Local Lit: July | Top tips for Bay Area book lovers

Lafayette Library and Learning Center Foundation’s Distinguished Speaker Series | All month

The library’s extensive collection, frequent author appearances, special teen room, and terrific proximity to the area’s multiple culinary temptations make an in-person visit to the downtown library worth the trek through the tunnel. But timing is tricky when the beach calls, the temperatures soar, or traffic is a nightmare. Luckily, the library’s online YouTube channel offers a literary feast accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Watch 60-minute appearances from the archival collection with past and recent bounty such as best-selling authors Joyce Maynard, Jessica Shattuck, Dr. Charan Ranganath, Lisa See, Kim Bancroft, Kelly Corrigan, Mary Roach and more.

All month | Free | lllcf.org | For the YouTube series, click HERE

SongWriter Live with W. Kamau Bell and Las Cafeteras: KQED headquarters and online | July 10

This event has Bell, one of Oakland’s favorite comedian-writer-producers, leading the charge in a co-production from KQED and Litquake. The “SongWriter” podcast series converts stories into songs and in the past has featured performances by Questlove, Joyce Carol Oates, David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Roxane Gay, and others. Bell will bring his Emmy- and Peabody-winning television host charm while original music by the Chicano band Las Cafeteras pumps out the Afro-Mexican rhythms and glorious “artivism” lyrics (that’s art and activism combined). The electric vibe welds a deep groove as “SongWriter” host Ben Arthur and social psychologist Shira Gabriel along with Bell and the band construct an evening and in which story and song fuse as one powerful language speaking on identity, home, and community.

July 10 @ 7 p.m. | In-person: $29; livestream: free | KQED.org

Actors Ensemble: Much Ado About Nothing @ John Hinkel Park Amphitheatre | July 13-14

Actors Ensemble presents the first of two productions for Summer 2024. This contemporary adaptation directed by Glenn Havlan is a comedy adored by audiences for centuries. Ageless topicality renders a love story made spicy with gossip, innuendo, rumors, and the comedic machinations of an anti-hero. Set in 2024, gender-switching and other shenanigans arrive with no sacrifice to Shakespeare’s canonic language and characters. The lively outdoor setting in the late afternoon augments it all and, although it’s free, reservations are recommended. Visitors can BYO blankets and pillows and seating is first come, first served. The two-hour production has one intermission during which hot dogs, veggie dogs and corn-on-the-cob are available. Picnicking is encouraged.

Jul 13-14 @ 4 pm | Free | aeofberkeley.org

Best-selling natural history writer Amy Stewart promotes her latest title “The Tree Collectors: Tales of Arboreal Obsession.” (Courtesy Scott Brown)
Amy Stewart presents “The Tree Collectors” @ Mrs. Dalloway’s | July 23

Stewart brings to her new book the same exquisite writing and extensive research as can be found in her New York Times bestselling book, “The Drunken Botanist”, and other nonfiction books about the natural world. Also the author of seven novels, Stewart proves once again to be a sleuth-like weaver of stories based in fact and real life history that brim with effervescent energy. In the profiles of fifty individuals with passion for trees, readers meet community-builders, healers, and visionaries whose love for all things arboreal result in tree sanctuaries, forests, and collections. Learn (without a lecture) the benefits and medicinal practices related to trees worldwide. Stewart’s watercolor vignettes add visual elegance and flair to this captivating new release.

July 23 @ 7-8:30 p.m. | Free | mrsdalloways.com

Bygone Berkeley: Exploring history with Liam ODonoghue @ Berkeley Public Library | July 27

In the library’s Mystery Room, O’Donoghue carries on the traditions established as the host and producer of East Bay Yesterday. The marvelous, independently-produced podcast launched in 2016 to explore local cultural, political and environmental history throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties. In this program, O’Donoghue centers on Berkeley as a creative hub, looking at the cultural leaders, social justice and free speech activities, supercharged experimentalism, and the city’s highest highs and lowest lows. Using Berkeley’s past to cast light on the present, perhaps no one is more versed than O’Donoghue. His work as a journalist and storyteller has appeared in SF Gate, Berkeleyside, Oaklandside, Mother Jones, Salon, and more.

July 27 from 2-3 p.m. | Free | berkeleypubliclibrary.org

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