10 Great Books to Gift This Holiday Season

Captivating novels and nonfiction tomes by Jersey authors—or about Jersey people—make for the perfect present.

Collage of books covers by Jersey authors or about Jersey subjects

Blood and Ink: The Scandalous Jazz Age Double Murder That Hooked America on True Crime

by Joe Pompeo
William Morrow

In 1922, the shocking murder of a New Brunswick Episcopal minister and a woman who was a member of his church choir—and who, it later turned out, was his mistress—captivated the nation. Vanity Fair correspondent Joe Pompeo of Montclair presents the story of this sensational murder and the frenzy that surrounded the violent deaths, stirred up by the emerging tabloid press. His book, which came out on the 100th anniversary of the murders, sheds new light on the Hall-Mills case, a mega-scandal from the Roaring Twenties that fueled the rise of tabloid culture and the fascination with true-crime podcasts and television shows today. —Jacqueline Mroz

Down and Out in Paradise: The Life of Anthony Bourdain

by Charles Leerhsen
Simon & Schuster

From a Leonia boyhood as “a comic-book obsessed nudnik,” chef Anthony Bourdain became a culinary cult figure, best-selling author and globe-trotting television star, but in 2018 committed suicide at 61. The author details a life that epitomized the promise and peril of the decades when chefs like Bourdain could become superstars. —Eric Levin 

We Are All We Have

by Marina Budhos
Wendy Lamb Books

Maplewood’s Marina Budhos wrote this young adult novel during the pandemic, when a lockdown propelled her to imagine a story of flight and hope. Set in 2019, it’s about a Pakistani-American teenager, Rania, whose mother is swept up in an ICE raid, leaving Rania and her younger brother to fend for themselves. They go on a road trip, searching for a safe place to be. —JM


by Joyce Carol Oates

Princeton professor Joyce Carol Oates’s latest novel is about a serial killer who plagues the affluent suburbs of Detroit in the 1970s. Events are set in motion when a wealthy wife and mother has an affair with a charismatic stranger. Oates uses the abductions and killings to examine corrupt politics, racism and sexual predation in this gripping, disturbing story. —JM

Drinking Games

by Sarah Levy
St. Martin’s Press

This memoir is a collection of essays about a late 20-something writer, Sarah Levy, who grew up in Livingston and is trying to get sober. Levy determines to quit after waking up next to a stranger one morning, with no recollection of how she got there. Levy’s sobriety story questions how alcohol and binge drinking are enmeshed in millennial culture today. —Falyn Stempler

A Touch of Moonlight: A Novel

by Yaffa S. Santos

Jersey-born and -raised author Yaffa S. Santos infuses Dominican folklore into a riveting romance novel. The story follows Larimar Cintrón, a caretaker for her family who is also hiding a secret; she is a ciguapa, a mythical creature in Dominican folklore. She tries to balance her secret life with work and with trying to live up to her family’s expectations. —FS 

Still Waters

by Jenna Caldwell
New Degree Press

Journalist Jenna Caldwell, who grew up in Newark, tells the story of a high school teacher named George who suddenly awakens to a life he doesn’t recognize: his home, his job, his wife, his kids and even himself. Anchored only by memories of his past, George tries to adjust to his new life while being challenged by trauma in this gripping novel set in Brick City. —Thomas Neira

Martha Graham: When Dance Became Modern

by Neil Baldwin

This is the first new major biography of the colorful life of Martha Graham in three decades. Written by Neil Baldwin, a Montclair resident who teaches at Montclair State University, it tells the story of Graham’s rise, from growing up in Pennsylvania to becoming the star of exotic ballets to founding her own dance company at the age of 32. —JM 

Walking the Old Boonton Line

by Wheeler Antabanez
Abandoned Books

Many Essex and Hudson County residents are familiar with the old Boonton Rail Line, an abandoned train track that once connected Montclair to Jersey City. While most of the tracks have been overtaken by trees, graffiti and local wildlife, they still contain hidden pieces of history. New Jersey resident Wheeler Antabanez set out to walk the entire track and documented his journey. —TN

Sailing by Starlight: The Remarkable Voyage of Globe Star 

by Rod Scher
Sheridan House

Marvin Creamer never took a sailing lesson or navigation course, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing his dream of circumnavigating the globe—without navigational instruments. The longtime Glassboro resident and professor set off from Cape May with his crew in December of 1982 on the 35-foot Globe Star. Author Rod Scher compellingly chronicles the 29,400-nautical-mile adventure, during which Creamer and his crew overcame near-hurricane-force winds, waves almost 40 feet high, frostbite, fire, broken bones, seasickness, multiple malfunctions of equipment and a near capsizing. Click here for more about this incredible story. —Tom Wilk

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