Sunlight pours in through the 37 picture windows that line the walls of Emerald Isle Books & Toys, illuminating shelves for book hunters on the prowl. The wide planks of the rough-hewn pine floors creak as customers wander the store’s intimate alcoves in search of their next beach read. The shop is the first stop for many Crystal Coast vacationers, and rightly so — it’s the largest independent bookstore east of Raleigh. Curt and Debbie Finch, the store’s owners, have been serving the community for more than 32 years, offering books for adults and children, board games, jigsaw puzzles, craft kits, and specialty toys.
While the store offers more than just books, it’s an appreciation for the printed word that keeps customers coming back each summer. Curt, Debbie, and their staff love to pair customers with the right books. “I think it’s a matter of pride for the ladies who work here,” Curt says. “And we have people who come back over and over, asking for suggestions.”
Finding a great beach read can be challenging. Fortunately, Curt has a few recommendations that will keep the pages turning through several applications of sunscreen.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
This debut novel tells a moving coming-of-age story about a young girl, growing up in isolation on a North Carolina marsh, who becomes suspected of murdering a local celebrity. “I was enthralled by the tenacity of this main character,” Curt says.
The Return by Nicholas Sparks
“This is Sparks at his best in weaving the story of a Navy doctor who comes back to his roots,” Curt says. When a mortar blast tears apart his military career and sends him home to New Bern, Trevor Benson resigns himself to a more tranquil life tending to his late grandfather’s beehives. But a complicated love connection and a sullen teenage girl with mysterious ties to his grandfather’s past soon send him on a mission to uncover the truth of his grandfather’s death.
The Best of Me by David Sedaris
In this hilarious selection of the best of Sedaris’s essays, the writer explores love, aging, loss, and acceptance. “I especially like to read David Sedaris because he includes in his humorous essays accounts of his family’s beach cottage at Emerald Isle,” Curt says. Lucky shoppers just might catch a glimpse of Sedaris, who has been a regular visitor to the store over the years.
Get our most popular weekly newsletter: This is NC