The California Book Club Announces Next Three Authors

This week’s California Book Club newsletter: William Finnegan, Dana Johnson, and Rebecca Solnit.

william finnegan, barbarian days, dana johnson, elsewhere california, rebecca solnit, a paradise built in hell
Alta

Alta Journal’s California Book Club is thrilled to announce that our selection panel has named the three books that will carry us through the summer and into the fall! Each is by a highly esteemed writer who is deeply committed to detailing the enchanting and little-known tales of California people, life, and history along the striations of race, class, and environmentalism.

We’ll encounter the life story of a surfer, the politics of gentrification in a Los Angeles neighborhood, and an inquiry into the meaning of community, altruism, and grief. These books will no doubt offer us moments of respite, as well as opportunities for robust and engaging conversations.

Here are the books, with a synopsis of each from Alta’s books editor, David L. Ulin.

barbarian days, william finnegan
Penguin Books

BARBARIAN DAYS, BY WILLIAM FINNEGAN

Finnegan’s memoir uses his experiences as a surfer to dig deeply, and with nuance, into the question of how to live a meaningful life.

When: Thursday, July 15, 5:30 p.m. Pacific time (please note special start time)

elsewhere california, dana johnson
Counterpoint Press

ELSEWHERE, CALIFORNIA, BY DANA JOHNSON

Johnson’s debut novel maps the social landscape of Southern California, from South Los Angeles to the suburbs of West Covina, and addresses essential questions of race, identity, and class.

When: Thursday, August 19, 5 p.m. Pacific time

a paradise built in hell, rebecca solnit
Penguin Books

A PARADISE BUILT IN HELL, BY REBECCA SOLNIT

Examining five catastrophes, Solnit makes a trenchant argument that people rise to the occasion in the wake of disaster, focusing on community and mutual aid.

When: Thursday, September 23, 5 p.m. Pacific time

In the meantime, be sure to sign up for the upcoming CBC gathering with Rachel Kushner, author of The Mars Room, on May 20. Join your fellow book club members in the Alta Clubhouse for an ongoing discussion about the book.

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ted kaczynski
GETTY IMAGES

DIARY ENTRIES

Are you curious about the meaning of the few short chapters in Rachel Kushner’s The Mars Room? Look no further: here are a few thoughts. Alta


the mars room, rachel kushner
Scribner Book Company

DARK, DEVASTATING, AND FUNNY

The Mars Room depicts the lives of incarcerated people with a nuanced and delicate perspective, balancing the weight of pessimism and readerly sympathy. Alta


mank, netflix
Netflix

CLUBHOUSE EXCLUSIVE

Alta Journal contributor John J. Healey outlines the challenges of producing films about films, using Citizen Kane and Mank as cases in point. To read this article, please join the Alta Clubhouse. Alta


going to trinidad, martin j smith
Bower House

MAKING HISTORY

In a review, Paul Wilner considers how Martin J. Smith’s Going to Trinidad maps the life of Dr. Stanley Biber, a Colorado physician who made breakthroughs in the field of gender-confirmation surgery. Alta


bay area poets
KQED

BAY AREA POEMS

To celebrate this year’s National Poetry Month, KQED’s Forum selected 16 poems by Bay Area writers to play on the air. Now, you can read them online. KQED


joy lanzendorfer
Joy Lanzendorfer

TIMING MATTERS

“My main problem, it seemed, was that I’d invested too much of my identity into what I thought a writing career should look like,” Joy Lanzendorfer says about her path to publication and the shape of writerly ambition. Literary Hub


file folders
Crime Reads

CITIZEN SPYING

Michael Nava offers a brief history of the Los Angeles Police Department’s practice of quelling activism through surveillance and spying. Crime Reads


soul under siege, nicole archambeau
Cornell University Press

VACCINES AND SAINTS

John H. Arnold argues that reading 14th-century stories can offer insights into our present moment–“how we turn trauma into memory, narrative—and, perhaps, transformation.” Los Angeles Review of Books


mike pence
GETTY IMAGES

POLITICS AND PUBLISHING

The recent controversies on the forthcoming books by Mike Pence, Kellyanne Conway, and others have challenged “the story that publishers have told about themselves for decades.” New Republic

suzanne smiard
Brendan George Ko

SUZANNE SIMARD

Meet the woman whose research on the interconnectedness of trees inspired the work of Richard Powers, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Overstory, among many others. Los Angeles Times


california book club bookplates
Alta

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