Best Summer 2024 Beach Reads With a New Jersey Twist

Get lost in these books on sunny (and rainy!) days.

Illustration of mermaid reading "Welcome Home, Caroline Kline" by Courtney Preiss

Illustration: Kotryna Zukauskaite

Before you make your way down the Shore, peruse our recommendations for summer books, all of which were written by New Jersey authors and/or are set here in the Garden State. There’s a mix of fiction and nonfiction, and something for every type of reader.

Welcome Home, Caroline Kline

Courtney Preiss
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, April 16

In this Asbury Park resident’s debut novel, Preiss tells the story of Caroline, a lost young woman who moves to New York City to escape the Shore town where she grew up. But instead she finds herself single, jobless and apartment-less. When she’s called home after her father takes a fall, she realizes he needs her to take his spot on his men’s softball team. While overcoming the challenges of being the only woman on the team, she stumbles into her childhood crush. Through witty narration, romance, struggle, and heartfelt moments of self-discovery, Caroline realizes home base isn’t so bad after all. —Emily Melvin

The Second Coming

Garth Risk Hallberg
Knopf, May 28

In his third book, Montclair resident Garth Risk Hallberg tells the story of a troubled 13-year-old girl, Jolie, her relationship with her estranged father, Ethan, and the journey that could bring them back together. Ethan is an ex-con and recovering alcoholic who fears his daughter is in trouble when he learns that she was nearly hit by a subway train after dropping her phone on the tracks. Can they save one another? From the best-selling author of City on Fire, which was made into a limited series on Apple TV. —Jacqueline Mroz

Westport, A Crime Novel

James Comey
Mysterious Press, May 21

Former FBI director James Comey, who grew up in Bergen County, returns with his second thriller, this time taking readers into the world of high finance and corporate espionage. Nora Carleton is back (from Comey’s first novel, Central Park West) to solve crimes, but now she’s working as lead counsel at the world’s largest hedge fund. Her life falls apart when a coworker is murdered, and she becomes the lead suspect. She calls in her old colleagues from the U.S. Attorney’s Office to help her solve the crime. Comey once again uses his extensive background in law enforcement to make this story feel all too real. —J. Mroz

Desperately Seeking Something

Susan Seidelman
St. Martin’s Press, June 18

Trailblazing film director Susan Siedelman is best known for her groundbreaking movie, Desperately Seeking Susan, which led to a four-decade careeer in film. In her new memoir, she talks about her life, from her childhood in 1960s suburbia to the Madonna-mania of the 1980s to her genre-bending films, including her punk drama Smithereens. Siedelman, who lives in New Jersey, went on to direct episodes of Sex and the City and has continued to focus her sharp lens on the changing place of women in society. —J. Mroz

I Don’t Want To Go Home: The Oral History of The Stone Pony

Nick Corasaniti
Harper, June 4

Nick Corasaniti, a national political reporter for the New York Times, took a break from his beat to author this detailed account of Asbury Park’s legendary music venue. Corasaniti, who splits his time between Asbury and Brooklyn, interviewed iconic musicians and bands like Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt, Southside Johnny, the Ramones, and Jack Antonoff to document the rock club’s rich history over the last 50 years. Through good times and bad, the Stone Pony has remained a resilient staple in Asbury Park, and I Don’t Want to Go Home covers it all. —Gary Phillips

Green Frog

Gina Chung
Vintage Books, March 12

In this deeply personal collection of short stories, New Jersey native Gina Chung paints moving vignettes of womanhood, mother-daughter relationships, the Korean American experience, grief, family and love. The stories range from mock recipes for eating one’s own heart to profound trials of self-discovery through the eyes of a woman falling unexpectedly pregnant. Each story is filled with palpable emotion and melancholy artistry and told with a unique and intimate voice. —Connor Carlin


Julia Phillips
Hogarth, June 25

Illustration of woman at the beach reading "Bear" by Julia Phillips

Illustration: Kotryna Zukauskaite

Julia Phillips’ second novel, Bear, tells the story of a pair of sisters who seem locked in a life of quiet desperation. Sam and Elena live together in their childhood house, caring for their mother as she lies dying upstairs. In an area of majestic natural beauty, the sisters are working-class townies laboring at service jobs, taking care of tourists and more well-off local residents, and fighting off poverty and depression while dreaming of a day they can leave home and begin afresh.

That is, until Sam looks down from the ferry on which she staffs the snack bar and sees the strangest thing: a bear, swimming powerfully through the cold water separating the islands where they live and work from the mainland of Washington State. Before long, the bear is spotted on the sisters’ own island and, suspected in some livestock deaths, gossiped about at the grocery store. Residents are frightened but excited, the bear somehow enlivening a formerly sleepy and staid existence. When the bear shows up at their house, its bewitching, bewildering presence threatens to break their own fierce sisterly bond. Read more here. —Kate Tuttle

Days of Wonder

Caroline Leavitt
Algonquin, April 29

Hoboken author Caroline Leavitt tells the story of a woman who reluctantly gives up her baby after being accused of trying to murder her boyfriend’s father, a superior court judge. When she is released from prison, she begins searching for her child, as well as answers to what really happened that fateful night. The novel is a courageous story about mothers and daughters and the lengths to which they’ll go for love. —J. Mroz


Judith Lindbergh
Regal House Publishing, May 7

From the author of the critically acclaimed Thrall’s Tale comes Akmaral, the story of a nomadic woman warrior on the Central Asian steppes in the fifth century BCE. Trained for battle from birth, her prowess in horsemanship, archery and armed combat ignite jealousy in a potential lover and in the clan’s men, who bristle at matriarchal rule. Akmaral confronts complex issues about the sacrifices women make to protect those they love and the choice between kingdom, family and one’s own heart. —Julia Martin

All We Were Promised

Ashton Lattimore
Ballantine, April 2

The convergence of three radically different African American female perspectives at a critical time in American history forms the thematic center of this beautifully executed first novel. Set in 1837 Philadelphia, Nell comes from a well-to-do Black family far removed from the life of domestic servant Charlotte, whom Nell’s liberal activism lead her to befriend. The unlikely pair soon become involved in a social-political venture—helping an enslaved woman, Evie, to escape—that has the potential to uncover Charlotte’s dangerous secret and change their futures while testing the nation’s ideals. Lattimore, a former lawyer who grew up in Piscataway, renders this finely researched story with deft details and moving characterization. —Deborah P. Carter

Where Are You, Echo Blue?

Hayley Krischer
Dutton, July 16

When journalist and superfan Goldie Klein learns her favorite child star, Echo Blue, has disappeared on the eve of her comeback event, Goldie goes into sleuth mode and heads to Los Angeles to uncover the story. Author and Glen Ridge resident Hayley Krischer brings the ills of pop culture to the forefront in this, her premier adult novel. As Goldie comes up close with the challenges of fame, the power of the media, and recognition of the love-hate relationship the public has with celebrities, Krischer offers a different view of the limelight. The page-turning novel also shines a light on fandom and the line between admiration and obsession in a fame-fueled culture. —DPC

Oriana: A Novel of Oriana Fallaci

Anastasia Rubis
Delphinium, March 19

I’m a longtime journalist and consider myself well-read, so I was baffled that I’d never heard of the legendary Italian journalist who blazed a trail for women in the 1960s and 1970s. It was a delight to discover her remarkable story in Oriana: A Novel of Oriana Fallaci, a sexy and inspiring novel that takes readers from Florence in World War II to the war in Vietnam, then to the Greek island where Fallaci met her true love, and finally to Manhattan, where she died in 2006.

Author Anastasia Rubis grew up spending summers in Greece with extended family. “Fallaci thrilled me with how strong and assertive a woman could be,” says Rubis, who lives in Montclair. “She made a huge contribution to journalism and championed human rights. I wanted to tell that story.” Read more here. —J. Martin

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