As we approach the tenth month of quarantine life, home may seem like the last place you want to be. If you’re like me, you’ve spent ample time dreaming of the moment you can hop on a plane and admire a view beyond that of your local neighborhood. Books have proven a great alternative in this time to escape the humdrum of current life and pretend that we are somewhere exciting. However, between our longing and binge-reading, it is important to remember what our own state has to offer–including a rich literary culture. Over the years, New Jersey has provided the backdrop of many best-selling and award-winning books that readers still cherish today. Below is a list of books that take place in New Jersey, guaranteed to inspire you, terrify you, make you laugh, cry, and allow you to reacquaint yourself with the vibrant place you call home.
1. In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume (2015)
Master of the coming of age story, Blume is an author whose work we loved to grow up reading. In one of her most recent books set in New Jersey, she explores the true story of her hometown of Elizabeth, which she lived to experience firsthand. Following an unfathomable series of plane crashes in the town in the early 1950s, Blume details the lives of three families greatly affected by the event.
You can purchase a copy of “In the Unlikely Event” from Amazon here.
2. On the Street Where You Live by Mary Higgins Clark (2001)
Of all the books that take place in New Jersey, this one may not be the most comforting to read. However, this gripping thriller is one that you will not be able to put down. Following a nasty divorce, lawyer Emily decides to purchase her ancestral home in the idyllic town of Spring Lake. Her world begins to unravel when she discovers the house is the center of two grisly murders, inexplicably linked despite occurring 100 years apart.
You can purchase a copy of “On the Street Where You Live” on Amazon here.
3. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen (2016)
A list of books set in New Jersey simply would not be complete without “The Boss,” one of the most famous musicians to ever emerge from the state. This memoir looks back on the singer’s climb to fame, from his experience growing up in Freehold to his early career performing in Asbury Park. The work also depicts Springsteen’s battle with himself, and how he has been able to grow personally along with his commercial success. Though ultimately an American dream tale, this autobiography reminds us to never forget our roots.
You can purchase a copy of “Born to Run” on Amazon here.
4. Creepers by David Morrell (2006)
If you have always had a fascination with urban legends, then this is the book for you! Morrell’s bestselling novel follows five explorers attempting to break into an abandoned hotel in Asbury Park. In doing so, they hope to uncover the truth behind the mysterious stories that have circulated there. However, they soon learn that what awaits them inside the hotel is more dangerous and evil than they could have imagined. Though the Paragon Hotel is a work of fiction, the terror that this story evokes is anything but.
You can purchase a copy of “Creepers” on Amazon here.
5. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz (2007)
This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel provides a unique and often underrepresented perspective of what it is like to grow up in New Jersey. Díaz tells the story of Oscar, an awkward, overweight teen growing up with his Dominican immigrant family in Paterson. The latest victim of a curse that has plagued his family for generations, Oscar struggles to find a sense of belonging, success as a writer, and lasting love.
You can purchase a copy of “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” on Amazon here.
6. Younger by Pamela Redmond (2005)
New Jersey-based divorcee Alice is hopelessly bored with her life. When she discovers that she can pass for much younger than she is, she seizes the opportunity to pursue the relationships and career she wished she’d had in her twenties. The only problem: Will she be able to continue this lie, or will her newly established life come crumbling down? Now adapted into a successful television series, “Younger” champions the idea that it is never too late to start again.
You can purchase a copy of “Younger” on Amazon here.
7. Middletown, America by Gail Sheehy (2003)
Middletown, NJ was one of the hardest-hit places by the tragedy of 9/11, with the largest number of casualties anywhere outside of New York City. Sheehy’s biography covers the two years that she spent living among this community, capturing the difficult journey of widows, children, and survivors as they overcome their loss. The countless stories of those who were able to transform their grief into positive change are sure to inspire.
You can purchase a copy of “Middletown, America” on Amazon here.
8. Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth (1959)
Roth’s novella offers a close look into the lives of the middle-class Jewish community of New Jersey. When Neil, a working-class man from Newark, meets Brenda, a wealthy young woman from Short Hills, the two immediately hit it off. Despite this, their relationship soon becomes complicated by the issues of classism and assimilation that emerge between their families. You can also check out the novella’s esteemed film adaptation, a romantic comedy created in 1969.
You can purchase a copy of “Goodbye, Columbus” on Amazon here.
9. The Stranger by Harlan Coben (2015)
In this bestseller, a stranger begins to appear inexplicably around the country, revealing dark secrets that leave his listeners reeling. In the quiet town of Cedarfield, NJ, Adam is given shocking information about his wife Corinne: Information that threatens to destroy their family and even end their lives. Although this popular mystery novel was recently adapted into a Netflix series, the setting has been shifted to England.
You can purchase a copy of “The Stranger” on Amazon here.
10. Family Life by Akhil Sharma (2014)
Sharma uses his own adolescent experience as the basis for “Family Life,” a poignant novel about the Mishra family. After immigrating to Edison in the 1970s, the family believed the United States to be everything that they dreamed of. That all changes when a tragic accident leaves their eldest son disabled. Soon, younger brother Ajay finds himself torn between familial duty and a desire to survive in his new American world.
You can purchase a copy of “Family Life” on Amazon here.
Know of any other books that take place in New Jersey? Let us know in the comments below.