Local Lit | January’s top tips for book lovers

In-person Author Events | Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore | Throughout January

Kick off the new year with a dose of awe this Thursday, Jan. 4 at 7 p.m., when local Berkeley author and UC Berkeley professor Dacher Keltner (below) will read from, discuss, and sign copies of his book Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life. 

Grab a buddy or go alone and make a new friend at several book presentations that feature two-person teams. The Elmwood shop presents a dazzling collection of intriguing pairings, kicking off the series with Julian Tringali Golden and her new book, Easy Crosswords for Relaxation, in discussion with graphic novelist Briana Loewinsohn (Ephemera: a Memoir) on Wednesday, Jan. 10 at 7 p.m.

Next up on Thursday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. are debut authors Christine Platt and Catherine Wigginton Greene, joining in reading and chatting about their novel, “Rebecca, Not Becky.” Midway in the month on Saturday, Jan. 13 at 6 p.m., Oakland author Carolina Ixta in a conversation about her YA novel, Shut Up, This is Serious, is joined by New York Times bestselling author Leila Mottley (Nightcrawling).

Other duo appearances to enjoy: Berkeley poet Katie Peterson (Fog and Smoke: Poems) with award-winning poet Matthew Zapruder (Tuesday, Jan. 23 @ 7 p.m.); Dr. Jen Gunter (Blood: The Science, Medicine, and Mythology of Menstruation) and author Ina Park (Wednesday, Jan. 24 @ 7 p.m.);  author/historian Pat Thomas (Material Wealth: Mining the Personal Archive of Allen Ginsberg) and polymath Peter Hale (Thursday, Jan. 25 @ 7 p.m.); and Bay Area author A. J. Sass (Just Shy Of Ordinary) presents his new book with writer/educator Michael Leali (Tuesday, Jan. 30 @ 7 p.m. Check the website for exact dates and times and more information about each program.

Throughout January | Free | mrsdalloways.com

Oakland Pubic Library: Origami, Knitting, Journaling, Yoga, Oakland Youth Poet Laureates, and more | OPL branches | Throughout January

The new year presents a wonderful opportunity to investigate the many programs and special events offered at various branches of the Oakland Library. The Rockridge branch kicks off a twice-monthly Intergenerational Origami Workshop series held on the first Thursdays and third Tuesdays. At the Chapter 510 and The Department of Make Believe location at 546 9th Street in Oakland, a performance Jan. 5 by Oakland Youth Poet Laureate Poets from 2023 and  past years kicks off the application launch for the 2024 OYPL cohort. There’s also art journaling at the Brookfield branch, chair yoga at the Dimond Branch, and at the Piedmont Avenue Branch, a knitting and crochet circle is led by Susan Segal every second and fourth Monday of the month. Book clubs, storytelling for young children, job search support, and more make the library a community hub and lit lovers haven well worth visiting in 2024.

Throughout January | Free | oaklandlibrary.org

Anna Bliss: Bonfire Night | Books Inc. Alameda | Jan. 11

The Bay Area-based author launches her new novel, Bonfire Night, with an early evening appearance at the independent bookstore’s Alameda location. Bliss is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and the University of Sussex, and an alumna of the Northern California Writer’s Retreat. Her impeccably researched novel—Bliss wrote her dissertation on women’s narrative of the London Blitz during World War II—weaves historical facts, mysterious fate, war, betrayal, and psychological truth into the fraught love relationship between the book’s two central characters, a young Irish Catholic photographer and a British Jewish medical student. Ambition, tradition, danger, and devotion swirl throughout the compelling story that portends good things for a sophomore novel from Bliss.

Jan. 11 @ 7 p.m. | Free | booksinc.net

Adam Plantinga: The Ascent | Book Passage on Jan. 14 & Orinda Books on Jan. 20

Jump across the bay to Book Passage San Francisco or through the Caldecott Tunnel to Orinda Books for the introduction of East Bay-based nonfiction writer Plantinga’s debut novel, The Ascent. Set in a high security prison that experiences a breakdown when the security system is hacked, the chilling, thrilling tale that shouts “film adaptation” on every page. A mercurial protagonist keeps readers engaged and curious, and prompts one to wonder if this is this the first in a series. Plantinga during his day job is a San Francisco Police Department sergeant with 22 years in law enforcement. His previous nonfiction books, 400 Things Cops Know and Police Craft, earned high praise and widespread recognition. Branching into fiction, he brings the full force of his first-hand knowledge related to crime, incarceration, law enforcement, and the plights of contemporary society to bear. Come hear a reading and discussion by the East Bay’s newest crime writer.

Jan. 14 @ 2 p.m. (Book Passage) & Jan. 20 @ 5 p.m. (Orinda Books) | Free | bookpassage.com & orindabooks.com

Cities and Wars: Roman Vishniac in Berlin and Jerusalem 1947/1967on display at The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life
Manuscripts, Books, Art, Artifacts and more: Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life | UC Berkeley | Jan. 9-31

If you’ve never explored one of the world’s preeminent collections of Jewish history and culture before, plan a visit to this incredible museum in downtown Berkeley. Located just steps off the UC campus on Allston Way and re-opening after winter break on January 9, the intriguing archives are once again available four days each week, including extended hours on Thursdays until  7 p.m.

The exhibitions currently on display include, among others, “Cities and Wars: Roman Vishniac in Berlin and Jerusalem 1947/1967.” Vishniac (1897–1990) was a Russian-Jewish modernist photographer who lived and worked in Berlin from 1920 to 1939. Also on view is “Time Capsules. The Magnes: 10 Years at UC Berkeley,” which revisits ten out of the over 30 exhibits the Magnes has presented to the public since opening. The exhibition serves as just one example of the collections remarkable range and holdings, with manuscripts, books, photographs, postcard, art, artifacts, sound objects, scrolls, and more. Within the permanent collection are magnificent texts, objects and historical documents about Jews in the Global Diaspora with special focus on the American West.

Although there are no programs scheduled in conjunction with the current exhibitions in during the first month of the new year, look to the calendar for several programs like the Feb. 4 screening of the documentary Vishniac and conversation with director Laura Bialis; and a “Teens Take The Magnes” program in early March.

Jan. 9 and beyond | Free | Check website for visitor hours | magnes.berkeley.edu

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