This article was originally written by Rachel Sokol. It has since been updated by an additional contributor.
One of the great summer pleasures is lounging pool or ocean side with an ice-cold drink and a fabulous book. Looking for some new recommendations to dive into this summer? Before you head out, visit your local library or independent bookstore and pick up one of these 10 great selections, all written by local New Jersey-based writers. Enjoy your summer reading!
For Teens and Adults
No Ashes in the Fire by Darnell L. Moore
Fourteen-year-old Darnell Moore was walking home from school in Camden when three boys set him on fire because they thought he was gay. Moore’s memoir details not only how he survived that horrific act of cruelty, but also how he grew into an award-winning journalist and Black Lives Matter activist. No Ashes in the Fire is ultimately a story of hope, perseverance and what it takes to succeed as a black man in America.
Beautiful Days by Joyce Carol Oates
A resident of Princeton for the past 40 years, Joyce Carol Oates has become one of New Jersey’s most acclaimed writers. Beautiful Days is a collection of thirteen short stories that delve deep into the private moments of Oates’ characters. One such story is the award-winning “Undocumented Alien,” which tells the tale of an African man attending college in America. When the student loses his visa, he is tested in unimaginable ways.
The Secret Side of Empty by Maria Andreu
This young-adult novel, about the plight of an undocumented high school student, may be a few years old, but it’s still extremely relevant today. Protagonist M.T.’s life may seem picture-perfect from the outside, but she fears that will all come to an end as she graduates high school. How will she get into college? Travel on an airplane? Get a driver’s license? Will her secret – that she is one of the many “dreamers” – ruin her life and her friendships?
Harvest of Ruin: Dead of Winter by Arthur Mongelli
Harvest of Ruin: Dead of Winter is the sequel to Mongelli’s first novel, Harvest of Ruin: A Zombie Novel, about the zombie apocalypse. Those who survived the first book are now facing the uncertainty of a new world. Complicating the matter of hordes of zombies roaming the landscape is the threat of a chilling winter. Will anyone make it out alive? More importantly, what if zombies aren’t the only things coming after them?
The Red Car by Marcy Dermansky
Hailed as a book you won’t be able to put down by the New York Times Book Review, Dermansky’s novel explores the decisions made by a woman at a crossroads in her life. When Leah’s boss dies suddenly and leaves her a shiny red sports car in her will, Leah does what we all would love to do sometimes. She heads off on a road trip to get the car, while stopping along the way to revisit past relationships.
Forbidden Goddess by Kristina Garlick
Part fantasy, part science-fiction, Forbidden Goddess is the latest from Kristina Garlick, who hails from New Jersey and has authored over 20 books. The tale of a goddess born from an illicit relationship between a Romeek and Grean God is the perfect summer escape. You’ll root for Choomia as she attempts to defeat the Gods who want her, and all memories of her, wiped from existence.
Minecraft: The Crash by Tracey Baptiste
Fans of the game Minecraft will want to dive right into the brand-new, official Minecraft novel. When Bianca wakes up in the hospital after a horrific car accident, she can barely move. She makes the decision to enter a new virtual-reality Minecraft world where she can control her own destiny, but in the process, must also face her mounting fears. Along the way, she meets two kids also in the hospital who join the adventure.
Marigold Bakes a Cake by Mike Malbrough
A cat named Marigold looks forward to Mondays, because Mondays are his cake-baking days. Unfortunately, a group of pigeons and loons have other ideas. Poor Marigold just can’t get his ingredients straight. As the visitors disrupt his perfect day, they turn his kitchen into a disaster zone. The beautiful watercolor illustrations of Marigold Bakes a Cake will tickle the fancy of young and old readers alike.
Waking the Rainbow Dragon by Tracey West and Damien Jones
Take a trip into the fantasy world of Dragon Masters, a chapter book series for young readers. Eight-year-old Drake is snatched by a soldier and forced to become a Dragon Master. Now, he must learn to train dragons alongside the other masters. In this tenth book of the series, Drake dreams about a Rainbow Dragon that is trapped in a cave. The clock is ticking as Drake tries to discern whether or not the dragon is trying to send him a message and if so, what he can do to help.
Big Sister, Little Monster by Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum
Got fighting siblings at home for the summer? This is the book for them. Big Sister, Little Monster reveals what happens when you angrily wish for your little sister to disappear…and she does, into a land of monsters. Will Lucy get her sister back? Will they learn to get along? You’ll have to read this one to find out!