-card John Daly as well as young up-comers Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. There are insights from players on family life while on the road and issues such as divorce, cancer, injuries and the pressures of Q-school, all in the pursuit of winning. An interesting read to compare how golf was then and how much the tour has changed.
Dive right in. Five fantastic books for ocean lovers.
Gift From The Sea
By Ann Morrow
Ann Morrow, writer, poet, pilot and wife of Charles Lindbergh, went to a cottage on Captiva Island in Florida and wrote this delightful reflection of life as a woman, comparing herself to the various shells she finds on the beach. The shells represent the stages of relationships, marriage, motherhood and then an empty house again. She explores ways to find a more natural rhythm in day-to-day life and a way to deepen relationships with a spouse or siblings.
The Light Between Oceans
By M.L. Stedman
A young couple agrees to be lighthouse keepers on a remote island off the Australian coast in the 1930s. They live in blissful isolation with a supply boat visiting every few months. After several years of failed attempts of trying to have children, a rowboat washes up with a dead man and a live baby that they raise as their own. A wonderful debut novel that poses impossible choices and moral dilemmas that have heart-breaking consequences.
The Island of Sea Women
By Lisa See
The culture of Haenyeo, where female Korean divers supported their families by harvesting from the ocean floors, was strong on the island of Jeju for many centuries. See tells the story of two best friends who are destined to follow the path of the Haenyeo like the elders before them. The girls witness colonialism by Japan, WW II, the Korean War, as well as the danger and hardship of their trade. The story travels between their younger years and present day and the forces that affected the women divers.
By Amity Gaige
A beautifully written book about a family, marriage and second chances. When Michael quits his job and buys a sailboat for his family to live on for a year, his wife, Juliet, is shocked. He wants to sail around the world with a 7- and a 2-year-old? Yet they leave their home in Connecticut and head to Panama to start their adventure. The trip reveals some truths about themselves, their marriage and the greater world around them. You will feel like you also are at sea in this novel
Cottage by the Sea
By Debbie Macomber
A young professional who suffers a traumatic loss returns to the seaside house her family rented every summer when she was a child. She finds a cure for her sadness in this quirky town of misfits. She is drawn to a quiet, gentle soul who helps her fix up her cottage. It’s a wonderful tale of grief and kindness, choices between happiness and career and, most importantly, the healing properties of the sea.
Sea Island Stories
Books that will make you want to be stranded on a local island.
Daufuskie Island, 25th Anniversary Edition
By Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe
Photographer Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe took a series of pictures from 1977 to 1981 during several trips to Daufuskie Island. They depict the landscape, buildings and people in everyday settings of work, play, school and traditions in a bygone era of the Gullah culture. Her pictures tell a story of the isolated African-American community that today, altered by development and rising property values, no longer exists. The 25th Anniversary Edition contains photos previously left out, which now serve as historical documentation. Moutoussamy-Ashe is the widow of Arthur Ashe, who often traveled with her to Daufuskie Island.
Letters and Diary of Laura M. Towne 1862-1884
By Laura M. Towne
A delightful look into the past told through diary entries and the written letters of the author, Towne traveled from Philadelphia to the island of Port Royal in 1862. She and her friend, Ellen Murray, created the Penn Center School on St. Helena Island, which was the first school developed in the U.S. for freed slaves. Towne’s work travels through Emancipation and Reconstruction in Beaufort County. The Penn Center is a historic landmark that you may tour and visit on St. Helena Island.
Fripp Island: A History
By Page Putnam Miller
Fripp Island, a barrier island to the barrier island of St. Helena, has a long and storied history dating back to the first records of being referred to as “Fripp Island” in 1734 when it was owned by John Fripp. Yet before that there is evidence of Native Americans visiting the island for hunting and fishing, and Spanish explorers began visiting in 1521. This book digs up records for the island and chronicles the ebb and flow of development for residents and visitors alike. It spans to 2006, when the year-round residency was about 500. Fripp is often looked at as the smaller, more protected resort island compared to Hilton Head Island.
The Way Home
By Kardea Brown
A true celebration of the love of cooking and eating, Brown pulls from deep within her Gullah upbringing and her many handed-down family recipes to share her love of food. Her stories allow you to peek into a childhood growing up on the Sea Islands, and her recipes express the tradition of local, fresh and made with love. Among the many delights are She-Crab Soup, Lowcountry Spaghetti, Cornbread with Molasses Butter, Seafood Mac and Cheese, Salmon Cakes, Edisto Lemon Pie and so much more.
Dataw: No Ordinary Place
By The Dataw Historic Foundation
Part photography coffee table book and part historical record, this beautiful book documents the original name (Datha, after a Native American King legend) and various settlers, including the Sams family, who owned the Island before the Civil War and had “summer houses” in Beaufort. In 1990 the Dataw Marina opened, and development continued. In the ’90s various projects started to preserve the Island’s history and beauty, as well as the tabby ruins from the Sams Plantation complex. This book is a must for fans of this pristine little island nestled between Lady’s Island and St. Helena Island.
Characters of color
Five books for Black History Month and beyond.
Such a Fun Age
By Kiley Reid
A bold debut about the complicated layers of privilege and race. Twenty-five-year-old Emira Tucker babysits as a second job for a well-off family in Philadelphia. One night in a grocery store, Emira is racially profiled by a security guard and accused of kidnapping her 3-year-old charge, Briar. Her employer, Alix Chamberlain, bends over backwards to try to right the situation. Reid expertly portrays the awkward feelings and invisible walls that persevere when there are differences in income, race and perspective.
By Charmaine Wilkerson
Byron and Benny Bennett have not spoken or seen each other in years, but they are together now to hear from their mother’s lawyer after her death. Their mother recorded a message to them that is several hours long, and, boy does she have a story to tell — one that will make them question everything they thought they knew about their parents, themselves and each other. Also, a black cake that will bring the most important people in their lives together where they belong.
By Michelle Obama
Read by the author, this book is wonderful on audio. It explores the childhood and upbringing of Michelle Robinson on the Southside of Chicago and her subsequent path through college, law school, and meeting her future husband, Barack Obama. Her story is fascinating even if she never had become First Lady. Her inside view of the White House for eight years only adds to the intrigue. My absolute favorite character in her story? Her mom.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
By Rebecca Skloot
A fascinating account of scientific discovery as well as the human toll. Henrietta Lacks, a patient at Johns Hopkins, had an aggressive form of cervical cancer. A research study at the time was comparing cancerous and healthy cells. Cells do not live long in a lab, but Lacks’ cells did and were found to be immortal. Her cells went on to help develop the polio vaccine and other breakthrough advances in medicine. Skloot’s extensive research brings to light the ethical question of cell ownership and consent as well as the history of experimentation on African Americans in the U.S.
My Sister, the Serial Killer
By Oyinkan Braithwaite
Korede, a kind and law-abiding nurse, dreads the phone call from her sister asking for help with yet another dead boyfriend, killed in “self-defense.” What is a sister to do? Call the police, or bring her cleaning supplies? Dark and hilariously told, a love story of sorts, (just not for the dead boyfriends) but also a testimony of sibling loyalty and just how far one will go to protect those they love