It’s hammock season in South Dakota, and perhaps no one is better suited to inspire summer reading that Peggy Stout, owner of Prairie Pages Booksellers.
South Dakota boasts a thriving independent bookstore scene. From Prairie Pages in Pierre, to Mitzi’s in Rapid City, The Reader’s Den in Mitchell, and Zandbroz in Sioux Falls, it seems the brick-and-mortor model of connecting great books with great readers is alive and well.
It’s no secret how much I love to read, and how obsessively devoted I am to holding a real book in my hand, turning the softly ragged pages, surrendering myself to someone else’s imagination. No matter how swiftly our planet continues to tilt, I will always sing the praises of a good book.
Here are Peggy’s recommendations for great summer reads. I’d love to hear from you. What are you reading this summer?
On Summer Highlights from Prairie Pages Bookstore:
Well, we're into the summer where Pierre gets a lot of tourism and it's always fun. I had a wonderful customer in this morning who loves to read and she's from South Africa. She's home with family. It's fun to talk to her. It's amazing to me, in the book world, how people read the same books and they live in all different areas.
We've also started something because a lot of the books fly down on Tuesdays, so we've started doing a Tuesday release on our Facebook page showing all the new books coming out on Tuesdays. It's fun to see how many people respond with, "Oh, I've been waiting for that book to come out."
On mystery novels released this summer:
There are two big ones that recently just came out in the last few weeks. The first one is a mystery by Anthony Horowitz, who has been around for a quite a while. He's a New York Times Bestselling Author. He has a new mystery, which is kind of that Agatha Christie, English style mystery. A very, very good one. I think the average mystery reader will really enjoy [it]. It's called "Magpie Murders", by Anthony Horowitz.I believe it's an original work because Susan Ryland is the main character and she ends up getting a novel that she is reading and begins to figure out that possibly this is not a fictional story. Very good. Very much Agatha Christie style.
Another author who has a new mystery out this summer that is probably going to do really well is Dean Koontz. He has this new one out called "The Silent Corner". That book, I expect to see a lot of sales on. It starts out with a sentence or a quote, "I very much need to be dead." His widow then becomes involved in trying to find out why this man, who had everything to live for, took his own life. As the story moves on, she becomes obsessed through her grief and her fury, and then becomes a suspect in a way that people are after her. Quite a story. Dean Koontz style, should be a mystery that will probably keep you to the last page.
On paperbacks released this summer:
The first one I'd like to really plug because we are hosting the author here later this month, "Kitchens of the Great Midwest", which is a South Dakota book. It is a fun read. It touches on the food culture in the Midwest. For some people, it will be a comfort food which will strike out a remarkable memory. I caught on and loved the chapter on the wife who is a Lutheran, who is known for bars. It also touches on Minnesota, Iowa, and it ends in Pierre, South Dakota.The author, he will be in Pierre on July 20th.
Anne Patchett's book, "Commonwealth", has gone to paperback for the summer. Great writer. She has wonderful stories. This is a family story spanning five generations and it's a little dysfunctional, but yet she brings in genuine love and affection within the families. It's a really fun read for the summer, and would be a great summer read.
Now, I'm going to touch on a World War II story that's selling really well in paperback for us called, "The Lilac Girls", by Martha Hall Kelly. Parts of it are very true, but because of some of the storyline, it became a fictional novel. This New York socialite, Caroline Ferriday, who was very involved in the French Consulate in New York City comes across during the summer and into the fall of 1939 when Hitler's army invades Poland and then sets its sites on France. As a young Polish teenager, she's an underground courier and she ends up getting taken to a Nazi concentration camp for women. The story also brings in a German doctor who is involved in the Nazi secrets and things that are going on. Some of these concentration camps become experimentation places of Hitler's. These three women end up becoming a part of history in a way that I did not know about. It is a wonderfully written story. It's a tough story, but it's a very, very good fictional story about World War II.
On young adult novels:
One of the ones I've been hand-selling for a couple years now that I really [enjoy], and it's going to be a movie, is the book, "Wonder", by R.J. Palacio. Great, great story. I would recommend it for a teacher, recommend it for a parent, recommend it for teens. Just a really, really good story about a young man who has struggled and then about his friends who become his best friends in a way that they help him overcome being bullied and that sort of thing. A really, really, really good read, and the movie should be excellent.
There is a new book that has come out this summer. I have not read it completely yet, but I'm really excited about it. It's by John David Anderson. He was the author of, "Miss Bixby's Last Day". This is a middle school novel and in this middle school, the principal decides he's going to ban all cell phones and these young kids are like, "How do we communicate? How do we keep our social media going?" So, they come up with the all-familiar post-it note. They fill out all these post-in notes and they start showing up everywhere, all over the school. Of course, not all post-it notes have a good, positive message. So, there is a new student who has come to the school. She gets included in this clique and she decides she needs to be the person that helps to do a positive change. She becomes the catalyst of making that change. A really good book for that middle school child, for the struggling one that's not at the top of the social [hierarchy]. It's called, "Posted", by John David Anderson, so I'm watching for that book to take off.
Another summer read that I just got in, it's a hardcover, by Jennifer E. Smith, it's called, "Windfall". This is about some teenagers who have become involved, good friends and maybe a little romance at the beginning. The main character, Teddy, turns 18, buys a lottery ticket and wins. The story goes in about how this lottery ticket win changes his life and the little bit of romance that has begun. It's a good story. It does end up where they do find out that money can, in some cases, be the root of evil.
Of course, Sarah Dessen has a new book out for the summer. She's always been a big teen author, and her books sell really well, especially to the girls. She has touched on a story about a daughter of a wedding planner who has begun to feel that weddings are not always the answer to everything. That's kind of a good read for the summer. "Once And For All".
On book signings coming up for Prairie Pages Bookstore:
Well, we have a couple other book signings coming up in this month of July. One of them is a local, Shawna Letellier. She is a wonderful young mother of three boys. She teaches a lot of book clubs and holds book clubs for some of the churches around here. She has written a book, it is the first of a trilogy called, "Remarkable Faith". Hatchette picked her up and is publishing this book. I'm really excited about it. She is going to be in the store. The book lays down on Tuesday, July 11, and she will be here at the store signing her book, "Remarkable Faith", and she's got three books in the works. This is just the first one, "Remarkable Faith".
And then we have another South Dakota author, Paul Higbee, who is known for a lot of history stories and things that he has written. We've had him here at the store before. He wrote the book on Tom Berry, South Dakota's cowboy governor, whose statue was just previewed last, a couple weeks ago and is going to be on display in Pierre later this summer. His book signing is going to be Saturday, July 15, here at the store. Again, his book is called, "South Dakota's Cowboy Governor Tom Berry".
On what Stout is currently reading:
I had read "Kitchens of the Great Midwest" two years ago, and I reread it because I knew the author was coming and I really, really loved it. "Lilac Girls" I had read last month, again, one of those tough reads, the book "All the Light You Cannot See"--that book to me, after I read it, I had to take a couple weeks off, and "Lilac Girls" was kind of in the same way. Again, I've read ... "Kitchens of the Great Midwest", fun, fun, read. I would challenge all South Dakotans to read it especially if you're a foodie.