Eight books to read this summer recommended by Colorado booksellers

It’s summer, and that might conjure up thoughts of reclining on a lawn chair with a good book in hand – maybe at the beach or overlooking the mountains. Summertime reading is one of our favorite pastimes at Colorado Matters. 

As we do every summer, we asked two book experts to recommend some summer reading, and, like every summer, they did not disappoint. Deidre Appelhans, co-owner of The Read Queen Bookstore and Cafe in Lafayette, and Jeanne Costello is general manager and bookbuyer at Maria's Bookshop in Durango, suggested a range of books set in and around Colorado for readers of all ages.

Picks by Deidre Appelhans

"The Cape Doctor" by E.J. Levy

“The Cape Doctor” is inspired by the fascinating real life of a 19th century doctor. It recounts the story of how a young girl from Cork, Ireland reinvents herself as a boy so that she can attend medical school. After experiencing all the freedom of the era as a man, she continues her life as a man, and she's incredibly successful as a physician. It's a fascinating story, especially since it is more than just inspired by a real life story; it is a fictionalization of a real person. 

This character, this man, is then accused of homosexuality and it puts their life in jeopardy. So it's a beautiful first-person account and it's beautifully written. It's clearly a work of historical fiction, but the character is assertive, driven and deeply reflective. That allows E.J. Levy to explore issues of female identity and the lengths to which women have gone to live on their own terms. As an aside, it won the 2022 Colorado Book Award for Best Historical Fiction.

"Fox and I" by Catherine Raven

“Fox and I” is a beautiful story of friendship and solitude and the realities of the wilderness. Tt's coming out in paperback at the end of the month, and it's a nonfiction book for those who are looking to reflect on our interconnectedness with nature. The author, Raven, is a botanist, a biologist and a teacher, and she uses the scientific names of flora and fauna of the Rocky Mountains a lot. Some people  may find that a little too technical, but I found that I was learning a lot while I was reading it. Her writing about the wilderness made me want to be out there. It made me want to be alone and quiet and observing.

"The Dead Husband" by Carter Wilson

“The Dead Husband” is a story of deception, for fans of psychological thrillers. It's a standalone book, so it's not part of a series, which I really like to recommend for summer reads.This book is a story about Rose Yates: 20 years ago, an unspeakable tragedy rocked her small affluent hometown and only Rose and her family know the truth about what happened. Haunted by guilt, Rose escapes to a new life and she now seems to have it all. She has a marriage, a son, a career as an author of mystery thrillers, but then, her husband is found dead. So, if she and her son are going to have a future, she has to return to her childhood home and confront the past. 

The book is told from two alternating points of view: that of Rose and the detective investigating her, Colin Pearson. This book could have some triggers for a few people: there's some depression and anxiety that Rose goes through in the wake of her husband's death.


"Ham Helsing #1: Vampire Hunter" by Rich Moyer

This is a great graphic novel that is utterly charming. Ham Helsing is a pig. He isn't like the rest of his family: He doesn't want to join the family business of vampire hunting. And, as you might imagine, circumstances force him into the job. So, he must embark on a perilous journey when he discovers that people are not always what they seem. It's hilarious. It's sweet. The illustrations are wonderful. They're beautiful and they're very reminiscent of older Warner Brothers cartoons. 

Book two: “Ham Helsing #2: Monster Hunter” was just published two weeks ago. Ham continues his adventures at summer camp, but it's a great read and it's great for kids of all ages. It's definitely sweet and charming.

Picks by Jeanne Costello

"Woman of Light" by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

I chose this book because it’s a new look into the history of Colorado. We’re accustomed to that white post-settler narrative and Kali Fajardo-Anstine has given us a five-generation story of the indigenous Chicano family, starting with the lost territories of Northern New Mexico and migrating through the San Luis Valley up to north Denver, where we start with our main character, Luz. She and her brother are trying to get by in the 1930s in Denver. He is accused of fraternizing with a young white woman and is chased out of town by an angry mob, and Luz is then on her own in the community. She's also a seer, and she takes us back into the roots of her family, starting with that Northern New Mexico connection. 

It's a rich story. These are the stories that Kali grew up with sitting around the kitchen table. So it tells a lot of stories in her family and shares a real history in Colorado. 

"Tracing Time" by Craig Childs

Craig Childs has had a decades-long love affair with the Colorado plateau. This particular book focuses on the mystery of the rock art that's in the plateau. He is immersively observing it: What is it like to be there in its presence? He notices the time of day, how the light hits the rock art. It's really a thoughtful way of connecting to the land and the experience of observing. He does talk to a lot of Indigenous folks about meaningfulness without trying to be interpretive or authoritative, but really trying to be curious and to share that experience with readers.


"City of Gold" by Will Hobbs

“City of Gold” is another historical fiction story. 15-year-old Owen has just moved with his 10-year-old brother and his mother to Hermosa, Colorado. They brought their pack of mules with them, which is how they will make a living as farmers. But, in the middle of the night, an outlaw steals the mules and takes them to the City of Gold, which is Telluride, where the mules are used in the mining operations there. 

This begins an amazing journey of tracking the outlaws and going into the mining community and learning more about that. Owen ends up pairing with the local sheriff and his younger brother, who has managed to follow him to Telluride, and they have to chase the outlaws and have to find their hideout where they finally locate their mules.

The book is really immersed in historical information and detail. It’s an adventure.


"Slow Down, Tumbleweed!" by Haven Iverson and illustrated by Robert Sayegh Jr.

I picked this book because I was really attracted to how beautiful the drawings are by Robert Sayegh Jr. and it's a really great story. Mabel is this tumbleweed who just goes everywhere and she's excited to be on the move. But, she feels very sorry for the rooted plants out there. Then one day, she gets stuck in a barnyard. She's really sad and she's a little stressed out by it. But, when she gets over her fear of being stuck in one place, she starts to see things she never noticed before: The beautiful sunset, and gorgeous sounds in the wind. Just the detail of the world when you just stop for a minute and notice the world around you.