As my pile of books to read has grown, I decided to devote an hour or so each day to relaxing in the back yard and enjoying the written word. The genres are a mix of romance, science fiction/fantasy, self-help and personal observations on wildlife and wilderness, both for adults and children. If you need a suggestion for your own summer reading, here are those I’ve already finished or am in the process of reading now.

So far, I’ve read two of Lin Stepp’s Smoky Mountain novels, her latest, “Lost Inheritance,” and an earlier one, “Daddy’s Girl.” Both have romance, faith and family ties intermixed with a bit of mystery and suspense — who doesn’t love a little puzzle thrown in for good measure? — and are set in and around the Smokies. If you’re familiar with the places where the characters find themselves, you’ll recognize familiar landmarks: “Lost Inheritance” has the main character moving to Gatlinburg, while “Daddy’s Girl” is set in Bryson City, N.C. Next on my list is “Second Hand Rose,” set in Wears Valley.

Lin is a New York Times, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author for good reason. Her books are excellent. Even Dolly Parton says so, and you can’t get a better endorsement than Dolly! Learn more about Lin’s books at her website,

I’m currently reading a fascinating novel by Daryl Gregory, “Spoonbenders,” described as “a hilarious and tender novel about a loveable family of psychics.” Like all of Daryl’s books, “Spoonbenders” is … weird. That’s good, and he readily admits it!

I met Daryl three years ago when he was promoting “Harrison Squared,” another of his books geared more toward young adult readers. Daryl’s parents, Darrell and Thelma Gregory, live in Blount County and attend church with my sisters, so he dropped by the office with his dad to talk about his books. When I asked about his subject matter in the sci-fi, fantasy and downright strange realm, he laughed and told me, “I don’t think I had any choice. I started reading, and it seemed like it was the weird stuff and the fun stuff that kept drawing me back.” As an English major and then an English teacher, Daryl said he read all kinds of books. “But when it came time to write, that was the stuff I wanted to write about,” he said. “The strange things.”

Daryl has won a plethora of prestigious awards for his books, which have science liberally intermixed with the quirkiness. They are just plain fun to read. Learn more at Daryl’s website, Daryl

I’m also in the process of reading “Appalachian Almanac: Seasons of Wilderness, Wild Life, Human Nature and Home” by Kenneth G. Johnson, a certified wildlife ecologist and naturalist. Ken “provides exploration, inspiration and insights from a lifetime of wilderness travels and wildlife observations, some with humor, joy, fear and occasional danger,” according to his publisher, Jody Dyer at Crippled Beagle Publishing ( Ken writes of his childhood memories, black bear studies, Cherokee heritage, human nature and and a longing for home, dividing his observations by season.

Ken’s book for children, “Panda Love,” includes direct first-hand experiences and photographs by Ken and information about rural China and its people. Both his books are available at or emailing

I’m also reading an advance proof copy of “Quantum Success” by Christy Whitman, which explores “7 essential laws for a thriving, joyful, and prosperous relationship with work and money.” If you’ve read “The Secret,” this book, which is to be released in September according to information at, is written along that line. The author is a life coach who shares a 10-step plan that teaches you how to tap into universal forces such a polarity, alignment, resonance, momentum and magnetism to optimize your wealth and career and bring out the best in yourself and others around you. She’s also a New York Times bestselling author for “The Art of Having It All.” You can learn more about her and her books at

Whatever your taste, these books and so many more are perfect for a lazy summer day on the patio or curled up in your favorite chair with the air conditioner cranked up. Happy reading!

Contact Linda Braden Albert with story ideas at Lindas

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