What’s On Our 2020 Summer Reading List

18 books by Jersey authors we're toting everywhere from our backyards to the beaches.

summer reading

Final Draft: The Collected Work of David Carr

Edited by Jill Rooney Carr
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

As the media columnist of the New York Times, David Carr was a heat-seeking missile with pinpoint aim. As this wide-ranging collection, edited by his widow, makes clear, Carr, who died in 2015 and lived his last years in Montclair, had first-rate reportorial chops and a uniquely compelling voice from his early days in his native Minnesota. He wrote penetratingly on subjects from AIDS to 9/11, and in a 2014 piece, he indicted himself, along with other media figures, for turning a blind eye to Bill Cosby’s transgressions. —Eric Levin

Please See Us

By Caitlin Mullen
Gallery, Simon & Schuster

In her eerie debut novel, Caitlin Mullen leads readers on a suspenseful journey. Two women are dead, their bodies laid out behind a hotel just west of Atlantic City. Five more will be killed before summer’s end. When Clara, a boardwalk psychic, begins to have disturbing visions, she thinks they’re linked to the missing-persons cases and takes on solving these mysterious disappearances. —Jacqueline Klecak

The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For

By Charlotte Alter

In this look at the new generation of American politicians, Time correspondent and Montclair native Charlotte Alter examines young leaders, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the other millennials in Congress, as well as elsewhere in goverment, such as former presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg. Alter believes their understanding of issues like climate, student debt and big tech is remaking the nation. —Jacqueline Mroz

Einstein in Bohemia

By Michael D. Gordin
Princeton University Press

Albert Einstein spent just 16 months at German University in Prague in 1911–12, but it marked a professional turning point for the future Princeton resident. The book recounts how in Prague, Einstein developed his theory of general relativity that set the stage for him to receive the 1921 Nobel Prize in physics and become an international celebrity. —Tom Wilk

The Boy From the Woods

By Harlan Coben
Grand Central Publishing

Newark native Harlan Coben’s latest crime thriller, set in fictional Westville, NJ, features missing teenagers, a feral boy turned private eye, a dynamo of a lawyering grandma, and a high school bully with a reality-show-producer dad. In true Coben fashion, amid all this, there are also political scandal and romance.  —Tammy La Gorce

Wine Girl

By Victoria James

In this moving memoir, Victoria James chronicles her journey from her first job waiting tables at a diner in South Orange to becoming America’s youngest certified sommelier at age 21 and leading the beverage program at her own Michelin-starred restaurant. James tackles the sexism in a male-dominated industry, finding her own voice and passion for advocacy along the way. —Shelby Vittek

The Dead Don’t Sleep

Steven Max Russo
Down and Out Books

War never really leaves you, according to author and New Jersey resident Steven Max Russo. In his second outing, Russo introduces Frank Thompson, a Vietnam veteran whose 40-year-old grudge takes him back to his small-town residence in Maine, where he knows it’s time to prepare for battle. Only this time, he’s the one being hunted. —Royal Thomas II

Rules for Moving

By Nancy Star
Lake Union Publishing

Montclair author Nancy Star doesn’t scrimp on the juicy stuff. Her sixth novel traces the trauma of advice columnist Lane Meckler, who has misbegotten tendency to change houses in times of trouble. As she shuttles her troubled 6-year-old son from one domestic scene to the next, she finds she’s got some reckoning to do. Star’s signature blend of suspense, warmth and wisdom travel through every page. —Tammy La Gorce

How to Raise a Reader

By Pamela Paul and Maria Russo

This guide to cultivating one of life’s most essential skills gives advice to transform a child’s reading experience from chore to lifelong pleasure. Paul, a former children’s-book editor and Montclair resident, and Russo, a journalist, present age-based sections with tips to turn around reluctant readers, create family rituals around books, and build a library. —Deborah P. Carter

Deacon King Kong

By James McBride
Riverhead Books

Lambertville resident James McBride’s seventh book takes place in his native Brooklyn in 1969. The novel centers on Sportcoat, an elder deacon at Five Ends Baptist Church, who frequently argues with the ghost of his dead wife, Hettie. One day, the deacon wanders into the local housing projects and shoots and injures the area’s biggest drug dealer, a teenager named Deems Clemens. The resulting story is an amusing tale of community as McBride drops readers into the lives of the church members while the “walking dead man,” the deacon, tries to figure out why he shot Clemens in the first place. —Royal Thomas II

Yellow Earth

By John Sayles
Haymarket Books

Big oil has moved its fracking rigs into North Dakota, setting off a cyclone of greed, vice and general bad behavior among a vast cast of locals, including the Native Americans whose land sits atop the drilling sites, and an invading horde of roughnecks, schemers and topless dancers. This is the fifth novel for ex-Hoboken resident Sayles, best known as writer/director of such indie film classics as Return of the Secaucus 7—Ken Schlager

Good Morning, Destroyer of Men’s Souls

By Nina Renata Aron

In her memoir, Nina Renata Aron chronicles an unhealthy love affair with a heroin addict. She explores the history of codependency, looks back to the temperance movement and the rise of feminism, and revisits adolescent memories of caring for her older sister as she battled addiction—all in an attempt to find her own path to recovery. —Shelby Vittek

Love and Theft

By Stan Parish

Princeton native Parish’s second novel is a suave thriller. It begins with a head-spinning jewel heist executed on motorcycles and immerses the reader in richly realized scenes in Atlantic City, Princeton, Mexico and Spain. Parish’s protagonist is a brainy thief who is fluent in Spanish, martial arts and French wine. Parish writes delicious dialogue, by turns droll, sexy and menacing, in this whip-smart, wild ride with no loose ends. —Eric Levin

These Ghosts Are Family

By Maisy Card
Simon & Schuster

In this acclaimed debut novel by a Newark public librarian, a Jamaican family is torn apart by a shocking 30-year-old secret. A faked death and stolen identity create turmoil for those left behind. The consequences of the decision form an engrossing portrait of people in the sweep of slavery and migration, from colonial Jamaica to present-day Harlem. —Jacqueline Mroz

The Hot Hand

By Ben Cohen
Custom House

There are performance streaks (the NBA’s Steph Curry, 2015; Shakespeare’s output, 1605–06) and the impersonal kind (roulette, weather). Cohen, a Wall Street Journal reporter and Livingston native, examines all in detail, with felicitous prose but too many elongations and cliffhangers. He shows humans perceive patterns where none exist, but sometimes are right. —Eric Levin

The Distance From Four Points

By Margo Orlando Littell
University of New Orleans Press

In this Maplewood author’s second novel, Robin Besher returns to her Appalachian hometown to renovate rental properties her late husband secretly bought with all of their savings. Twenty years earlier, Robin had fled Four Points and never looked back. Now, she’s forced to face secrets from her past and finds a new beginning where she least expected. —Shelby Vittek

Why Good Sex Matters

By Nan Wise, PhD
Houghton Mifflin

West Orange resident and renowned neuroscientist and sex therapist Nan Wise breaks down complex research about sex and sexuality, delving into the importance of pleasure in our lives. Using an empowering and educational approach, she offers practical tips and guidance to help readers care for their mental state and achieve satisfying sexual experiences. —Shelby Vittek

An Elegant Woman

By Martha McPhee
Simon & Schuster

The new novel by Martha McPhee—daughter of Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Princeton professor John McPhee—is a heart-warming family saga that follows four generations of women. Drawing from her own family history, McPhee takes readers on a journey across the country in this meditation on memory, history and legacy. —Jacqueline Mroz

The New York Times: Right at Home: How to Buy, Decorate, Organize and Maintain Your Space

By Ronda Kaysen and Michelle Higgins
Black Dog & Leventhal

A soup-to-nuts guide on purchasing, maintaining and decorating your home from two New York Times real estate columnists. The book’s four sections—buy, decorate, organize and maintain—are subheaded so readers can easily parse the hyper-detailed information. For example, in the Buy section, the authors begin with the rudimentary (should you rent or buy?), weigh in on the complicated (navigating a bidding war) and neatly tie the final knot (closing-day walk-through). A resource to be called on at many stages of nesting, the tips and research collected here are enduring enough to earn many dog-eared pages. —Deborah P. Carter

Wandering In Strange Lands

By Morgan Jerkins

Tracing the northern migration of her forebearers, both ancestral and cultural this new work seeks to uncover the mysteries of inherited social behavior and family traditions that inform black American life. Jerkins, a New Jersey native and Princeton grad now based in Harlem, journeys into her roots by traveling south and west, taking oral histories, collecting photos and reading historical transcripts to puzzle together how the move from rural, farm-based lifestyles into industrial cities both nourished and drained the foundations of Black life. —Deborah P. Carter

Longing for an Absent God

By Nick Ripatrazone
Fortress Press

Whippany native Nick Ripatrazone details the lives and works of various American Catholic writers in his seventh release. With each chapter Ripatrazone cites the beginnings of names like Toni Morrison, Flannery O’Connor, and Cormac McCarthy and how their religious journeys have played into shaping their work. Countering the seemingly devout with those more questioning their faith, each vignette highlights the writer’s unique perspective throughout the book. —Royal Thomas II

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