The Jersey shore is such a popular tourist destination, it’s no wonder that it serves as the background of so many great books. Check out our not-even-close-to-complete list of books set in New Jersey!
Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan
Percy is pretty much a normal 12 year-old (aside from the fact that his mom likes to make him blue-colored foods) until his substitute teacher turns into a Fury and his pen turns into a sword. At that point, he finds out he is a demigod and a son of Poseidon, and his best friend, Grover (who is actually a satyr) takes him to…summer camp.
Camp Half-Blood is where demigods go to hone the special abilities they inherited from their celestial parents. Percy’s time at camp is cut short when he discovers that Zeus thinks he stole his lightning rod and will start a war between the gods if it isn’t returned in time. He, Grover, and his new friend, Annabeth (daughter of Athena) set out on a quest to find the rod and return it before the gods destroy themselves.
And that’s just the first book! The series has been on the New York Times Bestseller list for 223 weeks and has sold more than 45 million copies. There is a spin-off series called Heroes of Olympus and the first two books have been made into movies. Be on the lookout for sinister magic on your next Jersey shore vacation – Percy meets Medusa when his road trip makes a stop at Aunty Em’s Garden Gnome Emporium in Leeds Point, New Jersey!
Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr.
This biographical novel is perhaps best known by its movie versions, the most recent ones starring Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, and Hillary Duff (although the plot to this movie bears no resemblance to the original book aside from the large family size). The family in the book lives in Montclair, New Jersey, and simply narrates their lives in a humorous manner.
Clockers by Richard Price
This book takes place in Dempsey, New Jersey, a town that actually doesn’t exist, and is instead inspired by Newark and Jersey City. Strike is a cocaine dealer and Rocco is a homicide detective in the city. Drug lieutenant Rodney offers to promote Strike if he’ll kill his second-in-command, Darryl. After mentioning the situation to his law-abiding brother, Victor, Strike is shocked when his brother drunkenly offers to take care of it, and even more so when he finds out the next morning that the deed is done. It is then that Strike and Rocco’s stories collide, as Rocco investigates Darryl’s murder and Strike struggles to stay alive as the drug market becomes more and more violent. This dark novel isn’t for kids, but is a thrilling and eye-opening read for mature audiences.
Family Life by Akhil Sharma
This short, compelling, and somewhat autobiographical immigration story chronicles the Mishra family’s move from the politically unstable Delhi, India to Iselin, New Jersey, which has a thriving Indian community, in the 1980s. The Mishras struggle to assimilate while the father works a low-level government job, but finds hope in their intelligent son, Biriju, who eventually gets into the Bronx High School of Science. Meanwhile, their other son, Ajay, the narrator, is bullied at school and almost feels left out of the family as the forgotten second child. Their lives take a sharp turn when Biriju suffers an accident that leaves him brain damaged, and his family must learn to cope without their star son.
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This lesser known coming of age novel by the famed 20th century author of The Great Gatsby tells the story of Amory Blaine, born to a wealthy mother with whom he travels. Amory is smart but not dedicated, yet somehow is accepted into Princeton. Instead of finishing his degree, he enlists as a soldier in World War I.
When he returns, he falls in love with a woman named Rosalind and they are engaged until Rosalind breaks it off because Amory, whose mother has since passed, doesn’t make much money through his work at an advertising business. He doesn’t cope well, drinking himself into a stupor for weeks until Prohibition is enacted.
Amory eventually finds love for a short time with a lively woman named Eleanor until he is wrongfully accused of cheating. Down on his luck and still in love with Rosalind, Amory returns to Princeton.
There are so many fantastic books set in New Jersey, we had so much trouble narrowing it down! Be on the lookout for more NJ novels, and tell us if we missed your favorite!