16 Great Bookstores Along the Jersey Shore

Here’s where you’ll find the perfect read for hunkering down in the sand.

A quick walk on any beach at the Jersey Shore confirms that reading remains a popular pastime for beachgoers. And while digital might dominate elsewhere, reading an actual book on the beach guarantees you won’t get sand in your e-reader. We scoured the Shore and discovered 16 independent bookshops worthy of your attention. Some sell new books and some sell used, but all aim to get the perfect book into a beach reader’s hands. Most are family-friendly, too. Here they are, from North to South. 

All photos by Richard DiBianca

River Road Books

759 River Road, Fair Haven
15-minute bike ride to the beach

Hardwood floors and smartly arranged displays create aesthetic appeal. The spacious layout makes it easy to browse and buy. Visitors find a large selection of children’s books and adult fiction; many of the titles are featured in the shop’s several book clubs. River Road Books also hosts frequent author events.

Store manager Liza Minno Bloom stands ready to help.

Words! Bookstore

623 Cookman Avenue, Asbury Park
12-minute walk to the beach

Words! Bookstore, which plans to shift to a co-op model in the coming months, understands its customers well. Despite its location in downtown Asbury Park, it doesn’t sell beach reads. Instead, it offers a deftly curated selection of books, some of which are new and others “gently read.” The well-informed, helpful staff can find a book to please anyone. An adorable reading nook for kids at the front of the store is a boon for parental browsers.

A Paperback Exchange

703 ½ 9th Avenue, Belmar
10-minute walk to the beach

All of the books at A Paperback Exchange have been donated. Customers bring in books and receive trade-in credit. Two nice things result: That customer can then buy more books, while someone else benefits from them having paid it forward. This business model keeps people reading, and inexpensively so. It also results in an ever-evolving inventory. Although unpredictable, A Paperback Exchange offers a comprehensive selection, especially in the areas of thrillers, mystery, history, classics and romance.

 

BookTowne

171 Main Street, Manasquan
10-minute bike ride to the beach

Set in a cute downtown, BookTowne is ideal for vacationers. Its fiction and children’s sections stand out. Thriller, YA, true crime, self-help and poetry are similarly well-represented. Also available are cards, candles and fuzzy socks which, taken together, celebrate the comfort and joy of reading. The store sponsors an annual educators’ panel; offers a book subscription service and book clubs; and holds frequent author signings.

The Little Point Bookshop

629 ½ Arnold Avenue, Point Pleasant Beach
15-minute walk to the beach

The excitement of a six-month-old bookstore is palpable. It can be felt in the energy of the proactive staff and in its unofficial mission—to make reading cool. The shop also seeks to rescue teens, in particular, from the distractions of technology. Despite its modest size, the shop has comfy seating where customers can enjoy selections from their most popular sections: “book-club” books, women’s fiction and classics.

 

Recycled Reading

2814 Bridge Avenue, Point Pleasant
10-minute bike ride to the beach

This used bookstore is committed to having children read. To that end, it charges no more than $2.99 for kids’ books. Rather than rely on book donations (it only takes a few), the staff goes on regional book-hunting trips to satisfy the demand for beach reads. A stroll among its overflowing shelves reveals myriad mystery titles, as well as plentiful sections of paranormal romance and true crime, and a growing selection of historical fiction.

The Bookworm

1509 Long Beach Island Boulevard, Surf City
3-minute walk to the beach

There are only two bookshops on Long Beach Island. The northernmost, the Bookworm, has a strong selection of mysteries and science fiction, but also features new in-demand releases and old favorites of all genres. It also has an expanded kids’ selection. While children are in rapt attention at Story Time on Tuesday mornings, their parents can browse for gifts, cards and books of their own.

LBI Book Swap

325 9th Street, Beach Haven
5-minute walk to the beach

Toward the south end of Long Beach Island is the LBI Book Swap. Walking in the front door can be a religious experience for the enthusiastic reader. Its split-level layout shows off an impressive inventory boasting various collections. From the bottom level up: new books for children, new books for adults, used books for adults (including bestsellers) and Spanish-language books. Its location amid the ice cream and trinket shops on Schooner’s Wharf is ideal for vacationers. It frequently hosts well-known authors.

Princeton Antiques & Book Service

2917 Atlantic Avenue, Atlantic City
4-minute walk to the beach

In a gambling town that places a premium on the new and the loud, this family-owned business has valued the old and quiet for more than 50 years. It stocks over 100,000 used books, most of which are out of print. An imaginative visitor might be reminded of a modern Library at Alexandria, where a long-held book quest might finally be satisfied. Nearly all of its business is done online, but the shop gets foot traffic from beachgoers who want something inexpensive and lightweight. Its sidewalk display features many fiction classics that fit the bill.

Sun Rose Words & Music

756 Asbury Avenue, Ocean City
8-minute walk to the beach

Located in the middle of Ocean City’s business district, Sun Rose attracts customers with sundries such as printer cartridges, greeting cards, art supplies and games. But its primary stock-in-trade is, of course, books. Customers can find bestsellers, soft- and hard-cover editions, and titles in practically every genre. The well-lit, spacious layout makes it easy to search the many nooks and crannies.

Bookateria Two

1052 Asbury Avenue, Ocean City
8-minute walk to the beach

Bookateria Two has been selling used books—and lots of them—for 43 years. They also trade. Bring in a used book in good condition and walk out with another one at a very low price. There’s a little of everything, though shelves are rife with suspense and young-adult reads. The latter genre is so popular, it has its own room in the back. Books are displayed horizontally—a refreshing layout that actually makes browsing easier.

The Book Nook

3700 Boardwalk, Sea Isle City
On the beach

The Book Nook can’t get much more convenient for a true beach reader. It’s on the boardwalk, mere steps from the sand. Despite its modest size, it somehow manages to house the New York Times bestsellers list, beach reads, classics and some nonfiction. It specializes in children’s seashore books and the promotion of area authors, including Michael Stafford, Joe LaRosa, Joe McCann and Louis Bezich.

Barrier Island Books and Art

301 95th Street, Stone Harbor
6-minute walk to the beach

The unassuming storefront of Barrier Island Books and Art gives way to a cozy collection of used books. The sense of nautical adventure is no accident; the store aims to capture the feel of a sea captain’s study. Mission accomplished: Like a collection in a private study, the books are casually organized. Visitors should approach with a sense of adventure.

Stone Harbor Bookshop

261 96th Street, Stone Harbor
5-minute walk to the beach

The most popular genres at Stone Harbor Bookshop are psychological thrillers, nonfiction and children’s book series. The back room is a haven for kids. Customers might find themselves stepping over six or seven children spread out on the floor, deeply engaged with a book, puzzle or toy from the store’s Melissa & Doug line. The shop has a wider community presence as well; earlier this summer it hosted author Elin Hildebrand at a local elementary school.

Founder/owner Kieran Linnane presides over his empire.

Hooked on Books

3405 Pacific Avenue, Wildwood
5-minute walk to the beach

Entering this used book store feels a bit like visiting Oz. A book wizard even greets you as you enter. Start browsing and you’ll feel as though you might find every book you’ve ever wished for. The volume is breathtaking: While other bookstores only have a few books in stock for a given author, Hooked on Books has dozens—all in good condition and at low prices. Some vacationers come in to stock up for the whole year.

Cape Atlantic Book Company

421 Washington Street, 2nd Floor, Cape May
8-minute walk to the beach

From horse-drawn carriage rides to Victorian inns to top-flight restaurants, there is ample competition for the attention of Cape May visitors. Cape Atlantic Book Company is a worthy attraction. Nestled at the top of a one-way escalator in a cozy mall on Washington Street, it offers a variety of genres, most with beach-reading in mind. It also stocks toys and a large collection of jigsaw puzzles. Stop by between dinner and dessert to feed your mind.


Richard DiBianca is Upper School Principal at Newark Academy in Livingston where he teaches philosophy.

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