My list of favorite hockey books has rapidly turned into the most popular thing in Snowman-ville, so I’ll extend the list to one of my favorite sub-sub-genres: books about being down the shore. If you know that “down” replaces any preposition that would otherwise indicate location, dependence or adjacency, you’ll know that truly capturing the salty smell of a Jersey summer is difficult. If you aren’t familiar with the derogatory uses of “bennie”, and want to appreciate what we lost in superstorm Sandy, then read’em all.
“Rock and Roll Tour of the Jersey Shore,” Stan Goldstein and Jean Mikle
Found this when I was trying to put together a Fourth of July/Sandy themed tour for one of my friends who is a life-long, dyed in the Jersey wool Bruce fan. It’s full of great trivia, simple things to do, and history of the Asbury Park music scene (Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Southside Johnny and friends). If “down the shore” is the anti-pretentious antidote to the Hamptons, then this book is the anti-Rick Stieves guide to the music that powered those ten true summers of your teenaged years.
“Deep Tank Jersey,” James Campion
This is required reading for anyone who wants to understand the Jersey shore, wants to play in a rock band, wants to fathom the depth of summer time possibilities, or wants to write the Great American Novel. James Campion is a high school classmate of mine, an incredibly talented writer, the scribe heir to Hunter S. Thompson, and so immersed in Jersey culture that he conveys it with a denseness just this side of fresh Fralinger’s taffy. If you ever saw Monty feed his drummer shrimp from the upper level of the Shell in Beach Haven, well, here’s the back story.
“One Last Good Time,” Michael Kardos
I bought this because it appeared in a list of books by Princeton alumni, and it was about the Jersey Shore. It captures the feel of what happens behind the fun house on the boardwalk almost too perfectly in a set of inter-related short stories. Great read, equally and simultaneously hair-raising and melancholy, like seeing a ghost on Labor Day.
“Tales From An Endless Summer,” Bruce Novotny
For years, Labor Day made me depressed. Whether I wore my flip flops around the house to deny the impending start of school, or noticing that the seagulls’ feathers had changed to all white (thanks, Jane, for clueing me in), or dreading the long drive back to Boston, Labor Day was a ravine in the calendar – summer and school, rules and freedom, potential and, well, winter. Novotny gets it in one, and I’ve read this book twice just to know that I’m not suffering from seasonal affective disorder phase shifted three months earlier. It’s set on Long Beach Island, it’s full of surfer culture, and while you think it should have a Beach Boys soundtrack, it’s Springsteen through and through.
“A Boardwalk Story,” J. Louis Yampolsky
Not as crafted as the others, but as close as you can get to the age between “Boardwalk Empire” and the arrival of Resorts in Atlantic City in 1979. A good, fast-moving story; set 30 years later and it would be the backstory for the movie “Atlantic City.”