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4 Aug 2022
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Travel Tips

OBX Beach Reads

People come from all over the world to enjoy the peace and relaxation of the Outer Banks and for many, that means picking up your favorite beach read to dive into while you relax by the pool or stick your toes in the sand. And the Outer Banks, because of its sheer beauty and centuries of mystery, has actually been the setting for dozens of books in every genre, from romance and thrillers to non-fiction and children’s books. So for your next Outer Banks vacation, why not pick up a book set in the very place where you’re staying for total OBX immersion? Keep reading for a list of some of the most popular books set in the Outer Banks. There’s a little bit of something for everyone, so get ready to find your next favorite beach read below!

Fiction

Contemporary Fiction


Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens

We’re starting off this list with one of the most popular books to be written about North Carolina: Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing. While the first part of this particular best-selling book take place in a fictional town on the coast of North Carolina, if you’re looking for an engaging read, reminiscent of Netflix’s Outer Banks, then Where the Crawdads Sing is the perfect beach read for your next Outer Banks vacation. Set in the marshes of North Carolina and in fictional Barkley Grove, this story follows the life of a young girl whose relationship with a young UNC-Chapel Hill graduate get her involved in a murder investigation. This thrilling story about life, love, and growing up in the South is the perfect beach read to enjoy while listening to the sounds of the ocean nearby.


Summer Rental, Mary Kay Andrews

Summer Rental is a fun and moving contemporary women’s fiction novel by The New York Times bestselling author Mary Kay Andrews. When Ellis, Julia, and Dorie head to the Outer Banks for a month in hopes of rejuvenating their friendships and working through the difficult challenges that life continues to throw at them, they are met with a landlord who’s falling in love with Ellis and a runaway in search of a place to start over. How will these secrets shape their time at the beach and will the lessons they learn while on the Outer Banks change their lives back home for the better or worse? Pick up this fun beach read with a glass of sparkling wine and a cozy beach towel for an exciting Outer Banks escape.


Outer Banks, Anne Rivers Siddons

Similar to Summer Rental, Anne Rivers Siddons’ Outer Banks is a fantastic read that explores the evolution of friendship and the way that life can inevitably shape our relationships with the people we love. After spending two spring breaks in Nags Head, a group of four women come back together after thirty years to reconnect and discover what ripped them apart and how they can reconcile friendships that are meant to withstand the test of time. This read is best enjoyed on the sun deck while relaxing in a cozy Adirondack chair or in a comfortable bed at the end of a long day of exploring everything that the Outer Banks has to offer.


Nights in Rodanthe, Nicholas Sparks

It’s impossible to recommend books set on the Outer Banks without mentioning this classic. Set in Rodanthe and later turned into a feature film, this classic Outer Banks romantic read captures the heartbreak and hope that characterizes Sparks’ writing while recognizing the unique landscape of the Outer Banks. This story of forty-five-year-old Adrienne Willis and fifty-four-year-old Paul Flanner tells the account of how these two meet while trapped in a storm on the beaches of the Outer Banks and how their weekend together shapes the rest of their lives. It is a harrowing tale of love, healing, and forgiveness that is perfect when you need something gentle and sweet to read while you unwind in the hot tub or watch a sunset over the sound.


Hurricane Izzy: An OBX Story, Greg Smrdel

Written by long-term resident Greg Smrdel, Hurricane Izzy: An OBX Story tells the story of Todd Richards and the Dare County community as it bands together to face a coming storm. Smrdel bases his story on his experiences facing storms on the Outer Banks and presents a thrilling tale of how hurricanes, which are a common part of life on the Outer Banks, can shape our homes, relationships, and the rest of our lives. Filled with descriptive language and relatable characters, this book is a great read for a stormy evening after a day in the hot summer sun with a cup of tea and a cozy blanket.


Summer’s Child, Diane Chamberlain

Bestselling author Diane Chamberlain explores the nature of family with a story of memorable characters, beautiful settings, and complex storylines that provide an easy, escapist read for your Outer Banks vacation. Chamberlain tells the story of Daria Cato who found baby Shelly abandoned on the beach in Kill Devil Hills when she was eleven years old. As Shelley grows up, she understandably wants to know more about her birth parents and ends up opening doors that neither she nor Daria are entirely ready to face. With a 4-star rating on GoodReads, this book is sure to be an interesting read that will keep you searching for answers while you relax with your toes in the sand and a cool drink in your hand.


The Prayer Box, Lisa Wingate

Finalist for several book awards, Linda Wingate’s The Prayer Box is the first in a series of uplifting, inspiring novels called A Carolina Chronicles. Wingate tells the story of Tandi Jo Reese who becomes responsible for cleaning out her landlord’s house after her death at ninety-one. While cleaning, Tandi discovers eighty-one prayer boxes that tell the woman’s story, providing lessons and advice for the generations that would come after. This book is great for an evening read with a cozy blanket or when you’re looking for a bit of calm in the midst of an exciting day at the beach. Set on Hatteras Island, The Prayer Box whisks you away to the unique nature of the island while telling the universal story of a life filled with love and faith.


Barefoot to Avalon, David Payne

If you’re looking for a more serious read and something causes you to think and sits a little heavier, Barefoot to Avalon, by North Carolina native David Payne, is the book for you. This touching memoir tells a powerful account of David’s experiences after the loss of his brother, George, while he was helping David move his things back to North Carolina from Vermont. In it, Payne discusses the complex themes of childhood trauma, alcoholism, guilt, and loss that so often shape us and the people around us, all with the backdrop of his life in North Carolina and the Outer Banks, as he does in many of his other books. A more serious read, this memoir is a touching account of the importance of self-awareness and recognizing the impact that memory can have on our lives.

 

Thrillers/Mystery


OBX, David Dean

David Dean’s OBX hit local bookshelves in May 2022 and took droves of local readers by storm. Set on the Outer Banks, Dean’s political thriller pits NC State Bureau of Investigation Agent Michael Francis against a serial killer just as a hurricane is bearing down on the North Carolina coast. This exciting read that’s perfect for enjoying over your favorite drink with your toes in the sand has romance, mystery, run-ins with the law, and a journey of self-discovery that is sure to have you binging this read every single chance you can get. Dean lives in Topsail Island and has also written both a science-fiction anthology and a horror novel, meaning that there’s plenty to keep you busy for your entire beach vacation.


The Liar’s Child: A Novel, Carla Buckley

In this psychological thriller, Carla Buckley uses strong, interesting characters to confront complex questions of morality in a heart-wrenching family drama. When Sara Lennox moves to the Paradise apartment complex on the outskirts of the Outer Banks in hopes of escaping her past and starting over, a hurricane that threatens the lives of two children next door puts her in a difficult position that threatens all of their lives. Buckley’s novel is an easy read for when you just need a few moments to escape while still leaving you with a story that pulls at your heartstrings and keeps you thinking about the themes for days to come. Curl up with a warm blanket on a rainy day and immerse yourself in Buckley’s version of the Outer Banks.


Beachcomber, Karen Robards

Written by New York Times bestselling author Karen Robards, Beachcomber tells the thrilling story of a serial killer running rampant on the Outer Banks, while Bonnie, who bears a striking resemblance to the women who have been disappearing, falls in love with a handsome drift and tries to get some peace from her high-stress advertising job. With likable characters and an interesting story, this novel will take you away from reality and fix you in a place where the good guys always win and love can always start again. This is a great evening read after a fun day of exploring the Outer Banks, visiting museums, and spending time with the family and you’re ready for a few moments of time to yourself with a cool drink and an enticing book.


The Coffins, Deborah Dunn

If you’re looking for an exciting thriller that mixes history and mystery, Deborah Dunn’s The Coffins is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. Andrea Warren is a young archaeologist who is haunted by the death of her father. When she heads to Roanoke Island in hopes of discovering the infamous coffins of Beechland, meant to hold the remains of settlers who disappeared in 1590, Warren begins making discoveries that quickly put her own life in danger. Dunn’s work is thoroughly researched and tells a gripping story while simultaneously introducing the reader to a world lost to time. With well-developed characters and a love of the Outer Banks, this historical mystery will definitely keep you entertained during your vacation.


Harrison Weaver Mystery Series, Joseph Terrell

It seems that Roanoke Island and the Lost Colony have a constant pull for mystery-enthusiasts and Joseph Terrell’s A Tide of Darkness continues that trend. It follows the story of true-crime writer Harrison Weaver who hopes to vacation on the Outer Banks but instead gets caught up in a slew of murders of cast members of “The Lost Colony” outdoor drama. Engagingly written by someone who knows his way around the Outer Banks, A Tide of Darkness is an exciting true-crime read to enjoy after exploring Roanoke Island and watching the outdoor drama yourself, which runs Monday through Saturday all summer.


An OBX Haunting Series, Suzi Albracht

If paranormal romance is more your thing, Suzi Albracht’s An OBX Haunting series is the perfect Outer Banks beach read for your next vacation. Set on the Outer Banks, Albracht’s ghostly love stories bring the reader not only into the world of the Outer Banks but into a heartwrenching romance as ghost Jordan Snow attempts to reconnect with his wife after they are in a car accident returning from vacation. While the story has a tragic beginning, Albracht’s series is a lighthearted, romantic escape filled with longing, humor, and a full cast of characters that will have you unable to put the book down. This series is ideal for quiet nights on the deck under the stars with a glass of your favorite drink or buried away in a cozy nook or den when you’re just ready for some peace and quiet.

 

Historical Fiction


The Outer Banks House, Diann Ducharme

If historical fiction is more your style, Diann Ducharme’s The Outer Banks House is the first of two recommendations in this genre that will take you back to a time before cell phones and the internet were a part of the lexicon on the Outer Banks. The Outer Banks House follows the story of seventeen-year-old Abigail Sinclair whose family moves to Nags Head for the summer after the end of the Civil War. While trying to figure out who she is away from the plantation and her emotionally-distant family, Abigail falls in love with Benjamin Whimble and her world takes a dark turn as he becomes entangled in Reconstruction-era political retaliation and the shifting cultural norms of the post-war South. This book also provides a great opportunity to enjoy a fictional tale set against the backdrop of the Freedman’s Colony on Roanoke, which we encourage you to learn more about while visiting Roanoke Island.


Between Tides, Angel Khoury

Lyrically written with poignant descriptions of both Cape Cod and Cape Hatteras, Angel Khoury’s Between Tides tells the story of Gilly whose father abandoned his family in Cape Code to start a new life on the Outer Banks. While on her way to serve in WWII, Gilly meets her father’s first wife, Blythe, and opens the door for a complex story of new relationships, hope, and love in the midst of a family ripped apart. Readers have compared Khoury’s work to Virginia Woolf and Marilynne Robinson, so if you’re looking for something poetic to lull you into a sense of ultimate relaxation during your vacation, you may want to consider picking this up and letting yourself drift away into a different time.

 

Cozy Mysteries


By Book or By Crook, Eva Gates

Few things are better for an engaging, entertaining read than a cozy mystery with a female sleuth solving murders and mysteries in a small, quaint little town. And where better to set one of these exciting stories than the alluring Outer Banks? Eva Gates’ By Book or By Crook is the first of three recommendations for cozy mysteries set on the Outer Banks. This book tells the story of Lucy who takes a job as a librarian in the (fictional) Bodie Island lighthouse. But when the chair of the library board turns up murdered and the library’s first edition copy of a Jane Austen novel turns up missing, Lacy takes it on herself to solve the mystery and save the little library that she’s come to love.


Smile Beach Murder: Outer Banks Bookshop #1, Alicia Bessette

In this cozy Outer Banks mystery, Alicia Bessette tells the story of Callie Padget who, aftering being laid off from her reporting job, moves to the Outer Banks where she she takes up a job at a local bookstore. On the anniversary of her mother’s death after she fell from a lighthouse, another young woman dies in the same way. Callie is convinced that the deaths are actually murders connected to a long-forgotten treasure hunt that both women may have been involved and Callie is determined to figure out exactly what is happening on Cattail Island. With a compelling plot, descriptive setting, and all the best elements of a cozy mystery novel, Smile Beach Murder is sure to keep you interested until the very last page.


A Call for Kelp, Bree Baker

In book 4 of Bree Baker’s Seaside Cafe Mysteries, Eva Swan must figure out who murdered a Hollywood star on the small, Outer Banks island where she’s trying to run a beachside tea shop while helping her aunts with their beekeeping projects. Full of fluffy romance, sticky situations, and sweet treats that come with their own food and drink recipes, lovers of cozy culinary mysteries will enjoy this beach read while relaxing on a lounge chair by the pool with iced tea in hand and the warm, seaside sun overhead.

 

Non-Fiction


Blackbeard’s Cup and Stories of the Outer Banks, Charles Harry Whedbee

Charles Whedbee spent his life as a North Carolina judge in Greenville, but visited Nags Head regularly is known for his role in preserving some of the most important folklore and legends of the Outer Banks. Blackbeard’s Cup and Stories of the Outer Banks is one of those books and contains 16 legends and bits of folklore surrounding a variety of phenomena on the Outer Banks and eastern coast of North Carolina. Settle down together as a family after a long day of exciting adventures at the beach to read these harrowing tales of ghosts, shipwrecks, and magic that will bring the history of the Outer Banks to life for your whole family! These stories are fun but they’re also an important snapshot of the culture of the Outer Banks and how history shapes legend throughout the centuries in remote regions such as the barrier islands. Plus, who doesn’t love a ghost story?


Hoi Toide on the Outer Banks: The Story of the Ocracoke Brogue, Walt Wolfram and Natalie Shilling-Estes

If you’ve ever talked to a local who has lived on the southern Outer Banks for some time, it’s impossible to miss the unique, vibrant dialect of people from Wanchese, Hatteras, Harkers Island, and Ocracoke. Walt Wolfram and Natalie Shilling-Estes look specifically at what has been termed the “Ocracoke brogue” dialect, which is a combination of primarily seventeenth-century English regional dialects that have remained relatively unchanged for centuries due to the island’s isolation and heritage. While they explore the development and syntax of the unique pattern of speech, they also explore the cultural implications of the brogue, citing extensive interviews with Ocracoke residents who revere their unique dialect as part of their identity and history. Check this out to find out more about what makes the Outer Banks just so special that people keep coming back year after year to experience its wonder.


Graveyard of the Atlantic, David Stick

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive overview of the Outer Banks and its history, from its origins to the modern day, anything written by historian David Stick is required reading. Stick not only founded the Outer Banks History Museum and the town of Southern Shores but also wrote 13 books highlighting the unique history of the Outer Banks and dedicated his life to its conversation and development. Graveyard of the Atlantic was his first UNC Press book that is still a staple for anyone hoping to learn more about the origins of seafaring culture on the Outer Banks and the importance of shipwrecks to the development of local culture. With six pages of references and a list of more than 600 shipwrecks off the coast of North Carolina, Graveyard of the Atlantic is still the must-read book for anyone interested in the maritime history of the Outer Banks. Stick’s fun and adventurous writing style also make this the perfect beach read to take along with you in the car or at the beach while the kiddos play in the waves.


The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke, Andrew Lawler

Journalist Andrew Lawler takes the reader on a fantastic journey back in time in his account The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Lawler thoroughly explains the many different theories of what happened to the colonists at Roanoke that have emerged over the last several hundred years, including the supernatural and the violent. However, Lawler meets the reader in that middle space where myth meets fact and gives an account of his own personal research into what he believes happened to the missing colonists more than 400 years ago. His personal connection to both the outdoor drama and the Outer Banks means that he treats the story with the eloquence and loving care of a local. So, if you visited Manteo and, like Lawler’s parents, took your family to see The Lost Colony and want to know a little more about what historians and archeologists have to say about what happened to them, you won’t want to miss The Secret Token.


The Wright Brothers, David McCullough

If you’re searching for a detailed, non-fiction narrative about the history that inspired one of the Outer Banks’ most popular destinations, the Wright Brothers National Memorial, David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers is exactly what you need. McCullough is a world-renowned popular historian and the recipient of two Pulitzer Prizes, the National Book Award, and the Presidental Medal of Freedom for his work in the study of history. The Wright Brothers discusses the life and times of Orville and Wilbur Wright who eventually came to the Outer Banks to test out their flying machine on the dunes. The book is considered an exciting, historical account of the brothers’ lives and demonstrates the hard work and perseverance that eventually led to a successful flight. It’s also concise and easy to read, making it an awesome book to bring with you to the beach or to enjoy with an adult beverage while you lounge by the pool or in the hot tub.


Hidden History of the Outer Banks, Sarah Downing

Sarah Downing lived on the Outer Banks for thirty years before moving just outside of Asheville, NC and she is now the author of six books about the Outer Banks and its fascinating history. She served as the Assistant Curator of the Outer Banks History Center during her time living on the Outer Banks and provides readers with a wide variety of fascinating stories about the beach that most people go their entire lives not knowing. In Hidden History, Downing shares the history of the Carolina Beach Pavilion, forgotten stories of the dunes, and the combined desires of locals and conservationists to protect the diamondback terrapin population. If you’re looking for more of an insider take on the history of the Outer Banks to read from the deck of your vacation rental, look no further than Hidden History of the Outer Banks.


Journey Through the Outer Banks, Wes Snyder

Outer Banks photographer Wes Snyder moved to the Outer Banks in 2017 and has not stopped taking photographs of the beach since. His book, Journey Through the Outer Banks is a beautiful tribute to the beaches, skies, and lighthouses of the Outer Banks. Join Wes as he captures unbelievable sunrises, dramatic skylines, and poignant landscapes that define the unique nature of what the Outer Banks is all about. This collection of photographs covers the landmarks, wildlife, sunrises/sunsets, and night sky of both the Northern and Southern Outerbanks, as well as Roanoke Island. Not only is this book perfect for perusing while on vacation, but it is a wonderful way to bring part of the Outer Banks back home with you.

Children’s Books


Suzanne Tate Nature Series, Suzanne Tate, James Melvin

Any list of book recommendations about the Outer Banks would be amiss without the incomparable work of Suzanne Tate. Tate has lived on the Outer Banks for more than 50 years during which time she has written more than 35 books teaching children about the flora and fauna of the Outer Banks. Illustrator James Melvin brings her life to work in colorful illustrations that have become a fundamental part of growing up on the Outer banks. And while it’s impossible to just recommend one of Tate’s books, our personal favorites are Crabby & Nabby: A Tale of Two Blue Crabs, Izzie Lizzie Alligator: A Tale of a Big Lizard, and Speedy Ghost Crab: A Tale of a Beach Dweller. They’re also the perfect choice to bring back to your loved ones for birthday and Christmas presents. Many of us at Seaside have fond memories of reading these books as children and continue to gift them to our own families as part of an ongoing Outer Banks tradition.


Taffy of Torpedo Junction, Nell Wise Wechter, Mary W. Sparks

For many kids growing up on and around the Outer Banks, Taffy of Torpedo Junction by Nell Wise Wechter and illustrated by Mary W. Sparks was among our favorite required reading. First published in 1957, this exciting book for older children and young adults chronicles the story of thirteen-year-old Taffy Willis, and her pony and dog, as they uncover a ring of Nazi spies operating on Hatteras Island during World War II. Nell Wise Wechter was an Outer Banks native who actually taught near Cape Hatteras during World War II and experienced the sinking of German U-Boats in the area first-hand. The story that she tells provides an amazing introduction to World War II history for kids and is a fun story for readers of all ages. For more historical fiction by Wechter, be sure to check out Swamp Girl, Betsy Dowdy’s Ride, and Teach’s Light.


The Surfin’ Spoon: Sebi Goes Surfing, Jesse & Whitney Hines

Written by surfer Jesse Hines and wife Whitney Hines, who founded the Surfin’ Spoon Frozen Yogurt Bar, this fun, illustrated book fellows Sebi the Spoon’s journey to the Outer Banks where he makes plenty of friends and learns how to surf. You can even read more about Sebi’s adventures in Sebi Gets Barreled and Sebi Gets Stoked. Buy some books and be sure to stop by The Surfin’ Spoon for their homemade ice cream sandwiches and delicious sweet treats!


Good Night Outer Banks, Adam Gamble and Mark Jasper

Part of the Good Night Books series, Good Night Outer Banks is a beautifully illustrated book that’s perfect for settling the kiddos after a long and exciting day exploring the Outer Banks and getting them to sleep dreaming about the best that the Outer Banks has to offer. This adorable picture book introduces readers to ghost crabs, pirates, and wild horses while giving them a precious memento of the towns and memorials that they visited while on vacation! This book is also the perfect gift for your younger family members after you get back from your vacation.

Book your Book-Lover’s Vacation Today!

Now that you’ve stocked up your TBR (to be read) list, be sure to book the perfect vacation rental for your ideal bookish OBX escape. Check out our available rentals, grab your favorite book, and head to the Outer Banks for an unforgettable beach vacation!

Many of these books are available online and with subscription services like KindleUnlimited, but be sure to stop by one of the awesome bookstores on the Outer Banks to get physical (and often times signed) copies of these beach reads.