Dark, witty, and intense, Merritt Tierce's Love Me Back has been earning acclaim for its penetrating insight into the life of a complicated woman. Marie, its protagonist, is a young single mom who's scored a waitressing job at a high-end Dallas steakhouse, but instead of rising high, she self-destructs, falling into a tangle of casual sex, cocaine, drinking, and other bad habits. It's a raw, honest look at how we try to blot out our problems with whatever's at hand, and how making the "right" choices isn't always so simple.
Appearances: Green Apple Books, 10/30
Berkeley's Mandy Aftel is one of the world's foremost experts on scent, and a well-regarded perfumer. Her new book Fragrant is a fascinating exploration of how five iconic scents—cinnamon, mint, frankincense, ambergris, and jasmine—have engaged and captivated humans throughout the ages. It'll make you think more thoroughly about the sometimes neglected pleasures of smell, and enjoy your favorite perfume all the more for what went into cultivating its elements across the millennia.
What happens to criminals who successfully plead insanity defenses? Psychiatrist Stephen Seager found out when he spent a year working with prisoners at Napa State's Unit C, a forensic mental hospital that houses 1,200 sociopaths, serial killers, and school shooters, among other hardened criminals—as well as some broken people genuinely in need of help. Keeping the more vulnerable residents safe is a full-time job for the clinicians, who are in mortal danger. Seager's chilling Behind the Gates of Gomorrah is a fascinating look at an upside-down world where violence always lurks, and how we might be able to make it a safer place for those who risk their lives to help the people inside of it.
Appearances: Book Passage Corte Madera, 11/4