Local bookseller | Lit recs and what’s popular now

How to Cocktail, from America’s Test Kitchen, Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House, and Nancy Davis Kho’s The Thank You Project: Cultivating One Letter of Gratitude At a Time have been popular book selections in the last month.

With many people taking solace in books during shelter-in-place, AND wanting to support the local businesses, neighboring independent bookseller A Great Good Place for Books owner/bookseller Kathleen Caldwell is keeping busy. She has noticed definitive trends in readers’ interests — and has some helpful recommendations along those lines.

Escape, improve — or mix cocktails

“People are primarily reading books that either help them escape or improve themselves,” Caldwell says, about customers of the Montclair Village shop.

Asked which books are flying out the door, she says popular titles are Nancy Davis Kho’s The Thank You Project: Cultivating One Letter of Gratitude At a Time and Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House. Caldwell says a highlight of Kho’s book about the lessons learned during the author’s year-long, weekly thank you letter writing project are playlists that come with every chapter. About Patchett’s book, Caldwell writes in an email,

“I resisted reading The Dutch House until GGP’s Lockdown book club picked it as its first selection. I was blown away! This beautiful story interweaves the stories of Danny Conway and his sister Maeve and the house that became the central character of their lives. Beautifully written, it’s a powerful look at what happens when families implode and must learn how to redefine themselves.”

GGP customers are also interested in cocktail books, according to Caldwell.  Among them, Mocktails (Weldon Owen), by Caroline Hwang, and How to Cocktail, from the top-rated television show, America’s Test Kitchen. “I think they’re truly trying to escape,” says Caldwell.

Along with staff picks and audiobooks recommended on the store’s website, GGP is hosting Virtual Book Chats on Zoom. Audiobook excerpts and live discussions on upcoming zoom meetings include bestselling author Bernardine Evaristo’s invigorating novel about Black British families and society, Girl, Woman, Other, winner of the 2019 Booker Prize (Apr. 22); the intriguing and brilliantly constructed My Dark Vanessa: A Novel, a literary debut by Kate Elizabeth Russell (Apr. 29); and Mary Beth Keane’s profoundly moving novel, Ask Again, Yes (May 6).

Weekly editions of #GreatGoodPlaceNews broadcast on Facebook Live began in April. Archived on the website for people to watch if the live broadcasts are missed, staff talk about recommended books; describing the primary plot elements, return characters, or the most appreciable aspects of special selections. Occasional guest appearances by local authors add a personal, Bay Area touch.

Visit GGP’s website or facebook page to learn more about joining an upcoming virtual book chat.

Other new books by Bay Area writers that offer escape or self-improvement include California Book Award Silver Medalist Anne Raeff’s generation-spanning, spellbinding second novel, set in New York and Nicaragua, Only the River (Counterpoint Press); New York Times Bestselling author/illustrator Gene Luen Yang’s vibrant graphic novel, Dragon Hoops (First Second(); El Cerrito-based poet Tess Taylor’s sobering and fearless poetry collection, Rift Zone (Red Hen Press); San Francisco-based C Pam Zhang’s soulful novel about Gold Rush families and identity in a reimagined American West, How Much of These Hills is Gold (Riverhead Books); and—getting a jump on self-improvement—neuroscientist and author Dan Levitin, who lives in Orinda and Montreal, offers Successful Aging (Dutton), a science-backed trove of information animated with delightful anecdotal stories on practical, down-to-earth steps people of all ages can take now to achieve and maintain happy, healthy lives.

For more information and to place an order, visit ggpbooks.com or your local bookstore


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