Your Charleston Summer Reading List

The long, lazy days of summer are the perfect time to kick back and relax with a good book. Whether you plan to visit the Holy City in the coming months or are just missing her soulful beauty, these Lowcountry-centric novels will have you pining for a return trip. Catch up with an old favorite, dive into an easy pool-side read or immerse yourself in the area’s history with our Charleston reading list.

Fiction
South of Broad by Pat Conroy
Considered one of Charleston’s favorite sons, Pat Conroy was a New York Times best-selling author and writer of such well-known novels as The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides. Set mostly in Charleston, South of Broad details the life of Leopold Bloom King and his close group of friends. Conroy’s beautiful prose of the Lowcountry landscape endears his readers to the locations he details.

All Summer Long by Dorthea Benton Frank
The journey of a charming New York couple’s move to the South is captured throughout this novel. Frank creates a magical story about how life is full of unexpected changes, when the couple plans to relocate to Charleston, South Carolina for a more peaceful life. This irresistible read features the iconic Belmond Charleston Place, as well as its award-winning restaurant, Charleston Grill.

Culture
Very Charleston
Very Charleston: A Celebration of History, Culture and Lowcountry Charm by Diana Hollingsworth Gessler
Through many vibrant watercolors and visually detailed sketches, Dinana Gessler conveys Charleston’s unique beauty. The book includes rich detail on almost everything from the art of entertaining to the city’s renowned architectural and garden designs. Very Charleston is a fascinating read that has become an entertaining guide incorporating maps, an index and a handy appendix of sites for visitors and Charlestonians alike.

Charleston Blacksmith: The Work of Philip Simmons by John Michael Vlach
Renowned blacksmith Philip Simmons is the city’s most celebrated ironworker and has fashioned more than five hundred decorated pieces of ornamental wrought iron. The author details the methods, motifs and materials used by Simmons to create some of the city’s most treasured pieces. His mastery of the craft is displayed in the more than one hundred photographs found in his book along with a map to see the ironwork in Charleston.

Cookbooks
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The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen by Matt Lee and Ted Lee
Written by two brothers who grew up in the very heart of historic downtown Charleston, this book is a reflection of the city’s vibrant food culture. There are 100 recipes, 75 colorful photographs and numerous personal stories that introduce readers to the city’s exciting Southern cuisine. This cookbook is sure to inform readers of some of the best recipes Charleston has to offer.

Cooking the Gullah Way, Morning, Noon, and Night by Sallie Ann Robinson
Born and raised on Daufuskie Island, author Sallie Ann Robinson highlights some of her favorite memories and family recipes from life on the island. Well-known for its Gullah culture, the islanders traditionally ate what they could grow, catch and hunt. The unique food traditions of the Gullah people, containing African, European and Native American influences, can still be found today in Lowcountry cuisine.

Charleston Receipts

Charleston Receipts by The Junior League of Charleston
This well-known Charleston cookbook was first published in 1950, and it is the oldest Junior League cookbook that can still be found i print. The collection contains more than 750 recipes, sketches by Charleston artists and Gullah verses. The renowned cookbook incorporates some of the most unique recipes from the city’s past.

History
The H.L. Hunley: The Secret Hope of the Confederacy by Tom Chaffin
The legend of the H.L. Hunley, a Civil War submarine that sank the Union’s USS Housatonic and then vanished before returning to port in the waters off of Charleston, has intrigued generations. Historian and author Tom Chaffin presents an extremely thorough yet entertaining tale of the submarine’s fate and its subsequent recovery.

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Charleston!! Charleston!: The History of a Southern City by Walter J. Frazier Jr.
This extensive read traces the history of Charleston from its creation in 1670 and ends with the effects of Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Author Walter Frazier touches on every facet of the city; its people and institutions; its art and architecture; its recreational, social, and intellectual life; its politics and city government. All shaping the city we know and love today.

We hope that you enjoy the rich detail found in these delightful books. If you find yourself in the Holy City, we recommend visiting these great local bookstores: Belmond Boutique, Preservation Society of Charleston and Blue Bicycle Books. Belmond Boutique is found in The Shops at Belmond Charleston Place. The preservation Society of Charleston is a non-profit dedicated to recognizing and promoting local artists and designers. Blue Bicycle Books is Charleston’s premier locally-owned bookstore selling unique authors and genres.

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Interview with Marcus Amaker, Charleston’s Inaugural Poet Laureate

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Charleston is well known for its blossoming culture and arts scene; from its well-preserved historic architecture, unique but approachable dining experiences, live music in cozy bars like the Thoroughbred Club, or the countless art galleries lining our historic streets, Charleston’s creativity resonates throughout the city. One art form in particular has come to the forefront of much of this creative spirit, and it is mostly due to Marcus Amaker, a creative who has spent his life dedicated to the arts and music. We reached out to Marcus Amaker, Charleston’s Inaugural Poet Laureate, to hear a little bit about what inspires him and some tips on how you can experience Charleston’s creativity.

How and when did you first get into poetry?
Vinyl. I first got into poetry the second that I heard music, as a child. My parents were very aware of giving me experiences with art and music. There was always vinyl around our house, and we were always going to concerts. Vinyl packaging was essential to my love of the written word, because lyrics were printed on all of my favorite album sleeves.

You are currently the City of Charleston’s Inaugural Poet Laureate. Why was this position created and what does it entail?
This position was created to promote literacy in our schools and to be an advocate of the arts. I am so honored to have the title. I’m now at the table for important decisions involving our arts scene. I’m asked to write poems for events and do a lot of workshops in schools. Connecting with students has been the most rewarding part.

You have had so many artistic endeavors over the course of your career. What inspires you to be constantly creating? 
Everything goes back to music. Listening to it, creating it, seeing it live. Music is the key to everything I do. The poems I write are songs without instrumentation. The graphic design that I creative has visual keys and rhythm. I’m totally plugged into sound and song.

You have produced poetry books, videos, workshops of all kids, what do you have in the works currently?
I’m currently working on a few new albums and producing our city’s first poetry festival. The albums are experimental electronic works, using analogue machines. The poetry festival will be in the fall of this year and will involve workshops and public displays of poetry plus events for all ages.

How does Charleston inspire your creative process?
Once settled in Charleston, it was impossible to not be inspired by this city. I feel the stories of our ancestors every time I walk down the street. I am in touch with the ghosts of our past and aware that we have to keep history alive, while moving forward. I can thank Charleston for an awakening that I would not have had in any other city

How can visitors get involved in the art scene?
There are so many entry points to our art scene. I love Redux Contemporary Art Center. They are putting on progressive shows using all kinds of mediums. The Halsey Institute is also an amazing spot for anyone looking to check out the visual arts.

What is your favorite spot in the Charleston area right now and what would you suggest for visitors to do while they are here?
My favorite spot in Charleston is the Upper Deck Tavern. The best dive bar in town. I’d love for visitors to visit the upper peninsula and go to Hampton Park. It’s the most beautiful park in the city, and there’s a wealth of history there. The Denmark Vessey statue is remarkable.

Do you have a poem you would like to share with our readers?
“the last word”

one day, 
someone will write
the last poem about injustice
and it will become 
our new national anthem. 
only history books
will hold the memory of hatred
and museums will be built
for the artifacts
of our awakening

one day,
someone will have
the last conversation about politics
because we realized 
there were problems 
that our politicians couldn’t fix. 
policies not built
to cure our addiction to division, 
no governing body
that compared to the bodies 
of the enlightened.

one day,
this poem won’t be
a manifesto for dreamers. 
we will wake up from nightmares
of our own making
and reject our attraction 
to darkness;
our love affair
with conflict.

You can stay up-to-date on Amaker’s upcoming events and and projects at his website.

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Pictured above: The second edition of Mantra featuring new graphic design, poetry and artwork. Among the new poems in the book is “Reimagining History” – written with Marjory Wentworth, Poet Laureate of South Carolina. “Reimagining History” was commissioned by Charleston, SC Mayor John Tecklenburg for his inauguration.

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The Outdoorsman’s Guide to Charleston

The picturesque Lowcountry offers visitors to Charleston an opportunity to explore one of the world’s most complex eco-systems. From the Atlantic Ocean with its abundant estuaries to the surrounding low-lying marshlands, Charleston is home to one of the most diverse and naturally beautiful landscapes in the country.

Get On the Water
Charleston offers arguably the best ocean, tidal and freshwater fishing of any kind. Spend an afternoon of inshore fishing on the plentiful shallow waters and coastal estuaries of the Lowcountry, teeming with a variety of game fish including redfish, flounder, black drum and even sharks. Or set out for a full-day of deep sea fishing. Providing a challenging adventure even for experienced anglers, catch marlin, tuna, sailfish, mahi-mahi, wahoo and many other species. Charters can be arranged for year-round fishing.

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Set Your Sights on the Sky
Located on a historic rice plantation, Ravenel Caw Caw Interpretive Center offers a wide range of trails and nature-viewing opportunities. Noted for its rich bird life, Caw Caw is a birding hotspot for coastal South Carolina. In addition to bird spotting, visitors may catch a glimpse of waterfowl, songbirds, otters, deer, alligators, bald eagles and more. A variety of interactive exhibits, displays and programs can also be found at Caw Caw.

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Hit the Trails
Seabrook Island Equestrian Center, located on nearby Seabrook Island, offers one of the few public equestrian trail systems in the Lowcountry. Pristine scenery awaits as you journey through scenic woods, marshes and tidal creeks on trails designed for beginner and advanced riders. Beach rides along the North Beach of Seabrook Island are also available. Open year-round schedule based on tides. Reservations required.

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Explore the Great Outdoors
Grab a mountain bike and head to the old Santee Gun Club, now a protected wildlife management area. This 24,000-acre reserve features several dirt road trails through old rice fields, past freshwater cypress swamps and through pine woodlands. Parts of the reserve are open to the public for hunting during certain times of the year.

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After exploring Charleston, retreat to Belmond Charleston Place, to relax in luxury.

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