Arts & Culture

July 2019 Reading List

Summer must-reads include charming novels, zippy thrillers, and a fascinating collection of love letters between the Fitzgeralds
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Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald

“Dearest: I am always grateful for the all the loyalties you gave me,” Zelda Fitzgerald wrote to her husband F. Scott in 1939, a year before he died, adding, “Nothing could have survived our life.” The flamboyant Jazz Age couple were devoted letter writers during their stretches apart—even during their last years of life when she was a resident at the Highland Mental Hospital in Asheville and he lived in Hollywood with the gossip columnist Sheilah Graham, with whom he’d had a years-long affair. First published in 2002, Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda tells their love story in their own words through their collected and annotated letters, and is now reissued with a new introduction by their granddaughter Eleanor Lanahan.

Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss, by Margaret Renkl

“When a storm comes, my father sets his chair right in the doorway, straddling the jamb,” writes the author Margaret Renkl, remembering her childhood in Lower Alabama. “If I’m asleep, he lifts me up and carries me through the dark house to sit with him in the doorway and listen to the wind and the thunder.” In her poignant debut, a memoir, Renkl weaves together observations from her current home in Nashville and short vignettes of nature and growing up in the South.

The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Underground Railroad, applied his adept fiction skills to write a novel based on a real-life horror story: the saga of the abuse at the Dozier reform school in Marianna, Florida, where fifty-one sets of human remains have been exhumed over the last decade. His book is based on the school, and as G&G contributing editor Jonathan Miles writes in his review, “The Nickel Boys unsettles, startles, shocks, and then ultimately devastates.”

The Gone Dead, by Chanelle Benz

This notable debut novel from Memphis-based author Chanelle Benz tells the fast-paced and riveting story of a daughter trying to put together the pieces of her poet father’s mysterious death. Billie James, the main character, inherits her father’s shack in the Mississippi Delta, a place she hasn’t visited for thirty years. In encountering the locals, she soon learns a strange rumor: She herself, as a four-year-old, also disappeared on the day her father died.

Burn the Ice: The American Culinary Revolution and Its End, by Kevin Alexander

Two bartenders spurred a cocktail revolution in New Orleans; fiery Nashville hot chicken went global; a Carolina country tradition launched worldwide appetites for whole hog barbecue—these are just a few of the true stories included in the James Beard Award–winning author and Texas native Kevin Alexander’s new book. Burn the Ice chronicles our country’s current fascination with chefs, dining, bartenders, and food both fine and humble—and much of the narrative focuses on the Southern food the rest of the world has recently discovered.

King of the Mississippi, by Mike Freedman

This sly, witty satire of boardrooms and modern American manhood centers on two Southern nemeses and consulting colleagues: Brock Wharton, a snappy old-money know-it-all, and Mike Fink, a folksy former soldier. The two must navigate Texas football fields, Silicon Valley, and big clients such as Dr Pepper while trying to understand and outperform the other. The author Mike Freedman knows his subject—he’s a former Green Beret who earned his M.B.A. at Rice University in Houston.

Lady in the Lake, by Laura Lippman

Here’s your next beach read. This mystery by the former Baltimore Sun reporter Laura Lippman—known for last year’s acclaimed psychological thriller Sunburn—takes place in 1960s Baltimore and involves a whodunnit murder and the sleuthing work of Maddie Schwartz, an enterprising, endlessly curious journalist.

The Shameless, by Ace Atkins

The best-selling suspense writer Ace Atkins roars back with more of his fan-favorite Quinn Colson series set in the rolling hills of northeast Mississippi. This installment involves a murder case gone cold, plus a perfectly noir cast of characters—the sheriff Colson, a truck-stop madam, a Southern senator, small-town gossips, and big-city reporters with plenty of questions. A regular G&G contributor, Atkins also wrote a forthcoming piece in the August/September issue about the Grand Hotel in Alabama.

Stars of Alabama, by Sean Dietrich

Author Sean Dietrich champions rural tales and homespun histories through his podcast, Sean of the South. In his new, big-hearted novel, he threads together stories with a touch of magical realism—one involving a small-town girl named Marigold and the child she thought she lost forever.