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What We’re Reading for the Holidays

Every year, California Humanities staff share a list of books they’ve enjoyed over the past year and/or what they plan to read over the holidays. See below for some of our recommendations, and find these books at your local bookseller!

Renée Perry, Operations Coordinator:

I have a pile of books that I have put aside to read over the holidays. The one on the top of the pile is a few years old, Dan Barber’s The Third Plate. I just started listening to Gastropod, one of the many food podcasts, this weekend and they have a great interview with him. Barber is the chef at an innovative restaurant and farm in upstate New York. This book talks about the evolution of cuisines and what sustainable means for food, from what gets farmed, who farms it, and what we consume. There aren’t any easy fixes here, but these are all issues that I think we should struggle with as conscientious eaters and consumers.

Claudia Leung, Communications Manager:

I’m trying to plow through a series of books that have been on my shelf. I’m looking forward to my friend and Oakland-based graphic novelist Trinidad Escobar’s upcoming volume Of Sea and Venom, a tale infused with magical realism about a young woman warrior in the Pacific Islands. Another friend, who works at Pegasus Books in Rockridge, constantly gives me great recommendations such as the short stories in What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah. I am definitely excited to get my hands on a copy of Ingrid Rojas Contreras’ Fruit of the Drunken Tree depicting the relationship between a wealthy young girl and the family maid set against a backdrop of the drug war in 1990s Bogotá.  I have to finally read Kiese Laymon’s Long Division and Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing, the two authors we saw speak at the National Humanities Conference. Last but not least, I have to read If Beale Street Could Talk by the inimitable James Baldwin, in advance of seeing the movie adaptation by one of my favorite directors Barry Jenkins when it comes out mid-month.

Julie Fry, President and CEO:

The theme for me this year is how people and places collide, intersect, and transform each other. On the list is The Browns of California: The Family Dynasty that Transformed a State and Shaped a Nation by Miriam Pawel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who documents the history of California and its national impact through the influential Brown family whose influence in public policy spans four generations. As a bit of an architecture buff, I’m looking forward to reading House: The Dramatic Story of the Sydney Opera House and the People Who Made It. The novel Small Country by Gaël Faye is a document of the end of an era before Africa was impacted by the western world through the eyes of a young child. I’m also planning to read Paris, the newest offering from Edward Rutherfurd, a master of historical novels. Last but definitely not least, local author Tommy Orange’s There There, focuses on the tale of twelve Indians living in Oakland, California, and has been given rave reviews nationwide.

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