This is part two of TNT’s annual local authors/local interest book list. If you are looking for the perfect gift or the perfect winter vacation read, this might just be the place to find it. Part One appeared in our November 18, 2022 issue.
John Mack Faragher, California: An American History, Yale University Press, $24.95
There aren’t a lot of good comprehensive histories of California that are enjoyable reads, but this is one. Faragher, the author of the fascinating but gruesome 2016 book Eternity Street: Violence and Justice in Frontier Los Angeles, has crafted a thoughtful, detailed look at California’s complex and multicultural history that is interesting and a pleasure to read. Faragher grew up in California and is currently the Howard R. Lamar Professor of History and American Studies at Yale University, where he also serves as director of the Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers and Borders.
Coastal California: The Wild Life, various contributors, published by PV Publications, $100
Coastal California: The Wild Life is an unusual publication: it’s a fundraising project for a coalition of environmental organizations that include Samo Fund. This gorgeous coffee table book isn’t cheap—$100, and that’s the special holiday sale price—but most of the proceeds go to help protect and conserve the wildlife that appears on its pages. This is a stellar collection of images from photographers that include candid wildlife portraits by celebrated local camera trapper Johanna Turner, and all of the contributors donated their work for this fundraising project.
“This is an opportunity to peek behind-the-scenes and catch a glimpse of the beauty that these conservationists work so hard to protect,” the publisher’s description states. It’s a spectacular look at the wildlife that makes the Santa Monica Mountains and coast so remarkable.
Highly recommended for anyone who loves nature and wildlife. Order directly from the Samofund at https://www.samofund.org/store/p/coastal-california-wildlife-book
Fishing the Wild Waters: an Angler’s Search for Peace and Adventure in the Wilderness, by Conor Sullivan, published by Pegasus Books, $26.95
None of the TNT crew fishes, and quite a few of us are vegans, but fisherman Sullivan’s debut book, Fishing the Wild Waters, is a compelling read even for those of us who never plan to find ourselves waist-deep in a freezing cold river angling for a fish. It’s as much about the philosophy of fishing as it is about the practice. Sullivan shares his love of wild places with the reader, as well the history of fishing, its importance in American culture, and his own experiences from Hawaii to Alaska to New England.
“Sullivan’s marvelous debut illuminates the often profound nature of fishing as a vehicle that connects those who practice it with reverence to a world beyond the one humans created,” the publisher’s notes states. It’s not an exaggeration.
Sullivan, who serves in the Coast Guard, currently lives in Alaska, but his parents are longtime residents of the Santa Monica Mountains and Woolsey Fire survivors. They’ve instilled in their son a passionate love of and reverence for nature that is evident on every page of this book. A thoroughly enjoyable read.
I’ve Been Thinking, by Alexis Deutsch-Adler, published by Textish Books, $30
This slender chapbook contains the author’s philosophical reflections, photography and artwork. The author describes it as word-to-art and art-to-words pairings designed to amuse and inspire readers with its acute observations of the everyday and the not so everyday.” Deutsch-Adler is a lifelong Angeleno, who lived for many years in Malibu and the Santa Monica Mountains. This is a tranquil, thoughtful book that feels extremely personal, as if the reader was in a conversation with the author. I’ve Been Thinking is available at Diesel Bookstore in Brentwood. https://www.dieselbookstore.com/ive-been-thinking
Palos Verdes: The Great Peninsula, photography and text by Erik Jay, published by PV Publications, $100
Those of us who live in the Santa Monica Mountains see the Palos Verdes Peninsula from the coast and the top of the canyons on clear days, rising out of the coastal fog like an island, glittering with the “queen’s necklace” of jewel-like lights at night, but you don’t get a sense for how large and unusual this peninsula is until one sees it like a mini mountain range that stretches for miles between the 405 and the ocean. This new 180-page coffee table book with photography by Erik Jay celebrates the peninsula’s history, culture, architecture, and natural beauty. It’s an ideal gift for anyone blessed with a view of the peninsula from their windows or even on their commute. Erik Jay is also a contributor to Coastal California: The Wild Life, and both books are published by PV publications to high quality art book standards. https://pvpublications.com/the-great-peninsula/
Wake, Sleepy One: California Poppies and the Super Bloom, by Lisa Kerr, illustrations by Lisa Powell Braun, published by West Margin Press, $17.99
Wake Sleepy One is a delightful California-centric picture book with gentle, poetic words by Lisa Kerr and luminously beautiful—and botanically accurate— illustrations by Lisa Powell Braun. It’s a gentle book, set in the Mojave Desert, and it perfectly illustrates how the desert bloomed during the 2019 super bloom. This is an ideal bedtime book, and a soothing and lovely addition to any child’s bookshelf, and adults who love wildflowers and illustration art will enjoy it, too. https://www.westmarginpress.com/book-details/9781513128689/wake-sleepy-one/
We are the Land: A History of Native California by Damon B. Akins and William J. Bauer, Jr., University of California Press, $24.95
We are the Land isn’t a book by local authors, but it’s one that should interest everyone who lives on Native Land in California. The authors make the argument that, “Rather than being peripheral to, or vanishing from, California history, Indigenous People are a central and enduring part of the state’s history because of their relationship with the land.” Akins and Bauer go on to explain that “California has always been and remains indigenous land,” and that Indigenous People are central to its history and future.
The book opens with creation stories, before exploring California’s Indigenous nations and the history of colonialism from Native perspective.
It looks unflinchingly at t he genocide of people like the Chumash and Tongva who lived for thousands of years in the Santa Monica Mountains. This isn’t an easy read, but it is important history, history that deserves to be given a new telling, one that isn’t colored and distorted by the still persistent romance of colonialism. There is hope here, too, for a more diverse future that values and celebrates the contributions of California’s Indigenous cultures and people. https://www.ucpress.edu/book/9780520280502/we-are-the-land
The Topanga Story: Expanded Edition, edited by Michelle Johnson, published by the Topanga Historical Society, $49.It’s not a new book, but it couldn’t be more local, and it’s on sale for the holidays: The Topanga Story, the Canyon’s homegrown history is an essential book for life in the Santa Monica Mountains, and it makes an ideal gift for anyone who loves this area. Sales support the Topanga Historical Society, and for a limited time over the holidays, the book is available for $49 and each purchase includes a free, one-year membership in the Topanga Historical Society for new members. Order online or stop by Topanga Homegrown in Pine Tree Circle and pick up a copy. www.topangahistoricalsociety.org