Try these top summer reading picks from local booksellers

Photo by Melissa Oyler

Summer is well on its way but there is still plenty of time to pick up some solid summer reading. While you can catch me reading and re-reading David Sedaris’ new poignant book of essays, “Calypso”, I suggest you check out this list of old and new in various genres from these Charlotte pros.

Book Buyers

1306 The Plaza

Located in the heart of Plaza Midwood, this Charlotte used book staple is filled with gently used and reasonably priced books from all genres, complete with a kennel of kittens ready to be adopted.

Book lover Lee Rathers has a few suggestions that are sure to keep you turning pages this summer vacation. Rathers suggests Alice Walker’s 1970 debut novel, “The Third Life of Grange Copeland,” a book about a poor Southern sharecropper that speaks up about the violence against black people in Southern states.

Rathers also recommends the 1997 “Straight Man” by Pulitzer-prize winning author Richard Russo, a tale of an English professor’s humorous mid-life crisis through the lens of one week of his life. For nonfiction, try the 1963 book “Never Cry Wolf” by Farley Mowat, a science and nature narrative about the author’s experience observing wolves in the frozen tundra of Canada.

If you’re looking for something newer, Rathers says, check out “Yes, Please,” a sometimes self-deprecating autobiographical look at the inner life of comedian and mother Amy Poehler.

[Related: 10 of the best places to curl up with a good book in Charlotte, from a wine bar to a bus]

Park Road Books

4139 Park Road

This quaint book store is everything independently-owned book stores set out to be, complete with comfy chairs and a knowledgeable staff. Chris Hill, a Park Road Books employee, suggests Madeline Miller’s “Circe.” Hill, a lover of Greek Mythology, says this book is a “who’s who of Greek Mythology” that is an empowering epic in non-traditional language.

In the genre of nonfiction, Hill recommends Margalit Fox’s newly released “Conan Doyle for the Defense.” This highly involved book highlights the sensational murder trial that involved the creator of Sherlock Holmes.

“This mystery engages the analytical mind,” Hill says, “and discusses why people should be innocent until proven guilty in a very simple way.”

2nd & Charles

5331 South Blvd.

Located in Tyvola Square, this book store is a gem for all things nerdy. Action figures and used books line the shelves in this fulfilling chain book store and manager Chad Sanders has a few suggestions for summer reading.

“For graphic novels, ‘Black Panther’ is a great read,” Sanders says, noting that this is the first graphic novel series to feature a black superhero and is centered around the protagonist’s world of Wakanda.

He also suggests you check out their “staff pick” section. Other picks from Sanders include Andrzej Sapkoski’s 1993 fantasy book “The Last Wish,” which is a book of short stories about a wounded warrior whose flashbacks take on a storyline all their own.

Sanders recommends another fantasy novel, “The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger” by Stephen King, which follows Roland Deschain as he chases his adversary, The Man in Black, through a desert and into the fictitious town of Tull. It’s the first in his series, “The Dark Tower.”

Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find

517 Pecan Ave.

Elias Pittman and Seth Peaglar work hard to keep patrons well-informed about all things graphic novel in Elizabeth’s Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find. Complete with giant statues, figurines, and comics, Pittman and Peaglar picked out a few graphic novels (fiction and nonfiction) for both novice and seasoned graphic novel readers.

Their picks for fiction include Jeff Smith’s 1991 series “Bone,” the simultaneously light-hearted and dark series that follows cousins who have been run out of their hometown. Another fiction pick is Kazu Kibuishi’s series “Amulet,” which follows a young girl who has found a magical amulet in her grandfather’s house. Then there is Craig Thompson’s science fiction “Space Dumplins,” which follows Violet Marlocke as she goes on a quest to find her mysteriously missing father.

The nonfiction graphic novel genre is growing quickly and they recommend Alison Bechdel’s memoir about the comic illustrator author’s childhood and relationship with her father in her award winning 2006 graphic memoir “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic.”

Also recommended is Jean Giraud’s “Inside Moebius,” which follows infamous illustrator Moebius as he meets his own creations, and “The Carter Family: Don’t Forget this Song,” by David Lasky and Frank M. Young about a country music pioneer family.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

Various locations

The library, in case we’ve all forgotten, is an excellent resource for summer reading. There’s the old-fashioned shelf-browsing, electronic downloads, audio books, and—my personal favorite—the online hold system. For those of us who still love hard copy books, you log in with your account, place a hold on a book and pick it up at your desired branch. It’s like a free book-lover’s concierge service.

Lee from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library System recommends Scott Galloway’s “The Four” saying, calling it a “fascinating and candid deep dive into Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google by a savvy tech industry entrepreneur turned educator. He details competitive similarities and differences, and reveals a number of operating secrets that have made these visionary companies so successful.”

You may also want to check out “The Last to Let Go” by Amber Smith, recommended by Pamela at the library. “This is a Young Adult novel by a local author addressing complex social and family issues,” she said. “It is an easy read and handles the issue of domestic violence from the vantage point of a teenager.”

Julia’s Café & Books

1133 N Wendover Road

Located adjacent to the Habitat ReStore, Julia’s is a great spot for coffee and used books for a good cause. When asked what they’d recommend for the summer, Julia’s employee, Sam, recommends “The Girl on the Train, about a woman who is recently divorced and believes she witnessed something sinister on her train commute.

“We sell a lot of books that turn into movies,” she says, and she definitely recommends going the blockbuster route when choosing that riveting summer read.


  1. Hi, Liz – thanks for the great list-I now have a few new books to add to my ever expanding TBR list! I did want to let you know that the Madeline Miller book title (mentioned in the Park Road Books section) is actually “Circe”. However, you did spell it correctly, phonetically and I highly recommend it! And in case others want more recommended summer reads, Alice Hoffman’s “Rules of Magic” and “Matchmaking for Beginners” by Maddie Dawson are a lot of fun.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here