June 18, 2024



A Walk in the Park: The True Story of a Spectacular Misadventure in the Grand Canyon by Kevin Fedarko. "To say that I knew nothing about what we were doing would be an understatement." This observation from the author comes at the halfway point of this astonishing and fantastic book but it's a theme that runs throughout. Fedarko and his long-time collaborator, photographer Peter McBride, embarked on an almost 800-mile hiking odyssey through the Grand Canyon, spanning 14 months and broken up into a series of eight "walks" that totaled 75 days when they were finally done. This book is an absolute page-turner, rich in history of the land and its native inhabitants, steeped in harrowing details of the perils and beauty the author and his companions encountered (often told with humor and humility), and it opened my eyes to some of the less-than-admirable doctrines created and enforced by our national parks system. So good! - Carolyn

Little Rot by Akwaeke Emezi. In the space of a little more than 24 hours, Emezi delves into the characters and their actions so deftly - immersing the reader in their young lives in the sweltering, fast-paced, racy culture and clubs of New Lagos, Nigeria. Sometimes this world is bright and glamorous and beautiful, sometimes it’s slinking and dark and rotting, like spoiling plantains. Emezi has a remarkable gift for intertwining the players, both physically and in the storyline that unfolds - full of drama, mishap, lust, loyalty, and betrayal. Not easy to read, but Emezi’s characters put you in the belly of the beast, and then show you what you can do there and how you can possibly get out. As one of their characters, Ola, states bluntly: “There is a rot in the world but you can learn how to work the rot if you aren’t afraid to touch or use it - the rot can give you power." - Heida

Moonbound by Robin Sloan. In the beginning, there was the Anth: a civilization so powerful, so technologically advanced, that they created seven great Dragons and sent them off to explore the stars. They came back insane, so that part didn’t end so well. Now, 11 thousand years later, the last chronicler of the Anth has been awakened from its tomb by a young boy; his name is Ariel de la Sauvage. He is, to borrow a phrase from the chronicler, “brave, curious, morbid — and a bit grandiose”. This is his story - a story within a story, for many people think they know Ariel’s destiny. But he’s more than he seems, and he makes his own way across an Earth remade and beyond. - Cynthia

Sandwich by Catherine Newman. I wanted to be part of this fun-loving, inclusive family on their week-long, summer vacation in Cape Cod. Rocky, sandwiched between her elderly parents and her grown children, shares her innermost thoughts and middle-aged struggles with the reader. She had me laughing out loud -- so real and true. Her father reveals a secret he had been keeping for decades, sparking her to reveal her own personal secrets. The unconditional love shared by each family member is heartwarming -- a big group hug. - Jessica

Roman Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri (now in paperback). Lahiri's new stories are quiet and acutely observed - a series of poignant reflections on issues of exile, alienation and discrimination. I was flooded with the feeling of Rome in reading these nine short stories - the history, culture and both the vibrancy and the luxury of the Roman environment and the lives lived there. Lahiri, living in Rome since 2011, composed this collection in Italian, then translated it beautifully into English with editor Todd Portnowitz. Jhumpa breathes life into the barest of sketches. Read the stories slowly and savor them! - Heida

The Ebony Gate by Julia Vee & Ken Bebelle (now in paperback). Emiko Soong was the Blade of Soong - an elite warrior pledged to defend her famous magical family. Then she lost her temper, and innocent people lost their lives. She broke her sword and left her family’s service, and now she barely speaks to them. She’s an antiques dealer in San Francisco these days, but when what should be a simple errand goes awry, she finds herself sucked back into the politics and intrigues of several magical families. If she fails to seal the gate to the underworld in Golden Gate Park, her soul will be forfeited. There’s an intriguing nonmagical White guy who keeps showing up in her life. And weirdest of all, she seems to be making some friends? Relentlessly paced with an interesting Asian magical system, ass-kicking female main character, and threats too numerous to mention, this is a perfect beach read for thriller fans, fantasy readers, and locals who always knew there was more than meets the eye going on in Chinatown. - Cynthia

All Friends Are Necessary by Tomas Moniz. What a breath of fresh air, a "friends" book with characters that actually are truly wonderful friends with believable relationships! Tomas's beautiful writing pulls you into their lives in such a natural manner, you just want to be hanging out with Chino and his crew. Plus the San Francisco and Oakland setting brings the region to life as another character in the book. - Eric

Not In Love by Ali Hazelwood. The author is known for her STEM-inist rom-coms and she definitely turns up the spice levels in her latest! Rue and Eli meet through a dating app for what's supposed to be a one-and-done hookup but things go awry, forcing them to leave their mutual attraction unconsummated. The very next day Rue (a biotech engineer) discovers that Eli is leading the charge in a hostile takeover of the food science company for which she works. Unable to deny the chemistry, they begin a no-strings-attached affair while remaining on opposite sides of the boardroom politics and corporate secrets that begin to emerge. A steamy page-turner. - Carolyn

Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (in paperback). This 10-year anniversary edition celebrates a classic of Ugandan literature. Kintu Kidda has too many wives and four sets of twins for children. When he accidentally kills his foster son, he unleashes a curse that will haunt his many descendants for the next 250 years. Rivalries and disagreements about politics, religion, family secrets, and most importantly, who counts as family, follow each descendant as they try to mitigate the clan's curse and adapt to modern life in 21st century Uganda. - Alison

Margo's Got Money Troubles by Rufi Thorpe. Margo's Got Money Troubles, electric from the very first sentence, begs the question: who is responsible for the narrative of this novel? In a thrilling gesture of authorship Rufi Thorpe lends Margo, her 19-year-old teen mother heroine, agency over her own story. Margo simultaneously inhabits the 1st person narrative in a voice that is fresh and sardonically funny, and acts as 3rd person narrator thereby distancing herself from her own sticky moments. I say thrilling because the book is all about agency, about Margo finding her own power, her own voice, and about the decisions she makes to survive as a single, savvy, community college dropout in Southern California. Thorpe weaves in OnlyFans, cosplay, pro wrestling, Arby's, addiction, and complex family dynamics with aplomb, and has gifted us with a heartwarming story and a lovably quirky cast of characters I won't soon forget. - Hannah

The Color of a Lie by Kim Johnson. One of my favorite young adult authors has done it again: another riveting social justice thriller that is well paced and plotted with excellent character development. Delving into history, she takes us to 1955 Pennsylvania and explores housing discrimination in an all-white town, seen through the lens of a teen boy who is "passing" and finds himself caught between worlds and lies. Profound and moving. - Carolyn


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(Caution: Definitely Not Hands-Free)


At an informative and entertaining discussion about successful writing, noted children's authors (above from left to right) MARISSA MOSS, GENNIFER CHOLDENKO and PAMELA TURNER shared helpful tips for aspiring writers. They spoke about the importance of a supportive and critical writing group of trusted peers; fighting an urge to self-censor to avoid negative attention from groups looking to ban books; being true to your own writing methods; and choosing topics you're passionate about. 

Below, the three show off some of their latest work - Turner holds Comet Chaser: The True Cinderella Story of Caroline Herschel, the First Professional Woman Astronomer, while Moss displays Talia's Codebook for Mathletes and The Woman Who Split the Atom: The Life of Lise Meitner, and Choldenko has her middle-grade novel The Tenth Mistake of Hank Hooperman.

One of our favorite local authors, ROBIN SLOAN, discussed his rollicking new science fiction novel Moonbound before a room full of fans. The book takes place 11 thousand years from now, and Ariel is a boy in a small town under a wizard's rule. Like many adventurers before him, Ariel is called to explore a world full of unimaginable glories and challenges, aided by artifact from an earlier civilization -- a record-keeping artificial intelligence device that witnessed the fall of civilization.

LEIF ENGER, the author of Peace Like a River and Virgil Wander (both staff favorites!) entertained his audience with readings and a Q&A session celebrating his new novel, I Cheerfully Refuse. The book tells the story of Rainy, a bereaved and pursued musician who sets sail on Lake Superior in an Orphean search for his departed, deeply beloved wife that turns into an increasingly dystopian journey.

An annual Mrs. Dalloway's tradition in celebration of Bloomsday featured our favorite thespian THOMAS LYNCH reading from James Joyce's Ulysses.





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