Summer Reading Suggestions from Norfolk’s Prince Books

We asked the staff of Norfolk’s Prince Books to weigh on recommending reading during turbulent times.
summer reading

Among the silver linings of the coronavirus pandemic was the opportunity to set aside many of the high-paced distractions of modern life in favor of the simpler things we love. High on the list of many people’s stay-at-home activities: cracking that book they’d been meaning to get to.

Chesapeakerequiem PbFor me, it was former Virginian-Pilot journalist Earl Swift’s haunting and brilliant Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Waterman of Vanishing Tangier Island (Dey Street Books), which was released in paperback early this year. Swift’s thoughtful account of the history and uncertain future of a community that is both uniquely secluded and highly exposed to the effects of our changing environment, was on a list of recommendations from the staff of Prince Books in downtown Norfolk when I reached out to them a few months ago. It turned out to be a timely one; the people of Tangier know something of a sense of isolation and end times.

COVID-19 brought a wave of interest in books about pandemics in general and on topics like cooking, bird watching and gardening, says Prince Books owner Sarah Pishko. Following the death of George Floyd, readers turned in droves to racial justice themes. Her shop remained open, offering curbside service and responding to demand brought on by Amazon’s suspension of book sales and facilitated in part by the timely establishment of a new website called, which partners with independently owned bookstores across the country.

Listed below is a collection of more recent and soon-to-be-released titles, along with publishers’ descriptions, recommended by Pishko and her team. You can learn more about Prince Books at or by calling 757-622-9223.

Pull of the Stars: A Novel

By Emma Donoghue

At the height of the 1918 Great Flu, nurse Julia Power tends to expectant mothers quarantined in the maternity ward. A small world of work, risk, death and unlooked-for love, by the bestselling author of The Wonder and ROOM. (Little, Brown and Company)

Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir

By Natasha Trethewey

This chillingly personal and exquisitely wrought memoir of a daughter reckoning with the brutal murder of her mother at the hands of her former stepfather is also a moving, intimate story of a poet coming into her own in the wake of tragedy. (Ecco Press)

Vesper Flights

By Helen Macdonald

This is a collection of Macdonald’s best-loved essays, along with new pieces on topics ranging from nostalgia for a vanishing countryside to the tribulations of farming ostriches to her own private vespers while trying to fall asleep. (Grove Press)

Utopia Avenue

By David Mitchell

The long-awaited new novel from the author of Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks, tells the story of the strangest British band you’ve never heard of, emerging from the psychedelic scene of the 1960s and embarking on a meteoric journey. (Random House)

Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own

By Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

Mixing biography—drawn partially from newly uncovered interviews—with history, memoir and trenchant analysis of our current moment, Begin Again is Glaude’s endeavor, following Baldwin, to bear witness to the difficult truth of race in America today. (Crown Publishing Group)

Sex and Vanity

By Kevin Kwan

The author of the bestselling phenomenon Crazy Rich Asians returns with the glittering tale of a young woman who finds herself torn between two men: the WASPY fiancé of her family’s dreams and George Zao, the man she is desperately trying to avoid falling in love with. (Doubleday Books)


By Jill McCorkle

In this deeply layered and masterful novel, McCorkle deconstructs and reconstructs what it means to be a father, mother or child piecing together the world around us, a child learning to make sense of the hieroglyphics of history and memory. (Algonquin Books)

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

By Isabel Wilkerson

The Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling author of The Warmth of Other Suns examines the unspoken caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions. (Random House)

The Lions of Fifth Avenue

By Fiona Davis

In nationally best-selling author Fiona Davis’s latest historical novel, a series of book thefts roils the iconic New York Public Library, leaving two generations of strong-willed women, essayist Laura Lyons and library curator Sadie Donovan, to pick up the pieces. (Dutton Books)

Leona Baker

Leona Baker is the Editor-in-Chief of Coastal Virginia Magazine, a writer, creative, communications professional, food freak, news junkie, nature and travel lover and mom. She holds a degree in English from James Madison University and a degree in Dance & Choreography from Virginia Commonwealth University. She previously served as Senior Copywriter for Spark 451, Director of Marketing & Communications at Virginia Wesleyan University, and Senior Editor of Port Folio Weekly.

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