Local Lit: January’s top literary picks

Jenny Odell, Author of How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, at Berkeley Public Library – Central Library, Jan. 18

Making an indelible mark on the new year, Oakland-based artist/author Odell devotes everything — time, energy, focus, wisdom, words, expertise, action and more — to the art of doing “nothing.” In her new book, How To Do Nothing: Resisting The Attention Economy, ecology of the mind and the kind found in nature are inseparable; art participation and appreciation and daily journaling expand and contract a person’s attention. She outlines how to step off digital highways without at all tuning out the world. Join in community conversation with Odell about the book that Barack Obama included on his “Best of 2019” reading list. Book sales and signing included.

January 18 @ 2 p.m., Free, Berkeley Public Library – Central Library, 2090 Kittredge Street, Berkeley , berkeleypubliclibrary.org

Mira Jacob, author of Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations, at A Great Good Place for Books, Jan. 18

Mira Jacob’s candid and visually striking graphic memoir, Good Talk: A Memoir In Conversations, made it onto numerous “best books of the year” lists: The New York Times Book Review, Time, Kirkus Reviews and others. Answering the heart-rending, sometimes uncomfortable questions her bi-racial son posed (“How brown is too brown?” “Can Indians be racist?”), Jacob, also the author of The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing, sallies forth with prose alternatively humorous, poignant, wise or absurd. Hear her read and join the conversation at Montclair’s favorite indie bookstore.

January 18 @ 6:30 p.m., Free, A Great Good Place for Books, 6120 La Salle Ave, Oakland, (510) 339-8210 • books@ggpbooks.com

Roz Chast & Patricia Marx at First Congregational Church of Oakland, Jan. 21

Offering timely, illustrated advice, New Yorker writer Patricia Marx and New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast team up in You Can Only Yell at Me for One Thing at a Time: Rules for Couples. Jump past clichés — about not taking anger to bed and such — to laugh all the way to queen-size beds with king-size blankets and cozy (although slob-like) cohabitation instead of arguments about the division of chores and more. Berkeley Arts & Letters’ terrific series presents the award-winning authors of Why Don’t You Write My Eulogy Now So I Can Correct It: A Mother’s Suggestions in conversation, with audience Q&A. Book sales and signing included.

January 21 @ 7 p.m., Berkeley Arts & Letters; First Congregational Church of Oakland, 2501 Harrison St., Oakland, berkeleyarts.org

UC law professor and author Ian Haney López at Kehilla Synagogue, Jan. 22

Gear up for the 2020 presidential campaign with UC Berkeley law professor and author Ian Haney López and his new book, Merge Left: Fusing Race and Class, Winning Elections, and Saving America. López’s Dog Whistle Politics (2014), explained prior to the 2016 election how politicians exploit fear and bias pertaining race to gain momentum. Now, stepping up the game to target how citizens might use their power in the voting booth to build racial justice and equitable economic prosperity in the future, López presents findings from research, interviews and surveys conducted countrywide that place cross-racial solidarity in sight. He is joined in conversation by Saru Jayaraman, Director of UC Berkeley’s Food Labor Research Center, author, and San Francisco Chronicle Visionary of the Year in 2019.

January 22 @ 7:30 p.m., Free, Kehilla Synagogue,1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont, KPFA.org

Peggy Orenstein at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, Jan. 29

New York Times bestselling author Peggy Orenstein (Girls & Sex, Cinderella Ate My Daughter) presents the other half of the equation in her new book, Boys & Sex. Information about young men’s sexuality and masculinity gathered from interviews with boys, psychologists, academics, and experts outline the distortions and pressures to conform young men experience, the dramatic impact on their lives of pornography, and boys’ struggles with anger, consent and other issues in a changing social landscape. Understanding the complexities comes with deep research, eye-opening frankness and compassion. Event presented by Mrs. Dalloway’s Books and East Bay School for Boys.

January 29 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 p.m., Free, First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way, Berkeleymrsdalloways.com

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