This fall, the best books about the Bay Area and by Bay Area authors are bringing us some radiant reading options to either curl up in bed with or to enjoy on a picnic blanket at the park, depending on what the weather has in store.
From a home organizing guide that redefines minimalism, to a celebration of Black culture and food, to an amusing investigation into the science of human and wildlife conflict, here's what on our local reading list this season.
'Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora' / edited by Bryant Terry
(Courtesy of @bryantterry)
In this tribute to Black culinary ingenuity, Bryant Terry—author (Afro-Vegan, Vegetable Kingdom), food activist, and chef-in-residence at San Francisco's Museum of the African Diaspora—captures the broad and divergent voices of the African Diaspora through the prism of food. With contributions from more than 100 Black cultural luminaries from around the globe, the book moves through chapters exploring parts of the Black experience—Homeland to Migration, Spirituality to Black Future—offering delicious recipes, moving essays, and arresting artwork.
As much a joyful celebration of Black culture as a cookbook, Black Food explores the interweaving of food, experience, and community through original poetry and essays, including "Jollofing with Toni Morrison" by Sarah Ladipo Manyika and "Foodsteps in Motion" by Michael W. Twitty. Professor Imani Perry says "…Mouthwatering, visually stunning, and intoxicating, Black Food tells a global story of creativity, endurance, and imagination that was sustained in the face of dispersal, displacement, and oppression. Bryant Terry has yet again gifted us with a brilliant window into foodways as art, tradition, and nourishment."
// $40, available October 2021; penguinrandomhouse.com
'Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law' / by Mary Roach
(Courtesy of @the_avianstu)
Mary Roach's upcoming book is an irresistible investigation into the unpredictable world where wildlife and humans meet. What's to be done about a jaywalking moose? A bear caught breaking and entering? A murderous tree? Three hundred years ago, animals that broke the law would be assigned legal representation and put on trial. These days, the answers are best found not in jurisprudence but in science: the curious science of human-wildlife conflict, a discipline at the crossroads of human behavior and wildlife biology.
The author of six beloved New York Times bestsellers, including Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers and Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, Roach tags along with animal-attack forensics investigators, human-elephant conflict specialists, bear managers, and "danger tree" faller blasters. Intrepid as ever, she travels from leopard-terrorized hamlets in the Indian Himalaya to St. Peter's Square in the early hours before the pope arrives for Easter mass, when vandal gulls swoop in to destroy the elaborate floral display. She taste-tests rat bait, learns how to install a vulture effigy, and gets mugged by a macaque. Fascinating, witty, and humane, Fuzz offers hope for compassionate coexistence in our ever-expanding human habitat.
//$27, available September 2021; maryroach.net
'Minimalista: Your Step-by-Step Guide to a Better Home, Wardrobe, and Life' / by Shira Gill
(Courtesy of @shiragill)
Over the years Bay Area professional home organizer Shira Gill has created a signature decluttering and organization process that promotes sustainability, achieves lasting results, and can be applied to anyone, regardless of their space or lifestyle. Rather than imposing strict rules and limitations, Gill redefines minimalism as having the perfect amount of everything—for you—based on your personal values and the limitations of your space.
Now, in Minimalista, she shares her complete tool kit for the first time, built around five key steps: Clarify, Edit, Organize, Elevate, and Maintain. Once you learn the methodology you'll dive into the hands-on work, choose-your-own-adventure style: knock out a room or even a single drawer; style a bookshelf; donate a sweater. Shira teaches that the most important thing you can do is start, and that small victories, achieved one at a time, will snowball into massive transformation.
Christine Platt, author of The Afrominimalist's Guide to Living with Less says, "From providing a user-friendly tool kit on how to curate and maintain a minimalist lifestyle to giving practical guidance for simplifying our living spaces, Minimalista offers a fun, approachable framework for functional minimalism—one that we all need."
// $30, available October 2021; shiragill.com
'Radiant Fugitives' / by Nawaaz Ahmed
(Courtesy of @dottersbooks)
Brooklyn author Nawaaz Ahmed's new San Francisco–based novel is a moving tale of a family and a country grappling with acceptance, forgiveness, and enduring love. In the last weeks of her pregnancy, a Muslim-Indian lesbian living in SF receives a visit from her estranged mother and sister that surfaces long held secrets and betrayals in this "sweeping family saga...with the beautiful specificity of real lives lived, loved, and fought for" (Entertainment Weekly).
Working as a consultant for Kamala Harris's attorney general campaign in Obama-era SF, Seema has constructed a successful life for herself in the West, despite still struggling with her father's long-ago decision to exile her from the family after she came out as lesbian. Now, nine months pregnant and estranged from the Black father of her unborn son, Seema seeks solace in the company of family she once thought lost to her. But instead of a joyful reconciliation anticipating the birth of a child, the events of this fateful week unearth years of betrayal, misunderstanding, and complicated layers of love—a tapestry of emotions as riveting and disparate as the era itself.
// $27, penguinrandomhouse.com
'The Every' / by Dave Eggers
(Courtesy of McSweeney's)
From the award-winning, bestselling author of The Circle comes a follow-up that blends satire and terror. When the world's largest search engine/social media company, The Circle, merges with the planet's dominant e-commerce site, it creates the richest and most dangerous—and, oddly enough, most beloved—monopoly ever known: The Every.
Delaney Wells is an unlikely new hire at The Every. A former forest ranger and unwavering tech skeptic, she charms her way into an entry-level job with one goal in mind: to take down the company from within. With her compatriot, the not-at-all-ambitious Wes Makazian, they look for The Every's weaknesses, hoping to free humanity from all-encompassing surveillance and the emoji-driven infantilization of the species. But does anyone want what Delaney is fighting to save? Does humanity truly want to be free?
Mohsin Hamid, author of Exit West says, "Hilarious and horrifying and idealistic. An unusual combination in a novel, or in anything else, really, but here the necessary result of a powerful writer taking on much of what matters most to our future."
A Bay Area resident for three decades, Dave Eggers is the cofounder of 826 Valencia and is the author of many books, among them The Monk of Mokha, A Hologram for the King, What Is the What, and The Museum of Rain.
// $28, available November 2021; store.mcsweeneys.net
'Orwell's Roses' / by Rebecca Solnit
Sparked by her unexpected encounter with the surviving roses George Orwell planted in 1936, Bay Area author Rebecca Solnit's account of this understudied aspect of Orwell's life explores his writing and his actions—from going deep into the coal mines of England, fighting in the Spanish Civil War, critiquing Stalin when much of the international left still supported him (and then critiquing that left), to his analysis of the relationship between lies and authoritarianism.
Through Solnit's celebrated ability to draw unexpected connections, aptly demonstrated in previous books including A Field Guide to Getting Lost, The Faraway Nearby and A Paradise Built in Hell, readers encounter the photographer Tina Modotti's roses and her Stalinism, Stalin's obsession with forcing lemons to grow in impossibly cold conditions, Orwell's slave-owning ancestors in Jamaica, Jamaica Kincaid's critique of colonialism and imperialism in the flower garden, and the brutal rose industry in Colombia that supplies the American market.
Vogue says, "The task that Solnit has set for herself in this book is mighty, but she's more than up to it as a writer and a thinker; nobody who reads it will ever think of Nineteen Eighty-Four in quite the same way."
// $28, available October 2021; penguinrandomhouse.com
'Upper Left Cities: A Cultural Atlas of San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle' / by Hunter Shobe and David Banis, with Zuriel van Belle
(Courtesy of @sasquatchbooks)
Upper Left Cities redefines modern cartography by going into uncharted territory to create a narrative about three distinctive West Coast cities that represent the major cities in the northern part of the United States West Coast. Blending traditional cartography and modern graphic design, the book uses infographic maps to explore wildlife and city trails, voting records, commutes, food and drink patterns, and more.
From the team that brought you Portlandness, this cultural atlas and visual almanac includes more than 150 maps, each using data around a given topic and then translating that to a creative and often unexpected visual format. The result is a blend of form and function, with each map exploring some aspect of history, geography, social and economic issues, and pop culture.
// $30, available September 2021; sasquatchbooks.com