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, 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, 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, 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.
DARK, DEVASTATING, AND FUNNY
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
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 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
“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
Michael Nava offers a brief history of the Los Angeles Police Department’s practice of quelling activism through surveillance and spying. Crime Reads
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
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
Alta’s California Book Club email newsletter is published weekly. Sign up for free and you also will receive four custom-designed bookplates.