In 2022, Alta Journal’s California Book Club saw the selection of a dozen new books by authors from throughout the Golden State. Each writer Zoomed in for an incredible evening of literary communication with host John Freeman and a special guest of their choosing. In the month approaching each CBC event, numerous writers contributed coverage about the upcoming title that analyzed, discussed, and expanded on the book’s themes and subject matter, all under the keen eye of CBC editor Anita Felicelli. These writers, many of them talented authors in their own right, helped our members deepen their understanding of each selection through ruminations on desire in poetry, activism in practice and in writing, crooked cops, gender trauma and discovery, community practice, visions of the future, familial reckoning, and so much more. Here, we’ve gathered a list of some of our favorite pieces, one for each of this year’s California Book Club picks, along with a link to a recording of the event itself.
JANUARY: Likes, by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
Girlhood and its guiles are the subjects of Emily Holleman’s essay, which focuses on “Many a Little Makes,” one of the longer stories in Sarah Shun-lien Bynum’s Likes. Holleman addresses the stakes of the story and those its characters grapple with as they grow through adolescence.
FEBRUARY: Postcolonial Love Poem, by Natalie Diaz
Rebecca Morgan Frank describes the new poetics forged by Natalie Diaz’s love poems, which counter postcolonial violence through acts of disruption, acknowledgment, celebration, and transformation.
MARCH: I Hotel, by Karen Tei Yamashita
Angie Sijun Lou draws attention to the polyvocal structuring of Karen Tei Yamashita’s historically centered novel of resistance, describing the echoes of the book’s philosophies in her own experiences on strike and protesting for freedom and equality in the 2020s.
APRIL: The Dark Hours, by Michael Connelly
Charles Finch sits down for lunch with Michael Connelly, and in writing about that experience and their conversation for the California Book Club, Finch explores the man Connelly is, giving readers insight into his professional history, his habits, and his creative process.
MAY: The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson
In a personal essay for the CBC, Ilana Masad discusses their identity as a nonbinary person while parsing the questions raised in Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, a book that, in turn, deeply analyzes words, gender, and their relationship to each other.
JUNE: Your House Will Pay, by Steph Cha
Fellow crime writer Sarah Weinman writes a profile of Steph Cha that discusses the start of Cha’s career; how the idea for the California Book Club’s June 2022 pick, Your House Will Pay, seized her; and what may come next for the author.
JULY: Always Running, by Luis J. Rodriguez
Michelle Cruz Gonzales writes about her parents’ lives as young Chicanx in Los Angeles in the 1950s and ’60s and the challenges they faced in relation to Luis J. Rodriguez’s Always Running, pointing out the profound value of the author’s celebrating his community in his memoir.
AUGUST: The Wrong End of the Telescope, by Rabih Alameddine
Picking up on the vivid details of place that Rabih Alameddine shares with his readers in The Wrong End of the Telescope, Lauren Alwan reveals his words as a visual art as much as a written one, and in doing so, elucidates their impact.
SEPTEMBER: The Swimmers, by Julie Otsuka
Joanna Scutts unveils the literary tradition of toying with swimming pools as she highlights the ways a handful of books use them in light of the California Book Club’s September novel, The Swimmers, by Julie Otsuka, about a group that gathers at the community pool.
OCTOBER: A Place at the Nayarit, by Natalia Molina
Gustavo Arellano captures the joy of sitting down for a meal with Natalia Molina’s family in a wonderful interview conducted by the O.C. writer as they delve into what food can do for people.
NOVEMBER: The Gold Coast, by Kim Stanley Robinson
Diving into some of The Gold Coast’s biggest questions, Ajay Orona tackles the role of art in life and some of the potential implications Kim Stanley Robinson’s 1988 book has in 2022.
DECEMBER: Gordo, by Jaime Cortez
Ursula Villarreal-Moura writes about the transformative power of nicknames in Gordo, by Jaime Cortez, calling out the humor and strength in the practice of giving the nicknames as well as of carrying them.