5 Must-Read Fall Books by Bay Area Authors
In The Forests of California, East Bay artist/naturalist Obi Kaufmann tells an epic story that spans millions of years, nearly 100 species of trees, and an astonishing richness of ecosystems. (Courtesy of californiafieldatlas.com)

5 Must-Read Fall Books by Bay Area Authors


Even though many of us are back to school and work, fewer social engagements still means more time at home. And as autumn approaches, there's no time like the present to curl up with a good book.

Our fall reading list highlights five new releases with Bay Area connections, including 20th Century Cafe's delectable new cookbook; Obi Kaufmann's beautifully illustrated guide to California forests; and a page-turner of a comic tale about Muslim immigrants living in San Francisco. Happy reading!

'Baking at the 20th Century Cafe: Iconic European Desserts from Linzer Torte to Honey Cake', by Michelle Polzine

Surely most San Franciscans have been lucky enough to taste the treats of 20th Century Cafe in person at Michelle Polzine's charming Hayes Valley bakery. But now, as dining in is not an option (though the cafe does have a takeout menu available), we have an intriguing new option to try baking Polzine's signature delights at home.

Baking at the 20th Century Cafe brings renewed attention to the legendary sweet and savory recipes of those grand old cafés in Central and Eastern Europe. Polzine, who has worked at local restaurants including Delfina, Chez Panisse and Range, pays homage to the foundational desserts of many cultures while also lightening and modernizing the recipes through her California lens. Her coveted (and much photographed) honey cake recipe is included, along with recipes for plum kuchen, walnut hamantaschen, Sacher torte, Linzer torte, poppy-filled rugelach, vanilla cheesecake, and even pierogi and potato knishes, all full of twists and innovations.

// $35; available Oct. 13 from workman.com.

'California Field Atlas: The Forests of California', by Obi Kaufmann

An East Bay native, artist-naturalist Obi Kaufmann has dedicated his life to studying California's natural world. His gorgeously illustrated original California Field Atlas expands beyond the traditional nature guide and has no doubt been lovingly dog-eared by many a local explorer. Now, Kaufmann is coming out with the first book of a new trilogy that not only guides readers through the Golden State's forested lands, but also presents a profoundly original vision of nature in the 21s century.

The Forests of California features an abundance of Kaufmann's signature watercolor maps and trail paintings, weaving them into an expansive and accessible exploration of the biodiversity that defines California in the global imagination. Expanding on the style of the OG Field Atlas, Kaufmann tells an epic story that spans millions of years, nearly 100 species of trees, and an astonishing richness of ecosystems.

PS: On September 25th, you can take a virtual adventure across the burned forests of the Sierra Nevada Mountains with Kaufmann, who will be talking about the importance of beneficial fires and the controversy surrounding forest restoration and habitat recovery; tickets (starting at $10) are available at eventbrite.com.

Ticketing for the event has just been released: http://walkwithobi.eventbrite.com.

// $55; heydaybooks.com

'The Man Who Ate Too Much: The Life of James Beard', by John Birdsall

In the first portrait of James Beard to be released in more than 25 years, John Birdsall looks beyond the public image of the "Dean of American Cookery" to give voice to the gourmand's complex queer life and, in the process, illuminates the history of American food in the 20th century.

Informed by previously overlooked correspondence, years of archival research, and a close reading of everything Beard wrote, Birdsall traces the emergence of a major personality in American food and fills in Beard's life with the color and meaning earlier generations may have been afraid to examine. Beard hosted one of the first television cooking shows and crafted some of the major cookbooks of the modern era.

Birdsall, who grew up near San Francisco, has cooked for such local restaurants as Greens and has written for a variety of local and national publications. He has won two James Beard Awards for food and culture writing, including one for his article "America, Your Food Is So Gay," which was published in Lucky Peach. About this new book, chef/author Michael Twitty says, "Foundational. Important. Indispensable and delectable queer food history at its finest."

// $35; available Oct. 6 from wwnorton.com.

​'The Bad Muslim Discount', by Syed Masood

Sacramento author and first-generation immigrant Syed Masood's comic novel about Muslims immigrants finding their way in modern America follows two families from Pakistan and Iraq in the 1990s to San Francisco in 2016.

Anvar Faris is a restless, rebellious, and sharp-tongued boy doing his best to grow up in Karachi, Pakistan. As fundamentalism takes root within the social order and the zealots next door attempt to make Islam great again, his family decides, not quite unanimously, to start life over in California. At the same time, thousands of miles away, Safwa, a young girl living in war-torn Baghdad with her grief-stricken, conservative father will find a very different and far more dangerous path to America. When Anvar and Safwa's worlds collide as two strong-willed adults, their intertwined fates will rock their community, and families, to their core.

Library Journal says, "A born storyteller, Masood has crafted a fast-paced page-turner with plenty of insightful commentary on religion, family, love, and national politics in this debut novel that is expertly written and a joy to read; highly recommended."

// $28, available Nov. 17; pre-order at penguinrandomhouse.com.

​'Let's Never Talk About This Again: A Memoir', by Sara Faith Alterman

Mortified producer, writer, and current San Franciscan Sara Faith Alterman's darkly funny and tender "debut memoir that's too good to ignore" (Bustle) shares the profound experience of discovering new facets of her father; once as a child, and again as an adult.

Twelve-year-old Sara enjoyed a G-rated existence in suburban New England, filled with over-the-top birthday cakes, Revolutionary War reenactments, and nerdy word games invented by her prudish father, Ira. But Sara's world changed when she discovered that Ira had been shielding her from the truth: that he was a campy sex writer who'd sold millions of books in multiple languages. For decades the books remained an unspoken family secret, until Ira developed early onset Alzheimer's disease and announced he'd like to revive his writing career...with Sara's help.

// $15; grandcentralpublishing.com

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