We’re in the heat of summer here in North Carolina, and people of all walks of life are taking time with their friends and families. Some travel to the beach. Others can’t stand the crowds, sand, and heat, so they prefer a mountain lake.

Wherever you end up parking your folding chair, you’re probably going to bring a book along — even if you actually spend most the time scrolling on Twitter or the Carolina Journal website.

As think-tank people, we do recommend building daily reading into your schedule, but, if nothing else, books are a good conversation piece. So what better way to spark a little conversation with our audience than to share what a few of us have been reading this summer.

Amy Cooke: (now former) John Locke Foundation CEO and Carolina Journal publisher

For the energy-policy curious, aka geeks:

  • Shorting the Grid by Meredith Angwin, about the fragility of the electric grid
  • Cobalt Red by Siddharth Kara, about human abuses of cobalt mining in the Congo

Fun beach reads:

  • Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt
  • Happy Go Lucky by David Sedaris

History read:

  • Facing the Mountain by Daniel James Brown

Jon Sanders: Director of JLF’s Center for Food, Power, and Life

I would highly recommend escaping to the high seas of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels, beginning with Master and Commander, because they offer some of the best writing I’ve ever encountered. This summer I’m rereading the James Bond novels of Ian Fleming.

Finally, I would urge readers to consult the local used bookstores. They are magical places packed with gems awaiting your discovery, and their treasures cannot be digitally erased by virtual censors of the present day but bear the patina and crinkles of proof.

Brooke Medina: JLF Vice President of Communications

  • How To Be A Conservative by Roger Scruton (2014)
  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (2020)

Jordan Roberts: Director of JLF Government Affairs

  • Suicide of the West – Jonah Goldberg.

Carrie Leggins: JLF Director of Operations

  • “The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home” by Denise Kiernan is a deep dive into the Biltmore house and the history surrounding it.
  • “Wrong Place Wrong Time” by Gillian McAllister is a true “beach read,” and I crushed it in two days.
  • “The Stolen Marriage” by Diane Chamberlain is another “beach read” that has North Carolina ties.

Andre Beliveau: Visiting Fellow

  • The Right: The Hundred-Year War for American Conservatism, by Matthew Continetti (Basic Books, 2022. Paperback, 2023) 
  • A Time to Build, by Yuval Levin (Basic Books, 2020)

Jon Guze: Senior JLF Legal Studies Fellow

I highly recommend A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson. It’s set in England before and during WWII, and it’s one of the best war novels I’ve ever read.

David Larson: Opinion editor, Carolina Journal

For a serious non-fiction book, I recommend “Til We Have Built Jerusalem” by University of Notre Dame’s chair of graduate architecture, Phillip Bess. It talks about how Aristotle and Natural Law can inform how we build cities so they best encourage human flourishing. 

For fiction, I’d recommend Wendell Berry’s Port William novels, especially “Jayber Crow.” They, like Bess’ book, talk about how best to live together and the challenges brought by the modern world, but this time in well-written narrative form. 

Michael Bruce: Recent JLF research intern 

  • Bills of Obligations by Richard Haass 
  • Rational Individualism: A moral argument for limited government and capitalism by Dr. Michael Beitler
  • The Coddling of the American Mind by Jonathan Haidt

Kelly Mann: (now former) director of JLF External Relations

J.K. Rowling is most known for writing the Harry Potter series, but what is less known is her pseudonym, Robert Galbraith. The Cormoran Strike crime series is published under the pseudonym. I never liked the Harry Potter series, but these are great beach reads.

I also highly recommend Lord of the Flies. I try to read a classic every month that I didn’t read in high school and college, and this is my most recent.