Summer reading recommendations


Throughout the summer months, we are exploring all the fun things to do in the Lowcountry in our Summer Fun guides. This month, the topics are parasailing, charter fishing, biking and hiking. In June, we tackled kayaking, dolphin watching, wave runners and our local beaches, which is my personal favorite.

There are few things I enjoy more than a day at the beach with a great book. I'm always on the lookout for recommendations and I trade titles with various friends and family members. So, I thought I'd share a few of the books I've read this summer and hope you'll send me your recommendations so that I can share them with our readers.

One of the most interesting books I've read this summer is "Prodigal Summer," by Barbara Kingsolver. The author wrote this book back in 2001 and I can't figure out why it took me so long to read. I absolutely loved her "Poisonwood Bible." In "Prodigal Summer" we follow three women whose stories intersect over one summer. Kingsolver is brilliant at weaving a story, but the thing I admire about her writing is that you always learn from it. I learned amazing details about coyotes, various plants, moths, organic farming and so much more.

On a very different note, I recently read "Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime," by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. This is a wonderfully gossipy and juicy book, with some really interesting inside stories of the campaign. Even if you're not really into politics, you'd still have a hard time putting it down.

My favorite book so far this summer was "The Help," by Kathryn Stockett. This is an absolutely beautifully written book about black maids raising white children in the early 1960s in Mississippi in the midst of the Civil Rights movement. Various characters narrate their stories, including Minnie, a hot-headed black woman (here's a sample: "If I’d played Mammy, I’d of told Scarlett to stick those green draperies up her white little pooper. Make her own damn man-catching dress."). There's Abileen, another black maid who has raised 17 white children, and Skeeter, a young woman who was raised by a black maid, and who works with these women to tell their story. This is such an incredibly moving book. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Finally, and on a completely different topic, I just started "Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West," by Stephen Ambrose. I wanted to read this because I had read "Sacajawea," by Anne Waldo, a novel about the Native-American woman who was a translator for Lewis and Clark on their journey to the Pacific, and I am fascinated by their amazing American story.

So, those are my summer selections (so far). I'd love to read about your recommendations. E-mail me at In the meantime, I hope you have a wonderful and safe summer, whether it's on the beach with a great book or taking part in any of the great activities we have here in the Lowcountry.

The staff at the Hilton Head library suggests these books for summer reading:

  • "The Fixer Upper,” by Mary Kay Andrews. The main character in the book, Dempsey, is one tough cookie! She is unexpectedly fired from her job in New York, is caught up in a political scandal, and has to resort to accepting her father’s offer to live in and refurbish the old family home in Guthrie, Ga. She arrives broke and disillusioned. It becomes her seemingly insurmountable goal to “fix up” the estate home. This book has a balance of great supporting characters, humor and a little romance, with a feel-good ending.
  • “The Bag Lady Papers, The Priceless Experience Of Losing It All,” by Alexandra Penney. This is Penney’s story on how she lived through the “the bag lady syndrome.” After she lost everything in Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme of, her life had to change drastically.  Through the sleepless nights, much anguish and paralyzing fear, the author takes us through her many steps of dealing with her situation. Many times in the book she shares with us her ways to face adversity. She speaks of many people who have huge loses and have endured many setbacks and adversity due to the economic downfall. She provides lists in the book that helped her get through her crisis. A couple of these are “Ways to face adversity,” “Can/can’t live without” and “What money can/cannot buy.”. Penney’s stick-to-it determination is the heart of her story.
  • "Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10,” by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson. Luttrell was a Navy SEAL who was deployed to Afghanistan with his team for a special operation. What transpired was one of the most amazing stories of survival that you will read. You will learn about the rigors of Navy SEAL training and the lives and insights of the men who strive to become SEALS. The book’s focus is on the men of SEAL Team 10, one of whom was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
  • “Where Men Win Glory: the Odyssey of Pat Tillman,” by John Krakauer. Pat Tillman was a defensive star for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals. He gave up a lucrative future in the NFL to serve his country in Afghanistan as an Army Ranger. In April 2004, the Defense Department announced that he was killed while fighting against the Taliban. Later, the truth came out: Tillman was killed by friendly fire, and officials at high levels of authority shamefully tried to say otherwise. Learn about this amazing man and the unique life he led. Krakauer is an excellent author; his other books, “Into the Wild” and “Into Thin Air,” are captivating and full of adventure
  • “Tideland Treasure,” by Todd Ballantine. This is the ideal book to bring on walks on the beaches of Hilton Head Island and the Southeast coast.  This book grew out of a 5-year span of articles that were published in Island Events Magazine. The author has written this book in his own handwriting and he has also illustrated the books. This book is the author’s successful attempt to describe typically observed plants and animals of the beaches and salt marshes of Hilton Head Island and the Southeast coast. Various chapters of the book concentrate on the sea, the beach, and the salt marsh, as well as the plants and animals. Marsh birds and seabirds are well described and there is also a chapter devoted to conservation. For example, beachgoers should leave living sand dollars on the beach.  However, if they are bleached white by the sun; then they are dead and can be picked up.
  • Todd Ballantine has also written and illustrated a book entitled “Woodland Walks,” an introduction to the ecology of the Southeastern coastal region. The author had served as a resident naturalist for the Sea Pines Plantation, so he is an expert on this topic. This book will guide visitors on Hilton Head’s parks and nature preserves, and is also recommended to nature lovers.