As book events go, 2016 is already off to a banner start, with a very welcome roster of events to get us through the rainy days of El Niño. Mid-January brings a host of readings from Pulitzer Prize winners; promising debut novelists; a survivor of a murderous, polygamist Mormon cult; and a star of the Spanish language writing scene. Bust out your umbrella, bookmarks, and defogging reading goggles, and get out there.
Tuesday, Jan. 12: Scott Hutchins and Margaret Malone at Book Passage, SF. Scott Hutchins' 2012 novel A Working Theory of Love was undoubtedly one of the best books of that year. It tells the story of a newly separated Bay Area man and his awkward, half-failing attempts to connect with a woman named Rachel, his ex-wife, and a computer loaded with memory based on the extensive journals of the narrator's deceased father. Hutchins, a Truman Capote fellow in the Wallace Stegner Program at Stanford University, will be in conversation with Margaret Malone, who has a new collection of stories out called People Like You. Cheryl Strayed loved it, BTW. The evening promises to be bright, shiny, and full of wit. Details here.
(Malone also reads at Why There Are Words' Sixth Anniversary in Sausalito on Thursday, Jan. 14. )
Wednesday, Jan. 13: Ruth Wariner at Book Passage, Corte Madera. At the age of 15, Ruth Wariner left the polygamist, doomsday Mormon cult in which she grew up for the Golden State. Her new memoir, The Sound of Gravel, is about her childhood, growing up in the LeBaron family, the same kin of which Jon Krakauer wrote about briefly in Under the Banner of Heaven. Fans of the TV show Big Love, or anyone fascinated with what it would might like to grow up in a decidedly "alternative" family structure (and have the "Mormon Manson" for an uncle), will want to check out this book. Wariner, who now lives in Portland with her family, also appears at Bookshop West Portal in SF on Thursday, Jan. 14. Details here and here.
Friday, Jan. 15: San Francisco Writers Grotto Fellow Reading, SF.
The Grotto is a place where local writers can get support, education, and working space needed to get creative work done in a world where artists can barely get by. This reading is a chance to celebrate that community and last year's small literary victories. Featuring readings by Ingrid Rojas Contreras, recipient of the 2014 Mary Tanenbaum Award for Nonfiction and former KQED contributor, Jessica Keaton, Celeste Chan, Patrick Letellier, Tanya Rey, and Melissa Valentine. Details here.
Saturday, Jan. 16: Carlos Labbé at Diesel Books, Oakland. The influences of Roberto Bolaño, Jorge Luis Borges, and Julio Cortázar are loud and clear in Labbe's fourth novel Loquela. A hybrid literary detective novel, the book rarely takes a straightforward path. The Los Angeles Times called it a "fictional rabbit hole." British literary magazine Granta declared Labbé to be one of the best young Spanish-language novelists around; this event offers a chance to see what makes this form-defying author tick. He's joined by translator Will Vanderhyden. Details here
Tuesday, Jan. 19: Elizabeth Strout at Kepler's, Menlo Park.
For a while, Olive Kitteridge was everywhere. Friends recommended the linked story collection. One could find loads of copies in almost any bookstore. Eventually, a mini-series was filmed starring Frances McDormand. Oh, and the book also won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In the wake of that major literary victory, Strout once again dons the fiction mantle with a new novel, titled My Name is Lucy Barton. The story of a mother, a daughter, and the ways in which tension and longing left over from childhood can continue to affect a life years down the road, the novel aims to be just as good as its predecessor. Details here.