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California Readin’

May 7, 2012

Well, imagine my surprise as I’m noshing on my morning fruit, yogurt, and Diet Vanilla Zero (I know, a balanced diet…) and find my name on the book page of the Sacramento Bee! Well, OK. I wasn’t that surprised…

The Original List: Allen Pierleoni, Book Editor at The Bee, wrote a column last month in which he surveyed some great local authors and general “book folks” (Hollywood expert, Michael Troyan and suspense writer John Lescroart, among them…) about their “Favorite California Books”. They offered some wonderful recommendations including  John Steinbeck’s East of Eden and Grapes of Wrath, Dashiell Hammett’s, The Maltese Falcon, and Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. Great California Classics, all!

New Nominees: I did notice, however, that some iconically-California authors were missing from the list, and so I emailed Allen and suggested that folks might want to also take a look at Los Angeles resident Lisa See, Sacramento-native Joan Didion, and California Hall of Fame inductee Anne Lamott. Lisa See shares her Chinese ancestor’s Sacramento and Los Angeles in On Golden Mountain (at one point her great-grandfather manufactured crotch-less underwear for brothels near to where Macy’s now stands in Downtown Sacramento) and for fiction readers, they’ll get a sense of LA’s China town in the mid-century in Shanghai Girls. If you want to learn about 1960’s California—from Haight-Ashbury to Hollywood— Joan Didion is your gal—you’ll want to start with Slouching Toward Bethlehem. And Anne Lamott has written over a dozen books, some fiction some nonfiction—but my favorite is still Bird by Bird. She portrays her beloved Marin County at its most poignant—and quirkiest. (The link to yesterday’s Bee article is here…)

Of course, several other Bee readers—and “bookie”-types—chimed in with their additions to the list, and I’ve already heard from friends who are picking up some of the latest suggestions, such as Stan Yogi’s Highway 99, Victor Villasenor’s Rain of Gold, and another Steinbeck classic, Cannery Row. (Have I read the latter? I don’t think so—so perhaps I’ll need to add it to my TBR list as well…)

Great California Book Club Reads: In addition to those mentioned in the article, there are some great California choices for Reading Groups, as well. Isabel Allende, a California resident since 1989, tells a compelling tale of California gold rush days—from San Francisco to Sacramento—in Daughter of Fortune. Bay area fans won’t want to miss The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan about four mothers and daughters who recently immigrated to San Francisco. Palo Alto resident, Meg Waite Clayton, captures the excitement of the Silicon Valley in its infancy and the women’s movement of the ‘60’s in The Wednesday Sisters. Stanford grad, Allegra Goodman, spins an Austenian yarn of two sisters set in Berkeley and Silicon Valley during the bubble in The Cookbook Collector. While third-generation Californian, Jo-ann Mapson, crafts a tale of loss and the redeeming power of love in Central California in Solomon’s Oak.

Your List? California-centric books for everyone are everywhere! Tell us about your favorite.

The only down-side to all of this California cheerleading is that strains of The Mamas & The Papas’ singing California Dreamin’ keep wafting through my brain… All day.



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