Season’s Readings

Literary gifts with a Jersey twist. Here are some holiday book suggestions from our staff.

Birds of Cape May (Schiffer Publishing) showcases the wildlife photography of Cape May Courthouse resident Kevin Karlson, a noted birder and columnist. The coffee-table book includes anecdotes and notes on the area’s natural history.—Ashley J. Cerasaro

Yvonne Thorton first introduced her family with the best-selling memoir The Ditchdigger’s Daughters. In Something to Prove (Kaplan), the Monmouth College graduate relates how she used her father’s teachings to make history as an African-American woman in the white, male-dominated field of medicine, while raising her children.—Candace Wells

Not long ago, Jerseyans seeking culinary greatness would wistfully look to Manhattan. Now our state is home to some of the best tables. In Celebrity Chefs of New Jersey: Their Stories, Recipes and Secrets (Rutgers University Press), author Teresa Politano reveals the chaos of kitchens across the Garden State in their climb to culinary perfection.—Drew Anne Scarantino

Acclaimed photographer Alexa Garbarino has captured intimate moments of pregnancy with Ripe (RGR). The black-and-white portraits, taken in public locations like the Brooklyn Bridge and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre as well as private settings, including a bubbly bathtub and secluded beaches, display women baring all shortly before delivery. The photos and anecdotes reveal a range of emotions, from fear and anxiety to excitement and gratitude for a “perfect” nine months. Montclair resident Garbarino also serves as a photographic subject.—CW

In Pictures of You (Algonquin Books), two women run away from their marriages and collide in an automobile accident that proves fatal for one of them. The survivor must pick up the pieces of her shattered life as well as the lives of the victim’s devastated husband and fragile son, who suffers from asthma, a medical condition that Hoboken writer Caroline Leavitt struggled with as a child.—AJC

Murder, infidelity, Communism and…crafts? Welcome to the world of magazine editor Anastasia Pollack in Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun (Midnight Ink), the witty new mystery by New Jersey resident and crafter Lois Winston. Pollack is pretty sure she’s hit bottom when she learns her husband has dropped dead in Las Vegas, leaving her with their two sons, a commie mother, and gambling debts. Things get worse when Pollack is named the prime suspect in a murder.—CW

Tired of being the only one in the house bringing home the bacon? Let cat-coaching expert Ann Dziemianowicz help your kitty land a job. In Careers for Your Cat (Ten Speed Press), the Bloomfield resident presents 34 cat vocations, from opera singer to marine biologist, to help feckless feline freeloaders earn their keep.—DAS

In Mumbai Fables (Princeton University Press), Princeton University professor Gyan Prakash traces the history and promise of the world’s second most populous city (formerly known as Bombay) through the narratives of its inhabitants, journalists, planners, writers, artists, filmmakers, and political activists.—AJC

The Candymakers (Little Brown) is a heartwarming confection by Sparta resident Wendy Mass. Reminiscent of kids’ favorite Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this tale of a candy-making contest is filled with revenge, love, mystery, and real candy-making details.—CW

In Kate Racculia’s debut novel, This Must Be the Place (Henry Holt), Mona and her daughter’s insular lives are changed when a recently widowed man shows up with a never-sent postcard addressed to Mona. Ocean City, and greater New Jersey, provide a lush backdrop for Racculia’s characters as they unravel a story of secrets, friendship, and lost love.—DAS

Thumb Love (Random House) is the illustrated story of Lulu, founder of TSA—Thumb Suckers Anonymous. The youngster has come up with a twelve-step program to end her codependent relationship with her thumb. (Who knew kids had it this hard?) Written by Red Bank’s Elise Primavera, author of the bestseller Auntie Claus.—CW

Amore: The Story of Italian American Song, by Montclair resident Mark Rotella, tells the stories behind the hits associated with a long line of Italian singers. The 40 chapters include several devoted to Hoboken’s Frank Sinatra, as well as Newark natives Frankie Valli (“Walk Like a Man”) and Connie Francis (“Mama”).—CW

In Remembering South Cape May: The Jersey Town That Vanished Into the Sea (The History Press), one of the town’s last residents, Joseph G. Burcher, and his son-in-law, Robert Kenselaar, pull together sources, photos, and memories to chronicle life in the serene Shore town before the angry Atlantic Ocean swallowed it in the 1950s.—DAS

Published more than fifteen years ago, European cult classic Hating Olivia (Harper Perennial) is now available in the United States. This fictional, unorthodox love story, written by Montclair novelist and playwright Mark SaFranko, tells the story of two wannabe writers in a mutually destructive relationship. SaFranko was cited in Best American Mystery Stories 2000 and has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes.—AJC

In her debut fiction novel, Final Exit (Dog Ear Publishing), author Joan Nelson shares the dark, love story of a married New Jersey cardiothoracic surgeon and the woman he really loves.— AJC

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