Announcing Spring 2023 Books

In this newsletter, we announce the next CBC selections: Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, Percival Everett’s Telephone, and Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown.

citizen, claudia rankine, telephone, percival everett, interior chinatown, charles yu, california book club, spring 2023 selections
Caleb Lee Adams; Dustin Snipes

It seems impossible, but last year, Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits, the California Book Club selection for March, turned 40. We hope you’ve had a chance to dip into its pages and that you’re enjoying what, for some of you, may be something of a homecoming and, for others, a new love, a new transportation.

It was Salinas writer John Steinbeck who wrote, “The spring is beautiful in California. Valleys in which the fruit blossoms are fragrant pink and white waters in a shallow sea. Then the first tendrils of the grapes, swelling from the old gnarled vines, cascade down to cover the trunks.” All across the state, in its lengthening, recklessly beautiful, sunshine-faded days, in parks and libraries and gardens, what better time than spring to consider some of the state’s freshest and most original literature?

Read with us next quarter as we feature a trio of bold and sophisticated authors who zigzag across traditional boundaries and weld literary forms into unusual shapes and deeply felt insights. We’ll feature a lyric work that fuses poetry and nonfiction, an inventive novel about grief, and a form-busting novel about Asian American experience and Hollywood.•

citizen, claudia rankine
Graywolf Press


When: Thursday, April 20, 5 p.m. Pacific time.

Citizen, by the incomparable Rankine, is our April selection. Rankine wefts images and text to expose race as the lens through which we encounter one another in this country. The book remains, years after its publication, urgent and gut-wrenchingly true. It excavates microaggressions and the way they can get under your skin, forming a tidal wave of emotion that is, finally, not small at all. As Rankine writes, “You take in things you don’t want all the time. The second you hear or see some ordinary moment, all its intended targets, all the meanings behind the retreating seconds, as far as you are able to see, come into focus.”

While this pain is personal, it is not only. Rankine explores how aggression is levied against Black artists and athletes and ordinary people in every walk of life. This slim book’s melding of forms is so complete, so astonishing that it was the first book that made it through a difficult judging process to become a finalist in two categories for the National Book Critics Circle Awards: poetry and criticism.

telephone, percival everett
Graywolf Press


When: Thursday, May 18, 5 p.m. Pacific time.

Fair to say, I think, that Everett’s career, lit by 24 novels, each different from the others, along with many other books, is now having a well-deserved moment in the sun. He’s one of our best and most prolific contemporary novelists. In May, we’ll be reading Everett’s ingenious novel Telephone, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2021. In the novel, cave expert Zach Wells struggles to understand his daughter’s deteriorating vision and seizures (rocks being, perhaps, a little easier than humans and their shocking mortality) and embarks on a quest involving notes for help hidden inside jackets sold on eBay. Seems an odd, but fairly straightforward plot, right?

But there’s a subtle experiment here: there are three variations of this novel. The title refers to the children’s game of telephone, in which a story shifts ever so slightly with each telling. The key to figuring out which of the three variations you have is to look at where the compasses on the cover illustrations are pointing.

interior chinatown, charles yu


When: Thursday, June 15, 5 p.m. Pacific time.

Interior Chinatown, the metafictive novel that won the 2020 National Book Award, is undeniably groundbreaking. Told in the second person, it requires you to participate in the protagonist’s epiphanies. It also adopts a screenplay form. By brilliantly marrying form to substance, it critiques the roles Asian Americans are expected to play, not only on-screen but off, in the ever-unspooling dramatic life of American race relations.

Yu draws on both the personal and his work as a screenwriter and story editor for television to tell a story that is a mind-bending mélange of the deeply moving, the tender, the critical, and the satirical. Our main character, Willis Wu, plays Generic Asian Man in a procedural called Black and White that is eternally in production in a Chinatown restaurant. His family members are assigned to other stereotypical, damaging social roles. While he starts by wishing he could be like his older brother, having children makes him question what that role has demanded from him.

Join us on Zoom on Thursday, March 16, at 5 p.m. Pacific time, when Isabel Allende joins CBC host John Freeman to discuss The House of the Spirits. Please drop by the Alta Clubhouse to let us and your fellow book club members know your thoughts about the book. Register here for the event.


house of the spirits, isabel allende
Atria Books


Here is the opening of Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits to get you started. —Alta

andrew sean greer, michael chabon


If you missed Thursday night’s event featuring Less with author Andrew Sean Greer, special guest Michael Chabon, and CBC host John Freeman, there’s still a chance to watch it or read the recap. —Alta

andrew sean greer
chris hardy


Freeman writes about the charm of Greer’s Less. —Alta

palo alto, malcolm harris
Little Brown and Company


Author Malcolm Harris talks to Zan Romanoff about his new book, Palo Alto: A History of California, Capitalism, and the World. —Alta

on the 5th anniversary of hurricane katrina, people march to chevron, the epa, and bp's san francisco office where they blocked the door and mission st at new montgomery
Steve Rhodes


Prior CBC author Rebecca Solnit shares her thoughts on hope and the future of climate action. —Alta

california bestsellers list


Here are the bestsellers at California independent bookstores for the week ending February 15. Prior CBC author Julie Otsuka and March’s CBC author, Isabel Allende, made the list. —Alta

percival everett
Literary Hub


Percival Everett, the May CBC author, has inked a deal for a retelling of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the point of view of the enslaved character Jim. It is to be titled James. —Literary Hub

north figueroa bookshop
Los Angeles Times


Two small presses, Unnamed Press and Rare Bird Books, have founded a bookstore in Highland Park, North Figueroa Bookshop.Los Angeles Times

california book club bookplates

Alta’s California Book Club email newsletter is published weekly. Sign up for free and you also will receive four custom-designed bookplates.


Anita Felicelli, Alta Journal’s California Book Club editor, is the author of the novel Chimerica and Love Songs for a Lost Continent, a short story collection.
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