What’s On Our 2021 Summer Reading List

9 books by Jersey authors to savor down the Shore or by the pool.

summer reading 2021

Bee People and the Bugs They Love

Frank Mortimer
Citadel Press

The phrase “busy as a bee” may be irksome, but it’s apt. As Ridgewood resident Frank Mortimer, president of the New Jersey Beekeepers’ Association, notes in this informative and entertaining volume, that one-pound jar of honey you buy represents the nectar of 2 million flowers. Bees don’t make it for you. It’s what they eat; it gets them through the winter. A beehive is a highly stratified society, and the queen is not just a figurehead. To keep things going, she lays 2,000 eggs a day. Bee people, in Mortimer’s telling, bond like bees, but are quirky. One friend who makes mead cares only about its kick. “The more people gagged and gasped for air,” Mortimer relates, “the prouder Rusty was.”—Eric Levin

How Beautiful We Were

Imbolo Mbue
Penguin Random House

In the follow-up to her New York Times bestselling debut novel, Behold the Dreamers, Imbolo Mbue describes the environmental exploitation of a small African village by a fictional American oil company. Mbue, who is from Cameroon and graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in business, tells a tale of toxic waste, oil spills, poisoned water and dying children.—Jacqueline Mroz

Finished Business: My Fifty Years of Headlines, Heartaches, and Heroes

Ray Didinger
Temple University Press

As a sportswriter, radio host, TV analyst and producer for NFL Films in Mount Laurel, Ray Didinger has long been a perceptive observer of those who play games for a living. In this memoir, he offers an entertaining look back at a life lived on deadline and his encounters with such icons as Muhammad Ali, Mike Schmidt and Julius Erving.—Tom Wilk

What Happened to Paula: On the Death of an American Girl

Katherine Dykstra
W.W. Norton & Company

The unsolved murder in 1970 of 18-year-old Paula Oberbreckling in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, had been mostly forgotten when New Jersey–based writer/editor Katherine Dykstra began looking for answers. Part true-crime story, part memoir, Dykstra’s investigation is a timely and powerful look at gender, autonomy and the cost of being a woman.—Jacqueline Mroz

Caviar Dreams, Tuna Fish Budget: How to Survive in Business and in Life

Margaret Josephs
Gallery Books

She’s a savvy businesswoman, lifestyle expert, podcaster, and one of the stars of Bravo’s Real Housewives of New Jersey. However, Margaret Joseph’s journey hasn’t always been glamorous. Her intimate autobiography reveals how she rose from daughter of an immigrant single mother to a popular media personality.—Olivia Beach

Secrets of Happiness

Joan Silber

In Joan Silber’s ninth novel, Secrets of Happiness, a man learns that his father has a secret second family, with a wife and two kids. The discovery tests both families’ bonds, leads to surprise loyalties and love triangles, and elucidates the way people find joy in their lives. Silber, who grew up in Millburn, earned a PEN/Hemingway Award for her last book, Improvement.—Jacqueline Mroz

Suburban Dicks 

Fabian Nicieza
Penguin Random House

From the co-creator of Deadpool comes a tale of a small-town murder and the retired FBI profiler from West Windsor who teams with a discredited journalist to unravel the crime. The duo reveals clues that were hidden for 50 years, and in doing so, uncovers the town’s most shameful secret. Nicieza weaves themes of culture and identity in suburbia through the deliberations of the two walk-on sleuths.—Olivia Beach

Burnt Sugar

Avni Doshi
The Overlook Press

In this heartbreaking debut novel, which was short-listed for the prestigious Booker Prize, Avni Doshi tells the story of a daughter struggling with her mother’s dementia. Their troubled relationship makes the role of caregiver a difficult one for the daughter, who was neglected as a child. Doshi, who grew up in Englewood, spent eight years writing the book, which is set in India.—Jacqueline Mroz

Corona City: Voices From an Epicenter

Lorraine Ash
Magic Dog Press

The collection of essays and photos, edited by journalist Lorraine Ash, shares the stories of New Jerseyans and others during the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic. Contributors include frontline workers, business owners and survivors, as well as best-selling authors with Jersey ties Helene Stapinski and Ilene Beckerman.—Amanda Staab

Read more Arts & Entertainment articles.

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.

Required not shown
Required not shown