2013 was a great year for local literature. Find out which books made our top 10 must-read list.
As 2013 comes to a close, we look back at some of the best local literature released this year. Whether you’re in need of a last-minute gift this holiday season, or your new year’s resolution is to read more, our must-read list has something for everyone—from aspiring chefs, to history buffs, to mystery fans, to young children.
Plus: The inside scoop from some of the authors themselves.
“Manresa: An Edible Reflection”
Author: David Kinch
Perfect Last-minute Gift For: Foodies
The Gist: After nearly 12 years at the helm of Manresa—a two Michelin star restaurant in Los Gatos—world-renowned chef and Santa Cruz resident David Kinch released his debut cookbook in 2013, titled “Manresa: An Edible Reflection.” The book features more than 300 pages of recipes, stories and eye-catching images of the ingredients, dishes, and surrounding landscape that make the restaurant a true culinary destination.
GOOD TIMES: Why did you decide to write a cookbook at this particular moment in your career?
DAVID KINCH: After almost 12 years with the restaurant, we finally had a story to tell. So it’s a story of a restaurant told as a cookbook through pictures, recipes, and more.
Do you need to be an experienced chef to tackle the recipes in the book?
The recipes are not dumbed down in any way. Everything is exactly as it is at the restaurant. There are a lot of simple recipes, but we also encourage people to try some more ambitious dishes.
What’s an example of an ambitious dish in the book?
Some of the desserts, like the Tidal Pool, which is a signature dish, have a lot of components to them. It’s more work, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
The title of your book includes the phrase, “An Edible Reflection.” In what way is your inventive cooking style a reflection of you as a person and chef?
We try very hard to make each dish a reflection of who we are and where we are at the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
What would you say is your greatest accomplishment in your career so far?
I’d have to say mentoring the people who come into the kitchen, and watching them grow and develop, has been very rewarding.
What is one fun fact about the book?
In the back, there is an illustrated farm section with 40 little paintings of special products from Love Apple Farms. Those drawings were actually done by one of the line cooks when he was just doodling. Because of the high quality, I asked him to do some illustrations for the book.
“There Is a Garden in the Mind: A Memoir of Alan Chadwick and the Organic Movement in California”
Author: Paul A. Lee
Perfect Last-minute Gift For: Eco patriots
The Gist: This philosophical memoir explores the life and work of pioneering organic gardener Alan Chadwick, and his profound influence on the organic farming movement. Author Paul A. Lee recounts his first serendipitous meeting with Chadwick in Santa Cruz in 1967, and their subsequent founding of the Chadwick Garden at UC Santa Cruz, the first organic and biointensive garden at a U.S. university.
“The Bones of Paris”
Author: Laurie R. King
Perfect Last-minute Gift For: Suspense junkies
The Gist: When a 22-year-old woman from Boston goes missing in Paris, it’s up to private investigator Harris Stuyvesant to track her down. But his dream job takes a sharp, disturbing turn that forces Stuyvesant to descend into the darkest depths of perversion to find her.
GOOD TIMES: What inspired you to write "The Bones of Paris"?
LAURIE R. KING: I write a series in which a young woman meets, is apprenticed to, and becomes the partner of Sherlock Holmes. Now, I push that whimsical premise pretty far, but there are certain kinds of edgy stories I just can't work in—stories, for example, of sacrifice and serial murder in the catacombs of Paris.
What is it about Paris that makes it the perfect setting for a murder mystery?
Paris in the ’20s had this entire American community set down in Montparnasse, writers and artists who loved the romance of living there—and appreciated how cheap it was. Sothere you have the beginnings of conflict: Parisians and Yanks, living shoulder to shoulder, each with their resentments and prides. Add in the peculiarities of artists, the vulnerability of young innocents, and hundreds of kilometers of hidden tunnels under the streets ...
What is your secret to keeping readers on the edge of their seats?
It probably helps that I write on the edge of my own seat; only rarely do I have any clue where the story is going. The front of my mind, that is—the back of my head seems remarkably efficient at keeping track of what's going on and what needs to come next. However, it tries hard not to tell me until it happens on the page.
How do you keep the mysteries in your books secret? Do you ever worry that some readers will spoil it for others?
I do take a lot of care not to publish excerpts that give things away, but beyond that, most of my readers seem to enjoy the books enough that they don't want to spoil things for others. When we discuss books on the online book club, for example, they're really good about marking comments with the warning "Spoiler ahead!"
What is one fun fact about your book?
I think people would be amazed at just how much of the story is actual fact. Really, I didn't have to make up much of anything—and all the really bizarre stuff in the book? Those are probably the parts I didn't invent.
“The Matchbox Diary”
Author: Paul Fleischman
Perfect Last-minute Gift For: Elementary school readers
The Gist: Newbery Medalist and Santa Cruz resident Paul Fleischman’s newest book is an immigration tale told entirely through captivating dialogue between a little girl and her great-grandfather, and brilliantly detailed illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline. As the two sort through a collection of matchboxes making up her great-grandfather’s diary, they relive his journey from Italy to a new country, before he could read and write.
Author: Jill Wolfson
Perfect Last-minute Gift For: Fantasy-craving young adults
The Gist: This modern supernatural Greek tragedy tells the story of three angry 10th-grade girls, known as “Furies,” who decide to reject forgiveness and empathy and embrace a vindictive twisted justice. At first, the girls use their powers to combat bullying, but things quickly spiral out of control.
GOOD TIMES: Why did you decide to write this book?
JILL WOLFSON: “Furious” got its start when my daughter, who was studying ancient Greece in her 11th grade Western [Civilization] class, came home from school one October day and said that she and her two closest friends figured out what they were going to be for Halloween. “The Furies,” she announced, and when I looked up pictures on the Internet, I totally got it. Who wouldn’t want to go to a party dressed something like this?
Fury images in art are sometimes of ugly, hideous creatures; other times, the trio is sexy and gorgeous. But the figures are always scary, powerful, hair flying, female energy venting its full righteous anger.
I immediately knew that I wanted to write about them, but I didn’t want to portray them as generic monsters to be avoided or killed. I wanted to tell the story from the Furies’ points of view. My goal was to look deeper into who these creatures of vengeance are, why the ancient Greeks created them and what they mean to us here in the present moment. As a start, they gave us the words “fury” and “infuriated”—and in the teenage world, in the world in general, we see plenty of that going on!
Not all young readers may be familiar with Greek mythology, but your book also has modern elements. How did you find a balance between ancient mythology, modern life, and the supernatural world?
The power of old stories—myths, fairytales—is that they can speak to us now. That’s why we study them and re-read them. That’s why they’ve lasted generation after generation. They express some very important, fundamental part of what it means to have a human existence.
Cultures create and use myths, like The Furies, in order to better understand and cope with a troubling and unfair world. They can be our templates through confusion. For instance, look inside yourself. When someone hurts you and gets away with it, what’s your first instinct? Eye for an eye, maybe? When you see injustice, don’t you want to call out The Furies, or, better yet, be a Fury yourself to stand up for the wronged and the innocent? But what happens when those with no power get unlimited power?
The ancient Greeks had those questions and the characters I created—three outcast girls in a school suspiciously like Santa Cruz High—had to grapple with them, too. While I was researching and writing, when I was really tuned in, I saw Fury-like girls and heard echoes of the ancient themes everywhere.
Each of your books has a weighty subject matter—from heart transplants to foster children to bullying—but is infused with humor. Is it important for young people to read stories that deal with sensitive topics?
That’s my favorite kind of book to read and write. I’m drawn to that tone because that’s how I see life in general: a whole lot of suffering with a big, hearty belly laugh at the center of it. Humor is how we cope and how we endure and how we help each other with the weighty stuff.
Young people should be exposed to all topics in an honest way—bullying, romance, death, friendship. It’s all part of life, so why not read about it?
What is one fun fact about your book?
Santa Cruz is all over it—the surfer statue on West Cliff, the folks downtown, Moon Rocks. But because it’s fiction, I got to play goddess and move them where I wanted.
“The People’s Advocate”
Author: Daniel Sheehan
Perfect Last-minute Gift For: History buffs and law enthusiasts
The Gist: In this autobiography, Santa Cruz resident and American Constitutional Trial Attorney Daniel Sheehan traces his personal journey from his working-class roots through Harvard Law School to his role as America’s preeminent cause lawyer. Sheehan offers the inside story of more than a dozen historically significant American legal cases of the 20th century, all of which he litigated.
“Fashion Animal ABC’s”
Author: Nina Lutz
Perfect Last-minute Gift For: Kids who love picture books
The Gist: After being diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer, at 17, Nina Lutz began drawing and painting as a way to stay positive and keep her mind active throughout intensive chemotherapy and surgeries. The result of the Santa Cruz High School graduate’s hard work is “Fashion Animal ABC’s,” a vibrant picture book that doubles as a fundraiser for childhood cancer research at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.
GOOD TIMES: How did drawing and painting this book help you through your chemotherapy and surgeries?
NINA LUTZ: I like to say that art saved my sanity during my treatments. When I was sick and couldn't do much at all, I felt like I was wasting precious time. Art was therapeutic because I could focus on something as each hour passed by, and, by doing so, I proved to myself that my time was well spent with a tangible product. I could look back and think that I had actually done something with that day, not just nap and try to eat and drink, not just survive. This book gave me something to look forward to doing, something that fought off bad thoughts by filling my mind with creative ones.
Why fashion and animals?
I've always enjoyed drawing animals from a very young age, they have such interesting features and are so diverse. When I was sick I visited an exhibit at the De Young museum featuring Jean Paul Gaultier, which inspired me to try out illustrating fashions. My passion for drawing animals combined with my curiosity and that created the fashion animals in my book.
Why did you decide to use the book to raise funds for cancer research?
When I was undergoing treatments, I felt really helpless and, in a weird way, selfish. Everyone around me was working so hard to make me better, and I could never ever dream of expressing my full gratitude to all those who helped me out. My book was a way for me to feel like I could start to give back. It made me feel like I did have something to offer in return.
Also, my donation isn't nearly enough to make a real difference, but I hope it draws attention to my doctor's research, and pushes for a cure in general.
How much money have you raised so far?
So far I have raised $5,000.
Do you have any plans to publish another book?
I would love to publish another book, but with school and work it's all gotten pushed to the side. In a way, my experience with cancer gave me the time to focus on what was really important to me.
Who do you think would like this book?
I like to think this book could reach a wide scope of audiences from little kids learning their ABC's or adults who appreciate the humor in some of the illustrations.ignificant American legal cases of the 20th century, all of which he litigated.
“The Kraus Project”
Author: Jonathan Franzen
Perfect Last-minute Gift For: History buffs and Franzen fanatics
The Gist: As Jonathan Franzen offers his translations of a series of essays by the largely forgotten 19th century Austrian journalist and satirist Karl Kraus, he also comes to terms with the young man he was when he first encountered the self-styled wrathful prophet. “The Kraus Project” is a revealing peek into the past of one of Santa Cruz’s most famous and well-loved writers.
“We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves”
Author: Karen Joy Fowler
Perfect Last-minute Gift For: Mystery and science fiction addicts
The Gist: The New York Times-bestselling author of “The Jane Austen Book Club” explores a cross-species relationship in this captivating story about an American family that is ordinary in every way but one.
GOOD TIMES: What inspired you to write this book?
KAREN JOY FOWLER: The book was inspired by a psychological experiment conducted in the 1930s by psychologist Winthrop Kellogg and his family. I moved the experiment to the ’70s and made it last much longer, but the experiment itself remains otherwise the same.
Your book explores what it means to be human, and what it means to be animal. Now that you're finished writing the book, what do you think separates us from animals, and what unites us with animals?
I have lived through many attempts to determine what makes humans unique among animals. When I was a child, humans were the tool-using animals, but now it's clear that many animals make and use tools. Other attempts to differentiate us have also been abandoned as
we learn more about animal cognition and abilities. I no longer believe that there is a bright, clear dividing line. At most, the line is a dotted one.
Many people treat their pets like family members ... do you think it's dangerous to blur that line?
I am all in favor of family; the bigger that category can be stretched, the better for everyone. One of my intentions in my book was to expand our sense of family.
The search for identity plays a central role in the story. Do you think that search is something that all people experience at some point?
I suspect that the search for identity is a lifelong project, reappearing in different forms as our lives change. But what do I know? Maybe that's just me.
What is one fun fact about your book?
Once you begin thinking of humans as primates and seeing human behavior through that lens, it is nearly impossible to stop. Politics and politicians lend themselves too readily to this analysis. Is that a fun fact or a distressing one? Probably both, as is so often the case.
Author: Zach Friend
Perfect Last-minute Gift For: Businessman or woman
The Gist: In his debut book, Santa Cruz County Supervisor Zach Friend draws from his own experience from politics—he worked for Barack Obama and John Kerry’s presidential campaigns—advertising, corporate communications, entertainment and social psychology, to present a fresh and direct approach for communication to fuel success.
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