Reading New Jersey

Reading New Jersey

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With the nation’s eyes on the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy, Zola asked authors with deep ties to the Garden State—including Joyce Carol Oates, Junot Diaz, and Dani Shapiro—to recommend great books about Paterson, Asbury Park, and points in between.

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American Pastoral
Phillip Roth

“Here is Philip Roth at his most passionate—tenderly complex and paradoxical visions of his native state, from which he long ago departed.” —JOYCE CAROL OATES, author of The Barrens

Paterson

Paterson
William Carlos Williams

“No city (or state for that matter) has been given a more glorious monument than Williams’ Paterson. Described as an ‘Ars Poetica’ for contemporary America, it has always been for me the great book at the heart of the NJ experiment.” —JUNOT DIAZ, author of This Is How You Lose Her

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4th of July, Asbury Park: A History of the…
Daniel Wolff

“Elegaic but finely observed history of Asbury Park and neighboring Shore towns. Both a social history and a microcosm of a changing America. Beautifully written.” —WALLACE STROBY, author of Kings of Midnight

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The Lay of the Land
Richard Ford

“I’m sure lots of people will mention Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint and American Pastoral. I just finished teaching them, in my American Novel Since 1950 course at Kenyon College. But my vote goes to Richard Ford’s Lay of the Land, which combines Dreiser’s ambition with Updike’s style. It is dense—I could hardly manage more than fifty pages at a sitting—and rich. Every state deserves that kind of book. But the Garden State got lucky.” —P.F. KLUGE, author of Eddie and the Cruisers

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Junot Diaz

“The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is everything New Jersey has to offer: it’s anarchic, polyglot, messy, trashy, lyrical, and bursting with unpleasant truths most Americans would rather ignore.” —JESS ROW, author of The Train to Lo Wu

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This Side of Paradise
F. Scott Fitzgerald

“I tore through my house examining all my NJ books. I have lots that I love, like Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey and Great Storms of the Jersey Shore. But as so many great writers teach at Princeton—the setting for much of This Side of Paradise—it all comes together for me in this one book. Fitzgerald published this book when he was 23, so it is a work of fresh experience rather than nostalgia. Princeton is New Jersey in its own way; which is why the state is so essentially American. The diversity is unmatched.” —ALICE ELLIOT DARK, author of Think of England

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The Lost Legends of New Jersey
Frederick Reiken

“Reiken evokes a place and time—the New Jersey suburbs, circa 1980—with great emotional precision.” —Dani Shapiro

This article originally appeared on Zola Books.

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