14 North Carolina Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List

From bioluminescent bays to a Benson childhood, area writers explore the interconnections of nature, place and family in volumes of poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction ideal for summer reading.

North Carolina Arts Council literature and theater director David Potorti has assembled a selection of recent books by N.C. Arts Council fellowship recipients and other North Carolinians, recently published in paperback.

1. Blue Yodel 
Ansel Elkins
(Yale University Press, 2015)

In her debut collection of poetry, Greensboro resident Elkins introduces readers to a multitude of characters whose “otherness” has condemned them to live on the margins of society, inviting us to find the humanity in every person. She is a 2011–12 N.C. Arts Council fellowship recipient in the category of poetry. Blue Yodel is the 109th volume the Yale Series of Younger Poets, honoring exceptional American poets under the age of forty.

2. Phenomenal: A Hesitant Adventurer’s Search for Wonder in the Natural World  
Leigh Ann Henion
(Penguin Press, 2015)

A Boone resident and 2013–14  N.C. Arts Council literature fellowship recipient in the category of non-fiction, Henion chronicles her experience of the world’s natural phenomena — including Sweden’s aurora borealis, Tanzania’s wildebeest migration, Venezuela’s Catatumbo lightning and Puerto Rico’s bioluminescent bays — as a means to rekindle her sense of wonder and deepen her experience of parenting.

3. Land of Enchantment 
Liza Wieland
(Syracuse University Press, 2015)

Arapahoe resident Wieland interweaves stories from New Mexico, Atlanta and New York City showing how art reveals the depth and complexity of human love, in all its betrayals and losses, beauty and redemption. She is a 2013–14 N.C. Arts Council Fellowship recipient in the category of fiction.

4. 27 Views of Greensboro: The Gate City in Prose & Poetry
(Eno Publishers, 2015)

27 Views of Greensboro showcases the literary life of this city as seen through the eyes of 27 hometown writers of fiction, journalism, history, poetry, and more. Contributors include Fred Chappell, Michael Parker, Ann Deagon, Maria Johnson, Ed Cone, Veronica Grossi, Lee Zacharias, Joya Wesley, Stuart Dischell, Quinn Dalton, Linda Beatrice Brown, Jeri Rowe, Allen Johnson, Jim Schlosser, Richard Zweigenhaft, Diya Abdo, Val Neiman, Logie Meachem, and others.

5. The Girl in the Road
Monica Byrne
(Broadway Books, 2015)

A 2013–14 N.C. Arts Council Fellowship recipient in the category of playwrighting, Durham resident Byrne pens her debut novel about a future world where global power has shifted east and revolution is brewing. Two women, from India and Africa, embark on vastly different, and unexpected, journeys.

6. Hotel Worthy
Valerie Nieman
(Press 53, 2015)

Greensboro resident Nieman’s second collection of poetry promises “poems of love, loss, and survival.” She is a 2013–14 N.C. Arts Council literature recipient in the category of poetry.

7. Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir
Frances Mayes
(Broadway Books, 2015)

The author of three books about her life in Italy, Hillsborough writer Frances Mayes now revisits the turning points that defined her early years in Fitzgerald, Georgia, exploring the power of landscape, the idea of home, and the lasting force of a chaotic and loving family.

8. Amazing Place: What North Carolina Means to Writers 
(UNC Press, 2015)

Authors from every region of North Carolina ruminate on the meaning of place in this collection of 21 original essays, untangling North Carolina’s influence on their work, exploring how the idea of place resonates with North Carolinians, and illuminating why the state itself plays such a significant role in its own literature. Contributors include Belle Boggs, Marianne Gingher, Stephanie Griest, Jill McCorkle, Michael McFee, Michael Parker, Bland Simpson and Lee Smith.

9. Steal Away
Shelby Stephenson
(Jacar Press, 2014)

An intimate, tender and lyrical chapbook that looks back at a childhood where friendship, family, and slavery intersect. These poems ponder the conflicted emotions, from joy to sorrow, that come from meditating on one’s legacy. Stephenson, a Benson resident, is the current Poet Laureate of North Carolina.

10. The Petals of Your Eyes 
Aimee Parkison
(Starcherone Books, 2014)

An eerie  tale of modern-day kidnapping and slavery by Charlotte resident Parkison, a 2013–14 N.C. Arts Council literature fellowship recipient in the category of fiction.

11. Falling Into Place
Catherine Reid
(Beacon Press, 2014)

A 2013–14 N.C. Arts Council fellowship recipient in the category of non-fiction, Asheville resident Reid explores insights into how the mysteries of nature are interwoven with those of family and community.

12. The Life of the World to Come
Joseph Bathanti
(University of South Carolina Press, 2014)

George Dolce aspires to leave his blue collar, Catholic neighborhood in 1970s Pittsburgh to attend law school, but his involvement with a local gambling ring threatens his plans, and ultimately, his life. Escaping to North Carolina, he meets a mysterious woman who joins him in the task of reconciling his past and avoiding his punishment. Vilas resident Bathanti was awarded N.C. Arts Council fellowships in the categories of poetry (1995–96) and fiction (2009–10) and served as the poet laureate of North Carolina from 2012 to 2014.

13. An Infuriating American: The Incendiary Arts of H. L. Mencken
Hal Crowther
(Muse Books, 2014)

Mencken, the belligerent newspaperman from Baltimore, was considered by many to be the most powerful individual journalist of the 20th century. Hillsborough resident Crowther, who followed in Mencken’s footsteps as a reporter, magazine editor, literary critic, and political columnist, paints a picture of the pundit and how he came to be such an outrageous original.

14. Deadliest of Sins
Sallie Bissell
(Midnight Ink, 2014)

Asheville author Sallie Bissell’s latest Mary Crow mystery takes place in Campbell County, North Carolina, where a recent murder and a preacher could be linked in a conspiracy.

Still looking for more suggestions? The Read North Carolina Novels blog from UNC-Chapel Hill and the North Carolina Literary Map from UNC-Greensboro and the State Library are two great places to start.

Don’t forget as well that public libraries across North Carolina will be offering summer reading programs for adults and kids alike.

What will you bee reading this summer? Tell us in the comments.