25 Inspiring Books Worth Adding to Your COVID-19 Summer Reading List

Few hobbies are more pandemic-proof or recession-proof than reading.
July 21, 2020

Few hobbies are more pandemic-proof or recession-proof than reading. Whether you prefer hardcovers or e-books, you can read just about anywhere. Many of us are still home-based, and below are 25 recommendations for those seeking some new titles for their reading lists.

Michelle Cameron’s “Beyond The Ghetto Gates”

As released in April, Jewish author Michelle Cameron has penned an interesting piece of historical fiction via “Beyond The Ghetto Gates.” After living in Israel for more than a decade, Cameron became fascinated by a significant, little-known period in Jewish history: Napoleon’s emancipation of Jews from Italian ghettos, which caused unprecedented social upheaval (and cultural transformation) as Jewish and Catholic neighbors intersected for the first time.

Inspired by parallels to her personal journey of balancing deep heritage roots with secular sensibilities, Cameron’s novel explores this unique era from a powerful woman’s perspective. In this gripping historical fiction, Napoleon’s release of the Jews from Ancona’s ghettos unleashes a whirlwind of progressivism alongside brutal backlash. As two very different cultures collide, Mirelle, a Jewish woman, and Francesca, a devout Catholic, must navigate duty, desire, love, and the power of their own choices. Exploring the pull of assimilation, preserving religious tradition, and women’s empowerment, Cameron offers an evocative exploration of individuality, tradition, prejudices, and a rapidly-changing world — both in the past and present.

Bob Bradley’s “Public Relations For Musicians”

Are you an artist, band or any sort of creative looking to land reviews and interviews in your favorite publication and/or social media outlet? Then this book is for you, as having a publicist or getting signed to a large record deal isn’t the only way to earn media coverage in major outlets.

Within this book, seasoned music publicist Bob Bradley of Bradley Public Relations offers his insight into the world of music PR and explains how artists can handle their own media campaigns. Drawing inspiration from his hundreds of campaigns for major label, independent and celebrity musicians, Bradley takes the reader through a step-by-step process that helps musicians take the wheel on their own PR efforts. 

Bradley has been one of my favorite artist representatives to work with in recent years. An artist himself, he truly “gets it” when it comes to working with other creatives, always applying to proper amount of pressure to his pitches.

Liz Alpern & Jeffrey Yoskowitz’s “The Gefilte Manifesto”

“The Gefilte Manifesto” is more than a cookbook. It is simultaneously a call to action and a reclamation of time-honored techniques and ingredients. In turn,  authors Liz Alpern and Jeffrey Yoskowitz are on a mission to reclaim and revolutionize Ashkenazi cuisine. Combining the inventive spirit of a new generation and respect for their culinary tradition, they present more than a hundred recipes pulled deep from the kitchens of Eastern Europe and the diaspora community of North America. Their recipes highlight the best of Ashkenazi home and storefront cuisine, tapping into the enduring Jewish values of resourcefulness and seasonality.

Alpern and Yoskowitz, beyond working together on this book, are part of the YIVO Institute For Jewish Research’s one-of-a-kind seven-week educational course, “A Seat At The Table: A Journey Into Jewish Food.” Other participants within this course include Michael W. Twitty (“The Cooking Gene”), Alice Feiring (“The Dirty Wine Guide”), Mitchell Davis (James Beard Foundation), Niki Russ Federman and Josh Russ Tupper (Russ & Daughters), Jake Dell (Katz’s Delicatessen), and Leah Koenig (“The Jewish Cookbook”).

Carla Capalbo’s “Tasting Georgia: A Food & Wine Journey In The Caucasus”

Carla Capalbo is an award-winning food, wine and travel writer and photographer. Born in New York City, she was brought up in Paris and London, and has been based in Italy for over 20 years. Her regional Italian books on artisan food and wine makers, chefs and restaurants have earned her praise from everyone who has used them to travel with.

Capalbo’s “Tasting Georgia” is the first food, wine and travel book about this wonderful country in the Caucasus Mountains. It includes 70 easy and delicious recipes and lots of beautiful photographs of people, places and food. It was the winner of “Best Food Book” at the 2017 UK Gourmand International Cookbook Awards and a Guild of Food Writers “Food and Travel Award” in 2018.

Jaclyn Lindsey & Melissa Burmester’s “Be Kind: A Year Of Kindness, One Week At A Time”

Produced in partnership with the nonprofit organization kindness.org, “Be Kind” emboldens you to try an act of kindness every week for a year, benefiting others and yourself while deepening connections in your community big and small. Each of the 52 weeks of kindness includes a dose of inspiration, a fascinating statistic, a fact about kindness that has been researched by Kindlab, the research arm of kindness.org – as co-founded by co-authors Jaclyn Lindsey and Melissa Burmester – and a suggestion for an act of kindness to do.

Staness Jonekos’ “Eat Like A Woman”

Thanks to Eat Like A Woman’s nutrition bars — as connected to author/entrepreneur Staness Jonekos’ Amazon best-selling book of the same name — you can indulge in decadent flavors such as Chocolate Brownie LOVE, Coconut Almond BOOST, Cherry & Nut CALM and Peanut Butter & Ancient Grains ENERGY bars with far less guilt. You will fuel your body with plant-based protein and fiber, with zero soy, no dairy, no eggs, and no sugar alcohols.

To date, Eat Like A Woman has donated thousands of nutrition bars to hospitals to support our COVID-19 medical heroes with daily nutrition, as well as food banks to help families during these difficult economic times.

Sylvie Beljanski’s “Winning The War On Cancer”

Sylvie Beljanski is an author, speaker, international health advocate and leader in preventative medicine. In 2018, Ms. Beljanski opened the doors to Maison Beljanski, a new building in the heart of Manhattan, and dedicated to the legacy of her father, Dr. Beljanski. The second floor, home of The Beljanski Foundation, also serves as a site for hosting numerous conferences on different aspects of health and wellness.

Ms. Beljanski is a sought-after speaker at health and wellness conferences globally, where she has educated thousands of people about the importance of detoxification as a defense against harmful toxins that can cause serious disease and infections. She recommends The Beljanski Approach, as explained within the pages of “Winning The War On Cancer.”

Stephen Henderson’s “The 24-Hour Soup Kitchen”

Within the pages of “The 24-Hour Soup Kitchen,” veteran journalist and local philanthropist Stephen Henderson details his fantastically-interesting experiences working at soup kitchens from Delhi, India to New York City. 100 percent of the book’s proceeds are being donated to Food Bank for New York City. Thus, you have a feel-good book that is always doing good.

Tea Uglow’s “Loud & Proud: LGBTQ+ Speeches that Empower & Inspire”

“Loud and Proud” is an inspirational collection of speeches from the LGBTQ+ community and its allies that have changed our world, and the conversation. A sister volume to “So Here I Am: Speeches By Great Women To Empower & Inspire,” this seminal collection places the loud and proud voices of the vibrant LGBTQ+ community center stage. Experienced public speaker and Creative Director for Google’s Creative Lab Sydney Tea Uglow introduces each speech with a concise bio of the remarkable person who delivered it. Voices included are Harvey Milk, Wanda Sykes, Sally Ride, Lady Gaga, Lana Wachowski, Jason Collins and Laverne Cox.

Chef Lei Shishak’s “Beach House Dinners: Simple, Summer-Inspired Meals For Entertaining Year-Round”

Chef Lei Shishak is the founder of Sugar Blossom Bake Shop in San Clemente, California and the author of “Beach House Baking,” as heralded by USA Today as “one of the top 10 cookbooks of summer 2014.” In “Beach House Dinners,” Shishak shares over 80 recipes, many of which unique takes on staples and favorites. Recipes include a Summer Tomato Soup with Three Cheese Panini, Lemon Garlic Chicken, Hearts of Palm Salad, and a Salmon Burger.

Ian Haydn Smith’s “Cult Writers: 50 Nonconformist Novelists You Need To Know”

Another great title from White Lion Publishing, this title takes a look into top-tier novelists who are perhaps overdue for some extra recognition. Simply put, “cult writers” come in all shapes and guises. Some gain instant fame, others instant notoriety, and more still remain anonymous until a chance change in fashion sees their work propelled into the limelight. Refreshingly, author Ian Haydn Smith is also the author of “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die” and is the editor of BFI Filmmakers Magazine and Curzon Magazine.

Timothy Caulfield’s “Relax, Dammit!: A User’s Guide To The Age Of Anxiety”

Edmonton, Canada-based Timothy Caulfield is a Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, a Professor in the Faculty of Law and the School of Public Health, and Research Director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta. His interdisciplinary research on topics like stem cells, genetics, research ethics, the public representations of science, and health policy issues has allowed him to publish over 350 academic articles. In turn, perhaps unsurprisingly, he has won numerous academic and writing awards and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Trudeau Foundation, and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

The author of two national bestsellers – “The Cure For Everything: Untangling Rhe Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness & Happiness” and “Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture & Science Clash” – Caulfield’s latest book is the forthcoming “Relax, Dammit!” Expect an entertaining and practical guide to getting through the day with less stress and better health.

StaJe’s “5 Easy Steps To Success In Music”

StaJe is a musical artist turned author who is now sharing his knowledge and journey through his star-studded path to Lalaland with the release of his first book “5 Easy Steps to Success In Music,” which ranked as a “#1 New Release” on Amazon. The 20-page page-turner is free and claims to have the “secret sauce” to achieving self-made music stardom. This nifty easy-to-read handbook is short, sweet and gives the inside scoop tailored to short attention spans of current day. The book will help artists put together a better body of work and content to propel their careers, with super simple steps, over a short amount of time.

Jeff Gomez’ “Zeppelin Over Dayton Guided By Voices Album By Album”

In my humble opinion, Guided By Voices is a simultaneously underrated and massively-influential rock band. But opinions about the popularity and acclaim of GBV aside, few rock bands have put out as many studio albums as Robert Pollard and crew. In turn, even a diehard fan of Guided By Voices may not know some great works from the band’s catalog. “Zeppelin Over Dayton” offers an honest and thorough assessment of the full GBV discography, thanks to author Jeff Gomez. Ideal for both long-time fans and newbie’s alike.

Nathaniel Lande’s “While the Music Played: A Remarkable Story Of Courage & Friendship in WWII”

Beginning in 1939 prewar Prague, “While The Music Played” focuses on the story of young Max Mueller, a curious bright romantic — a budding musician, piano tuner, and nascent journalist. Mueller is on the cusp of adolescence when the Nazi influence invades Prague’s tolerant spirit with alarming speed as he struggles to understand the changing world around him. When his father, noted German conductor Viktor Mueller, is conscripted into the German army and finds himself increasingly promoting the Nazi message, Viktor’s best friend, noted Czech composer Hans Krása, protests the occupation in every way he can.

Ultimately, “While The Music Played” is a lyrical, absorbing, and heartbreaking story of love and courage from the widely revered and best-selling author Nathaniel Lande.

Joshua Jay’s “Magic Mail”

“Magic Mail” is a 31-day interactive book and magic trick by celebrity magician Joshua Jay. It is a mailbox made to be set on the reader’s nightstand, and every night the parent and the kid(s) will open the box to discover a new postcard teaching them about a new location. The reader will mark that day’s location on the included map. On day 31, the reader writes back to Joshua Jay about where THEY live, and there will be a fun Instagram component where Jay will post the cards he has received from happy readers. In turn, you have a perfect gift for someone who craves quality time and loves learning with the kid(s), magic, travel, geography and culture.


Tom Madden’s “Love Boat 78”

Madden’s book spans the time when his beloved wife of 54 years, Angela — who was born and raised in the small fishing village of Giovinazzo, near Bari — passes away, leaving him heartbroken, depressed and sleepless in Boca Raton, Florida. Then the 78-year-old public relations executive finds himself adrift in choppy, lonely seas, unable to navigate to shore without the help of his first mate. After grieving deeply, he realized he shouldn’t continue to sit idly in his oceanfront condo and watch as life sailed by, as it was time for a change for life to start anew.

At the suggestion of a friend, Madden dove headfirst back into the dating pool, except this time, it wasn’t just a pool — it was a raging dating ocean called the Internet. From whirlwind romances to digital breakups, he experienced everything Internet dating has to offer. Ultimately, “Love Boat” 78 explores how Madden’s huge heart, racing libido and irreverent humor helped him cope with loss and ultimately sail into the sunset once again in love after meeting his Brazilian wife — with Italian roots — not on the Internet, but in a sports bar called Duffy’s.

Dave Morrell’s “Run-Out Groove: Inside Capitol’s 1980s Hits & Stiffs”

Legendary record company promotion man/author Dave Morrell still just thinks of himself as the luckiest fan alive. Growing up in Kearny, New Jersey in the early 1970s, he amassed a collection of Beatles memorabilia so unique that when John Lennon heard about it, he promptly asked to meet the teen. Thanks to a tip from a friend, Morrell landed a job as the Assistant Stock Boy in the eight-track tape department at the Warner/Elektra/Atlantic warehouse distribution center in New Jersey and began his journey from mega-fan to promo man, as told in Volumes 1 and 2 of “The Morrell Archives.”

“Run-Out Groove” tells the stories behind Morrell’s hits and stiffs through a series of demeaning, demoralizing rumpdog-led conference calls. Moments of joy offset the madness, including memories of the aforementioned Lennon, The Plasmatics, Duran Duran, Bonnie Raitt, Iron Maiden, Cyndi Lauper, and Michael Jackson. A fun read indeed.

Zane Carson Carruth’s “The Adventures of Abella and Her Magic Wand

Noted award-winning children’s book author and philanthropist Zane Carson Carruth recently received the Certificate of Excellence from Story Monsters – the top literary resource for teachers and librarians alike – for her second book on the inception of the tooth fairy, “The Adventures of Abella and Her Magic Wand.” The certificate was awarded to children’s picture books in the fiction category, ages three to eight with eye-catching illustrations by Surajit Kunal. Carruth’s third book, “The Legend Begins,” is slated for release in the fall of 2020.

Nancy Wolfson-Moche’s “Vegetables For Breakfast From A To Z”

Nancy Wolfson-Moche, CHHC, RYT, is the founder of the wonderfully-named company “you are because you eat.” She coaches, blogs, crafts curricula and recipes, teaches health, wellness, culinary arts and culinary medicine to students of all ages. Beyond that, Wolfson-Moche presents eating as a sacred practice, creating edible art, symbolic meals and menus infused with meaning and ritual. She also happens to be a certified practitioner of macrobiotics, yoga and Torah yoga.

“Vegetables For Breakfast From A To Z” is a guide to introducing vegetables to the breakfast table in a fun, approachable way for both kids and adults. The author draws on her years of experience as a cooking teacher via her company, making vegetables for breakfast accessible and delicious for home cooks.

Jack The Radio’s “Creatures Anthology” Comic Book

A Raleigh, North Carolina-based roots-rock band, Jack The Radio has shared the stage with the likes of The Avett Brothers, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Cold War Kids, George Thorogood, Rayland Baxter, and American Aquarium. The band’s music has been featured in countless commercial, film, and TV projects including “Modern Family,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Graceland” and “Beverly Hills 90210.”

This month the group released a new album called “Creatures.” In conjunction with the “Creatures” album, a companion comic book called “Jack The Radio: Creatures Anthology” has also been released. The idea of the comic book was born from frontman George Hage’s passion for art and design. He has not only created artwork for Jack The Radio but has also done work for Chris Shiflett (Foo Fighters), American Aquarium, and festivals such as Hopscotch Music Festival and IBMA’s World of Bluegrass among others. The collection of cosmic-country-fried sci-fi short stories catalogs the adventures of the ever-resilient character, Jack tTe Radio, and includes comics and pinups from 30+ professional artists from around the world.

Ashley Kahn’s “George Harrison On George Harrison: Interviews & Encounters”

“George Harrison On George Harrison” is an authoritative, chronologically-arranged anthology of the former Beatle’s most revealing and illuminating interviews, personal correspondence, and writings, spanning the years 1961 to 1997. Though known as “the Quiet Beatle,” Harrison was arguably the most thoughtful and certainly the most outspoken of the famous four. This compendium of his words and ideas proves that point repeatedly, revealing his passion for music, his focus on spirituality, and his responsibility as a celebrity, with a sense of deep commitment and humor as well.

The same “Musicians In Their Own Words” series from Chicago Review Press also includes titles related to Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.


Rob Halford’s “Confess: The Autobiography”

With over 50 million albums sold in over 50 years as a band, few artists have had the longevity or success of British metal pioneers Judas Priest. With rock classics like “Breaking The Law,” “Living After Midnight” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” in its repertoire, Judas Priest has managed to be one of the few groups of its genre that pumped out radio-friendly gems. And still all these years later, the Priest is playing arena-sized venues and headlining major festivals around the world.

But there’s lots more to the Judas Priest story than commercial success, and frontman Rob Halford tells more in his forthcoming autobiography “Confess.” Halford opens up about his decision to come out about his sexuality in 1990s, yet that is only a small part of his overall story. Essential reading for any fan of hard rock.

Talia Lavin’s “Culture Warlords”

In “Culture Warlords,” author Talia Lavin uncovers the hidden places online where extremists – incels, white nationalists, etc. – hang out, and goes undercover to infiltrate and expose them. Ultimately, she turns the lens of anti-Semitism, racism, and white power back on itself in an attempt to dismantle and quash the online hate movement’s schisms, recruiting tactics, and the threat it represents to the 2020 election and beyond. Shocking, provocative and humorous in equal measure, and with a take-no-prisoners attitude, the book explores some of the vilest subcultures on the Web, and how they’re doing their best to break into the mainstream.

Bess Kalb’s “No One Will Tell You This But Me” 

Bess Kalb is an Emmy-nominated writer who credits include “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “The New Yorker” and the Oscars. Her best-selling memoir “No One Will Tell You This But Me” is her literary debut and is currently slated to be an upcoming feature film. Written in the unique voice of Bess’s beloved late grandmother Bobby, the book is a “matrilineal love story” beginning with her great-grandmother’s escape from the pogroms in Belarus (alone as a child), her grandmother’s rise from poverty to American-dream-globetrotting, Kalb’s mom’s graduating high school early to join the first class of women at Brown University, and ending with Bess’s path to comedy and TV writing. It includes a great anecdote about a “seder kit” her parents have surprise FedEx-ed her.

Mikel Jollett’s “Hollywood Park”

“Hollywood Park: A Memoir” is the critically-lauded debut book by Mikel Jollett, frontman for The Airborne Toxic Event. It debutsedat #8 on the New York Times Best Seller List, while the band’s companion album by the same name landed at #4 on the Billboard Alternative Chart and #6 on the magazine’s Rock Chart.

The memoir tells the story of Jolett’s traumatic early life. It begins with a four-year-old Mikel and his brother, Tony, being spirited out of the notorious and violent Santa Monica, California cult, Synanon, by their mother. Jollett’s life to that point was one with no parents, and no idea of them, as the cult leaders kept children from their families. On the run from Synanon with their damaged and dangerously narcissistic mom, Jollett and his brother embarked on a harrowing journey that eventually led them to Salem, Oregon, where they lived in poverty. It was his father (a former Chico State Penitentiary inmate, who Jollett didn’t really know until he was seven) who recognized that young Mikel had special gifts and urged him not to be like any of the other Jollett men, but to aspire to something bigger and better. This put him on a path to getting a scholarship from Stanford (he graduated with honors) and to starting the Airborne Toxic Event which became an immediate sensation the moment they released their first single, “Sometime Around Midnight.”

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.