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Statewide Culture 0

Rainy Day Vacation Reads


I’ve already been to the beach and back this summer. And I’m ready to have another week near the water, mountains or the city, or anywhere but in reality! (Anyone else?). But we spent a day of our vacation running from storms with our rented boat, and I quickly discovered it was time to dig into a new list of summer reads with an Arkansas twist.

As frustrating as it sounds, I took advantage of the change of plans to dig through my reading wish list and got lost in a new book. I couldn’t quit reading it, so I downloaded the sequel in an audiobook for the plane ride and drive home. Rainy days are perfect for pulling out a new read at home or on vacation.

The list below are some of the titles I dug through to find my perfect read. I’ve already knocked a couple off the list since we got home, and I’m adding a couple more to my library checkout cart for our summer reading day next week. Each story has a sweet connection to Arkansas and always keeps a touch of home tugging at your heart.


Farraday Road | Ace Collins | Order the Book – this one has been on my list for some time and is the title I picked for my rainy day in the beach cottage. I read some, then listened to some while I chopped vegetables, prepared for dinner, and did a load of beach towels. The author has Arkansas roots and uses this series to dig into some history around his “old stomping grounds.” I was hooked and frankly had my AirPods in for the rest of the trip, trying to figure out the details as the original story unfolded into another and then another. It was captivating, and I’ve got time to listen to the sequel while doing summer chores.

Calico Joe | John Grisham | Order the Book – the quintessential summer read that includes baseball, history, and Arkansas towns like Hardy and Calico Rock. I’ve recently started listening through several of John Grisham’s older books, and I specifically saved this one for May to listen to during my son’s baseball season. It was the perfect timing to keep my interest and make me want to visit that part of the state.

Blue Skies | James Barnett | Order the Book – This was a Father’s Day gift for my husband, and he loved it. The former DaySpring President shares his childhood lessons from visiting National Parks with his dad. It’s a nonfiction tale of fatherhood, being a son, and the life lessons from wondering what could be right around the corner. Anyone tackling National Parks will be intrigued by the stories shared park by park, and the adventurous spirit will appreciate the life lessons from the open road. 

Run Rose Run | James Patterson & Dolly Parton | Order the Book – On that same rainy day at the beach, my husband snuck into my Kindle shelf and saw this book I’d previously downloaded. He knew I enjoyed reading it, and our family loves Dolly, so he decided he would use his extra day of reading to tackle something out of the ordinary for him. I’m here to tell you he enjoyed it, too. While the book’s core doesn’t take place in Arkansas, the main character grew up here and hits the road as a new country music singer in Texarkana, following the old Hayride circuit of Elvis and Johnny Cash. Rose follows dirt roads on warm summer nights up I-40 through Fort Smith, where “‘there’s no place like home’ means something different for her, even if home was originally Arkansas.”

One Paris Summer | Denise Grover Swank | Order the Book – A quick summer read that’s probably more YA for a teen girl, but I enjoyed clicking through it on the Kindle app on my phone while my boys watched Ninja Warriors! It’s what you want in a summer book: tricky friendships, grumpy teenagers and a boy in Paris. Considering the Summer Olympics being in Paris this year, I especially loved this one!

Wild Heart Summer | Jenny B. Jones | Order the Book – This YA story was originally part of a novella series about summer relationships. It tells the story of a summer romance between two teenagers, Anna and Eli. Anna is a shy and introverted girl, while Eli is a confident and outgoing boy. The two meet at a summer camp and quickly fall in love. However, when Anna discovers that Eli has a secret he has kept from her, their relationship is tested.

Killer Croquet on the Emerald Isle | Jane Elzey | Order the Book – Elzey’s books have each made a vacation trip with me, so it was no surprise when #4 came out this spring that it needed a residence in my beach bag. I devoured this one so quickly. It’s the kind of book you want to stay up reading in a corner under a lamp, even after everyone goes to bed. (coffee can cover you in the morning!) I thought I had the whole thing figured out, and then it changed in a creative way that I never saw coming!

The Summer House at Larkspur | Kay Pritchett | Order the Book – If you are like me, summer is when it seems easier to grab a few extra minutes to read or have a book in your bag between picking up children and running errands. Then, use the longer evenings to sit on your porch or patio and get in a few extra words. Keep your headphones charged and ready to listen. I’m learning how people can be “reading” more than one book at a time! While Pritchett just released book 5, you’ve got to go back and start at the very beginning.

Soaring Inspiration | Dr. Granville Coggs and Anita Coggs Rowell | Order the BookDr. Coggs shares his personal experiences growing up in the segregated South, and the struggles he faced as an African American pursuing higher education. His daughter reflects on her father’s influence and the lessons she has learned from him as an original Tuskegee Airman. Together, they celebrate the transformative power of love, mentorship and the human spirit, emphasizing the enduring strength of family and the limitless possibilities achievable through hard work, determination and self-belief.

The Vapors | David Hill | Order the Book – the summer scandal we are all waiting for. David Hill lifted the veil on Hot Springs and a vibrant “sin city” more than 50 years ago. Whether you are standing in front of the Arlington Hotel in April 1961, bathing in healing waters in 1894, or sipping a mule in the lobby today, you can only imagine all that’s happening in the belly of the town below your feet. Hidden stories, segregated separation, a different crown jeweled hotel, and a brewing story the world still finds interesting; this one will captivate you because it’s a story told from stories. And you must decipher if what’s left is true! Read more about the book and author here.

A Piece of Paradise | Joe David Rice | Order the Book – Who doesn’t love a beach mystery? I can’t be the only one wondering what everyone does all day while they sit at the beach. Do you ever listen in to the family conversation next to you or piece together your version of the life story of the couple floating on their innertubes at the edge of the water? This book will pull your mind in all directions, trying to help the newlyweds solve their next riddle. You can read this book as a stand-alone or start back at book one on the Buffalo River.

Faking Balance | Lela Davidson | Order the Book – If you’re a mom looking for a friend to resonate with, this may be your place to start. Lela is hilarious, and her stories of motherhood are something any of us can relate to, especially in the summer, when our Uber driving and kid delivery takes on a whole new level. In case you are still wondering, no one has figured out the balance; we are all just faking it! Whew, isn’t that a relief? 

Image used with permission from the author.

And, because we are always looking for ways to get a little reading time in with our children, here are a few children’s books to read this summer by Arkansas authors:

  • Fay Ray Lost Her Way | Brandy Mincer | Order the Book – navigates sibling rivalry and learning that we are all created for a unique purpose
  • Ella the Banker | Liam Sprinkle and Shamim Okolloh | Order the Book – uses the curiosity of a child to learn about banking careers and financial literacy
  • The Legend of DJ Awesome | Solomon Donoho | Order the Book – Written by a third grader, meet a DJ with superpowers who takes readers on an adventure to discover the hero in their story

And, if you still need more reading material, you might check out some other suggestions from previous lists:


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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in Northwest Arkansas with her chicken man and break-dancing son. Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, small business trainer, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now, she is using those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop, which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom! Keisha loves to feed birds, read the stack on her nightstand, do dollar store crafts, cook recipes from her Pinterest boards, and chase everyday adventures on her Arkansas bucket list.

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