Nothing is better than kicking back on the beach with a cool drink in your hand and a captivating book to read. Beach reads almost feel like they need their own genre. You want something compelling and entertaining but at the same time relaxing – a book that if you happen to fall asleep in the sun or take a break to splash in the waves, you can easily pick back up where you left off. Luckily, we live in a town that’s quite the inspiration for writers, so there’s no shortage of delightful stories from local authors. Whether you’re looking for a suspenseful mystery, something romantic, or even a little history, pick up a book and settle in!
Heart of Palm
Laura Lee Smith
This novel’s title fares well to represent the content of it. Set in St. Augustine, the main character struggles with who she wants to be and who she is supposed to be. Dive into Laura Lee Smith’s breakout novel Heart of Palm – an intriguing plotline, the relatable main character, and familiar setting. This neatly-crafted novel is perfect to get engrossed in while lounging on a beach chair, a cool drink in hand. Critically-acclaimed, Heart of Palm is a light read that is still somehow filled with heart.
East Coast Toast: The Sand Crab Chronicles, Book 1
The beginning of the delightful series The Sand Crab Chronicles, East Coast Toast is a story that is action-packed and gripping. The author, Walker Newton does a phenomenal job of grasping the reader and not letting go. In it, we follow the exciting journey of a serial killer on the loose – with a fifteen-year-old girl in tow! Bring sunscreen with you if you bring this book to the beach, because you’re very likely to become so immersed in its pages that you’ll lose track of time.
Having begun as fun Facebook posts detailing a local man’s daily adventures walking his beloved pup around the historic neighborhoods of St. Augustine, this short and amusing read, Walking Guen by Gary Williams is one of a kind. The pages are filled with a day-to-day recollection of Gary’s enjoyable imagined conversations with his dog Guen, where they discuss the city’s unique history and ponder such soft-hitting social topics as The Village People, bird poop, bubble wrap, sporks, skinny jeans, tennis shoes, and a superhero Dachshund named Edgar.
The Lost Boyfriend
Summer flings are something that nearly everyone experiences at least once in their life. Christina Benjamin does a phenomenal job of representing that carefree and youthful experience in her book The Lost Boyfriend. When two young adults meet at camp, they find something they did not know they were looking for. Will their love last when the camp that they are attending comes to an end?
Peace of Language
If you enjoy poetry, art, and photography, then this beautiful collection is for you. Read your summer day away as author Kimmy VanKooten has compiled her own art, photography, and poetry into a relaxing read that draws you in and won’t let go. Enjoy the colors, the beautiful words, and the gorgeous photos that are vessels for all things peaceful on this earth.
This story, with a St. Augustine archaeological dig as the setting, is as captivating as it is engrossing. The main character is a private investigator who stumbles upon something gruesome. It follows the discovery of a murder victims body, the betrayal of best friends, and hidden violence behind the historic and whimsical-seeming gates of the nation’s oldest city. Mixed with hints of racial undertones and discussions, discovery and mystery, this crime novel is a phenomenal one and a good one to add to your bookshelf this summer.
The Minorcan Yoke
Nancy Pellicer Dyer
Based on real people and events, this historical tale is set in what is now known as New Smyrna (which is not too far outside of the Saint Augustine city limits). This novel follows the real-life hero, Don Francisco Pellicer, and how he led the 600 survivors of the ill-fated endeavor to their freedom. Told in a beautiful narrative, this complex but engaging story explores a piece of local history that may not be widely known and lauds the determination of a group desperate to survive and be free.
Under the Mulberry Moon: Ben Pecos Mysteries, Book 5
When Ben Pecos takes a job transfer to Florida as an Indian Health Service psychologist, immediately he is faced with an extraordinarily touchy case. The story follows the lives of two individuals – Pecos, a young boy who brought a gun to school and threatened a teacher, and that teacher, Maureen Beltzer. Susan Slater does a phenomenal job of captivating the readers, the “Ben Pecos Mysteries” collection being a fan favorite. This fifth book in the series takes place right here in St. Augustine. Go grab the collection, but be careful… not everything is as it seems!
The socially riveting novel by Judy Lindquist follows the tribulations of racial persecution behind the eyes of an adolescent teen. Protagonist Margaret Jefferson, who is but 15 years of age, is arrested for sitting at a diner counter segregated only for whites. Not discouraged by the pure prejudice being shown to not only her but to every person of color within the city of St. Augustine, Maggie vows to be a part of the peaceful war on this prejudice and disadvantage. Following the young girl’s experience gives a different outlook on what was happening during that time to not only adults but to their children as well.
Ghosts Another Summer in the Old Town
Of course, there must be a novel about ghosts on this list – we do live in the nation’s oldest (and supposedly most haunted) city! Multi-award winning author, Randy Cribbs sufficiently mixes the old with the new, combining the ancient history of this city with its new modern counterpart. The story follows three young people as they discover what really lies within the history of St. Augustine while racing to keep what needs to be hidden in the dark. Spirits, ghosts, and captivating history paired with exceptional writing will be all it takes to get you hooked on this book!
What’s your favorite local read? Let us know in the comments below!