With the recent announcement of another round of Colorado Book Award winners, 2019 has shaped up to be another stellar year for literature by Colorado authors. At SunLit, the weekly feature of The Colorado Sun that showcases the best of the best, we’re proud to publish excerpts and interviews with many of the state’s most accomplished writers.
So we decided to ask some of them to recommend one of their favorite books especially suited for the escapist nature of the summer read. This holiday weekend marks at least the unofficial start of summer, as schools let out and the weather warms, and it’s as good a time as any to get that summer reading list in order. With our thanks to these authors, we submit a short list of titles to enrich idle hours or extended vacations. Whether you’re headed for the mountains, the beach or just the back porch, these selections just might offer that getaway you’re looking for.
Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit
Helen Thorpe is the author of “The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom,” a 2018 Colorado Book Awards winner for Creative Nonfiction.
Helen’s Pick: “The River” by Peter Heller.
Why You Might Like It: “It’s a spell-binder, and makes for perfect summer reading in a place where so many of us like to raft, kayak, or otherwise enjoy rivers full of snowmelt in the summertime. The book also features a raging fire, and of course we are approaching fire season, too. (Hopefully this year we will have fewer fires, given all the snow and rain we have gotten.) I can’t recommend “The River” highly enough — I could not put it down. I especially loved the depiction of the friendship between the book’s two main characters, and the unforgettable beauty of the writing about the natural world.”
Mark Stevens is featured in “Blood Business: Crime Stories from This World and Beyond,” a 2018 Colorado Book Awards finalist for Anthology.
Mark’s pick: “KOP” by Warren Hammond.
Why You Might Like It: “One of the best mysteries I’ve read in the past few years by a Colorado writer was set on a planet called Lagarto. “KOP” is soaked with atmosphere and steeped in humanity, even though we are on a distant planet six centuries in the future. Corruption and greed have discovered new outer limits of brutality. It’s not easy to pull off an imaginative sci-fi setting and a noir-tinged mystery, but Hammond doesn’t break a sweat fashioning this 3-D world and the planet’s steamy, fetid streets.
“Lagarto is a mess. Its economy is in shambles. It’s moral fabric is frayed. Our anti-hero is Juno Mozambe, once the corrupt police chief’s bare-knuckled enforcer. He is rugged, flawed, and relentless. The main case in “KOP” involves the mutilated body of an army lieutenant. Juno gets teamed up with the well-meaning and inexperienced Maggie Orzo. “KOP” is terrific—a gritty escape—and I liked No. 2 in the series, “Ex-KOP,” even better. And No. 3, “KOP Killer,” won the Colorado Book Award for, yes, best mystery. But start with “KOP.” The whole series was recently updated, too, with snazzy new covers that will look great on the airplane or at the beach.”
Peg Brantley is the author of “Trafficked,” the 2018 Colorado Book Awards winner for Thriller.
Peg’s Pick: “The Drowning Game” by LS Hawker.
Why You Might Like It: “This summer, in between fluff and deep introspection, save room for a little danger. The thriller kind.
“Petty Moshen’s father trained her to handle anything—while holding her prisoner for eighteen years. Suddenly her father is dead, but rather than the freedom she expects, her life is about to go from a bad dream to a full-blown nightmare. “The Drowning Game” is a coming-of-age story unlike any you’ve ever read. When you begin with Hawker’s debut novel featuring a strong and potentially troubled female lead, you’ll want to read her next books as well.”
Margaret Mizushima is the author of “Hunting Hour: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery,” a 2018 Colorado Book Awards finalist for Mystery.
Margaret’s Pick: “Canyon Sacrifice” by Scott Graham.
Why You Might Like It: “Each episode combines a mixture of great writing, vivid landscape descriptions, and a well-crafted mystery that’s sure to keep you turning the pages. Even if you’ve chosen to stay home during your summer vacation, these stories will take you on a thrill ride to America’s National Parks.
“Graham has written five books in the series. The fifth, “Arches Enemy,” is set in Arches National Park where archeologist Chuck Bender travels to help uncover and preserve an ancient cultural treasure. But when a sandstone arch in the park collapses and takes a woman on top of it to her death, Chuck and his wife Janelle try to untangle the web of environmental and political intrigue surrounding the murder, only to become targets of the killer themselves.
“If you want the full impact of the character arcs in this series, start with book one, “Canyon Sacrifice” (set in Grand Canyon National Park), and read your way through the series to Graham’s latest release. Enjoy!”
Pat Stoltey is the author of “Wishing Caswell Dead,” a 2018 Colorado Book Awards finalist for General Fiction.
Pat’s Pick: “The Healer’s Daughter” by Charlotte Hinger.
Why You Might Like It: “I just finished reading this excellent 2019 release from Five Star’s Frontier Fiction line. I can’t say enough good things about the story, the characters, and the research that went into this well-written, poignant novel.
“Nicodemus is the Kansas town where post-Civil War freed slaves as well as free African Americans were lured from eastern states, primarily southern states, for political purposes. One of the first residents is Bethany Herbert, who acts as a healer and midwife and as the schoolteacher. She tries to hold the community together and overcome the manipulation of the conniving politicians who simply want to buy the votes of Nicodemus’ residents. It’s a hard life, especially when the Nicodemus residents find they are still victims of prejudice and mistreatment in this new environment.
“Hinger, a former Kansan (now a resident of northern Colorado) and a historian, has been recognized for her mysteries, but is clearly just as talented in historical fiction. Her language is true to the times and the story spellbinding. Highly recommended.”
Michael F. Haspil
Michael F. Haspil is the author of “Graveyard Shift,” a 2018 Colorado Book Awards finalist for Science Fiction/Fantasy.
Michael’s Pick: “Lump” by Claire L. Fishback.
Why You Might Like It: “Colorado summer is right around the corner — though, in some parts of the state, you might not know it. If you like getting goosebumps, the feeling of having your hair stand on end, and the unease of glimpsing something-that-should-not-be out of the corner of your eye, then I have the perfect summer read for you. This collection of short stories by Claire L. Fishback, an up and coming Colorado author, delivers bite-sized chunks of horror.
“Claire has thrown together a brilliant collection of horror tales ranging from snacky vignettes to more meaty shorts. They are the perfect stories to gobble up while enjoying a Colorado micro-brew on a warm summer’s eve. Or you may want to binge a bunch of the stories at a time, which is what I did. They are creepy, unsettling, and fun (horror fans know what I mean). And you may find that “Lump” will whet your appetite for heartier fare. Claire Fishback’s debut novel, “The Blood of Seven,” a tight horror-mystery filled with cults, secret societies, and forbidden knowledge, releases on June 21st.”
L.D. “Liz” Colter is the author of “A Borrowed Hell,” the 2018 Colorado Book Awards winner for Science Fiction/Fantasy, and “While Gods Sleep,” the 2019 winner in that category.
Liz’s Pick: “The Dresden Files” by Jim Butcher.
Why You Might Like It: There are so many fine authors in Colorado (maybe the mountain air inspires creativity), that even dialing the category down to fantasy and science fiction writers — the genre in which I write — it’s tough to narrow the list to one recommendation. A few of the many regional speculative fiction authors who enjoy widespread appeal are Paolo Bacigalupi, Jim Butcher, Carrie Vaughn, Connie Willis, Kevin J. Anderson, and Carol Burg. There are others, of course, but of the writers whose work I’m most familiar with, I think Paolo Bacigalupi’s speaks to me the most compellingly, with his strong writing and ecologically devastated dystopias. The brutal topics are uncomfortable, though, as they’re meant to be, and may not be for everyone.
The author on this list whose writing I’ve read the most is Jim Butcher. I’m part-way through his Dresden Files series, which is well-written urban fantasy combined with mystery and action. Harry Dresden, a wizard who works as a private investigator and helps the Chicago police with supernatural cases, is witty, likable, unlucky, and insightful. Best of all, the character and the series continue to deepen and gain complexity over the fifteen books out so far (with about another five planned, last I heard). An added bonus for audiobook readers is that James Marsters narrates the series brilliantly. “Storm Front” (The Dresden Files, Book 1) begins the series.
Jonathan P. Thompson
Jonathan P. Thompson is the author of “River of Lost Souls: The Science, Politics, and Greed behind the Gold King Mine Disaster,” a 2019 Colorado Book Awards finalist for Creative Nonfiction.
Jonathan’s Pick: “The Water Knife.” by Paolo Bacigalupi.
Why You Might Like It: “Bacigalupi’s dystopian novel portrays a not-so-distant future in which global heating has nearly dried up the Colorado River laying waste to many of the cities that rely on it. It’s a perfect summer read, particularly for Coloradans and anyone else in the West, because it’s a thrilling, can’t-put-it-down, page-turner that can hold one’s attention even amid all the other distractions that the season throws at us. More than that, though, it’s a chilling reminder of how our society’s gluttonous ways are putting the planet and all its people into peril.”