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‘The Immortalists,’ by Chloe Benjamin

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 01:21:45 UT

Death comes for us all, we know that — in theory. But Chloe Benjamin’s second novel, “The Immortalists,” imagines what happens when that truth moves from hazy inevitability to pressing reality. In 1969, the four Gold siblings, Varya, Klara, Simon and Daniel, steal away to Hester Street in New York, where a fortune teller tells each of them the day they’ll die. It’s a premise that carries the whiff of a thought experiment or a question on a personality quiz: Would you want to know the date of your death? So much of the book’s plot follows from that portentous set-up by necessity that its progress can feel dutiful, almost programmatic.

‘Hippie Food,’ by Jonathan Kauffman

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 20:03:24 UT

What’s the most enduring legacy of the cultural rebellions of the 1960s? Civil rights, feminism, ecological awareness, gay marriage, legal marijuana? An engaging new book by San Francisco Chronicle food writer Jonathan Kauffman, “Hippie Food,” makes the case that the most durable contribution of the counterculture can be found in your kitchen. By uncovering the surprising histories behind the domestication and widespread adoption of foods once considered the exotic province of cultists and communards — including tofu, whole-grain bread and organically grown produce — Kauffman pays tribute to a generation of practical-minded idealists who forever changed our relationship to what we eat.

Lit picks: recommended reading, Jan. 21

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 18:43:07 UT

We recommend these recently reviewed titles: Trumpocracy The Corruption of the American Republic By David Frum (Harper; 301 pages; $25.99) This account by the respected conservative author offers a persuasive and detailed account of how Trump is undermining American institutions, including the presidency itself.

Literary guide, Jan. 21

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 18:42:55 UT

Sunday David Biale “Hasidism: A New History.” 4 p.m. JCCSF, 3200 California St., S.F. Glenda Carroll “Drop Dead Red.” 4 p.m. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. Nidhi Chanani “Pashmina.” 2 p.m. Books Inc., 3515 California St., S.F. Kassidat An afternoon of spoken word with Bloodflower, Timecat, Sarita de la Madrid, EK Keith, Taylor, Global Val, Hermon. 4 p.m. Adobe Books, 3130 24th St., S.F. www.adobebooks.

‘The Bright Hour,’ by Nina Riggs and ‘The Art of Death,’ by Edwidge Danticat

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 18:42:26 UT

In her 1993 Nobel lecture, Toni Morrison said, “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” Nina Riggs and Edwidge Danticat both “do language” to explore mortality in their new books, charging each page with both measure and meaning. Riggs’ deeply moving “The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying” takes its title from a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson — who, we learn, was Riggs’ great-great-great-grandfather.

‘Brass,’ by Xhenet Aliu

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 00:39:54 UT

“An impossible dream was better than no dream at all,” proclaims Elsie Kuzavinas, one of the struggling protagonists of Xhenet Aliu’s thrilling debut novel, “Brass.” As she did in her first stellar collection of stories, “Domesticated Wild Things,” Aliu focuses on the ones who don’t belong, the downtrodden, the immigrants and, in this case, a single mother and her stubborn teenage daughter, both living a nickel-and-diming kind of life in Waterbury Conn., a onetime brass manufacturing capital of the world that long ago showed its tarnish.

New books by Annalee Newitz, M.T. Anderson, Maggie Shen King

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 00:30:32 UT

Autonomous By Annalee Newitz (Tor; 301 pages; $25.99) It’s 2144, and synthetic biologist/pharmaceutical pirate Jack Chen is beginning to think she has made a terrible mistake. Workers across the globe are becoming dangerously obsessed with mundane tasks after dosing themselves with a productivity enhancer known as Zacuity.

Weekend Booking: Maggie Nelson, Julia Bryan-Wilson to speak in SF

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 19:38:44 UT

Author and 2016 MacArthur Genius fellow Maggie Nelson is most widely known for her works of nonfiction, which include “Bluets” and “The Argonauts.” These works unite lyricism, philosophy and memoir with tight precision, reflecting on moments from daily life to negotiate themes of identity, violence and gender. Nelson, who has also penned four collections of poetry, lives in Los Angeles and teaches at the University of Southern California. But this weekend she visits the Bay Area and joins Julia Bryan-Wilson — a history of art professor at UC Berkeley — in conversation for City Arts & Lectures’ cultural studies series. Nelson and Bryan-Wilson are scheduled to speak at the Nourse Theater, 275 Hayes St.

Leni Zumas reads from new novel ‘Red Clocks’

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 19:20:32 UT

In the future America imagined in Leni Zumas’ “Red Clocks,” out this week from Little, Brown, abortion and in vitro fertilization are banned. Legislation is in the works to prevent unmarried people from adopting children. The novel, set in Newville, Ore., follows five women as they strive to negotiate the space between these restrictions and their own desires for family and professional lives. Taking inspiration from authors like Margaret Atwood and Octavia Butler, as well as from real-life historical events like Roe vs. Wade and the madness of the Salem witch trials, Zumas weaves myth, courtroom drama and narratives of government control into her new work.

‘Feuer und Zorn’: Foreign editions of ‘Fire and Fury’ to hit markets

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 21:22:24 UT

“Feuer und Zorn.” It sounds like a Wagner opera, but that’s the title that Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” will have when it goes on sale in Germany Feb. 19. Already a whopping bestseller in the United States — with more than a million hardcover copies on order — the tell-all book about the Trump administration will hit bookshelves abroad over the next few months. Interestingly, the original cover design by publisher Henry Holt and Co. has changed little in several translated editions in the Western world — as often happens when books are published abroad. That might be due simply to the quick turnaround.

‘The Wizard and the Prophet,’ by Charles C. Mann

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 20:33:19 UT

Veteran journalist Charles C. Mann specializes in deep, comprehensive looks at the past that better elucidate the present. His best-selling books “1491” and “1493” both rediscover the “discovery” of the Americas and make important contributions to our collective self-knowledge. In “The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World,” Mann once again produces a highly readable, historical tome. Mann’s prophet is William Vogt, an avatar of today’s environmental movement and onetime president of Planned Parenthood. Vogt’s 1948 book, “The Road to Survival,” prefigured Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and in Mann’s phrase was “the first modern we’re-all-going-to-hell” book.

‘Texas Blood,’ by Roger D. Hodge

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 20:32:48 UT

One afternoon, at a restaurant in rural Texas, Roger Hodge asked his waitress whether there were any local spots he had to see. She knew just the one — an abandoned insane asylum in the town of Wichita Falls. When Hodge asked whether he needed to worry about trespassing, her reply was festive: “We don’t care about that in Texas!” The identity of Texas, and Texans, rests at the center of Hodge’s appealing and unusual new book, “Texas Blood.” Hodge, a nonfiction veteran and now an editor at the Intercept, is no interloper. He grew up in west Texas and reminds his waitress that in their shared home state, trespassing is “a good way to get shot.

‘Fire and Fury’ breaks record, with 1.4 million hardcover books on order

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 23:17:49 UT

And they say people don’t read books. In just one week, “Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff’s exposé of the Trump administration, has broken a record for its publisher. Henry Holt said in a statement Jan. 11 that 1.4 million hardcover books are on order and that more than 700,000 copies have been shipped. Already in its 11th printing, the book has set a record for the publisher, selling more quickly than anything that the house, founded in 1866, has released.

‘Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic,’ by David Frum

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 20:06:27 UT

The most important new book about the dangers of Donald Trump’s presidency is getting the least attention at the moment. “Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic,” by respected conservative author David Frum, offers a persuasive and detailed account of how Trump is undermining American institutions, including the presidency itself. It’s never going to compete with Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” for incendiary anecdotes and speculation about Trump’s fitness for the highest office in the land, or the intellect of his favorite daughter or patriotism of his namesake son. Neither is it going to encounter any questions about the thoroughness or methodology of Frum’s reporting.

‘Fire Sermon,’ by Jamie Quatro

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 20:00:00 UT

Jamie Quatro made a splash with her 2013 debut, “I Want to Show You More,” a collection of stories intensely focused on two major threats to family: adultery and mortality. At once boldly carnal, spiritual, cerebral and literary, Quatro was hailed as a Flannery O’Connor for our era. With her first novel, “Fire Sermon,” about two academic poets whose strong attraction threatens their marriages and challenges their faith, she’s showing us more, all right — more of the same bracing stuff, though somewhat diffused by length and repetition.