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ae literatureA book lover’s guide to local authors whose work will make great gifts this season

It’s official, we’re in the thick of the holiday season. Black Friday, which began its assault on our wallets sometime around Halloween, now seems like a distant memory. Bad Christmas sweaters have broken free from their storage bins, colored lights dot the harbor, and promises have been made not to drink too much at the office party. Hanukkah is only a week away, Christmas and Kwanzaa will be here in two, and there are still quirky aunts and nerdy nephews to buy gifts for.

Books are the obvious choice. They offer love, sex, betrayal, adventure, jaunty penguins and Paleo brownie recipes, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s time to hit the bookstore, and here are a few titles from local authors that are well worth sharing with friends and family.

Train the next generation to take better care of the planet with two wonderful books that touch upon climate change and the environment in lively and unexpected ways. For the 8-12-year-old crowd, there’s David Zeltser’s big-hearted book, “LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age,” which introduces us to a contrarian cave boy negotiating art, girls and growing up, along with his clan’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge climate change. For millennials (and their parents), Newbery award-winning author, Paul Fleischman has crafted the definitive call to environmental stewardship in his book, “Eyes Wide Open,” which lays out in detailed design, compelling images and clear-eyed argument the case for leaping into the environmental challenge armed with hope, grit and savvy.

What’s a hopefully rainy winter without great novels to see you through? Fortunately, there are a number of talented local authors to choose from. If you haven’t yet read mystery writer Laurie King’s brilliant Mary Russell series, get busy, because the next installment, “Dreaming Spies,” arrives in 2015. In the meantime, luxuriate in the underbelly of jazz-age Paris with legends like Hemingway, Josephine Baker, and Man Ray, in her novel, “The Bones of Paris.” Absinthe may be in order.

Karen Joy Fowler’s novel “We Are All Beside Ourselves” won the 2014 PEN/Faulkner award, and was shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker prize. Funny, compassionate and disquieting, it nudges at the space between science and soul, grabs hold of your heart, and won’t give it back.

“Consolations,” by Sally Wolfe, taps into the soul from a different angle. Inspired by the writings of Thomas Merton as well as her own experience with cloistered life, her novel explores the conflict between our humanity and our spiritual yearnings.

Shelly King’s new novel, “The Moment of Everything,” drops you off in the pages of an ancient copy of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” where mysterious margin notes guide its recently laid-off reader through the eccentricities of her favorite used bookstore as well as the excesses of Silicon Valley. It’s the perfect intersection of retro-romance and high-tech cool, where wry humor cuts tenderly through the pleasures of the past.

 If you want to dive deeply into local culture, here are some can’t-miss books. Thomas Hickenbottom’s “Surfing in Santa Cruz” explores the history of our favorite pastime. Geoffrey Dunn’s “Santa Cruz is in the Heart (Volume II)” is a local classic. “228 Interesting, Odd, Beautiful and Historic Things to Do in Santa Cruz” by Steven Bignell and Susan Bruijnes challenges even the most hard-core local not to find someplace new to explore.  And Stephanie Michel’s well-researched, don’t-read-it-in-the-dark novel “Curse of Santa Cruz” revisits our reputation as the murder capital of the world in the 1970s, the tragic demise of our Chinatown, the decimation of the Ohlone nation, and the legendary curse that may have caused them all.

Finally, don’t forget “Blue Mind” by Wallace Nichols, who lives up the road in Davenport. It’s a fascinating study of the scientific and psychological evidence that human happiness and well-being thrives in proximity to water. We could have told him that. There you have it, a smorgasbord of great gift ideas. Now go make a local author happy and cross a lucky reader off your gift list.

PHOTO: Santa Cruz author Karen Joy Fowler’s novel ‘We Are All Beside Ourselves’ won the 2014 PEN/Faulkner award, and was shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker prize for fiction.

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