Flocking to the Shore, and to 'The Fault'

Jane Kelly at a book-signing at Sun Rose Words & Music in Ocean City.
Jane Kelly at a book-signing at Sun Rose Words & Music in Ocean City. (RON TARVER / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 10, 2014

 Up and down the Jersey Shore, book lovers have chosen their must-read this summer: The Fault in Our Stars by young-adult genre author John Green.

The book about two teenage cancer patients may be every bit as in demand at the Shore as Fifty Shades of Grey was three years ago, according to booksellers from Long Beach Island to Cape May.

As have been any of the other teen fiction novels by Green, such as An Abundance of Katherines and Paper Town, as well as other books in the same genre, including If I Stay, just out in paperback, with a movie version to follow.

And perennial favorites are any books that focus on local history – vacationers always seem to want the historical scoop on such places as Atlantic City, Ocean City, and Cape May, and the Jersey Shore in general, seaside booksellers say.

But just about everybody who walks through the door of a bookstore wants The Fault in Our Stars, which hit the stands in January 2012 and debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

Young, old, women, even a few men are grabbing the newly released paperback version and sometimes ask for it in hardback. And then there are the legions downloading it on their Kindles or other reading devices.

The film version opened this year at No. 1 at the box office, and Green was included this year on Time magazine's list of 100 most influential people.

And though Kindles have created a new kind of business speed bump for independent booksellers - especially those that operate in places that turn into veritable ghost towns six months out of the year - most along the Shore say they are steadfastly holding their own by catering to a vacation crowd that gets to their destination and wants to relax with a good book or two.

"It is kind of a phenomenon that happens every summer. Everyone gets here and they all seem to want to read the same thing at the same time," said Rosalyn Lifshin, who with Nancy Miller owns Sun Rose Words & Music, an Ocean City staple on Asbury Avenue for more than 40 years.

Lifshin, who's owned the store since 1998, said besides the hot read every summer - over four decades it's gone from Erich Segal's Love Story to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series - local-interest books were always popular.

Sun Rose recently hosted a signing by Philadelphia author Jane Kelly, whose new book, Missing You in Atlantic City, is a novel in her Meg Daniels mystery series. It follows local favorite Killing Time in Ocean City.

Lifshin always keeps Killing Time in stock, as well as books by local husband-and-wife writing team Fred and Susan Miller. They've written nine books on Ocean City history; their latest, Ocean City Hotels, is about the development of hotels between the late 1800s and the mid-1950s.

That same sort of enthusiasm for beach days past is what keeps Patrick Young hopping at the Cape Atlantic Book Co. in Cape May. History is de rigueur in this beach town, where the main draw is the nation's largest collection of preserved Victorian architecture.

Visitors to Cape May want to soak up everything about the place and often head to the store's wide selection of books by Craig McManus, author of three volumes of Ghosts of Cape May and the comprehensive 400 Years of Ghosts in Cape May, Young said.

But still, the most requested books are hot-for-the-season escapist novels such as The Fault, or Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, a hot beach read from a few summers ago now out in paperback and attracting new legions from the beach-towel brigade.

"They come looking for something they don't have to think about, that is just nice to just sit on the beach and read," said Young, who has operated his store on Cape May's Washington Street Mall for three years.

Kieran Linnane, owner of Hooked on Books on Pacific Avenue in Wildwood, agrees.

"They're on vacation, so they finally have time to read, and they want to pick up a book that everyone is talking about," said Linnane, who has operated his store for 24 years, offering new and used books.

Linnane said no one knows which books will emerge as a popular read in a given summer, or why they ultimately do. But the popularity of The Fault has sparked interest in Green's other works, including Will Grayson, Will Grayson, almost to the point where he can't keep them in stock.

"I think sometimes it's marketing . . . there could be a movie based on the book coming out, like in the case of If I Stay by Gayle Forman, for example. They see the movie trailer on television, so they want to check it out," Linnane said.

That may be true, says Julianna Doll, owner of the Bookworm in Surf City on Long Beach Island, who specializes in helping customers pick out just the right book.

Doll has operated her store for 15 years and annually makes specific recommendations to her customers. Despite all the interest in the Green novels, her pick for the summer is a nonfiction book, The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, which focuses on the backstory of the University of Washington's 1936 eight-oar crew team and their epic quest for Olympic gold.

"I don't know why a specific book becomes popular. Maybe it's marketing," Doll said. "Maybe it's people making recommendations to other people."


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jurgo@phillynews.com

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