Miranda July is best known for her films Me and You and Everyone We Know and The Future, but she's also an accomplished fiction writer, as her first novel, The First Bad Man, proves. It's the story of Cheryl, an eccentric employee at a women's self-defense nonprofit who's unhealthily obsessed with a philandering coworker, but gets knocked out of complacency when her bosses ask if she can let their daughter move in with her for a while. Quirky and strange, funny and sad, it's a book every bit as original as July is, with lots of interesting things to say about sex, motherhood, and what it means to be truly vulnerable.
Appearances:January 20 at City Arts & Lectures
If your New Year's resolution is to get out more in the Bay Area, exploring Oakland is a great place to start—and travel guide This Is Oakland makes for a compelling companion. Written and photographed by locals Melissa Davis and Kristen Loken, it offers 90 profiles of the most interesting places to visit across the Bay, including a studio for intellectually disabled adult artists, a store stocked with hard-to-find magazines, and a Mexican restaurant helmed by a Chez Panisse-trained chef. You'll have plenty of fodder for a year of BART trips and exploration.
Appearances: January 8 at Book Passage SF
Grown-ups who devoured YA smashes The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor & Park should consider turning their attention to Jennifer Niven's All the Bright Places, the latest, hot YA book to hit the scene. Like the aforementioned novels, it's equal parts quirky-uplifting love story and three-hankie weeper (and has already been optioned for a movie). The book centers on Violet, a popular cheerleader reeling from the death of her sister, and Finch, the troubled school outcast who saves her from committing suicide off the school bell tower. As their relationship grows, both start to heal, but their happiness may be short-lived. Anyone who's struggled or cares about someone who's struggled with mental illness will find this book all too compelling and relatable.