This season, as always, we are grateful to Bay Area authors for giving us smart and inspiring reads.
From a memoir about the '90's East Bay rave scene to a portrait of a famed America painter to the latest cookbook from Tartine's expert bread bakers, there are plenty of riveting pages to kick back with over the holidays.
Light on Fire: The Art and Life of Sam Francis / Gabrielle Selz
Drawing on exclusive interviews and private correspondence, Gabrielle Selz offers a revelatory biography of Sam Francis, one of the 20th century's most celebrated artists, and the American painter who brought the vocabulary of abstract expressionism to Paris. She traces the extraordinary life of this complex and charismatic artist who first learned to paint as a former air corps pilot encased for three years in a full-body cast. While still a young man, Francis saw his color-saturated paintings fetch the highest prices of any living artist. His restless desire resulted in five marriages and homes on three continents. His entrepreneurial spirit led to founding a museum, a publishing company, a reforestation program, and several nonprofits.
With settings from World War II San Francisco to post-war Paris, New York, Tokyo and Los Angeles, Selz writes an intimate portrait of a man who sought to resolve in art the contradictions he couldn't resolve in life. Ed Ruscha says, "I think of Sam as a modern-day Nijinsky with a big loaded brush. He would get onto a canvas and really clean house. Gabrielle Selz's book really captures his spirit."
Raver Girl: Coming of Age in the 90s / Samantha Durbin
A '90s time capsule buried inside a coming-of-age memoir set against the neon backdrop of the SF Bay Area's rave scene, Raver Girl chronicles Durbin's double life as she teeters between hedonism and sobriety, chaos and calm, all while sneaking under the radar of her father. Through euphoric highs and dangerous lows, Samantha discovers she's someone who lives life to the fullest and learns best through alternative experience rather than mainstream ideals. She's a creative whose mind is limitless, whose quirks are charms, whose passion is inspirational. She's an independent woman whose inner strength is rooted in unwavering family ties. And if she can survive high school, she just might be okay. Pop Sugar says "Can you get high from reading a book? You'll swear Raver Girl is laced with something."
// $17, ravergirlthebook.com
Menergy: San Francisco's Gay Disco Sound / Louis Niebur
After a backlash against disco music in 1979, enterprising gay DJs, record producers, and musicians in the Castro District started their own small dance music record labels to make up for the lack of new, danceable music. Almost immediately this music reached far beyond the Bay, with Megatone Records, Moby Dick Records, and other labels achieving worldwide success, creating the world's first gay-owned, gay-produced music for a dancing audience. This music reflected a new way of life, a world apart and a culture of sexual liberation for gay men especially.
With Menergy, author Louis Niebur offers a project of reconstruction in order to restore these lost figures to their rightful place in the legacy of 20th century popular music. Menergy is the product of years of research, with dozens of personal interviews, archival research drawing upon hundreds of contemporary journals, photographs, bar rags, diaries, nightclub ephemera, and, most importantly, the recordings of the San Francisco artists themselves.
// $35, due out February 1, 2022; global.oup.com
Circle Way: A Daughter's Memoir, a Writer's Journey Home / Mary Ann Hogan
Circle Way is a bittersweet memoir of a father, daughter, and a prominent California family. Hogans father Bill was the well-known literary editor at the San Francisco Chronicle for 27 years. Sifting through her father's notebooks after his death, she discovers a man whose unrealized dreams echo her own.
Eager to learn more about her family even as she wrestles with terminal illness, Hogan explores the fascinating cast of characters who were her forebears. Including the author's great grandfather, an Oakland lumber baron who lost his fortune in the crash of '29 and a great uncle who was sent to San Quentin for two deaths some say he may not have caused.
The late Mary Ann Hogan was an award-winning journalist and teacher whose credits included The New York Times, The Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland Tribune, and Mother Jones magazine. She also taught writing at San Francisco State University.
// $29, drops February 15, 2022; amazon.com
Please Scream Inside Your Heart: Breaking News and Nervous Breakdowns in the Year that Wouldn't End / Dave Pell
Please Scream Inside Your Heart is a real-time ride through the maddening hell that was the 2020 news cycle—when historic turmoil and media mania stretched American sanity, democracy, and toilet paper. Who better to examine this unhinged period in all of its twists and turns than news addict Dave Pell? Fueled by the wisdom and advice of his two Holocaust-surviving parents, for whom parts of this story were all too familiar, Pell puts the key stories of 2020 into context with pith and punch—highlighting turning points that widened America's divisions, deepened our obsession with a media-driven civil war, and nearly knocked the country off its tracks.
Marin County resident Pell has been writing about news, technology, and media since 1999. He writes NextDraft, a newsletter offering a quick and entertaining look at the day's most fascinating news. He's been news-obsessed since he was a child and is known to his readers as "the Internet's Managing Editor." He is a graduate of UC Berkeley, sits on the board of 826 Valencia and is a longtime advisor to the Center for Investigative Reporting.
// $29, hachettego.com
Mumbai Modern: Vegetarian Recipes Inspired by Indian Roots and California Cuisine / Amisha Dodhia Gurbani
In Mumbai Modern, Amisha Dodhia Gurbani delivers a marriage of traditional Gujarati cuisine, Mumbai street food, and modern innovation inspired by the bountiful fresh ingredients on offer in her adopted home of California. The book offers more than 100 vegetarian recipes complete with Gurbani's stunning photographs, including breakfasts (pear and chai masala cinnamon rolls); appetizers and salads (dahi papdi chaat); mains (ultimate Mumbai-California veggie burger); bread (wild mushroom and green garlic kulcha), and more.
Library Journal says, "In this debut collection, food blogger and recipe developer Gurbani (creator of The Jam Lab) makes fun, approachable Indian cuisine with a California flair… For home cooks looking to get started recreating innovative Indian and Indian-American-fusion dishes, this accessible collection will set them well on their way."
// $35, wwnorton.com
Bread Book: Ideas and Innovations from the Future of Grain, Flour, and Fermentation / Chad Robertson
Visionary baker Chad Robertson, of Tartine Bakery fame, unveils what's next in bread, drawing on a decade of innovation in grain farming, flour milling, and fermentation with all-new ground-breaking formulas and techniques for making his most nutrient-rich and sublime loaves, rolls, and more—plus recipes for nourishing meals that showcase them. In Bread Book, Robertson and Tartine's director of bread, Jennifer Latham, explain how high-quality, sustainable, locally sourced grain and flours respond to hydration and fermentation to make great bread even better. With 16 brilliant formulas for naturally leavened doughs—including country bread (now reengineered), rustic baguettes, flatbreads, rolls, pizza, and vegan and gluten-free loaves, plus tortillas, crackers, and fermented pasta made with discarded sourdough starter—Bread Book is the wild-yeast baker's flight plan for a voyage into the future of exceptional bread.
// $40, drops December 2021; penguinrandomhouse.com
Maybe This Will Help: How to Feel Better When Things Stay the Same / Michelle Rial
Maybe This Will Help is one part the funny and relatable graphs that fans of Am I Overthinking This? and of Michelle Rial know and love, and one part the honest stories behind what makes those graphs so poignant. Rial brings to light her struggles with chronic pain, grief, and creative uncertainty in a way that reflects the universality of dealing with the unthinkable. This book delves into the more serious side of things, finding levity and collective experience in the invisible difficulties that so many of us face. Through humorous charts and intimate peeks into the author's life, it explores the big things that can feel unmanageable and the everyday humor that keeps us moving forward. Named by Vulture as one of nine Funniest Cartoonists and Illustrators on Instagram, Rial and her work have been featured by The New Yorker, Fast Company, USA Today, WIRED, and more.
// $15, chroniclebooks.com