Book Review: The Jersey Shore

Jen A. Miller. The Jersey Shore: Atlantic City to Cape May. Second Edition. Woodstock, Vermont: The Countryman Press, 2011. 207 pages.

The phrase “Jersey Shore” is heard a lot these days, but mostly for the wrong reasons–shorthand for the kind of low-class self-indulgent behavior that will land you a gig on an MTV reality show or hosting a Vegas nightclub. With this book, Jen A. Miller reminds us that the real Jersey Shore is actually a pretty fun section of the Atlantic shoreline for vacations for people of all ages.

The book’s amply illustrated in color, with both historical and present-day photographs. The frontispiece is a great shot of the Trump Taj Mahal and Steel Pier just after dawn. There are also plenty of maps, something that’s helpful even in the age of GPS–it’s nice to be able to get your bearings while reading about the sights.

THE JERSEY SHORE is organized into six chapters, covering Atlantic City and Brigantine/Downbeach; Ocean City, also including Somers Point; Sea Isle City, with Strathmere; Avalon and Stone Harbor; The Wildwoods; and Cape May. Each has plenty of information about the highlights in lodging, dining, shopping, nightlife, and beach-going.

It’s obvious that Miller has a deep love for the area she’s guiding the reader through: at several points in the book, she shares her own Jersey shore stories, going back to her childhood, which helps the reader understand Miller’s depth of knowledge and appreciate where she’s coming from. This isn’t someone who got handed an assignment, did some Google Fu, and tuned in a manuscript; the Jersey Shore has been a big part of Miller’s life for years. That makes for a friendly, conversational guidebook that will point readers to many of the area’s gems.

The best part about this guide is that it makes the South Jersey Shore, which is a bit un-user-friendly, accessible to anyone. Because it doesn’t have the same level of visitation as Vegas, there are far fewer places to get good information about the area’s amenities for tourists. THE JERSEY SHORE provides plenty of advice on where to stay–even how to best contact realtors for towns where house rentals make more sense than motels or hotels–and every other aspect of a vacation down the shore. There are even very helpful itineraries for each city, and plenty of options for people in every age range.

If you want to spend some time down the shore this summer and don’t have decades of family tradition and insider knowledge to draw on, THE JERSEY SHORE will make you feel like an old-timer.

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