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Books for a Hot Summer Day in Georgia

What could be better on a hot Georgia summer day than curling up by the pool with a good book and a glass of sweet iced tea?

Not much. The only detail left to complete this vision is knowing exactly what to read. We consulted civic, business, education and literary leaders of the community to give us their top choices.

The Cider House Rules
by John Irving

A coming-of-age tale that begins in 1920s Maine. Homer Wells spends his childhood at St. Cloud’s Orphanage and is tutored by Dr. Larch to provide services for women who seek their help. Homer is given an opportunity to pick apples at Ocean View Farms, where he learns that moral choices are more than just yes and no answers.

The dual stories of Homer’s life are integrated with part medical procedures and the rules of apple picking, with underlaying themes of women’s rights, law, life, loss, wartime America, addiction and assault. Irving’s characters are from all walks of life but share a commonality of imperfections. These complex characters stick with the reader well after the last page.

Jessica Giles, Walton-DeFuniak Public Library


Bat 21
by William C. Anderson

A fictional story based on true events about the rescue of 53-year-old Lt. Colonel Iceal “Gene” Hambleton, who was shot down behind enemy lines during the Vietnam War, and his 11½ days of survival, starvation, hallucination and jubilation.

This book represents the best of what our military has to offer and presents the true meaning of “leave no one behind.” The genius of a rescue team to develop and execute an innovative plan to rescue Hambleton from enemy territory, while not giving up his location, was extremely well-written. Add in leeches, snakes, illness and a knife encounter with an enemy soldier; this book provided a brilliant representation of the lengths our men and women will go to keep their brothers and sisters from falling into enemy hands.

Louis E. Svehla, Communications
Director, City of Peachtree Corners



A Flicker in the Dark
by Stacy Willingham

Chloe Davis endured the unthinkable at the age of 12 when her father confessed to the murder of six teenage girls. Now, 20 years later, while planning her wedding, an eerily similar pattern begins in her town, and she is forced to face her past while potentially unmasking a new killer.

I love a twisty-turny novel that keeps you engaged from the first page to the back cover…and this book delivered! The book is also being adapted by HBO, so of course I had to give it a read before the show. And personally, the author Stacy is a sorority sister of mine, and I love that she wrote an incredible novel that I’m excited to support and share.

Lindsay Duncan Schwartz, Director of Marketing, Music Matters Productions


Do Not Become Alarmed
by Maile Meloy

I love to read a good thriller at the beach. This book is suspenseful from the start. The action focuses on two families enjoying on an idyllic cruise and leads you through a gripping adventure in Central America. Although I read it a few years ago, I still recommend this page-turner that keeps you guessing.

Jennifer Grizzle, The PR Studio, Inc.


Love Your Enemies
by Arthur Brooks

Dr. Brooks explores what has led to divisiveness and a “culture of contempt” in America, while challenging the audience to embrace intelligent disagreement to move our country forward.

I typically avoid any books that even hint to be political in nature, but as political discourse has bled into interpersonal relationships and pop culture, I was drawn to a solution-based book around the topic. Dr. Brooks presents a fascinating narrative about where the problems lie, how we got here and, most importantly, how we can begin to change our mindset. It is personally challenging but ultimately hopeful. Discourse is what makes our nation what it is but how we conduct ourselves and view our neighbors is what makes us who we are and what we will become.

Correy Burres, Vice President of
Communications at Georgia Center for Opportunity


Three recommendations from Twohig-Canal

Milk Street Tuesday Nights Mediterranean
by Christopher Kimball

I’m a big fan of Christopher Kimball from his days at America’s Test Kitchen to his newish venture sharing recipes from around the world. Tuesday Nights is the perfect segue to summer and al fresco dining. Some mouth-watering recipes include ribeye steaks with olive and wine sauce; chicken salmoriglio (a southern Italy dish with olive oil, lemon, garlic and herbs); tomato and cucumber salad with capers and feta; and charred eggplant pita sandwiches with spicy tahini. Good healthy home cooking in 45 minutes? Yes, please!

Van Life: Your Home on the Road
by Foster Huntington

My husband and I talk about buying a van one day and taking our daughter on road trips to the National Parks. In the meantime, we’ll keep perusing the pages of Van Life, a small but coffee table-worthy book full of cool photos of adventurous people living their lives in VW and Sprinter vans, school buses, truck campers and small RVs. They share their experiences around the world on the road, including both the good and the bad. This is a fun little gem of a book that is perfect for gift-giving.

Burn The Place: A Memoir
by Iliana Regan

My favorite type of non-fiction book falls under the food memoir genre. It all started with Ruth Reichl in my early 20s and continued with Anthony Bourdain, Julia Child and Elizabeth Gilbert, to name a few. Burn The Place is a little different in that self-taught chef Regan’s writing is more raw and emotional. She has a connection to food early on when she learned how to forage for mushrooms and berries at a young age. She takes her experiences with food and applies them to her cuisine in an unexpected way. Regan opens up about coming of age in an intolerant community as well as her hardships with alcoholism, all the while diving into a culture that is typically male-dominated.

Erin Twohig-Canal, Librarian and stay-at-home mom


The Lord of the Rings
by J.R.R. Tolkien

A mysterious ring is found in a fantasy world. The most epic fiction ever written. Start with The Hobbit and then read through the books. As good as the movies were, the books are unbelievably better.

Leroy Hite, CEO of Cutting Edge Firewood


Three recommendations from Pickren

The Last Bookshop in London
by Madeline Martin

I happen to adore bookstores, and this is the first book to make me cry in a long time. A young woman wound up as an employee in an offbeat bookstore in the middle of London during the WW2 Blitz as the city endures bombing raids day after day. The description of people hiding in subway stations illustrates what the people of Ukraine experience today, over 80 years later. If you want to read about persistence, bravery, loss, love and transformation, this is a must read.

Still Life by
Louise Penny (and 16 other books in the Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery Series)

I am only on Book 14, yet I know the rest of them will be just as good. The foundation setting for the books is an off-the-map village in Quebec called Three Pines. The town’s people are characters that make us laugh, cry, and want to visit them.

They include an old poet and her pet duck, Bistro owners, an artist and, of course, a bookstore owner. However, it is Gamache himself who draws me back for inspiration. His paradoxical strengths of warmth, empathy and kindness, paired with his self-command, bravery and analytical decision making can be summarized in his four statements that demonstrate wisdom: “I don’t know. I need help. I’m sorry. I was wrong.”

The Sentence
by Louise Erdrich

This is another story about a bookstore. In this one, we meet Native Americans, learn about some of the atrocious acts done to take their land and how the characters in the book feel about how they are treated. We meet a ghost who rules the store and a couple who share an abiding love. It brings in the current effects of COVID-19 fears, as well. Even though it is a little whacky, The Sentence is a story about redemption.

Betsy Corley Pickren, WoodFire Leadership, LLC


Three recommendations from Alex

The Millionaire Next Door
by Thomas Stanley and William Danko

The book is a compilation of research done by the two authors in the profiles of American millionaires. The authors compare the behavior of those they call “UAWs” (Under Accumulators of Wealth) and those who are “PAWs” (Prodigious Accumulators of Wealth). Their findings, that millionaires are disproportionately clustered in middle-class and blue-collar neighborhoods and not in more affluent or white-collar communities, came as a surprise to the authors, who anticipated the contrary.

It provides a common-sense roadmap to how to become financially successful by following the habits of millionaires (most of who are not the people you would think). It also provides a refreshing exposure of the myth that you have to live a big house and drive a fancy car to be wealthy when, in most cases, the exact opposite is true.

Faith of My Fathers
by John McCain

It is part autobiography, part family memoir. It traces the story of McCain’s life growing up, during his time in the United States Naval Academy and his military service as a naval aviator before and during the Vietnam War. His story is interwoven with those of his father John S. “Jack” McCain, Jr. and his grandfather John S. “Slew” McCain, Sr., both four-star admirals in the Navy.

In a time (and maybe it has always been this way) that so many of our “leaders” (political, business, etc.) seem to be focused on themselves or their own narrow agenda, the story of John McCain’s decision to stay in a POW camp in North Vietnam, knowing he would be tortured, possibly killed, because the military code was that he could not be released until those captured before him had been released, was so inspiring. He was putting others before himself at incredible personal cost. It really puts your day to day “problems” into perspective.

Freedom’s Forge
by Arthur Herman

Freedom’s Forge reveals how two extraordinary American businessmen — General Motors automobile magnate William “Big Bill” Knudsen and shipbuilder Henry J. Kaiser — helped corral, cajole and inspire business leaders across the country to mobilize the “arsenal of democracy” that propelled the Allies to victory in World War II. Drafting top talent from companies like Chrysler, Republic Steel, Boeing, Lockheed, GE and Frigidaire, Knudsen and Kaiser turned auto plants into aircraft factories and civilian assembly lines into fountains of munitions.

It was inspiring and enlightening to see what the U.S. is capable of when everyone (mostly) is pulling in the same direction with a shared vision. Also, for history buffs and anyone in the business world, there are lots of stories that are entertaining and amazing, such as building a Liberty Ship (a 14,000-ton, 440-foot-long cargo ship) in under four days — something that normally would take over a year in peacetime.

Alex Wright, Peachtree Corners
City Council


Handle with Care: Managing
Difficult Situations in Schools with Dignity and Respect

by Jim Casas and Joy Kelly

The book is about managing challenging situations in a way that is supportive and yet addresses the challenge. It uses a coaching and growth mindset to effectuate change.

I recommend this book because there are many applicable ideas and strategies that are practical to implement to make the workplace better and create a positive environment. While I have read the book from beginning to end, it is a book that can be read based on the needs and goals of the reader and I find myself revisiting certain parts. What is resonating with me now from the books is the awareness of “internal sirens.”

Kassia Morris-Sutton, Principal of
Norcross Elementary School


Alexander McCall Smith books

One of my favorites authors is Alexander McCall Smith, the Edinburgh novelist who pens on average four books a year, all on different subjects. His first book gained him fame, The Number One Ladies Detective Agency, set in Botswana, featuring a “….traditionally built African woman.” She finds a book written by what she thinks is an American detective, devours it and decides to become a detective. She constantly quotes from the book, as she and another African woman solve problems for the people around her. There are (at last count), I believe, 19 books in the “Detective” series.

McCall Smith produces other series of novels about people in a condo building in Edinburgh, where a brilliant, lovable six-year-old with tremendous abilities has this over-zealous mother who has him enrolled in all sorts of classes (saxophone, Italian, reading beyond his level). Then there is the series of books on German philosophy professors and their set ways and thoughts. McCall Smith is a tall, balding, enjoyable sort, who we heard dressed in his kilt at the Atlanta History Center years ago, laughing louder than anyone at his stories. You’re in for an exciting and delightful world when you open an Alexander McCall Smith book.

Elliott Brack, publisher, www.gwinnettforum.com


Go Giver
by Bob Burg and John David Mann

If you want to be successful in life, you have to give, to serve and to put the interests of others before your own.

The concept of “Go-Giver” is not obvious at first glance for many. Most people focus on the go-getter in our culture. But I personally found that the five laws introduced in the book are simple principles both young and old can apply in their lives to transform individuals and communities. It is especially important in current times.

Karl Barham, Transworld
Business Advisors


Two recommendations from Tahnya Sherwood

Anne of Green Gables
by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables is one of my all-time favorite books! This is a story about a little girl named Anne (with an E), and she makes sure you know to spell her name with an E at the end. Anne has red hair and is very self-conscious about her hair. She is an 11-year-old orphan who is sent by mistake to live with a lonely, middle-aged brother and sister to help on their farm on Prince Edward Island in Canada. Anne is a precocious young girl, and the story follows her through many adventures. She is a funny little girl who loves to live in her imagination. This story is fun and heartwarming, and I would recommend it to anyone, especially girls, to read this book. It will make you laugh, and it might even make you cry.

Henry’s Freedom Box
by Ellen Levine

This is a fictionalized story about a boy named Henry who was a slave in Virginia in 1849. He decides to get in a box and mail himself to Philadelphia so he can become free and no longer live as a slave. I recommend this book because the story gives the readers (students) the opportunity to make connections between the text and the illustrations in the powerful true story. The pictures are amazing and bring the story to life.

Tahnya Sherwood, Media Specialist,
Norcross Elementary School


Take What You Can Carry
by Gian Sardar

Ukraine has caused me to realize how little I know of other cultures and their histories of struggle. This compelling and heartbreaking novel taught me a little about the Kurdish people and left me overwhelmingly grateful for the huge and unearned blessing of being born in this country.

Lois Salter, Mayor of Berkeley Lake


Three recommendations from Beckles

Surrounded by Idiots: How ineffective communication causes chaos
by B.T. Goodwin

It is a guide on how you interact and communicate with others. A quick read to look inward at yourself. The biggest takeaway was the identification of verbal, passive-aggressive communication, however subtle, can turn an otherwise normal conversation into turmoil. I’ve incorporated tips and tactics from this book into my professional, civic and personal life. Being self-aware and steady, I can communicate no matter the attitude of the recipients.

Ethical Intelligence: Five simple rules for leading a better life
by Bruce Weinstein, Ph.D.

These are simple rules to lead with integrity and a clear conscience. I highly recommend this book if you deal with individuals who gossip and trash talk in any environment you are part of. Long gone is the premise that leaders can act and do as they please without consequences. This book gives pointers on how to deal with conflict ethically and intelligently.

Leading quietly: An Unorthodox Guide to Doing the Right Thing
by Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr.

Leaders are not always loud. Being soft-spoken doesn’t mean no leadership skills exist, and vice versa. Some of us are comfortable leading from behind — I, for one, consider myself a leader with quiet effectiveness. This book offers caution, rules to lead by and how to gradually escalate when the need arises. It offers a wealth of compromises that I have found to be useful in my everyday dealings, both professionally and personally.

Arlene Beckles, Norcross City Council


Three recommendations from Huffman

The President’s Daughter
by James Patterson and Bill Clinton

A terrorist seeks revenge on the POTUS by kidnapping his daughter and taking her away to his African stronghold. The President, who happens to be a former Special Forces soldier, personally leads a rescue mission racing against the clock before the terrorist kills his hostage.

Besides the normal fast-paced action of a James Patterson novel, Bill Clinton’s involvement adds a lot of inside knowledge about the workings of the White House, the Secret Service and the military’s capabilities. The book is 600 pages, but a fast read.

My “guilty pleasure” reading are the novels of James Patterson, and I request them from the library every time he publishes a new one (which seems to be on the order of every three weeks)!

The Widows
by Jess Montgomery

This is a historical mystery based on the true story of a 19th century young woman in Appalachian Ohio who becomes sheriff of her small county when her sheriff husband is murdered. She seeks to find the murderer while contending with the expected pushback from the locals at having a woman in this position of authority. Murderers and bootleggers galore.

First, in the interest of full disclosure: Jess Montgomery is my sister-in-law. This book is the first in what is now a four-book series recounting the exploits of sheriff Lily Ross in this section of the Appalachian Mountains. All of the books include very strong women characters, and the mystery part of the stories keeps you guessing until the end.

The One Device – the Secret History of the iPhone
by Brian Merchant

This is a behind-the-scenes look at the development of the Apple iPhone. The author consults with people both inside the company and all over the world to describe how this revolutionary product came to be and how it became such a part of our daily lives.

As an electrical design engineer, I was particularly interested in the development of the iPhone, but no technical knowledge is needed to enjoy the book. The iPhone has made such an incredible impact on the world’s society and is such a thing of genius that it is fascinating to read the details of how it came into existence. For good or bad, the vision behind the iPhone changed all of our lives.

Dave Huffman, President of the Peachtree Corners Festival committee


Six recommendations from Rooks

The Three Mrs. Wrights
by Linda Keir

Lark, Jessica and Holly are three strangers with so much in common it hurts. Their one and only is one and the same. The charming Mr. Wright’s serial lies are about to catch up with him.

From the beginning, this book is impossible to put down. You know something is off and as you turn each page, your desire to know the truth grows and grows. I enjoyed the three perspectives from each woman and how they each handled the deception differently. You won’t be able to stop thinking about it ‘til you finally finish.

The Spanish Love Deception
by Elena Arms

The Spanish Love Deception is an enemies-to-lovers, fake-dating romantic comedy, perfect for those looking for a steamy slow-burn romance with the sweetest Happily Ever After.

This is one of my favorite books so far this year. It was the perfect rom com read. It had everything: an out-of-town family wedding, fake boyfriend, ex-boyfriend drama and a passion that made you smile. The Spanish Love Deception is a sweet read that you won’t be able to stop thinking about.

Bromance Book Club Series
by Lyssa Kay Adams

With four books currently in the series, each book is about a different guy in the Bromance Book Club. A group of somewhat known men in Nashville get together to read romance books in hopes of strengthening their love lives.

These are some of the funniest books I have ever read, but also very swoony at the same time. All the guys get together when the other needs help, and it’s cool to see them there for each other. I love reading these and will probably reread them every year.

The Match
by Sarah Adams

Evie works for a service dog organization, helping people with disabilities get connected to a service pet. When a hot single dad walks in, everything Evie wants in life changes.

I smiled the whole time reading this book. It is a perfect light-hearted easy read but packed with so much content. This is the type of book that makes me believe in fairy tale type romance. I never met fictional characters more perfect for each other.

People We Meet on Vacation
by Emily Henry

Poppy and Alex have been best friends ever since an awkward car ride home in college. Every summer for 10 years they took a trip together — until they ruined everything. Now it has been two years since they have spoken, and Poppy uses an upcoming work trip to fix everything.

Poppy and Alex have the most genuine friendship and you start to root for them during all their adventures. I enjoyed the flashbacks of their trips and reading about all the people they met on the way. Their chemistry is unmatched and seeing them finally face those feelings is worth reading about!

A Curse So Dark and Lonely
by Brigid Kemmerer

The first Cursebreaker series book; there are a total of three. A prince is cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat his 18th year until he falls in love. When Harper tries to save a man in Washington D.C., she is transported to another world. Is she the answer to breaking the curse?

This book was a twist on the “Beauty and the Beast” theme, but still very unique and unpredictable. A great fantasy read about risking it all for love and finding out who you are in the process. The development and sacrifice of the characters is what makes this book so special. I have read the other two books in the series and loved how the whole thing turned out!

Clara Rooks, Marketing Communications Manager, Explore Gwinnett

Written By

Ivy Clarke is a nationally award-winning writer, editor, artist and aspiring literary activist currently studying English literature, creative writing and art at Mercer University. In addition to her work with Peachtree Corners Press, she writes and edits for The Mercer Cluster, The Dulcimer, Macon Magazine and Mercer University Press. She has also published poetry in Atlanta Review, Glass Mountain and The Allegheny Review.

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