Book Passage: April Book Picks

Staff at Alta partner Book Passage in the Bay Area recommend books by California authors and/or on California subjects.


Who better to recommend the most recent must-reads on the market than the well-read staff of our bookstore partners? This month, Book Passage’s Elaine Petrocelli and Luisa Smith suggest new fiction and nonfiction titles for the top of your reading pile.



In 1938, on the Korean island of Jeju, the Japanese are feared and despised. The women of Jeju support the island’s inhabitants by diving for sea life in the frigid water. Young- sook and Mi-ja became best friends when they were children, although Mi-ja’s family had been shunned because of her father’s collaboration with the Japanese. The girls are diving partners, and they share their secrets. They support each other through marriage and motherhood. But then there is a betrayal and mass murder of Jeju’s people, and that friendship is broken. This mesmerizing story opens in 2008, when Mi-ja’s granddaughter comes to the island to find Young-sook, now a beloved old woman who makes it clear she wants nothing to do with this girl and her American family. (Some signed first editions will be available at the Corte Madera location following the Literary Luncheon on April 9.) —Elaine Petrocelli



Meet two first-world contractors who are sent to an unnamed country—South Sudan comes to mind—reeling from a recent civil war. Their job: get a road built across the country in time for a big parade. These economic mercenaries go by the pseudonyms Four and Nine. Four is a by-the-book guy who’s been told not to fraternize or wander or eat any food not supplied by the corporation they’re working for. Nine is gregarious and lusty, and his actions put them in peril. Four begins to question his own actions, his responsibility for his coworker, and the ethics of the work they were hired to do. Will this road be good for the people? Do social and economic progress go hand in hand—or not? Long after you finish The Parade, you’ll be thinking about this suspense-filled tale. (Signed first editions will be available after the author reading on April 5.) E.P.



Witnessing the evolution of rock and roll on the dance floors of the Sunset Strip, Daisy Jones resolves to be the voice behind the music instead of just a muse. The Six is a band on the cusp of greatness whose lead singer, Billy Dunne, struggles with fatherhood and fame. When these two rising stars are finally brought together, their chemistry makes rock and roll history. The story is so vivid, it’s easy to forget that Daisy Jones & the Six were not a real band. In this novel, each memory is illuminated by the passion, love, and regret we recognize in the greatest rock anthems and have come to expect in the work of the talented Taylor Jenkins Reid. This wonderfully exuberant addition is no exception. —Luisa Smith



Was it a hit-and-run accident, or was it a murder? With nine narrators, this book could have been a mess, but Laila Lalami lets all of them tell us about the late Moroccan immigrant Driss Guerraoui. As each narrator reveals secrets, a fascinating picture emerges. Driss’s widow, Maryam, desperately misses her home country. His daughter, Nora, is a jazz composer who struggles as a substitute teacher in Oakland. Iraq War vet Jeremy is trying to help Nora while grappling with his own demons. Efraín is undocumented and could be deported soon. And then there’s Coleman, the detective who is trying to unravel it all while dealing with a son who is in big trouble. Like a jazz bandleader, Lalami allows each character to solo before stepping back into the literary ensemble. The result is a nuanced, compelling tale. —E.P.

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