In his debut cookbook, Michelin-starred chef Brandon Jew shares recipes and techniques interwoven with stories about their roots in San Francisco's Chinatown and in Jew's own family history. (Courtesy of Lizzie Allen)

5 Bay Area Books to Read This Winter

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Resolved to read more in 2021? Whether you choose your books for distraction, entertainment, or education (or all of the above), this winter is a delightful time to discover new titles by Bay Area authors.

Curl up on the couch with Vendela Vida's lush coming-of-age novel set in San Francisco's Sea Cliff, Katherine Seligman's incisive look at homelessness in the Haight, or Brontez Purnell's deadpan reveal of the lives of queer men. Then, head into the kitchen with Mister Jiu's chef Brandon Jew, whose debut cookbook hits shelves soon.


'At the Edge of the Haight,' by Katherine Seligman

(Courtesy of @greenapplebooks)

Maddy Donaldo, homeless at 20, has made a family of sorts in the dangerous spaces of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. She knows whom to trust, where to eat, when to move locations, and how to take care of her dog. It's the only home she has. When she unwittingly witnesses the murder of a young homeless boy and is seen by the perpetrator, her relatively stable life is upended. Against the backdrop of a radically changing city that embraces a booming tech economy while struggling to maintain its culture of tolerance, At the Edge of the Haight follows the lives of those who depend on makeshift homes and communities.

SF journalist and author Katherine Seligman's book is the 10th winner of the 2019 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, awarded by Barbara Kingsolver who says reading this book "...is to live inside the everyday terror and longings of a world that most of us manage not to see, even if we walk past it on sidewalks every day. At a time when more Americans than ever find themselves at the edge of homelessness, this book couldn't be more timely."

// $27, available January 19; workman.com

'100 Boyfriends,' by Brontez Purnell

(Courtesy of @thebarandthebookcase)

Transgressive, foulmouthed, and devastatingly funny, Brontez Purnell's 100 Boyfriends is a revelatory spiral into the imperfect lives of queer men desperately fighting—and often losing—the urge to self-sabotage. Armed with a deadpan wit that finds humor in even the lowest of nadirs, Oakland-based writer Brontez Purnell—a widely acclaimed underground writer, filmmaker, musician, and performance artist who was named one of the 32 Black Male Writers of Our Time by T: The New York Times Style Magazine in 2018—writes with the peerless zeal and insight of a gay punk messiah.

From dirty warehouses and gentrified bars in Oakland to desolate farm towns in Alabama, Purnell indexes desire, desperation, race, and loneliness with a startling blend of levity and vulnerability.

// $10, available February 2; us.macmillan.com

'We Run the Tides,' by Vendela Vida

(Courtesy of @eccobooks)

Teenage Eulabee and her magnetic best friend, Maria Fabiola, own the streets of Sea Cliff, their foggy San Francisco neighborhood. They know Sea Cliff's homes and beaches, its hidden corners and eccentric characters—as well as the upscale all-girls' school they attend. One day, walking to school with friends, they witness a horrible act—or do they? Suspenseful and poignant, We Run the Tides is SF-born Vendela Vida's masterful portrait of an inimitable place on the brink of radical transformation. In her telling, the pre–tech boom city finds its mirror in the changing lives of the teenage girls at the center of this story of innocence lost, the pain of too much freedom, and the struggle to find one's authentic self.

O, the Oprah Magazine called it, "...moody, foreboding, and magical, this enigmatic tale of adolescent friendship, a disappearance, and coming-of-age is smart, sly, and as knowing about the mind and heart of a teenage girl as an Elena Ferrante novel."

// $27, available February 9; harpercollins.com

'Mister Jiu's in Chinatown: Recipes and Stories from the Birthplace of Chinese American Food,' by Brandon Jew and Tienlon Ho

(Courtesy of Lizzie Allen)

In this groundbreaking cookbook, Brandon Jew, the acclaimed chef behind the Michelin-starred Mister Jiu's in San Francisco's Chinatown, takes inspiration from classic Chinatown recipes to create innovative spins like sizzling rice soup, squid ink wontons, orange chicken wings, Liberty roast duck, mushroom mu shu, and banana black sesame pie. Recipes and techniques are interwoven with stories about their roots in the neighborhood and in Jew's own family history.

With pages devoted to dim sum and dumplings and to throwing a party Chinese-banquet style, both occasional and experienced cooks will benefit from Jew's way of using Chinese cooking techniques and come away with a deeper understanding of how Chinese food became American food. And through 100 moving and evocative photographs of finished dishes as well as atmospheric shots of Chinatown, Jew shares an intimate look down the alleyways, above the tourist shops, and into the kitchens of district's residents as they live and continue to thrive in the Chinatown that changed the flavor of America.

// $40, available March 9; penguinrandomhouse.com

'Edie Richter is Not Alone,' by Rebecca Handler

(Courtesy of @onewomanparty)

Funny, acerbic Edie Richter is married, childfree, and moving from San Francisco to Perth, Australia. She leaves behind a sister and mother still mourning the recent death of her father. Before the move, Edie and her husband were content, if socially awkward given her disinclination for small talk. In Perth, Edie finds herself in a remarkably isolated but verdant corner of the world, but she has a secret: She committed an unthinkable act that she can barely admit to herself. In some ways, the landscape mirrors her own complicated inner life, and rather than escaping her past, Edie is increasingly forced to confront what she's done.

Andrew Sean Greer says about SF author Handler's debut novel, "Oh how I love this book. I finished in one sitting, then reread it immediately. Hilariously heartbreakingly honest on every page, Rebecca Handler's novel is that rare thing: a perfect book. "

// $23, available March 9; unnamedpress.com

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