Rhody Reads: 6 Summer Escapes

Fill your beach bag with books with local ties about love, sharks, and intrigue

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June is bustin’ out all over (as the ol’ showtune goes) and this month’s selections highlight all that is summer in Rhode Island, from luxurious days on the beach to our month-long celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community. There’s truly something for everyone with romance, poetry, nonfiction, and one of the greatest shark-based thrillers ever written. Swing by your local bookstore, pick up a paperback, throw it in your beach bag, and get your sun on.

What would summer be without killer sharks? Peter Benchley’s Jaws sets the bar. If you’ve never read the novel, you’re in for a treat as it brings much more depth to the characters than the film, even the monster. And, really, can the shark even be considered the villain in these days of climate change caused by human indifference? The book has plenty of local connections as the fictional setting of Amity is based on Benchley’s memories of Nantucket, and the majority of the novel was written in nearby Stonington, Connecticut. Related reading: Jaws: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard: A Definitive Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Greatest Suspense Thriller of All Time was conceptualized by Jaws superfan Jim Beller of Providence.

Explore young love in What are the Men Writing in the Sugar?, a new collection of poetry by Providence-based English teacher Matty Bennett. In his first book, the poet yearns, sometimes painfully, for something that will last forever. Containing influences as far and wide as Call Me By Your Name and Taylor Swift, Bennett’s longing leaves the reader feeling optimistic that believing in true love is enough to make it happen, with maybe a little bit of luck and a tiny amount of patience.

The second novel by Rhode Island College English professor Emily Danforth has been widely praised for its queer representation and history. Plain Bad Heroines takes place in Rhode Island at a fictional boarding school for girls where, back in 1902, something terrible happened. Fast forward to the current day where a crew attempts to make sense – and a film – based on the events. The modern Gothic novel is stunning so don’t be surprised if you gasp out loud while reading it on the beach with your toes deep in the sand.

For centuries Newport has been the summer retreat for the high and mighty, but it also has a dark underside that is a thrill for the rest of us to explore. In his book Homicide at Rough Point: The Untold Story of How Doris Duke, The Richest Woman in America, Got Away With Murder, investigative reporter Peter Lance explores whether the rich truly can get away with murder. In particular, what happened when Doris Duke, the richest woman in America, crushed her employee Eduardo Tirella with her car? Lance reopens the case so that we can all finally know the untold story. And maybe the truth. Even if you know how it ends, you’ll get caught up in the suspense as Lance exposes the deep dark secrets of the well-to-do.

Buzz is the word surrounding Constelis Voss Vol. 1: Colour Theory, the first book in the LGBTQIA+ sci-fi trilogy by Providence-based author Kira Leigh. Can bisexual android Alex save the universe – and does he even care? These are the key questions that will draw you into a star-crossed adventure far off in the future – but grounded deep in our memories of the 1990s. Ambitious and compelling, Leigh’s effort is an interplanetary tale well worth the trip.

Reading Pamela Kelley’s The Nantucket Series requires a porch and an Adirondack chair for you to settle in and experience the trials and tribulations of Lisa Hodges and her family as they run a bed and breakfast on “the island.” Introduce yourself to the cast of characters with The Nantucket Inn and experience all of the comfort and warmth as if you were one of their guests. You’ll get to know the family and their neighbors who quickly become old friends. Take a vacation without leaving home and come away refreshed and relaxed and maybe even smelling the ocean air. 

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