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Close to Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916
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Close to Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  3,331 Ratings  ·  479 Reviews
Combining rich historical detail and a harrowing, pulse-pounding narrative, Close to Shore brilliantly re-creates the summer of 1916, when a rogue Great White shark attacked swimmers along the New Jersey shore, triggering mass hysteria and launching the most extensive shark hunt in history.

During the summer before the United States entered World War I, when ocean swimming
Paperback, 336 pages
Published May 21st 2002 by Broadway Books (first published January 1st 2001)
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Community Reviews

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in 1916, fish eat you!!

every august, i get totally amped for shark week. and yet, i have not seen jaws since i was seven. (although i have seen open water both one and two. skip the second one - it is a complete waste of time). but the events in this book are the ones that inspired the movie jaws, so it is particularly awesome.


sharks are the coolest of all apex predators. they will just bump you with their nose to see what you a
Nicholas Sparks
Jan 12, 2016 Nicholas Sparks rated it it was amazing
The true story of the New Jersey shark attacks by a rogue Great White that triggered mass hysteria and launched the most extensive shark hunt in history—these events eventually inspired the movie JAWS.
'Aussie Rick'
Jul 25, 2014 'Aussie Rick' rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I have just finished reading Close to Shore, it took just two days to read which is an indication of how good the story is and not that it's a short book. The author, Michael Capuzzo tells the horrifying story of how a rogue shark took a number of innocent lives in the United States back in 1916. The narrative runs for 298 pages and although it may appear to start off sluggish when the book begins with the lead up to the first attack it becomes hard to put down.

Some reviews have mentioned that t
Aug 30, 2015 GoldGato rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These were the shark attacks which inspired JAWS. Taking place in 1916, the sudden violence shocked the East Coast of America especially since some of the victims were killed in a creek. A creek!

It was still a time of innocence. Men wore bathing suits which covered the chest while women had to adhere to beach regulations requiring modesty and, preferably, full-length bathing outfits. But times were a-changing, because for the first time in its young history, the United States had its first gener
Jubilation Lee
I don’t care what my book club said about this being boring, or over-written, or stilted, or containing information no one cares about.

I loved it.

The author (who clearly was paid by the word, if his extensive "sharks-eye view" vignettes are anything to go by) does a fantastic job of setting you in the mindset of the people of the time period, when mankind had Conquered the Natural World through Science. Ocean swimming had just started taking off—those rebellious kids, going into the water in s
Apr 04, 2009 Eric_W rated it really liked it
What makes this book particularly interesting is the period detail: the mores, the social habits, life ( at least along the eastern seaboard among the fairly wealthy.) The author follows the shark as it meanders up the coast ( something that annoyed me was attribution of motivation to the shark, but a minor quibble) and the reactions from the local populace (the general feeling was that the attacks were the work of killer whales and that sharks did not attack people.)

Shark attacks began to occur
Sep 26, 2015 Wendy rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
There were certain aspects of this that I really enjoyed. The context in the first few chapters is wonderful--really helped set up just what a shock such violent shark attacks would have been at that time. Also at the beginning, the information on great white shark biology and behavior was really interesting. However, this 'stage-setting' and random tidbits got very, very annoying as the book stretched on, partly because it began to meander farther and farther away from the subject of the book, ...more
Wayne Barrett
The true story of the first official recording of a person being killed by a shark in the U.S.
This shark, a Great White, was considered a serial killer of its kind. The events of the shark attacks that took place off the Jersey shore in 1916 was the basis for Benchley's 'Jaws'.
This was not only a tale of the sad and gruesome killings of man by possibly natures most proficient killing machine but it was also a lesson in history. There were some very interesting details about life during that peri
Aug 16, 2016 Julia rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction, 2016

The shark attacks that inspired the first summer blockbuster

I wasn't sure how to feel about this at first. At times, this got really dense about things that seemed unnecessary to the story. There were extensive histories of people involved with the attacks and some buildings/institutions on the coasts, and it honestly felt descriptive to a fault sometimes. But once the momentum of the attacks got started, there was less time for descriptions and more action narrations and ACTUAL SCIENCE! Wow!
May 13, 2016 Trin rated it it was ok
A decent but unspectacular account of the 1916 shark attacks off the Jersey Shore, which served as the inspiration for Jaws. The book is slow to get going as Capuzzo attempts to paint a picture of life in the Eastern United States in the teens, a task with which I felt he had only limited success. Clearly a lot of research went into this account, and Capuzzo provides a lot of detail, but he never really makes the past come alive like, for example, E.L. Doctorow does in Ragtime. Neither are th ...more
Oct 03, 2015 Tasha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating read not only about sharks and shark attacks but definitely about the history of the time as well. I loved all the details given about the early 1900s, it really set the scene for the attacks and the response of the times. I never really gave much thought to swimming out in the sea and the sharks, I usually worry about riptides and undertows, but I will never look out to the sea in the same way again. 5 stars for a well-told story rich in historical details and full of nail-bitting ...more
Joanne Moyer
“It's the July 4th Holiday. Thousands of people are fleeing the heat of the cities for the coolness of the ocean, unaware that a great white shark is cruising the shoreline hunting for food.

Sound familiar?

Before you cue the music, this is the real story. This was July of 1916, an age when people were just starting to enjoy 'ocean bathing' in bathing suits that were measured on the beaches to be sure they weren't too short and exposing too much flesh. The Jersey Shore had long been a place of ref
Linda Lipko
Jul 30, 2016 Linda Lipko rated it really liked it
Excellently written, this page turner was well worth the time spent reading. I was particularly drawn to it because the New Jersey shore is approximately a two hour drive from where I live, and it contains many good memories of riding the waves, tasting the salt water for the first time, the sounds and smells of the boardwalk, and wonderful family vacations.

During the summer of 1916, when vacationing at the "shore" became a new experience, a rouge shark thrown out of the gulf stream into the Atl
Apr 12, 2009 Eric rated it liked it
An exhaustively researched reconstruction of the 1916 Jersey Shore shark attacks that served as the basis for Jaws, Michael Capuzzo's Close to Shore is a tremendous achievement of historical journalism that is somewhat undermined by its stiflingly repetitive narrative style. Reading Capuzzo's "Sources and Acknowledgements" drives home his formidable journalistic chops. The guy, if he's too be believed (and I think he is), read every page of the Penn University student newspaper during the years ...more
A fascinating study of a series of shark attacks that occurred off the Jersey Shore in 1916. There's enough action and tension in this narrative to satisfy fans of "Jaws," but Capuzzo's book is almost more interesting for his thorough description of the social mores of the time -- swimming and sunbathing on beaches was quite a new fad. I also found it interesting because of the location; one of the victims lived in a house in Philadelphia not four blocks from where I live now. My only wish is th ...more
Jim Dooley
Aug 12, 2016 Jim Dooley rated it really liked it
An item for the summer reading shelf, especially appropriate for those who loved JAWS.

Here is the grand-daddy of the shark attack genre. This is a non-fiction account of a series of shark incidents that happened over a two-week period in July of 1916. Multiple attacks and deaths occurred along the New Jersey and New York shores, and the country shifted from a general belief that sharks are essentially cowardly creatures to beaches emptying in favor of a vacation in the mountains.

In addition to


In celebration of the most wonderful week of the year I usually pledge to read at least one shark-themed book. Here's the book I chose for 2016. I've actually been meaning to read Close to the Shore for years now, so better late than never. The events of 1916 shark attacks at the New Jorsey shoreline apparently inspired Peter Benchley's famous Jaws and the subsequent movie, and I can see how. There numerous parallels: the dependent on summer tourism seaside towns, the open beach
Jun 09, 2015 Paul rated it really liked it
The true story in this book was the basis for the movie Jaws. It is articulately but floridly written, and the first 80-some pages are all tedious description of anything tangentially connected to the shark attacks. The rest of the book, while still offering incursions into anything remotely related to the shark incidents--such as lengthy descriptions of the hotels in the town where the first attacks occurred--reads quite well. After the first 80 pages, the story picks up, relating the four deat ...more
Jeremy Forstadt
Jul 03, 2012 Jeremy Forstadt rated it liked it
"The most frightening animal on earth"

Michael Capuzzo has the soul of a novelist; this is not only evident in the dramatic episode which forms the prologue of CLOSE TO SHORE, but also in the flowery and descriptive narrative which occurs in abundance throughout the rest of the book. Based around (and one might be tempted at times to add "loosely" here) a series of shark attacks which plagued the New Jersey shoreline in the summer of 1916, CLOSE TO SHORE is as much a history of the Edwardian Era
Jul 21, 2015 Bruce rated it liked it
Michael Capuzzo hard at work
Since this doesn't rise to the level of Sherman's collected wisdom, I can really only offer up 2 1/2 stars. This was a breeze to read (once getting past the author's tendency toward hyperbole and nonfictional purple prose), but is a bit tricky to review in light of how derivative it is. There's no way to shake the sense that this entire book has been done before, and better.

Desperately seeking a riveting nonfiction adventure that will teach you a little something about great white sharks and a s
Bryce Holt
I like era stories; when the spirit of a times is observed in relation to an overwhelming and seemingly daunting struggle (whether it be terror, technology or societal growing pains...). That said, when I checked out this audiobook from the library, I returned it within two days.

Someone else I know said they loved this book and thought I was crazy for not giving it more of a chance, but what a disappointment. Not quite to the level where it is 1 star trash (that is a place where Clive Cussler a
Mar 05, 2008 stephanie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone who wants good cultural history and is willing to ignore obvious bio falsities
Recommended to stephanie by: leigh.
sharks and history and the jersey shore.

yeah, so. it's an excellent account of america on the east coast during the summer of 1916.

it totally bites ass as a story of sharks. the biology is all wrong, the "theory" he puts forth as he writes from the perspective of the shark, who was probably born off montauk in 1908 (WTF?!), just makes me cringe. it's also telling how he really only likes this one shark dude, burgess, and uses him the most. because man, talk about loads of conflicting evidence
Jul 27, 2016 Jan rated it it was amazing
Having spent many summers swimming in the ocean, I have a fascination with sharks, this book was a natural for me. In fact, just as I was finishing the book, a shark was sighted at the public beach in Cayucos, CA, my old stomping grounds. The author's meticulous research made the juxtaposition of shark biology with the emergence of ocean swimming (and the monitoring of women's swimwear) in the early 20th century an interesting story all the way through. The author also delves into the mores of t ...more
Mar 16, 2015 Donna rated it really liked it
Since I just moved from North Jersey to South Jersey and being familiar with the area I had to know this story. I didn’t see the movie Jaws….I am a wimp and can’t handle scary movies and honestly I almost had to put this one down. My imagination goes wild and I’m easily terrified. Thankfully the info about how the shark’s biology or mind works helped keep me on track. I did find that very interesting.

It was a bit frustrating for me to read how some of the scientists and expert types were so su
Oct 12, 2009 Tara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This book was a thrilling read. The author had some good subject matter to work with -- a terrifying string of fatal shark attacks along the New Jersey shore in the early 20th century -- but even so, he wrote it very well. It's the sort of story that you read with partial horror and partial fascination, and the sensational nature of the events makes it hard to look away. If it were fiction, it wouldn't be the least bit believable.

Part of the story revolves around the unsettled debate over exact
Mar 23, 2011 Caroline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
I zipped through this in less than a day, I couldn't put it down - which I guess is the mark of a good book. It's about the 1916 shark attacks off the coast of New Jersey that gripped the entire United States and were the inspiration for Peter Benchley's Jaws. It starts quite slowly, more than a quarter of the book goes by before the first attack, but it's very good at 'setting the scene', so to speak. The actual exploration of the attacks is very well-written, dramatic and graphic, but it works ...more
Oct 17, 2015 Elizabeth☮ rated it really liked it
Each time I read a description of an impending shark attack, the music from Jaws played in my head. Get out of the water!!

But this is so much more than a shark tale. It is a slice of American history at a time when the U.S. was changing. There is lots of historical context to what is happening along the East coast (why so many people at the beach?).

I really liked the forward momentum of this one. It is a good summer read (as long as you stay out of the water).
David Longo
Aug 29, 2016 David Longo rated it it was amazing
"Close to Shore" is a quick, easy and immensely enjoyable read. It is a frightening and remarkable tale of a shark---perhaps a displaced and deranged great white---that terrorized the northern Jersey Shore in the summer of 1916, killing five unsuspecting bathers along the way. Written by Michael Capuzzo, this piece of non-fiction does not mince words and flows more like a grizzly Stephen King novel than a work of history. The history itself inspired Peter Benchley to write "Jaws." An avid reader ...more
Cori Holmberg
Jul 12, 2015 Cori Holmberg rated it it was amazing
This historical account of the 1916 shark attacks off the New Jersey coast was so enthraling and filled with suspense. I have heard of these shark attacks in brief references to Peter Benchley's best-selling novel "Jaws". As it was the inspiration for his story about a rogue man-eating great white shark. As a person who has always loved sharks and never understood why people fear them so much, this book reopens (but does not prove the theory) of a rogue man-eater. I mostly appreciated the author ...more
Dec 08, 2011 Walter rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed the book. Born and raised in NJ I am familiar with the towns mentioned in the book as well as Matawan Creek and this just added too the drama! I really felt for the victims and their families. Seeing the creek from the Garden State Parkway it's hard to believe the shark swam so far inland to where the attacks occurred!
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Characters 2 4 Oct 30, 2015 11:01AM  
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Michael Capuzzo is a syndicated animal columnist and author of "Wild Things". Formerly a feature writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Miami Herald, Capuzzo has written for Esquire, Life, and Sports Illustrated. His numerous awards include the National Headliner Award and his animal stories have been honored by the ASPCA and American Humane Association. He lives in Wenonah, New Jersey.

A four-ti
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“Exactly what the great white eats in an emergency is a mystery ichthyologists solved by the late twentieth century after decades of investigation: whatever it wishes.” 1 likes
“If any man in the Gilded Age could best the shark, it would be a man who possessed Vanderbilt's wealth and Roosevelt's vigor and an unsurpassed reputation for prowess at sea. Such a man was Hermann Oelrichs.” 0 likes
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