Bay Area Books: New from local authors

Amy Schneider was busy. It was Oct. 3, the day her book In the Form of a Question: The Joys and Rewards of a Curious Life would be published and she had a slew of media interviews to get through, including one with Local News Matters. The top-winning woman and top-winning trans contestant in Jeopardy! history already had been on The Today Show where she hosted a Jeopardy-style quiz about that long-running production. During the coming days, she would appear on ABC, CBS This Morning, The View, as well as an author talk at the 92nd Street Y.

Schneider has been famous for about 22 months now, ever since she won 40 Jeopardy! games in a row, second only to Ken Jennings’s 74-game winning streak. Much of America was captivated by her encyclopedic knowledge of numerous topics, her skill in Final Jeopardy (she guessed correctly 30 out of 41 times)  and the string of pearls she wore around her neck.

Amy Schneider’s new book, “In the Form of a Question: The Joys and Rewards of a Curious Life,” was released on Oct. 3, 2023.

That Amy Schneider was a relatable trans woman and may have been the first exposure many Americans had to someone who was born into the wrong gender and later transitioned into the gender that felt right. 

The Amy that readers will encounter in The Joys and Rewards of a Curious Life is more complex. The book, which naturally has chapter titles in the form of questions such as Why Do You Do Tarot? What is Home? and What Did You Win on Jeopardy!? ($1,382,800, plus $2,000 for the second-place finish in game 41) lets Schneider explain her early life as a boy, her first heterosexual marriage, and her slow recognition that she was tranny (her preferred term). She writes that ADD was a blessing in disguise since the best way to calm down her active brain is to learn. “Learning was my first drug, my oldest form of self-medicating,” she writes. All that accumulated trivia, as well as spending many years in the theater, helped Schneider become a Jeopardy! powerhouse. (She also won a Tournament of Champions contest in November).

Schneider also reveals aspects of herself that are less mainstream. For example, she is polyamorous. In the chapter “What is Polyamory?” Schneider, referring to her first wife, Kelly, whom she married while still presenting as a man at 25, ponders: “Why not just let each other have sex with other people? … And when I asked myself that question, I couldn’t find any downside. It just seemed like another aspect of the question to which nobody ever seemed to have a satisfying answer: Why is there this special category for behavior involving genitals?”

In the chapter, “Okay Then, So What Have Your Experiences with Drugs Been Like?” Schneider describes her experiences with cocaine, mushrooms and psychedelics. “I believe that drugs have been good for me,” Schneider writes. “Without them, I might not be here today.”

And Schneider, who is married to Genevieve Davis, frankly discusses trans sex in a chapter titled “So If You’re Trans, Does That Mean You Like Guys?”

Schneider doesn’t think talking about these things is brave, although many people have suggested it is. It’s just like when she came out as trans, she said. It was something she had to do, not a courageous act. 

“There was this part of my mind that [asked] ‘shouldn’t you be frightened by this? Shouldn’t this feel dangerous to be exposing all this stuff that not everybody is going to like?’ I should be feeling that way. But I don’t. I’ve always tried to be an open and transparent person. I don’t like the feeling that I’m hiding a secret because, you know, then I just have to worry that it’s going to come out. And if I just get everything out there, then I don’t have to have that fear.”

Schneider, 44, will return to Oakland, where she lives with her wife, after her multi-city book tour. She plans to turn In the Form of a Question into a book for middle school students. Fans can find Scheider’s own Jeopardy! like game on her #TriviaTuesday posts on TikTok.

In the Form of a Question: The Joys and Rewards of a Curious Life 

By Amy Schneider (Oakland)
Avid Reader Press (Oct. 3, 2023)

More new books, from Bay Area and Northern California authors, listed by release date.

Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon

By Michael Lewis
W. W. Norton & Company, (Oct. 3, 2023)

Michael Lewis met Sam Bankman-Fried in the fall of 2021 when checking out Bankman-Fried’s bonafides for a friend. Lewis quickly realized the-then-29-year-old former quant trader who created a cryptocurrency exchange that turned him into billionaire might be worth following around. Lewis spent the next two years with Bankman-Fried, interviewing him more than 100 times. Lewis had a front-row seat for the rise of FTX, when it had more than $30 billion in crypto and celebrities like Tom Brady rushed to invest. Lewis also was in the Bahamas the December day Bankman-Fried was arrested and even traveled to jail with his parents. Going Infinite came out the same day Bankman-Fried’s trial for moneylaundering and mail fraud began in New York City. 


By Daniel Clowes (Piedmont)
Fantagraphics (Oct. 3, 2023)

Daniel Clowes’s latest graphic novel follows the life of Monica, whose mother walked out on her when she was a little girl. Traumatized by her tumultuous Bay Area childhood, Monica decides years later to look for her mother. Her journey is not easy and involves ghosts, a cult, and a short foray into success with a candle factory. 

American Purgatory: Prison Imperialism and the Rise of Mass Incarceration

By Benjamin Weber (Davis)
The New Press (Oct. 3, 2023)

The U.S. has always used imprisonment to subdue and control restless populations, Benjamin Weber writes in American Purgatory. American officials put down numerou populations including Native Americans here and rebels in Panama, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. These colonial and racist attitudes have expanded American power around the globe and have led to the U.S. current carceral state.

the delicacy of embracing spirals

By Mimi Tempestt (Berkeley)
City Lights (Oct. 3, 2023)

In the delicacy of embracing spirals, Mimi Tempestt explores what it means to be a Black queer woman. The collection of poems begins with short verses of personal struggle and expands to larger examinations of society and politics. The book concludes with the staging of a play with life-threatening consequences.

The First Cat in Space and the Soup of Doom

By Mac Barnett (Oakland) and Shawn Harris (El Granada)
Harper Collins/Quill Tree Books

The second volume in The First Cat in Space series has The Moon Queen being poisoned by soup! Trusting few people, the queen and the First Cat will have to search for the antidote. They wish LOZ 4000, the toenail clipping robot, could help, but he is on the run. They don’t know that secret forces, including villainous cowboys, are out to get them. Can they save the Queen? 

The Deserts of California: A California Field Atlas

 By Obi Kaufmann (Crockett)
Heyday (Oct. 10, 2023) 

Obi Kaufman has shown Californians a new view of their state in his bestselling illustrated field atlases of the state’s coasts, forests and mountains. Now Heyday is publishing The Deserts of California: A California Field Atlas which features 400 watercolor illustrations of the terrain of the Sonora, Mojave, Colorado and Great Basin deserts. 


By Aya de León (Berkeley)
Candlewick Press, (Oct. 10, 2023)

Amani thinks she has it tough because she is the only plus-size Black girl at her a white private school. But then her house burns down, her mother whisks her away and changes her name. Amani soon discovers her dad is missing and her mother is running away from a former boyfriend-turned-stalker. How much trouble is her family in? Amani’s sleuthing uncovers long-buried family secrets.

Project F

By Jeanne DuPrau (Santa Rosa)
Random House Children’s Books (Oct. 10, 2023)

From the bestselling author of The City of Ember comes a post-apocalyptic story set hundreds of years in the future. Climate change has upended life on Earth. There are no cars, planes, televisions, or iPhones. People live a simpler life. Then 13-year-old Keith discovers the clandestine Project F, a scientific mission that will change the world. Keith desperately wants to be a part of Project F, but will he be embarking on an adventure or risking his life and the life of his family? How much danger is Keith willing to face?

Artificial: A Love Story

By Amy Kurzweil (San Francisco)
Catapult, (Oct. 17, 2023)

In Artificial: A Love Story, readers meet three generations of Kurzweils. There is Frederic, an accomplished conductor and pianist who fled Nazi-controlled Vienna right before Kristallnacht in 1938; his son, Ray Kurzweil, the futurist and an early innovator in artificial intelligence research; and Amy Kurzweil, a New Yorker cartoonist and the author of Flying Couch: A Graphic Memoir. Ray tries to resurrect the essence of his dead father by creating a chatbot that scans letters and writes in his father’s voice. He shows Amy his work, which leads her to explore through her illustrations what this creation means and what it can teach her.

The Totally True Story of Gracie Byrne

By Shannon Takaoka (San Rafael)
Candlewick Press, Oct. 31, 2023

Gracie Byrne is 16 and wishes everything about her life was different. She is shy and tongue-tied, doesn’t fit in at her new school, and sad about her parents’ divorce and her grandmother’s worsening Alzheimer’s. When Gracie finds a blank journal she starts to write stories about the better life she fantasizes about. But when parts of the diary come true and Gracie realizes she can create any reality she wants, what’s real begins to blur.