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Asbury Park Zest Editor’s Summer Reads

If you’re like me, you’ve been fantasizing about that special slightly overcast breezy summer day on the beach with not much more than a cold drink, a comfy beach chair, and a book that will transport you to another time and place. If you don’t yet have a title in mind, here are some choices you may not have already considered.

Have you heard about the new mini-library on the corner of Cookman and Grand aves? The Little Free Library welcomes you to stop by and either pick up a book or drop one off.

Lovingly constructed by resident Brian Watkins, he used pieces of the demolished Charms building on Heck St and Monroe Ave, as well as the door from a house torn down on Fourth Ave. You may recognize the design borrowed from the old Palace Amusements building on Cookman Ave.

Jan Sparrow, owner of the Cookman Ave’s words! bookstore, offers some suggestions for this rainbow enlightened list as well.

“What better time to read, on a beach, on vacation, on long summer nights with lots of remaining daylight?” she asks. “(There are) lots of re-runs, so television is not an option,” she quips. “But reading always is."


Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

“A woman ahead of her time, social issues, some romance thrown in and you can always catch the movie on a hot humid day,” suggests Sparrow.

My choice is her sister Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. The debate about which Brontë sister crafted the best tale isn’t news. Although Wuthering Heights was considered controversial because it rebelled against the Victorian ideals of religion, gender inequality and morality, Jane Eyre also pushed the limits of convention. In the preface, Brontë wrote, "conventionality is not morality" and "self-righteousness is not religion." Enough said.


E2: Nine Do-it-Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality

by Pam Grout

This book is for everyone, but especially those who feel stuck, depressed, hopeless, helpless, forever hungry or disconnected. Consider it a lab manual for reshaping your life to your own liking. Grout, the author of 16 books as well as and The Huffington Post, is funny, smart and fearless. If you’re outlook doesn’t change after reading it and actually doing the experiments, I want to know.


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Sparrow recommends this 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner. “It’s our best-selling book at words! Bookstore,” she says. “It’s the story of a French girl and a German young man, both caught up in WWII. It’s a beautifully written page-turner that you just don’t want to end. It’s just been optioned for a movie!”


Both Ends of the Rainbow: Lomilomi aHealing Journey by Gloria Ku'uleialoha Coppola

Step into the Hawaiian culture and visit the island of rainbows! Years before her pen touched her writing pad or ever stepping foot in her eventual healing destination of Hawaii, Coppola was spiritually informed that she would write this book. She began writing about her recovery process after the tragic death of her husband, but knew the focus would shift. Years later she would recover from a nearly deadly car crash. The former owner of the Garden State Center for Holistic Healthcare, a massage and bodywork school in Lakewood, which closed in the ‘90s, has been on a perpetual healing journey you’ll want to follow whether or not you’re interesting in bodywork. It’s the kind of book that takes you places you might never go otherwise.

Local Legends

Legendary Locals of Asbury Park

by Tom Chesek

If you’re hip on local history, this beach read is a must. Chesek, who has enjoyed a long and arduous writing career, says, “I'd characterize it more as excellent bathroom reading.” But no matter where you read it, you will find that Chesek, who has been the writer-in-residence at the historic Stephen Crane House in Asbury Park for the past four years, captures the rich history and magical essence of where the city meets the sea, and, Chesek writes, the “parade of personalities, from the visionaries who challenged nature to the true believers who sought, against tremendous odds, to make a year-round life in this city of summers.”

Young Adult

Tiger Eyes

by Judy Blume

Blume’s book published in 2014 is about a girl named Davey Wexler, whose father has been shot in an Atlantic City 7-11. Davey, who moves to New Mexico to recover near family members, is reminiscent of earlier characters faced with loneliness and something major to be sad about. It’s my 12-year-old daughter’s favorite book so far, the one I believe made her a reader for life.

For Children

The Rainbow Fish

by Marcus Pfister

Not easily forgotten for its beautiful story as well as the equally brilliant illustrations, this is a book important for every child’s collection. The life lessons about acceptance, sharing and happiness are delivered with a spoonful of sugar. I happily read this book to my children when they were little until I was rainbow blind.

For New Readers


by John Green

Sparrow says, “Even though he is basically a young adult author, all of (Green’s) books are complex, imminently readable and contain many wonderful life lessons. All are page-turners and can keep the newest readers of any age excited about picking up a book.”


Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

This National Book Award winner is the memoir of a young girl growing up in the south and New York during the ‘60s, says Sparrow, and “is written entirely in stunning verse.” Memoir is my absolutely favorite genre. Sparrow suggests it as the top choice for families to read together and discuss “how grit and resilience can pay off.”

True Story

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

This 2010 biography is still on the Best Seller list. It reads like an exciting novel, according to Sparrow, “and tells the story of how the cells of a poor black woman, Henrietta Lacks, were harvested without her knowledge, bought and sold billions of times and have been continuously used for medical research, etc. And yet, her family is still poor and lacks medical insurance,” she says. “An amazing story!”

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