Another Honor for California Book Club Author


C Pam Zhang, the California Book Club’s first guest author, has been recognized with yet another honor. The Center for Fiction, a nonprofit based in New York City, selected Zhang as one of seven finalists for this year’s First Novel Prize. The winner of the $15,000 prize will be announced on December 3. In September, Zhang was named a 5 Under 35 honoree by the National Book Foundation for her novel, How Much of These Hills Is Gold. The book was long-listed for the Booker Prize in July.

There’s still time to register—for free—for the October 15 book club gathering with Zhang. You can sign up here. And you can read Zhang’s novel beforehand by buying it at the California Book Club store, which is hosted by Bookshop. The profits from each sale are divided between our bookstore partners: Book Passage, Books Inc., Book Soup, and Vroman’s Bookstore.


Frank Herbert in San Francisco

Dune is back on bestseller lists, as the science-fiction classic has once again been taken on by Hollywood—this time in a highly anticipated adaptation by director Denis Villeneuve. The movie was scheduled to come out in December, but its release has been delayed until October 1, 2021. Just how popular is Dune? The Folio Society earlier this year published a gorgeous limited-edition box set of the 1965 novel—for $695—and all 500 hand-numbered copies sold out.

Frank Herbert, the author of Dune and its sequels, would have turned 100 on October 8. Before achieving fame, the native of Washington State lived in a modest home at 412 Mississippi Street in San Francisco, working on his fiction at home when not toiling as a late-night editor at the San Francisco Examiner.

Adesina, Gbenga

Winning Words

The San Francisco literary publication Narrative, which is a partner of the California Book Club, has awarded its annual Narrative Prize to Gbenga Adesina, a Nigerian-born poet and essayist who lives in Brooklyn. The award recognizes an emerging writer whose work has appeared in Narrative during the past year. Adesina won the award for his poem “Across the Sea: A Sequence.” Past winners of the Narrative Prize include Natalie Diaz, Min Jin Lee, and Ocean Vuong.


New Books by Californians

Why don’t new buildings have diagonal fire escapes that are on older structures? This is just one of the many questions that Roman Mars, host of the popular podcast 99% Invisible, takes up in his new book, The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design. Cowritten with the podcast’s producer, Kurt Kohlstedt, the book—like the Oakland-based podcast—examines seemingly mundane subjects around us and reveals unexpected and fascinating aspects of our culture.

The effects of climate change are becoming more evident with every passing day, and Kim Stanley Robinson taps this very real concern for his latest science-fiction novel, The Ministry for the Future. The Davis author’s new book imagines the titular organization, created in the not-so-distant year 2025, fighting global warming amid deadly heat waves and ecoterrorism.

Paul Madonna, known for his intricate drawings of San Francisco, applies his skills to a mystery novel, Come to Light, that unfolds across more than 100 illustrations in a three-volume box set. The action, propelled by art thieves, takes place in California and Europe.


Picturing California

It lasted only a couple of years, from 1895 to 1897, but San Francisco had a satirical magazine whose name hinted at a humorous take on fin de siècle San Francisco: the Lark. The magazine was printed at 631 Market Street, at William Doxey’s bookstore. Its founder was Gelett Burgess, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who left his Brahmin Boston to pursue a bohemian life in San Francisco. With his publication, Burgess hoped, he said, to “demolish Decadence and its ‘precious pretensions.’ ” As he wrote in a whimsical poem in the Lark’s inaugural issue, “I never saw a Purple Cow, / I never hope to see one, / But I can tell you, anyhow, / I’d rather see than be one!”

John McMurtrie edits for McSweeney’s Publishing and the literary travel magazine Stranger’s Guide.
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