Looking at website traffic, social media engagement, and feedback from readers, one thing is clear: Alta Journal’s community has eclectic tastes that range from close literary reads to historical yarns to explorations of the outer reaches of the mind.

“The Beach Rats,” by Andrew Dubbins

U.S. Marine Corps

The story of a group of Santa Monica lifeguards tapped by William “Wild Bill” Donovan to join the Office of Strategic Services and fight during World War II. With scenes of daring sea rescues and dangerous reconnaissance missions, Andrew Dubbins’s tale reads like an action film.


“‘The Ways of Fiction Are Devious Indeed,’” by Sands Hall


For decades, academics have debated what debt Wallace Stegner owed to Mary Hallock Foote, the turn-of-the-century writer who inspired parts of his classic novel Angle of Repose. As Sands Hall reveals through meticulous archival research, Stegner didn’t just borrow elements of Foote’s life: he drew heavily from her writing as well. This is a literary detective story.


“The Gentrification of Consciousness,” by Roberto Lovato

Jason Henry

Roberto Lovato’s examination of the ways ancient medicines used by Indigenous and Latinx people are being commodified by a new generation of entrepreneurs in San Francisco offered a provocative take on the city’s ongoing story of gentrification. Part sociological study, part snapshot of a moment in time, this one blew readers’ minds in more ways than one.


“Joan Didion’s Singular Voice,” by David L. Ulin

© Julian Wasser

Posted online shortly after Joan Didion’s death in December 2021, David L. Ulin’s remembrance of the California writer became the centerpiece of Alta’s Didion package in Issue 19. Ulin has spent decades in communion with Didion’s prose as a reader and the editor of her Library of America volumes. Here is his tribute.


“Finding Francis,” by William Deverell

William Deverell

In 2022, historian William Deverell turned his talent for bringing the past to life to his own family, using his scholarly skills to track down his great-uncle Francis Deverell, who disappeared shortly after returning to the States from serving in World War I. Over five installments, Deverell tracked his namesake while showing how Francis’s disappearance affected the family he left behind.


“Why I Write: Chasing Your Heroes,” by Michael Connelly

michael connelly
Dustin Snipes

Michael Connelly’s The Dark Hours was the California Book Club’s April 2022 selection, a police procedural set in Los Angeles featuring two of his best-loved characters, Harry Bosch and Renée Ballard, teaming up to solve a crime. In this essay, the prolific novelist let readers into his process that created a library full of bestsellers.