Read Local: "Beach Reads" for a San Francisco Fall

Categories: Read Local


New York City might be home to the big houses, but this scrappy city just happens to be the epicenter of publishing on the Best Coast. Join Alexis Coe for Read Local, a series on books produced in the Bay Area.

As Septembers nears, the milky, billowing fog thins out, and something funny happens to people in San Francisco: we feel warm.

This is why, despite posting book reviews all summer, I have yet to compose a list of "beach reads." Well, perhaps my aversion to the term also played a role. As I learned in May, I'm quite comfortable reading something like The Fault in Our Stars on beach in Mexico and publicly sniveling into a towel. The summer before that, I read Proust's The Lemoine Affair while camping in Yellowstone's backcountry.

A good book is a good book, and people should read whatever they want, whenever and wherever they want.

That being said, summer is a very useful organizing tool. The books below have all been recently released by local authors or publishing houses, sometimes one in the same. A few have links to longer reviews, while others are appearing in Read Local for the first time. All are wonderful, in their own way, and worthy to be read in Dolores Park or on Ocean Beach during the impending, hopefully glorious Fall weather - or any season after.


Fast Times in Palestine: A Love Affair with a Homeless Homeland
By Pamela Olson
(Seal Press; 320 pages; $16.00)

Olson's book reads like a novel, which is nothing short of a triumph. She manages to take the complex political and religious inherent in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, unfolding before her eyes, and renders them anew.


Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America
By Jon Mooallem
(The Penguin Press; 339 pages; $27.95)

Who, exactly, are the "wild ones?" Readers can't be sure, and that's where Mooallem's thoughtful book truly excels; there are few axioms when it comes to wildlife conservation. No one - not the conservationists or those who as flagrantly plunder, exist in a vacuum.


Iris Has Free Time
By Iris Smyles
(Soft Skull Press; 336 pages; $15.95)

When we meet the debut novel's antihero, she is a 20 something, eye-on-the-main-chance nouvelle, but unlike most novels in this genre, we actually make it to her 30th birthday. Iris is not quite as clever as Sally Jay Gorce of The Dud Avocado or Katy Konent of The Rules of Civility, but she is entertaining as hell.


Down by the Bay: San Francisco's History Between the Tides
By Matthew Morse Booker
(University of California Press; 294 pages; $29.95)

The San Francisco Bay is a familiar image, one many of us see every day, but few of us know about the development of the Pacific Coast's largest estuary. Booker offers an environmental history of the region, replete with a fascinating look at how rapid urban growth has altered the environment.


Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge
By Peter Orner
(Little, Brown and Company; 208 pages; $25.00)

Peter Orner is a masterful storyteller, and his new collection is simply exquisite. The stories are not tied to one place or time, but rather traverse the globe, stopping off at seemingly disparate locales. All of his characters, however, are unnervingly close to people you know, and articulate thoughts you're unlikely to utter aloud.

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