Jaws: A Novel by Peter Benchley:
Jaws just celebrated its 40th anniversary, and it’s as terrifying now as it was back in 1974. The book is darker than the movie, and worth picking up again for a summertime read. Carrie just spent a weekend devouring it, fascinated by descriptions of the Hamptons in the ‘70’s. Amity is a fictional version of East Hampton, and there are points where the characters hop over to Southampton without a problem, which could never happen with traffic these days! It’s almost worth reading just to compare the Hamptons in the ‘70s with the Hamptons of today.
A Widow for One Year by John Irving:
Published in 1988, this bestseller opens in Sagaponack in the summer of 1958, and follows the main character, Ruth Cole, for the next 37 years as she deals with the fallout from her parents’ affairs, their divorce and Ruth’s subsequent abandonment by her mother. Critically acclaimed, Ruth’s story unfolds in three parts. The first section, set in Sagaponack, is widely considered to be the strongest section of the book and was the basis for the 2004 movie The Door in the Floor.
Philistines at the Hedgerow: Passion and Property in the Hamptons by Steven Gaines:
This book is an amazing social history of the Hamptons—non-fiction that reads like fiction. It’s a perfect blend of gossip mixed with history. It begins in 1635 with Lion Gardiner’s pact with the Wyandach and continues through the excess of the late nineties. Steven Gaines is an accomplished author, and you don’t need first-hand familiarity with the Hamptons to enjoy this book.
Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead:
Published in 2009, this book takes place in Sag Harbor in the summer of 1985. It’s an autobiographical novel based on the author’s childhood summers spent there in Azurest, an African-American enclave within Sag Harbor. The plot—what there is of it, because its mostly a description of a series of events showing how Benji spends his summer—is not based on real events, but you’ll get a real sense of Sag Harbor, because as the author says, “the streets and houses are all real.” It’s great writing, and perfectly evokes the lazy teenage days of summer spent with friends on the brink of adulthood. Children of the 80s will also appreciate the pop culture references. Colson Whitehead’s new book, The Underground Railroad, is Oprah’s August book club pick.
Amagansett by Mark Mills:
Amagansett is a beautifully written mystery that features amazing 1947 Hamptons ambiance. You could apply the word elegant to every aspect of this book, from the setting to the writing itself, and if that wasn’t enough to keep you hooked, the mystery of who killed wealthy and connected Lillian Wallace will keep you reading to the end.
The Summer We Read Gatsby: A Novel by Danielle Ganek:
Two estranged half-sisters inherit a Southampton cottage from their aunt. Her will specifies that the girls should “seek a thing of utmost value” inside the house, and the mystery of what that thing could be is what pulls the story along. Descriptions of parties and glamour give this book real Hamptons authenticity as the sisters search for fortune but find love instead.
Something Borrowed: A Novel by Emily Giffin:
This is a book about disloyalty and infidelity, with a unique slant: it isn’t told by the wronged person. Instead, Rachel, the main character, is the one who sleeps with her best friend’s fiance and yet you’ll still find yourself rooting for the cheaters to get together. Set in Manhattan and a summer share house in the Hamptons, it’s a fun summer read that dips below the surface and will have you thinking about friendship and love even after you’ve finished.
Lapham Rising: A Novel by Roger Rosenblatt:
Set in Quogue, this is a humorous view of two neighbors battling over the construction of a McMansion. It takes place during a single day as the main character, Harry March, attempts to halt construction of the house. Roger Rosenblatt is a Quogue resident, and his attention to local detail shows.
If You Left by Ashley Prentice Norton:
Althea, the main character, struggles with bipolar disorder and has reached a crossroads in her marriage and her life. Called “unflinching” and “unsentimental”, it’s a portrayal of a woman ruled by her illness and her codependent relationship with her husband. Their home in East Hampton becomes a source of conflict, offering authentic depictions of Hamptons living.
Rules of Summer by Joanna Philbin:
This upstairs-downstairs teen book follows Rory during the summer she lives with her aunt, a housekeeper for a wealthy East Hampton family. Rory befriends Isabel, the daughter of her aunt’s employer, and the novel details their quest for love and adventure and other typical teenage summer pursuits.
The Au Pairs by Melissa de la Cruz:
A fun summer teen read about three girls who share au pair duties for a Hamptons family one summer. One reviewer called it The Nanny Diaries meets Gossip Girl, and that pretty much sums it up.
Beach Road by James Patterson:
Fans of James Patterson will love this quick-moving murder investigation set in East Hampton. You won’t come away with much more than a broad-strokes view of the Hamptons, but it’s worth tossing in your beach bag for a fun read during an afternoon at the beach.
Written by James Brady, a longtime resident of East Hampton who lived on Further Lane, this book offers a true insider’s view of the Hamptons. Local hotspots are showcased, and actual celebrities make cameos. This is the first of three books featuring Beecher Stowe (a columnist at the real-life Parade magazine) and Lady Alix Dunraven. Shelve these under beach reads: they’re quick-moving plots that are mainly vehicles to showcase the fabulous setting.
Gin Lane by James Brady:
Written in 77 days, critics think this book is the lightest of the three books on plot, but it’s a fun read offering a definite insider’s eye of the Hamptons. Read this for the local gossip and behind-the-scenes flavor.
The House That Ate the Hamptons: A Novel of Lily Pond Lane by James Brady:
Inspired by the real-life controversy surrounding the construction of billionaire Ira Rennert’s sprawling Sagaponack mansion, look for even more thinly-veiled celebrities to make their appearance in this book.