Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Sag Harbor” as Want to Read:
Sag Harbor
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Sag Harbor

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  6,360 ratings  ·  1,066 reviews
The warm, funny, and supremely original new novel from one of the most acclaimed writers in America

The year is 1985. Benji Cooper is one of the only black students at an elite prep school in Manhattan. He spends his falls and winters going to roller-disco bar mitzvahs, playing too much Dungeons and Dragons, and trying to catch glimpses of nudity on late-night cable TV. Aft
Hardcover, First Edition, 273 pages
Published April 28th 2009 by Doubleday (first published 2009)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.47  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,360 ratings  ·  1,066 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Sag Harbor
Mar 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Colson Whitehead is one shit-describin' motherfucker.
Glenn Sumi
Jul 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was the perfect book to read in late summer, as well as a nice introduction** to the writing of Colson Whitehead. It’s more like a 4.5 star book, but I’m rounding up because the writing is so good and the author captures this era so effectively. I’m definitely going to read more by him.

It’s the summer of 1985 and 15-year-old Benji is, as usual, at his family’s place on the eponymous Sag Harbor, a small village in the Hamptons populated during the season by upper-middle class, professional A
The first time I read this book shortly after publication in 2009 I didn’t like anything about it. I didn’t understand Whitehead’s air of casual privilege. I reread it at the end of 2017 because a review by Brandon Harris in the New York Review of Books (Dec 7, 2017) about James McBride’s new collection of short stories, Five-Carat Soul, mentions Sag Harbor as “ravishing.” What did I miss?

The short answer is that I missed everything. But without going back to interrogate that 9-year-ago self, I
Brown Girl Reading
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of coming to age stories!
My real rating is 4,5 stars. Excellent read! The only thing that prevents me from giving this book 5 stars is the ending. However, this book has so much going for it and I strongly recommend it. Click the link to watch the live discussion: ...more
A sentimental tale of growing up through the lens of a set of black middle-class teenagers at liberty for their summers on Long Island. There is a timeless quality and sense of innocence in this exploration of juvenile adventure and search for identity. The relatively segregated community of wealthy professionals is free from the racism and pressures to succeed they face in their private schools in New York City. Benji and his brother are trusted to fend for themselves during the weekdays when t ...more
Remember that guy from high school? You know the one: smart as a whip, and funny too. Handsome, nice smile. Maybe he was on the basketball team or something. Let's call him Mike.

Mike's teachers used to say he was "going places." And how could he not be? He was enrolled in all the right AP classes, and he was entirely agreeable. Always knew exactly the right thing to say, that Mike. He wasn't really sure what he wanted to do with his life, but that was okay. It's okay not to know in the beginnin
Aug 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
It's been a couple years since I read this, but this book still brings back memories every time I see it, and I felt it was time to come back and give it a proper review.

Since I was 3 years old, my family has owned a cottage on Lake Erie, in a resort community near Cedar Point. We stay there every summer for at least one full week, plus a dozen weekends, and are always joined by a bounty of friends and family. It has always been a place I will treasure, and holds many fond memories. Of all the b
Monica **can't read fast enough**
I'm trying really hard to fall in love with Whitehead's writing, but it's not quite working and I'm not sure why. Sag harbor started off strong for me and I was looking forward to moving through the story, but somewhere along the way I wandered away from truly enjoying it. I'm not sure why his writing is flat for me. It's hard when I know in my head that I should be enjoying a story that I assumed I would connect with, but it's just didn't happen. I didn't stay invested in the story past the hal ...more
Aug 12, 2009 rated it liked it
Colson Whitehead is a wonderful writer. Although I wasn't a Sag Harbor summer kid myself, the author and I are about the same age so much of his reminiscing about his experiences as a 15 year old stirred similar memories I possess. Sag Harbor is a work of fiction, not a memoir, but it reads as much like the latter than as a novel, and no doubt it was largely inspired by the author's youthful days. Not a whole lot happens in Sag Harbor, basically a group of teenagers kill the abundance of time th ...more
Jan 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
I'm glad I read this book in the dead of winter - it is so evocative of the atmosphere of a little beach town and of a kid's experience of coming of age during the long, restless and wondrous days of summer. Though the novel focuses primarily on Benji's coming of age in an upper middle class African American community, so many of his experiences and the themes in the book cross race lines, and Whitehead makes Benji's experiences feel almost universal. This novel presents the complex and delicate ...more
Jul 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was going to give this book 3 stars because there are parts I liked and parts that were only ok, so it seemed to average out to 3 stars. But in the last 10 pages there is a reflection on growing up that was so well done that it pulled me to 4 stars. Overall, this is good read about being a teenager, trying to find your place in the world and understanding how things work. This theme was made more compelling by the narrator's specific circumstances, i.e. as a middle class African American spend ...more
Jul 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
3.5 Stars

Sag Harbor is the epitome of summer nostalgia. Whitehead takes his time illustrating every melted waffle cone and chilly breeze floating off the beach, wrapping it gently inside of the wit and self-deprecating anxiety of a 15 year old boy. It’s immensely heartwarming, amusing and deliciously descriptive. I recommend this for readers looking for a vacation from the traditional plot-driven novel. Sag Harbor drifts along teenage ambiguity. It's the between space of boyhood, summer jobs, g
Jonathan Peto
Aug 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
This coming-of-age novel takes place in 1985. Last summer I read another, Black Swan Green by David Mitchell, which also takes place in the 80s. Now that I think of it, I read another the summer before: How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran. There are similarities between them but differences that set each apart. Have writers who were teens in the 90s and 2000s written any coming-of-age novels? I'm curious if the same similarities of style, obsessions, nostalgia, and pop culture references bind t ...more
Nov 30, 2012 rated it really liked it

I'd be the first acknowledge that Colson Whitehead's style is a tough sell for most readers. He's got a detatched, wordy aloofness, and a meandering stream-of-conscious quality that might alienate some, bore others. I contend, though, he's certainly worth reading if you're like me and appreciate authors in love with the English language. He completely wowed me with 2011's Zombie-story-for-people-that-don't-like-zombie-stories: Zone One. Mr. Whitehead's meandering iciness contributed wonderfully
Madeline Knight-Dixon
Aug 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is… unexpected. When I began it, I thought it was a traditional coming of age story; there would be a challenge, a test of some sort, that the main character would have to get through in order to have grown into a new person by the end of the summer. But that’s not what this book is. It is simply a novel that recounts the summer of a teenage boy. It’s warm, sweet, at times a little sad but mostly as carefree as summer nights are.

Of course it is about Sag Harbor, the Hamptons for upper-
Karen Miller
Jul 31, 2012 rated it liked it

For all those who thought – like me – that the Hamptons was simply the summer playground for the rich and beautiful, Sag Harbor, by Colson Whitehead may come as a surprise. It seems that upper-middle class African-Americans have owned summer homes there since the 1940s.

And in 1985 15-year-old Benji summered there for his 15th year. Only for the first time he’s pretty much on his own since his parents have decided that he and his younger brother are old enough to hold down the home front, while
Elizabeth Owosina
Oct 04, 2010 rated it did not like it
I couldn't get into it. Text just kept going on and on and on. Ugh! Put it down after 40 pages.
Oct 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Grown-ups
Recommended to Alan by: Roberta; previous work
Dag... I really liked this hyperrealistic hybrid between autobiography and fiction (from its internal consistency and from the author's Acknowledgements, it seems likely that much of the background and many of the events were drawn from his own growing up). It begins at the intersection of two alien worlds—alien to me, anyway. The first: growing up black in America. The second: growing up wealthy—or affluent, well-to-do, at worst upper middle-class... definitions differ, but families who live in ...more
Feb 19, 2010 rated it it was ok
In parts this is well written, but somewhere around the middle I was bored. And, I stayed bored until about twenty five pages from the end.

When the writing was good, it was worth reading, but I didn't find his story overly compelling.
Elyse  Walters
Aug 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Looking forward to reading Glen's review --(he JUST read it) ...

I read this book a long time ago --when on a retreat vacation in the mountains.


Jul 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Colson Whitehead's coming-of-age novel "Sag Harbor" defies the conventional definition of novel in that it doesn't have one of those pesky plots weighing it down. This is something a reader should understand before reading to avoid all sorts of failed Aha! moments: Nope. This isn't going to be about an 80s child, fatally wounded in a BB gun fight. Nope. This isn't going to be about coveting thy friend's summer girlfriend.

Whitehead admits this himself in his video pitch: "There's no dead body,"
Leslie Reese
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars.
Great portrait of a slice-of-life I don't know much about. Very well written. Maybe a bit indulgent in the sense that Colson Whitehead seems a bit show-offy with his gifts in some places....But he IS gifted, and I don't mean to suggest that writing this good is effortless.

The Underground Railroad was my first experience reading Whitehead; Sag Harbor is my second, and I look forward to reading more of Whitehead's body of work. Hats off to Didi, and Monica's The Black Bookcase reading
Mistinguette Smith
May 13, 2009 rated it did not like it
This is the book for people who want to say they read Colson Whitehead but don't want to read anything difficult or experimental. This book is
recalls in excruciating adolescent detail, the summertime lives of a group of high school aged African American middle class boys. And I do mean rendered in excruciating detail. Sag Harbor is getting great press, probably because there are still folks who are surprised to learn that there are middle class black people who summer in the Hamptons, too. The
Nov 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
I guess I just don't mesh well with this author's writings. It feels like he uses every literary device and multi-syllabled word in every single sentence. It just doesn't work, especially when the narrator is supposed to be a teenager.
Ron Charles
Nov 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
No one writes with more acrobatic imagination and good humor about the complexities of race in America than Colson Whitehead. In "The Intuitionist" and "John Henry Days," he evoked the nation's racial history as deftly as he created bizarre alternatives. And in his 2003 paean to his home town, "The Colossus of New York," he captured the choreography of a vibrant, multicultural city. Now he surprises us again with a charming autobiographical novel that comes honey-glazed with nostalgia. Detailing ...more
Max Wright
Jun 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Boy did I love this one. This book is funny and poignant and smart - your standard Whitehead fare. Very light on plot, but too many great character moments to count. Some really great observations about blackness and masculinity. I could talk about the chapter “To Prevent Flare-ups” for hours.
Jun 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
When you pick up most writers, you know know exactly what you're going to get -- Tolstoy reads like Tolstoy, "Faulknerian" is an adjective for a reason, Rushdie's novels all share similarities (other than the fact that the most recent ones all suck), and De Lillo has such a strong style that he now borders on self-parody.

Which is what makes Colson Whitehead perhaps the most impressive author writing today. Not only are every one of his books equally fantastic, but each novel bears almost no styl
Sep 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: summer-vignette
This book captivated me completely, forcing involuntary and often embarrassingly loud bursts of laughter out of me in inappropriate places across the NY tri-state area, my shame mitigated by the anticipation of yet another entertaining passage. The novel follows Whitehead as he fondly remembers blissfully long summers-surprisingly bereft of parental supervision-at his family's beach house in Long Island, drinking Coke, eating Swanson TV dinners, and swigging Bartles & Jaymes, relics of the not-t ...more
May 28, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Sag Harbor is Whitehead’s fourth novel and not his best, though it does have its moments and displays his elegant prose style throughout. A coming of age tale, Sag Harbor is set in 1980s when the book’s narrator, Benjie Cooper and his family spend their summers in this Long Island beach community, escaping Manhattan’s sultry, oppressive weather. Azurest is part of an African-American enclave in Sag Harbor, middle class but apart still. Whitehead’s protagonist is just an ordinary teen growing up ...more
Trixie Fontaine
I only made it to page 48 and just wasn't in the mood for it. I loved The Intuitionist and was excited to read something else from this author, but I could not muster up interest in it. Maybe it's just the wrong time of year. Maybe it felt like something the guy HAD to write because everyone told him his perspective would be so unique and awesome. I totally couldn't relate to it at all, except for the nostalgic tv dinner and soup descriptions from the eighties. Maybe I'll let some time pass and ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: New cover: Sag Harbor 3 14 Jun 29, 2020 11:18AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Great Man
  • The Master
  • Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer
  • The Fortress of Solitude
  • The Good Thief
  • Deacon King Kong
  • The Topeka School
  • The Water Dancer
  • Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick: Stories from the Harlem Renaissance
  • The Yellow House
  • Weather
  • Everywhere You Don't Belong
  • Interior Chinatown
  • On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
  • The Testaments (The Handmaid's Tale, #2)
  • Red at the Bone
  • How to Be an Antiracist
  • Permanent Record
See similar books…
I'm the author of the novels Zone One; Sag Harbor; The Intuitionist, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award; John Henry Days, which won the Young Lions Fiction Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Apex Hides the Hurt, winner of the PEN Oakland Award. I've also written a book of essays about my home town, The Colossus of New York, and a non-fiction ac ...more

Articles featuring this book

What do you write after your novel wins a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, and is selected by Oprah for her book club? For Colson Whitehea...
84 likes · 35 comments
“As time went on, we learned to arm ourselves in our different ways. Some of us with real guns, some of us with more ephemeral weapons, an idea or improbable plan or some sort of formulation about how best to move through the world. An idea that will let us be. Protect us and keep us safe. But a weapon nonetheless.” 27 likes
“The only time "early bloomer" has ever been applied to me is vis-a-vis my premature apprehension of the deep dread-of-existence thing. In all other cases, I plod and tromp along. My knuckles? Well dragged.” 8 likes
More quotes…