A stack of new books makes even this new art of social distancing more palatable. Books can be a source of joy, solace, and entertainment during weird and unpredictable times.
Lucky for us, Bay Area writers have produced a crop of delightful and timely memoirs, novels, cookbooks, and more to keep us entertained this season.
Embrace your inner introvert and stock up at a local bookstore. Some, like Folio Books in Noe Valley, are even offering advance payment/quick pick-up options if you give them a call.
Here are our picks for what to read by local authors this spring.
Home Baked: My Mom, Marijuana, and the Stoning of San Francisco, by Alia Volz
(Courtesy of @erinkhar)
Born in 70's San Francisco, Alia Volz had a stroller that performed double-duty: carrying her around, and also offering a place for her parents to stash the edibles they were selling around the city. Volz's memoir tells her family story, about her mother Meridy who ran the underground Sticky Fingers Brownies bakery, which delivered upwards of 10,000 illegal marijuana edibles per month throughout the city and through the scenes of the day, from Gay Liberation to the tragedy of the Peoples Temple. Later, after leaving the city and divorcing Alia's father, Meridy, along with Alia, returned to SF in the mid-'80s, now to provide medical marijuana to people suffering from AIDS.
// Available April 20, 2020; e-book ($15) is available now at hmhbooks.com.
A Nail the Evening Hangs On, by Monica Sok
(Courtesy of @monicajuice)
In her debut collection from Copper Canyon Press, Monica Sok, a Cambodian-American poet, uses poetry to reshape a family's memory about the Khmer Rouge regime according to a child of refugees. Publishers Weekly says, "Weaving the threads of her family's stories, history, place, and identity, these poems glimmer with strength and presence." Currently, Sok is a 2018-2020 Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and has taught poetry to Southeast Asian youths at Banteay Srei and the Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants in Oakland, California.
// $16, available at monicasok.com
Edie on the Green Screen, by Beth Lisick
Currently living in Brooklyn, Beth Lisick has a vibrant history in the SF Bay Area literary world, including co-founding the popular and long-running Porchlight Storytelling Series and writing books with a local connection. Edie on the Green Screen, her first novel, tells the story of Edit Wunderlich, the It girl of late '90s San Francisco who, 20 years later and still bartending in the Mission, lives in a very different SF. When her mother dies, leaving her Silicon Valley home to Edie, she finds herself mourning her loss in the heart of the Bay Area's tech monoculture, and embarks on a last-ditch quest to hold on to her rebel heart.
// $20, available March 26; spdbooks.org
Vegetable Kingdom, by Bryant Terry
(Courtesy of @bryantterry)
Vegan or not, with so many opportunities to buy the most delicious vegetables (local farmer's markets, Bi-Rite, Berkeley Bowl…), we should all be cooking and consuming more plants. East Bay food justice activist and James Beard Award–winning chef/author Bryant Terry has a new plant-based cookbook available with homey, hearty recipes like dirty cauliflower, barbecued carrots with slow-cooked white beans, millet roux mushroom gumbo, and citrus and garlic-herb-braised fennel. Local chef and author Cal Peternell says, "Here is the kind of cooking in context—among kids and friends, ancestors and communities—that has the power to bring us profound meaning and pure pleasure."
// $30; bryant-terry.com
Recollections of My Nonexistence, by Rebecca Solnit
(Courtesy of @librariedrawnandquarterly)
Writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit has gained many readers and fans for her astute writings on diverse topics: feminism, politics, walking, natural disaster, and more. In her highly anticipated newest book, a memoir, she describes her formation as a writer and as a feminist in 1980s San Francisco. Praised by writer Barry Lopez as "…a remarkable book—smart, brave, edgy, insightful, and authentic," Recollections explores the forces that liberated her as a person and as a writer—books themselves; the gay community that presented a new model of what else gender, family, and joy could mean; and her eventual arrival in the spacious landscapes and overlooked conflicts of the American West.
// $26; buy it at rebeccasolnit.net.
Original Art, by Daniel Clowes
There are traditional coffee table books and then there are books like Original Art, so gorgeous and big, you may need to actually buy a bigger table. This tome is worth the investment in funds and space for fans of Oakland comic artist and graphic novelist Daniel Clowes. This book draws from his nearly 30 years of comic arts, including Eightball (in which Ghost World was originally serialized) to Patience, his most recent graphic novel. The 150 pages of art are each reproduced as an exact facsimile and there are a variety of treats inside, including five unpublished pages of an abandoned GN, illustrated glossary of production techniques and some very delightful endpapers.
// $175; available at fantagraphics.com
Why We Swim, by Bonnie Tsui
(Courtesy of @workmanlibrary)
I've known, and been slightly intimidated and very impressed by, a few of those bold Dolphin Club ocean swimmers who rise before the sun to jump in the Pacific. Author Bonnie Tsui lives, swims, and surfs in the Bay Area and her new book, Why We Swim, dives into the deep, from the San Francisco Bay to the South China Sea, investigating what about water seduces us and why we come back to it again and again. Why We Swim includes stories of Olympic champions, a Baghdad swim club that meets in Saddam Hussein's palace pool, modern-day Japanese samurai swimmers, and even an Icelandic fisherman who improbably survives a wintry six-hour swim after a shipwreck.
// Available April 14; pre-order ($27) at amazon.com
The Half-Acre Homestead: 46 Years of Building and Gardening, by Lloyd Kahn and Lesley Creen
Setting yourself up on a spacious bit of land without a mortgage sounds quite appealing sometimes, right? If you grew up bohemian-adjacent in the Bay Area, as I did, then this cover font is giving you happy flashbacks to the Whole Earth Catalog, which Lloyd Kahn edited. With more than 500 color photos, The Half-Acre Homestead is a record of Lloyd and his wife Lesley's owner-built home and garden. They show you what the Northern California coastal house and garden look like, how various functions (solar panels, skylights, etc.) operate, and tools they use in the kitchen, garden, and shop.
// $20, available at shelterpub.com