Books about New Jersey?
September 11, 2012 8:20 AM   Subscribe

I have lived in New Jersey for over 10 years, really don't know much about it, except for the town I live in. I'm looking for books, fiction or non-fiction, that will give me a broader view. It doesn't have to be about the state, but could take place in it.
posted by katinka-katinka to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Richard Ford's Independence Day has a lot of Jersey flavor.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:22 AM on September 11, 2012


If I recall correctly, Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao has some Jersey (as well as Dominican and NYC) flavor. And it's a good read to boot!
posted by AwkwardPause at 8:25 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Boardwalk Empire, the television series, was adapted from the non-fiction book Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City
posted by griphus at 8:26 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Weird NJ is a good start to local color.
posted by inturnaround at 8:27 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Philip Roth's American Pastoral is a great portrayal of the racial and political dynamics of Newark in the 1950s-1970s.
posted by zoomorphic at 8:32 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


American Pastoral is the Great Newark Novel.
posted by escabeche at 8:34 AM on September 11, 2012


I've heard good things about The Meadowlands: Wilderness Adventures on the Edge of a City
posted by Asparagus at 8:35 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


The (admittedly very silly) Stephanie Plum novels all take place in the dirty jerz.
posted by elizardbits at 8:41 AM on September 11, 2012


Daniel Pinkwater's The Hoboken Chicken Emergency. It's a kid's book so a quick read, but you really get a feel for how the city was.
posted by mikepop at 8:42 AM on September 11, 2012


How about anything by Kevin Smith? Mallrats especially encapsulated my high school life.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:46 AM on September 11, 2012


The Pine Barrens, a collaboration of text and images by McPhee/Curtsinger. New Jersey's Environments, edited by Maher (shameless self promotion: I did a chapter on the roots of environmental organizing in the state included in this collection). The New Jersey Walk Book will get you out and about with a good narrative accompaniment. You said you want book suggestions, but of course you've watched The Sopranos?
posted by tidecat at 8:47 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Joseph Mitchell's 1959 New Yorker essay "The Rivermen" is a great piece about Edgewater. You can find it in Mitchell's collected writings, or by subscription at the New Yorker site.
posted by neroli at 8:48 AM on September 11, 2012


wow there are more books about The Jersey Devil than I knew...
posted by supermedusa at 8:48 AM on September 11, 2012


Many of Judy Blume's (a native) books are set there.
posted by brujita at 9:00 AM on September 11, 2012


My boyfriend likes Robert Sullivan's The Meadowlands.

Seconding Oscar Wao, which is great. Diaz's short stories in Drown are set in Jersey as well.
posted by mlle valentine at 9:02 AM on September 11, 2012


The excellent movie "The Station Agent," starring Peter Dinklage, is set in rural NJ.

I have no idea whether it reflects NJ in any realistic way whatsoever.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:13 AM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


Peter Dinklage is from Morristown NJ!!
posted by supermedusa at 9:47 AM on September 11, 2012


Amazingly, William Carlos Williams wrote an epic poem about Paterson (called Paterson, of all things). Widely acclaimed as a masterpiece, it won the first National Book Award for poetry in 1950. From a vantage point of more than 60 years, it will give you something of the history and culture of NJ, but is also particularly poignant when you reflect on how much has changed.

To make a start,
out of particulars
and make them general, rolling
up the sum, by defective means—
Sniffing the trees,
just another dog
among a lot of dogs...

posted by ubiquity at 10:05 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Philip Roth's novels are often set in Newark.
posted by thirdletter at 10:18 AM on September 11, 2012


The excellent movie "The Station Agent," starring Peter Dinklage, is set in rural NJ.

I have no idea whether it reflects NJ in any realistic way whatsoever.


It does a very good job of it. There are a few similar films--Winter Solstice, Rocket Science, and, of course, Garden State. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is also a nice peek into north jersey teen culture.

As for books, Judy Blume's older works are mostly set in central NJ and give a very accurate picture of the state and its culture. Wifey (her adult novel about a bored housewife in Dunellen) and Forever (famously widely-banned work about a teen girl's first sexual experiences, also set in the Somerset Co area) are two.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:59 AM on September 11, 2012


Seconding Weird NJ. My boyfriend is from there and he loves that book.
posted by amicamentis at 11:36 AM on September 11, 2012


Not a book, but how about a bicycle? I never really knew my city until I started riding around in it.
posted by Doohickie at 12:12 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thank you all so much! I have read the Oscar Wao book just this month, and am a fan of Weird New Jersey. I also don't have a car and ride a bike everywhere, but seldom get very fat out of my town. All these suggestions are awesome, and should keep me busy for awhile.
posted by katinka-katinka at 12:19 PM on September 11, 2012


Rutgers University Press has published a number of books about the region. Here's a list. (You can check reviews on Amazon if a title catches your eye). Also, you don't need to have grown up in the seventies to read Tom Perrotta's Bad Haircut anthology of coming of age stories, set in New Jersey. Rutgers Professor Michael Moffatt went "undercover" as a student in a Rutgers dorm in the '80's and wrote about it: Coming of Age in New Jersey.
posted by gudrun at 12:20 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


4th of July, Asbury Park: A History of the Promise Land paints a fascinating picture of the storied beach town. While the Springsteen references are a bit heavy-handed, the story of the town is quite interesting.
posted by godshomemovies at 2:13 PM on September 11, 2012


If there's a book about Yo La Tengo, that'd probably be good to read. Ah, here's one, with good reviews, even: Big Day Coming: Yo La Tengo and the Rise of Indie Rock.
posted by limeonaire at 5:00 PM on September 11, 2012


This is a great travel guide to New Jersey, I have found myself often just browsing it.
posted by cacophony at 6:56 PM on September 11, 2012


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