16 Summer Books Bursting with Jersey Pride

New Jersey authors and settings make for ultra-fun escapes when enjoying the ocean, pool or your own backyard.

Illustration of two girls on a beach reading books by Jersey authors.

Illustration by Kotryna Zukauskaite

Coach K: The Rise and Reign of Mike Krzyzewski

By Ian O’Connor
Mariner Books, February 22

Longtime New Jersey resident and acclaimed sportswriter Ian O’Connor examines the career and legacy of Mike Krzyzewski, the legendary Duke men’s basketball coach who retired following the conclusion of this year’s NCAA Tournament. O’Connor—whose other books have profiled Derek Jeter (a New Jersey native), Bill Belichick, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, among others—seeks to deliver the defining portrait of one of college basketball’s most iconic coaches and programs though interviews with those closest to Krzyzewski. —Gary Phillips

Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life With 600 Rescue Animals

By Laurie Zaleski
St. Martin’s Press, February 22

In this memoir, Laurie Zaleski recounts her mother’s flight from an abusive marriage and her own upbringing in a run-down home in Turnersville, where she acquires a tireless work ethic and love for animals. That leads Zaleski to establish the Funny Farm in Mays Landing, where she gives sanctuary to unwanted and mistreated animals and fulfills her mother’s dream of running a rescue farm. Sprinkled throughout the book are tales of farm residents, from Emily the emu to Lorenzo the llama. —Tom Wilk

Give Unto Others

By Donna Leon
Grove Atlantic, March 15

For Donna Leon, author of the bestselling Commissario Brunetti detective series set in Venice, the journey to writing novels with an Italian setting was serendipitous. Born in Montclair, she grew up in Bloomfield, attending Mount St. Dominic Academy high school in Caldwell. After completing her undergraduate degree in English at Caldwell College, she was deciding what to do next when a former classmate invited Leon to join her in Italy, where she planned to study painting. They landed in Venice and, upon arriving in that beautiful city, she fell in love. That began her journey to writing detective novels. Leon, 79, has just published her 31st book in the series: Give Unto Others, a mystery that begins with a seemingly innocent request from a friend, and leads Commissario Brunetti into danger. Click here to read more about Leon’s fascinating story. —Jacqueline Mroz

Hidden Pictures

By Jason Rekulak
Flatiron, May 10

Nanny Mallory Quinn sets out to solve a mystery when the drawings of the five-year-old boy she looks after morph from happy bunnies to much more sinister depictions. Trying to uncover what is motivating the artwork in order to protect the youngster takes over Mallory’s life. Fast-paced and engaging, this first-person narrative is a page-turner with just the right measure of suspense to keep you guessing all the way to the end. Set, like Rekulak’s award-winning first novel Impossible Fortress, in a fictional Garden State town, the author conjures authentic vibes from growing up in Metuchen. —Deborah P. Carter

The Ocean House

By Mary-Beth Hughes
Grove Atlantic, May 17

In this collection of linked short stories, Mary-Beth Hughes weaves a world of complicated family tales that take place at the Jersey Shore. They all center around Faith’s family, including her rebellious daughter, Cece, and her mother, Irene, who is slipping into dementia. The title story takes place at a grand, oceanfront beach house in Long Branch, and the beach club next door. The characters explore the consequences of loss as it passes through the generations of a family. Out in paperback. —JM

The Shore

By Katie Runde
Scribner, May 24

An engrossing escape set in a semi-fictional Jersey Shore town, The Shore is the epitome of a beach read. Follow the Dunne family—Brian, Margot, and teenage daughters Liz and Evy—as they grapple with an unfathomable diagnosis amid summer jobs, familial tensions and romance. Author Katie Runde, whose family ran boardwalk businesses at the Shore, weaves poetry and poignant questions into her debut novel. It’s an empathy-fueled exploration of caretaking and coming-of-age struggles. Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen—you may be tempted to read it in one sitting. —Jennifer Finn

The Monster’s Bones: The Discovery of T. Rex and How It Shook Our World

By David K. Randall
Norton, June 7

Montclair author and journalist David K. Randall takes dinosaur enthusiasts back in time, explaining how prehistoric beasts became such a prominent part of our culture. With a narrative centered on a fearless paleontologist, the rise of America’s beloved museums, and the competition that surrounded the search for the largest dinosaur on record, The Monster’s Bones highlights beasts of bygone eras and the equally dangerous humans who followed in—and chased after—their massive footprints. —GP

Tracy Flick Can’t Win

By Tom Perrotta
Scribner, June 7

In this follow-up to Tom Perrotta’s genius novel Election (which became a popular film starring Reese Witherspoon), Tracy is now a hardworking high school assistant principal in a New Jersey suburb who feels stuck and underappreciated. When she learns that the principal is retiring, she’s eager to get his job and will do anything to make it happen. Perrotta, who hails from Garwood, is also the author of Mrs. Fletcher, Little Children and The Leftovers, which were all adapted for TV or film. —JM

Hurricane Girl

By Marcy Dermansky
Knopf, June 14

The fifth novel by bestselling Montclair author Marcy Dermansky, this book is a propulsive story about a woman who runs from catastrophe and goes home in search of love, a swimming pool and comfort. After her North Carolina house is swept away by a hurricane, Allison Brody meets a man who invites her to his home, then unexpectedly smashes a vase over her head. When she goes back to New Jersey to recover and stay with her mother, she ends up falling for her surgeon. But is she just using him for his pool? And will she stay in New Jersey with her new love or go back to rebuild her beach house? —JM

New Jersey Fan Club

By Kerri Sullivan
Rutgers University Press, June 17

New Jersey pride runs deep. So does our desire to share it with anybody who will listen—sometimes even more so when they would rather not hear it. Monmouth County native Kerri Sullivan, a public librarian in Somerset County, understands this unique state pride is just part of the Jersey experience. It’s something she wanted to capture in her new anthology, New Jersey Fan Club. The book’s eclectic collection of essays, comics, illustrations, photographs, and even a recipe comes from more than 60 contributors. Familiar places such as the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway, Cape May, Tastee Sub Shop and Asbury Lanes make appearances. Click here to read more about this great summer read. —Shelby Vittek

The House Across the Lake

By Riley Sager
Dutton, June 21

What better setting for a thriller than an isolated lake house in the off-season? That’s where Riley Sager, a former Star-Ledger reporter who lives in Princeton, plants his latest characters, including leading lady Casey Fletcher, a Broadway actress. Following the death of her husband—and subsequent drunken antics that garner more attention than her acting roles—Casey flees to her family’s Vermont vacation home. She soon meets and becomes fascinated by her supermodel neighbor, Katherine Royce. When Katherine mysteriously vanishes one night, Casey immediately suspects her pal’s tech-mogul husband. Sager (Final Girls) offers consistent twists and turns—including one very surprising one—that’ll keep you flipping pages until the end. —Julie Gordon

Acts of Violet

By Margarita Montimore
Flatiron, July 5

When popular magician Violet Volk vanishes mid-act, it launches a 10-year saga of investigations that unfold a tense sibling relationship, a nosey podcaster obsessed with the mysterious disappearance, and a snooping niece who is also trying to get to the bottom of her missing aunt’s whereabouts. Alternating between sister Sasha’s first-person narrative and transcripts of the podcasts devoted to Violet’s disappearance, the modern epsitolary novel by Glendora resident Margarita Montimore blends mystery with emotional family drama for a satisfying read. This is Ukrainian-born Montimore’s third novel, following Oona Out of Order (2020), which was a Good Morning America Book Club pick, and The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart (2021). —DPC

Fellowship Point

By Alice Elliott Dark
Scribner, July 5

In this long-awaited novel, Alice Elliott Dark brilliantly contemplates aging, the environment and feminism, as well as the deep, lifelong friendship between two women: a children’s author who stayed single, and a well-off married woman with children. The book reads like a 19th-century novel, with its twists and turns and multilayered narrative. Dark, who lives in Montclair and teaches in the MFA program at Rutgers University-Newark, took a decade to write this novel—her first since her celebrated book Think of England. —JM

How Maya Got Fierce

By Sona Charaipotra
Feiwel & Friends, July 12

Jersey City journalist and young-adult writer Sona Charaipotra is back with a new book billed as “The Bold Type meets Younger.” It follows an Indian American teen named Maya who lands her dream job at a fashion magazine at age 17. The novel, geared toward readers aged 12-18, is inspired by the author’s experiences in the industry while in her 20s, when she was often mistaken for a teen. Spoiler alert: Maya writes to a publication criticizing its decision to feature an Indian fashion designer without hiring Indian models for the shoot (which Charaipotra did in real life). Surely doing that made Maya feel fierce. —Falyn Stempler

The Last to Vanish

By Megan Miranda
Scribner, July 26

Megan Miranda—who grew up in East Windsor and Manalapan—may live in North Carolina now, but the chills from her new novel can be felt all the way back in her native New Jersey. In The Last to Vanish, Miranda (All the Missing Girls, The Perfect Stranger) weaves a tale in the fictional locale of Cutter’s Pass, dubbed “the most dangerous town in North Carolina” after multiple people disappear without a trace over a span of 30 years. After the brother of the most recent missing person shows up in town, the manager of the local inn, 20-something Abby Lockett, gets deeply wrapped up in the mystery, trying to figure out exactly what is going on in Cutter’s Pass—as do we. Will the dark secrets of the town be revealed? —JG

When We Were Bright and Beautiful

By Jillian Medoff
Harper Collins, August 2

The bestselling author of This Could Hurt returns with a family drama set on Manhattan’s affluent Upper East Side, about a young woman from a well-off family who struggles to help her younger brother, Billy, a junior at Princeton, who has been accused of assaulting his ex-girlfriend. Their parents hire the best lawyers that money can buy, but Billy is the classic, privileged white male, and the case makes headlines. Cassie will do whatever it takes to help him, but that could mean exposing her own secrets. In her search for a way to help Billy, Cassie learns about the price of truth and the dark side of love. Medoff, who lives in Montclair, has another sure hit with this fast-paced, immersive novel about consent, justice and wealth. A fascinating, gripping read. —JM

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