Indie Booksellers Share 8 Titles to Gift This Season

Recommendations for all the avid readers in your life.


Every holiday season, we round up the best new books from New Jersey authors. This year we enlisted the help of indie booksellers from across the state. They’ve suggested an eclectic list of titles for readers of all ages and tastes.

Piece of My Heart 

By Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke

Simon & Schuster

The release of Mary Higgins Clark’s latest is bittersweet for the staff of Bookends. “Mary was a true friend of the store, and this will be the first time her fans won’t be able to meet her in person for her book launch,” say store owners Walter and Pat Boyer. Clark, who lived in Upper Saddle River, died in January at 92. Her final book features all the trademarks of her classic suspense novels.

Bookends, 211 E Ridgewood Ave., Ridgewood

The Exiles

By Christina Baker Kline


The Exiles is a sweeping, beautiful historical novel that follows the lives of three women: two English convicts and an orphaned Aboriginal girl in 19th-century Australia. Mary Ann Donaghy, owner of Bookworm in Bernardsville, is excited to recommend it. She’s been matching books to readers for more than 35 years at the store, and Kline, a longtime Jersey resident, is a perennial favorite. 

Bookworm, 99 Claremont Road, Bernardsville

His Very Best: Jimmy Carter 

By Jonathan Alter 

Simon & Schuster

Montclair’s Jonathan Alter has written the first full-length biography of Jimmy Carter, and it’s a marvel. With access to never-before-seen archival material and the entire Carter family, Alter penned a fascinating and complex story about the man who went from Georgia peanut farmer to U.S. President and Nobel Prize-winning humanitarian. Vincent Onorati, co-owner of Word Bookstores, calls it “a great gift for readers of history.”

Black Futures 

By Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham

One World, Random House

Orange native Kimberly Drew and co-author Jenna Wortham assembled this collection of art, photos, essays, memes, dialogues, recipes, tweets, poetry and more to tell the story of the radical, imaginative, provocative and gorgeous world that contemporary Black creators are bringing forth. The book is absolutely stunning, and Word staffers are expecting it to be a big holiday title. 

Word, 123 Newark Ave., Jersey City

Punching the Air

By Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

Balzar + Bray, HarperCollins

Maplewood author Ibi Zoboi and prison-reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five have written a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. It’s perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds and Elizabeth Acevedo. “Shopping local is always important, but this season it’s critical,” says Jonah Zimiles, owner of Words Bookstore in Maplewood. “Local stores support the community and our local authors—and we are lucky to have so many outstanding authors living and working in New Jersey.” 

Our Last Season

By Harvey Araton

Penguin Press

Another Words pick is the new book by Harvey Araton, a nationally known sports journalist and Montclair resident who has covered thousands of Knicks games over the course of his distinguished career. In Our Last Season, Araton writes about his friendship with a die-hard Knicks fan, Michelle Musler, who held season tickets for 45 years. An extraordinary story of fandom, friendship and aging.

Words Bookstore, 179 Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood

The Happy in a Hurry Cookbook

By Steve Doocy and Kathy Doocy 

William Morrow Cookbooks, HarperCollins

How does Kenny Sarfin, owner of Books and Greetings in Northvale, make recommendations? “We sell books the old-fashioned way,” Sarfin says. “We read them.” One recent read? The latest cookbook from author and TV personality Steve Doocy and his wife, Kathy, longtime residents of Wyckoff. In The Happy in a Hurry Cookbook, the Doocys serve up time-saving recipes for home cooks, with lots of delicious food photos. 

Books and Greetings, 271 Livingston St., Northvale

We Believe in You 

By Beth Ferry
Illustrations by Molly Idle 

Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan

 The staff of Book Towne has an affinity for children’s-book author Beth Ferry, a longtime Jersey Shore resident. “We love our local authors, and we’re always excited to have events with Beth,” says Peter Albertelli, the store’s owner. Her latest title, We Believe in You, is a stunning new picture book about the power of joy and believing in yourself and one another. 

Book Towne, 171 Main St., Manasquan

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