Before You Order That Book, Read This…
You step inside and are greeted by cool air as the bell jangles on the door behind you. Before you, a whole new world opens up, the possibility of “what if”, endless. Here, you can become anything you want, do anything your heart desires—learn Mandarin, become an award-winning chef, meet a celebrity, get whisked to a faraway land, or be transported back in time. You could even fall in love.
Welcome to the world of independent bookstores.
“Indies” as they’re affectionately known, are small, independently owned bookshops, not affiliated with the Hungry Hungry Hippos of the book world (you know who I’m talking about). Instead, they’re owned by local book-loving curators whose livelihoods exist to put books in the hands of fellow community members. They are, without a doubt, the best source for book recommendations.
Independent bookshops can be found along the southern Jersey shore in every town, providing customers with a cozy venue to escape reality and discover new worlds. It’s here where we flock to find our next beach read when we finish one mid-vacation. Where we can learn about the treasures we find on the beach or discover local authors, writing about topics specific to the shore. Indies contribute to the unique culture of their hometowns by bringing readers, authors, and subject-matter enthusiasts together, and providing an interactive book-buying experience (not available on Amazon). In addition to books, many shops offer gifts, refreshments, or other items for sale and feature events such as book signings, readings, and other literary-inspired activities.
So, before you pack your beach bag with Amazon-issued books, plan to spend some time visiting one of the indies in your destination town, where you’ll get to pick up a book, feel it in your hands, flip to the back to read a description. You can ask the owner about it, get an honest review, perhaps purchase a signed copy.
If you’re really lucky, you may even get to meet the author.
Here is our list of locally owned indie bookstores along the Jersey cape.
Sun Rose Words and Music (756 Asbury Avenue)
Visiting Sun Rose Books Words and Music is as pleasant an experience as its name sounds. Their location on Asbury Avenue makes it a perfect place to stop in for a new book while strollling the Avenue. In addition to books, they feature computer and art supplies, greeting cards, and gifts. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, they will be happy to help you place a special order. They offer teacher and military discounts and have a special section where they feature the works of local writers. Visit their website: HOME | sunrosebooks
Sea Isle City
The Book Nook (3700 Boardwalk, Sea Isle City)
The Book Nook’s stroll-off-the-beach promenade location is perfect for Sea Isle beach readers who finish a book and want more. It’s owned by Dalrymples, the Sea Isle mainstay shop for all things beach-essential. Located in the center of Sea Isle at the corner of Pleasure and JFK Boulevard, Dalrymples offers aisles of books in addition to gifts, greeting cards, beach toys, sunscreen, other health and beauty items and much more. They also carry beautiful prints and ornaments by local artist and photographer, Katie Dalrymple.
You can connect with the Book Nook through their Facebook page at: The Book Nook | Sea Isle City NJ | Facebook
Beach Bound Books (2123 Dune Dr, Avalon)
You may remember the original Stone Harbor Book Shop, which served the Stone Harbor community for years. In 2022, it moved to Avalon under a new name, Beach Bound Books—a perfect name for a seaside indie. Beach Bound Books carries fiction and non-fiction books including many new releases and best sellers. They also offer greeting cards, puzzles, and a large selection of Melissa and Doug toys. It has something for everyone. You can connect with Beach Bound Books through their Facebook page at: Beach Bound Books / Stone Harbor Book Shop | Avalon NJ | Facebook
Barrier Island Books and Art (9501 3rd Avenue, Stone Harbor) and (479 West Perry Street, West Cape May)
Barrier Island Books and Art is a family-owned and operated bookstore featuring new and used fiction and non-fiction books. In addition to being stacked to the ceiling with great reads, this cool, eclectic shop offers local artwork, vintage items, and unique gifts. With two great locations – Stone Harbor and West Cape May—they’re open throughout the year and often run specials.You can connect with Barrier Island Books and Art through their Facebook page at: Barrier Island Books & Art | Stone Harbor NJ | Facebook
Hooked on Books (3405 Pacific Avenue, Wildwood)
You can visit their website at: Hooked on Books Wildwood New Jersey
Hooked on Books is located on the corner of Oak and Pacific Avenues, two blocks from the boardwalk. They carry a large variety of fiction and non-fiction books. Although their primary focus is on second-hand books, they do carry a selection of “just-released” titles, brand new and at a discounted price. This is a summer seasonal shop, open from May – September and they run specials and host events throughout the summer.
Cape Atlantic Book Company (421 Washington Street Mall, Cape May)
Cape Atlantic Book Company is located in the heart of Washington Street Mall, inside City Center Mall at the top of the escalator. They are a full-service independent bookstore featuring a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction books, as well as games and puzzles. They carry collections from local artists and authors as well as many best-sellers, children’s books, and books for every interest.
You can connect with Cape Atlantic Book Company through their Facebook page at: Cape Atlantic Book Company | Cape May NJ | Facebook