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9 Books to Read Right Now, According to Local Booksellers

These works of fiction and non-fiction make for great stay-at-home companions.

Bookseller and avid reader Jude Sales, of Readers’ Books in Sonoma, sometimes has difficulty giving book recommendations. Not that there aren’t plenty of good books to recommend, rather because, “There are so many titles that are worth our time,” she said.

After asking local booksellers for a few recent titles seen flying off of Sonoma County bookstore shelves, we’ve compiled recommendations for works of fiction and non-fiction with strong narrative style that make for great stay-at-home companions. Books with stories that, in Sales words, “take you out of yourself.”

(Find a few favorite independent bookstores here).

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

Booksellers unanimously recommend the Barack Obama memoir, A Promised Land. In its first day on sale, 890,000 copies were sold in the US and Canada; in the week following, it sold 1.7 million copies.

Whether speaking or writing, Obama knows how to turn a phrase. In A Promised Land, he colorfully captures his early life and political career, then goes on to chronicle his 2004 Senatorial campaign, his presidential campaign and his first presidential term.

If you’re prone to suffering end-of-a-good-book blues, no worries here: Obama is busy writing a sequel that will cover the second half of his presidency.

Readers’ Books, 130 E Napa St, Sonoma, 707-939-1779, bookshop.org/shop/readersbooks

A Reason to Kill by Andy Weinberger

Readers’ Books store owner Andy Weinberger can sell them and write them too. His second installation in a three-part murder mystery series is high on the list of bestsellers at the Sonoma bookstore.

Sometime retired PI Amos Parisman isn’t the fastest or most stylish walker in LA, but he can still out gumshoe any of the other 20 million passing him as he saunters down the cracked sidewalks of the city. He knows that “the race isn’t always to the swift.”

“He writes a pretty damn good book,” said Readers’ Books buyer, Jude Sales, about Weinberger’s latest novel.

Readers’ Books, 130 E Napa St, Sonoma, 707-939-1779, bookshop.org/shop/readersbooks

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Jude Sales gives high praise to this fictionalization of Shakespeare’s life with his wife Anne Hathaway and their two children. In this book, you will not “just” read of Shakespeare’s marriage and the death of his son Hamnet in plague years — O’Farrell’s rich storytelling makes you feel as if you were there. This Elizabethan period drama enchants; it even brought tears to Sales’s eyes.

Readers’ Books, 130 E Napa St, Sonoma, 707-939-1779, bookshop.org/shop/readersbooks

Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell

Treehorn Books, Santa Rosa’s bibliophile paradise, well known for its veritable ocean of used and rare books, also carries a robust selection of contemporary bestsellers. Obama’s A Promised Land and Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist are in high demand, according to bookseller Casey Colby.

Colby mentioned David Mitchell’s Utopia Avenue as a particularly transporting read; a colorful chronicling of the 1960s music scene. A refreshing read in an era of pandemic, “It brought me back to a different time, when live music was happening,” he said.

Treehorn Books, 625 4th St, Santa Rosa, 707-596-3845, treehorn.com

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson

Casey Colby highly recommends this historical and inspirational non-fiction book which chronicles the first year in office of Britain’s intrepid wartime leader Winston Churchill: a year when Adolf Hitler expands his invasion of Europe while conducting a massive bombing campaign (the Blitz) of Britain’s cities. According to Colby, the book tells a gripping story at a breakneck, page-turning speed, focusing on Churchill’s leadership and eloquence during a year in which Britain stood alone against Hitler.

Treehorn Books, 625 4th St, Santa Rosa, 707-596-3845, treehorn.com

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet

The staff at Pages Books on the Green in Windsor recommend a few bestsellers. The Vanishing Half tells the story of twin sisters — inseparable growing up, they then move apart and experience contrasting lifestyles: one in a Black community and the other in a white community.

In the author’s words, this is a story that explores the “lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.”

Pages Books on the Green, 920 McClelland Dr, Windsor, 707-837-8665, facebook.com/Windsor-Pages-Books-on-the-Green-208175175894182.

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

Pages Books staff says customers are loving this memoir by actor Matthew McConaughey: it’s a charmingly funny read.

Pages Books on the Green, 920 McClelland Dr, Windsor, 707-837-8665, facebook.com/Windsor-Pages-Books-on-the-Green-208175175894182.

The Man Who Ate Too Much by John Birdsall

This biography on the late food luminary James Beard is front and center on the recommendations section of Copperfield’s Books website. Award-winning food writer John Birdsall uses “novelistic detail” to describe Beard’s notion of what an American cuisine could be and his complex life as a gay man closeted in a society in which being gay was allowed “only as long as it stayed enigmatic and implied.”

Copperfield’s Books, 138 N. Main Street, Sebastopol, 707-823-2618, 140 Kentucky Street, Petaluma, 707-762-0563,  106 Matheson Street, Healdsburg, 707-433-9270, 775 Village Court, Santa Rosa, 707-578-8938, copperfieldsbooks.com

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Another recommended title on the Copperfield’s Books website is this story about Gitty, a young Ghanaian-American neuroscientist at Stanford, who is looking to science to make sense of the diseases that have plagued her family: addiction and depression. Named one of “The Best Books of 2020,” by The Washington Post, Gyasi’s second novel “interrogate(s) medical and religious issues in the context of America’s fraught racial environment.”

Copperfield’s Books, 138 N. Main Street, Sebastopol, 707-823-2618, 140 Kentucky Street, Petaluma, 707-762-0563,  106 Matheson Street, Healdsburg, 707-433-9270, 775 Village Court, Santa Rosa, 707-578-8938, copperfieldsbooks.com

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