Book Corner: Reading Off the Beaten Path

Adventure, exploration, travel, wilderness. These are some of the words that the phrase “off the beaten path” conjures, and I instantly find them intriguing. Lucky for me, this year’s Summer Reading theme at Central Rappahannock Regional Library just happens to be Off the Beaten Path. What kind of reading adventures will you be taking this summer? The possibilities are endless, and you can travel far and wide from the air-conditioned comfort of your home, or from a sand-strewn towel on the beach. Here are a few picks to inspire your journey on the road less traveled.

Island of the Lost by Joan Druett
Award-winning maritime historian Joan Druett uses survivors’ journals and historical records to piece together the story of two shipwrecks just 20 miles apart on a deserted island. In 1864, Captain Thomas Musgrave’s schooner, the Grafton, wrecked on Auckland Island, near inhospitable with its freezing rain and battering winds. Improbably, another ship, the Invercauld, ran aground on the same island during a storm. But while the Invercauld’s crew devolved to fighting, starving, and then cannibalism, the Grafton crew rallied together to build a cabin and forge and then eventually found a way to escape.

The Lost City of Z by David Grann
Financed by the Royal Geographical Society in London, and with the whole world watching, famed British explorer Percy Fawcett embarked on his final expedition to find the lost city of El Dorado, deep in the Brazilian Amazon. The idea of this “City of Gold” had enthralled scientists and explorers for 400 years, despite a lack of evidence of its existence and the fact that many men disappeared in the jungles searching for it. Even Fawcett himself had barely survived previous expeditions, though this only fueled his determination to succeed. This time, believing a small crew would increase their chances of survival, it was just Fawcett, his son, and a friend that entered the Amazon. Regular communication from Fawcett dwindled and then ceased, and the trio was never seen again. Over the following 80 years, countless searches were made, and Fawcett’s legend remained alive even as his disappearance remained a mystery. Then New Yorker David Grann happened on the story and ended up in the Amazon jungle to find out whether he could bring Fawcett’s saga to a close. Also available in Spanish.

The Unlikely Thru-Hiker: An Appalachian Trail Journey by Derick Lugo
New York comedian Lugo, suddenly out of work, was looking for a way to spend his time. Used to the everyday comforts of city life, Lugo had never been hiking, much less considered attempting to hike all 2,184.2 miles of the Appalachian Trail. So this young Black man, unfamiliar with thru-hiking and the outdoors in general, launched his journey from Georgia to Maine with an overstuffed pack and cheerful determination. The tenacious Lugo, dubbed “Mr. Fabulous” on the trail due to his relentlessly fastidious grooming, braved the wildness of nature and overcame obstacles with unshakeable good humor. 

The Getaway Girls by Dee MacDonald
Take Connie, Gill, and Maggie on your next vacation with you, as the three unlikely friends live it up from France to Italy. All longing for adventure for different reasons, the trio embarks on a relaxing trip in their luxury campervan from the beaches of France to sunny Italy. But their travels take an unexpected turn as Gill is determined to have one last holiday romance, Connie receives a surprise inheritance in Italy, and Maggie has a secret that is going to catch up with all of them.

The Island by Adrian McKinty
Newly married couple Heather Baxter and Tom, a widowed doctor with a young son and teenage daughter, decide an overseas vacation is just what the new family needs. By the time they arrive in the Australian outback, however, the kids are already tired of their stepmother. Then the family talks their way onto the ferry to remote Dutch Island, typically off-limits to outside visitors. As soon as they arrive on the island, controlled by a tightly knit group of locals, they know something is wrong. Then a terrible accident launches the Baxters from merely a weird situation directly into a nightmare. When Heather and her stepchildren are separated from Tom, they are forced to escape without him, pursued by the locals, who want her dead.

Summer Reading isn’t just for kids! Sign up at, opens a new window for chances to win weekly giveaways and enter a grand prize raffle drawing just by reading and completing fun activities.

Tracy McPeck is the adult services coordinator at Central Rappahannock Regional Library. This column first appeared in the Free Lance-Star newspaper.