The best books on New Jersey history

Joseph G. Bilby Author Of The Rise and Fall of the Ku Klux Klan in New Jersey
By Joseph G. Bilby

Who am I?

I grew up in New Jersey and my paternal ancestors have lived here since 1732. My ancestors served in the Civil War, my father served in World War II and I also served in the military. From an early age, I wanted to be a writer, and that ambition, as well as my experience as an army officer in the Vietnam War, provided the sparks that ignited my writing career.


I wrote...

The Rise and Fall of the Ku Klux Klan in New Jersey

By Joseph G. Bilby, Harry Ziegler,

Book cover of The Rise and Fall of the Ku Klux Klan in New Jersey

What is my book about?

The book traces how the social dysfunction that followed World War I merged with myths of the Civil War and Reconstruction and gave rise to a new Ku Klux Klan with a nationwide presence. It specifically traces the unlikely story of the 1920s Klan in New Jersey and the peculiar characters who orchestrated its rise, and whose blundering led to its fall.

The books I picked & why

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This is New Jersey from High Point to Cape May

By John T. Cunningham,

Book cover of This is New Jersey from High Point to Cape May

Why this book?

John Cunningham Was a journalist who became a historian -- and a great one. The World War II veteran and Newark Evening News columnist wrote innumerable books about his native state, and they were all great. Perhaps his most significant contribution to the state’s story was This is New Jersey, a classic which has remained in print since its initial publication in 1953.

Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey

By Henry Charlton Beck,

Book cover of Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey

Why this book?

Folklore is not history, nor is history folklore, but they often intersect. Henry Charlton Beck, a journalist who became an Episcopal priest and who wrote a series of New Jersey folklife classics, began his career with this volume, stories of abandoned iron forges, villages, and forgotten legends in the state’s iconic Pinelands. Rutgers University Press reprinted Beck’s books, beginning with this book in 1961.

Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City

By Nelson Johnson,

Book cover of Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City

Why this book?

Most people were drawn to this work because of the HBO television series of the same name. While there was, to be kind, a great deal of exaggeration in the series, Johnson’s thorough research for the book provides an accurate and fascinating account of the history of Atlantic City and its legendary political boss Enoch “Nucky” Johnson.

New Jersey and the Rebellion: A History of the Services of the Troops and People of New Jersey in Aid of the Union Cause

By John Young Foster,

Book cover of New Jersey and the Rebellion: A History of the Services of the Troops and People of New Jersey in Aid of the Union Cause

Why this book?

There are a lot of legends regarding New Jersey and its role in the Civil War, including bogus stories that the state was considering joining the Confederacy. This book was the first attempt at relating the actual story of the state and the war. While it can be criticized in some respects, it is largely correct, and details the history of each of New Jersey’s units in the conflict. It is an invaluable starting point and a resource for anyone writing about the state and its role in the Civil War.

Encyclopedia of New Jersey

By Maxine N. Lurie (editor), Marc Mappen (editor),

Book cover of Encyclopedia of New Jersey

Why this book?

The ultimate New Jersey reference book. This publication is, without doubt, an essential title on the bookshelf of any New Jersey oriented author. With over 3,000 articles by experts in their fields of study, supplemented by illustrations and maps, it tells a comprehensive story of the state, including that it was the site of the first intercollegiate football game, and the first vote cast by an African American. If you have a question on New Jersey, you need this book, which has been cited as an outstanding reference work by the New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in New Jersey, political corruption, and the War of 1812?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about New Jersey, political corruption, and the War of 1812.

New Jersey Explore 38 books about New Jersey
Political Corruption Explore 22 books about political corruption
The War Of 1812 Explore 37 books about the War of 1812

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