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The Lois Level Reads New Jersey

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This article is a part of a series on State Reads. Please leave a comment if there are any omissions or errors, particularly when the books themselves have a strong local connection.

The purpose of this series is to celebrate the similarities and differences found in different regions of the United States. We also hope it might be helpful for secondary teachers and librarians…or anyone…interested in building a local connection with readers.

A summary of the criteria we use for selection is at the bottom of the post.

Reading New Jersey

Each installment of this series comes with its own set of challenges. The challenge with this post is often figuring out, exactly, what happens in New Jersey. We sort out books that are set in the state from books written by authors from the state, because there is a difference, and sometimes I had to go to 2 or 3 sources to try to figure out whether some books were set in New Jersey or not!

I suppose New Jersey suffers a bit from “little brother” syndrome with New York.

That’s a shame, because, as I’ve learned from this post, New Jersey has a lot of nice places. Perhaps it is the quintessential “America” that we fantasize about…and is that such a bad thing?

And if you find that thought a little boring, look at all the amazing people who CAME from New Jersey. It must be a very cool place to hang out and have a drink.

Don’t let the stereotypes stop you…read on.

Books by New Jerseyans set in New Jersey

Fiction

Philip Roth

Roth is from Newark, where The Plot Against America is also set.

Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

Frank B. Gilbreth Jr.

Brother and sister team Carey and Gilbreth grew up in Montclair, where this fictionalized account of their childhood is set.

Scroll down for a book by their mother, Lillian Moller Gilbreth.

Tom Perrotta

Perrotta was born in Newark.

Junot Díaz

Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic but grew up in Parlin.

Janet Evanovich

The heroine of Janet Evanovich’s mystery novels, Stephanie Plum, lives in Trenton. Evanovich was born in South River.

Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben was born in Jersey City and writes thrillers often set in the suburbs of New Jersey. Two Netflix series have been based on his books.

Mary Higgins Clark

Clark lived in Washington Township and other places in New Jersey. Several of her novels, including The Cradle Will Fall (1980, Saddle River), While My Pretty One Sleeps (1987, Ridgewood), All Around the Town (1992, Ridgewood), Let Me Call You Sweetheart (1995, Ho-Ho-Kus, Hackensack, Old Tappan, Englewood Cliffs and Oradell) and My Gal Sunday” (1996, Bernardsville) were set in New Jersey.

Carol Higgins Clark

Carol Higgins Clark is the daughter of Mary Higgins Clark and grew up in Washington Township. While she sets her books in many different locales, Mobbed is set on the Jersey Shore.

Mary Jane Clark

Clark lives in Hillesdale. She is a former daughter-in-law of Mary Higgins Clark and sister-in-law of Carol Higgins Clark.

Nonfiction

John McPhee

McPhee was born in Princeton.

Nelson Johnson

Johnson is a native of Hammonton, and yes, this book is the basis for the HBO series.

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen is a singer/songwriter, of course, but he has also written a memoir about growing up in Freehold.

Elizabeth Gilbert

Gilbert has lived in Frenchtown, the setting of Committed.

Lillian Moller Gilbreth

Gilbreth lived in Montclair for many years.

For more about Elizabeth Gilbert from The Lois Level, read Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love”: Women who did it first and better

Amiri Baraka (né Everett LeRoi Jones)

Jones was born in Newark and led a varied career that included work as an activist and poet.

Margaret Thomas Buchholz

Buchholz grew upon an island off the Jersey shore.

John T. Cunningham

Cunningham was born in Newark. He was known as the “Historian of New Jersey”.

Marc Mappen

Mappen lived in New Jersey for all of his adult life and served in many capacities as a promoter of New Jersey history.

Joseph Bilby

Joseph Bilby is from Newark.

A Selection of books written for Teens and Older Children

Judy Blume

Judy Blume is from Elizabeth. Many of her books, for children, teens, and adults, are set in New Jersey.

Carol Plum-Ucci

Plum-Ucci is from Atlantic City.

Megan McCafferty

McCafferty is from Berkeley Township.

 

Other Books by New Jerseyans

Fiction

James Fenmore Cooper

Cooper was born in Burlington.

Stephan Crane

Crane was born in Newark.

Dorothy Parker

Parker was born in Long Branch. Ironically, Fran Lebowitz, below, is frequently cited as being similar to Parker.

Paul Auster

Paul Auster was born in Newark.

Norman Mailer

Mailer was born in Long Branch.

George R.R. Martin

George R. R. Martin is from Bayonne.

Joyce Carol Oates

Oates was a professor at Princeton for many years.

Peter Benchley

Peter Benchley lived in Princeton.

Sharon K. Penman

Penman grew up in New Jersey.

Ntozke Shange

Shange was born in Trenton.

Mark di Ionno

di Ionno was a longtime sports columnist with New Jersey’s Star-Ledger.

Marcy Dermansky

Dermansky lives in Montclair.

Nonfiction

Mitch Albom

Albom was born in Passeic.

Fran Lebowitz

Lebowitz grew up in Morristown.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Lindbergh was from Englewood. She became famous as the wife of Charles Lindbergh, but she was famous as a writer in her own right.

Major Poets

William Carlos Williams

William was born and died in Rutherford.

Allen Ginsberg

Ginsberg was born in Newark.

Dale Russakoff

Dale Russakoff lives in Newark.

Steve Adubato Jr.

Adubato is from Newark.

A Selection of books written for Teens and Older Children

Walter Dean Myers

Myers is known for writing about Harlem, where he grew up, but he is a long time resident of Jersey City. Monster is the basis for the film All Rise.

Paula Danziger

Paula Danziger lived in Nutley and later, Metuchen. The Cat Ate My Gymsuit might be set in New Jersey although the state is never clearly stated.

Ann Rinaldi

Ann Rinaldi worked for several newspapers in New Jersey.

Dan Gutman

Gutman grew up in Newark. He is well known for his My Weird School series for young readers.

David Lubar

Lubar is from Morristown. In addition to being a prolific and popular young adult author, he also is a game developer, including Frogger for Game Boy.

Kristine Bowe

Bowe is from Southern New Jersey.

Other Books Set in New Jersey

Fiction

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald is not known to be a resident of New Jersey except for the years he attended Princeton, but he did write his first novel about that experience.

David Gates

Janey Dailey

Nonfiction

A Selection of books written for teens and Older Children

How we picked these books:

Please comment at the bottom or on Facebook with suggestions. The idea is to make each state’s page as complete as possible but focused enough so that the page gives the reader an overall sense of place.

Guidelines:

In the case where the author has written several books set in the state, the most famous or recently published one will be selected. Multiple books will be shown only if there is a reason to do so (e.g. significant topics, different genres, etc.).

The author may be listed in more than one category, usually because the author’s most famous book is not set in the state. The famous book is listed to help readers recognize the author, but additional, less well known books, will be listed for those who want to read more about the state.

The intended audience for the The Lois Level is adult general readers, so books considered primarily for academic use will not be listed. For the same reason, authors who are completely out of print will usually not be included.

Children’s books are limited to those that have adult appeal. Normally picture books are not included.

Recent and significant biographies of state notables are included with priority given to those written by state natives/residents or to individuals whose major contributions were state related.

Biographical Information

Wikipedia and author web pages are the primary sources for author information. If the author has several connections, usually the earliest one (birth, childhood) is used.

About the Cover Photo


Famartin / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Share your thoughts! We want to hear your perspective and most definitely your reading recommendations!

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