Across Northern California, author talks and book signings are on ice for a while. But the publishing industry, which prepares releases many months in advance, has plenty to offer—and is mindful that shelter-in-place is potentially a golden opportunity for reading.
Book lovers who want to show a degree of solidarity with Bay Area or Northern California authors have lots of options for 2020 of new books in stores now, and on the horizon. Meanwhile, Amazon announced that it was de-prioritizing book deliveries during the COVID-19 pandemic—a move that has given independent booksellers a chance to get back in the game of book delivery in this social-distancing era, with mail order and in some cases even curbside pickup.
Available now is the latest from novelist, memoirist, and literary activist Dave Eggers. It’s a very short satirical novel titled The Captain and the Glory (Penguin Random House) about a cruise ship that elects an unqualified buffoon as its captain. Eggers isn’t playing coy here; the parallels with the Trump era are almost too painful to laugh at. It’s pointed, very dark, and blazingly partisan, and can probably be consumed in an afternoon.
Also newly released is the new memoir from the defiantly feminist writer and essayist Rebecca Solnit. Recollections of My Nonexistence (Viking) traces the author’s evolving worldview through her experiences of living in 1980s San Francisco. She traces her discovery of many marginal communities of artists and activists, the persecution of women on a daily basis through casual harassment and violence, and the joys of walking the neighborhoods of the city.
Beth Lisick’s Edie on the Green Screen (SPD) is another new novel of particular interest to NorCal readers. The novel tells the story of a 1990s San Francisco party girl who has grown into a middle-aged woman trying to reconcile her lifestyle in the era of tech bros and Silicon Valley monoculture.
Chinese-born San Francisco writer C. Pam Zhang is creating buzz with her new novel How Much of These Hills is Gold (Riverhead), due in April. The historical novel, set in the post-Gold Rush American West, follows the lives of two immigrant siblings from China, newly orphaned, negotiating a world that doesn’t want them.
Celebrated Santa Cruz poet Ellen Bass, who appears regularly in The New Yorker, releases her new volume of poems Indigo in April, reflecting on her parents’ lives, her challenges with growing older, and the image she’s creating now with her adult children.
Writer and adventurer Bonnie Tsui releases her latest book April 14. It’s a journalistic exploration of the human relationship to water called Why We Swim (Algonquin), with nods to the waters of the San Francisco Bay. It works as a kind of companion for those who enjoyed the similarly themed Blue Mind by Santa Cruz scientist J. Wallace Nichols.
Marin-based writer Kate Milliken is releasing her debut novel Kept Animals, set at a California horse ranch and following three teen girls negotiating tragedy and the aftermath of a devastating wildfire. It’s due April 21.
San Francisco native Alia Volz has a helluva story to tell. Volz is set to release her new memoir with the self-explanatory title Home Baked: My Mom, Marijuana and the Stoning of San Francisco (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). The book tells the story of the author’s family’s rewarding sideline during the 1970s and ’80s, delivering roughly 10,000 cannabis-powered brownies a month—Sticky Fingers Brownies, for those who might remember—to customers around the Bay Area, including those suffering through the early days of the AIDS crisis.
Due in June is a promising title by memoirist Kendra Atleework, who documents her deep attachments to her native home in the eastern Sierras and particularly in the town of Bishop. Miracle Country combines her own family story with a historian’s eye view of the infamous California water wars—in which the region’s rich water legacy was essentially hijacked by thirsty Los Angeles.
Also in June will be the newest from Santa Cruz novelist Laurie R. King, the author of the popular Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes line of historically oriented mysteries. King’s new book is called Riviera Gold and will transport readers back a century ago to the Roaring Twenties on the French Riviera.