Reading Roundup: This Week's Top Literary Events


Each week, we offer a roundup of the best literary events in the city. All events are free and open to the public, unless otherwise noted. Want to submit an upcoming event for consideration? Go here.

The Litquake festival continues through Sunday. This column features non-Litquake events; our top picks for Litquake are here.

David McCullough (The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris)

Thursday, October 13, noon, at the Commonwealth Club (595 Market St.)

Thursday, October 13, 7 pm, at Dominican University of California, Angelico Hall (50 Acacia Ave., San Rafael).

The renowned author of John Adams, Truman, and 1776 takes a more macro view of history in his newest work, examining ambitious Americans who soujourned in the City of Light between 1830 and 1900. They included big literary names like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry James, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, as well as little-known pioneers like Elizabeth Blackwell (the first American female doctor), and George P.A. Healy (a portrait painter who rose from poverty to paint some of the era's most famous subjects, including Abraham Lincoln). Tickets to McCullough's Commonwealth Club appearance are $25, but Goldstar is offering them at half-price.

Jon Reiner (The Man Who Couldn't Eat)

Monday, October 17, 7:30 pm, at The Booksmith (1644 Haight St.)

After suffering a near-fatal complication from Crohn's disease, Reiner was sentenced to three months of totally intravenous nutrition-- a difficult experience for anyone, but perhaps even more so for a James Beard Award-winning food writer. His memoir, which expands on his wrenching 2009 piece for Esquire, discusses the emotional role food plays in our lives, as a center of memories, emotions, and identity.

Mark Vonnegut (Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So)

Wednesday, October 12, 1 pm, at Book Passage Corte Madera (51 Tamal Vista Blvd.)

Vonnegut (above, with his son), the son of literary legend Kurt Vonnegut, earned best-of-2010 honors from the Chronicle for this memoir, which details how he emerged from a series of bipolar disorder-induced nervous breakdowns in his 20s to become a Harvard-educated pediatrician, husband, and father. Juggling manic episodes with the real responsibilities of running a medical practice, Vonnegut faces his ongoing demons with wit and intelligence.

Mary Oliver (Swan)

Wednesday, October 12, 8 pm, at Herbst Theatre (401 Van Ness Ave.)

Oliver's studies of the natural world have made her one of America's most popular contemporary poets; she returns to City Arts & Lectures to promote her newest book, Swan, a mixture of poems and prose poems. After she lost her partner of more than 40 years in 2005, Oliver's poems turned toward the subject of loss, as viewed through the lens of nature. Tickets are $17-27, and can be purchased here.

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