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Local Interest Reads for Summer
All of those bookmarks reveal that Steve Pezman’s 2022 book Turn and Go! 50 Years of Surf Writings was one of the stand-outs from this season’s selection of recommended reading. During an interview with Pezman, Timothy Leary described surfing as being akin to Taoist poetry. That is also true of Pezman’s essays about surfing. TNT’s Local Interest book lists are composed of works by local authors, books about local residents, books that are set in and around the Santa Monica Mountains, and anything new and interesting about the history, natural history, and culture of Southern California.
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Local Interest Reads for Summer 

Twice a year, TNT showcases books by local authors and a selection of books of local interest. If you are a writer with a new book, please reach out to us at hello@topanganewtimes.com—we’ll be back with our holiday edition of the list in the fall.

Driving Force, by Darryl Holter with Stephen Gee, foreword, Jay Leno

Driving Force: Automobiles and the New American City 1900-1930 explores the explosive growth of L.A.’s passion for cars in the first decades of the twentieth century, and the role car dealers played in developing car culture. This book is crammed with gorgeous, vintage automobile art and photos, and an unlikely assortment of colorful characters and ingenious entrepreneurs. Great fun for car enthusiasts and anyone interested in Los Angeles history.

Earth Jumped Back, by Philip Reari 

Reari’s work is difficult to categorize. It’s a time travel story set against the background of the devastating 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, but it’s also a tribute to radical environmentalist Edward Abbey. The time travel element is problematic and some of the characters had issues we would have preferred to know less about, but Reari’s research is extensive and offers an in-depth and heartfelt look at a pivotal moment in the American environmental movement. 

Forever Tourmaline, by Karen L. Moran

Karen Moran, who grew up in a remarkable family of artists in Topanga, has written a memoir of her extraordinary life that combines history, metaphysical philosophy, and an element of the supernatural. The early chapters about Karen’s childhood in Topanga are an especial delight for anyone who loves this one-of-a-kind place.  

Malibu Rising: A Novel, by Taylor Jenkins Reid 

We confess that we rarely read bestsellers that don’t involve corpses and detectives, but Taylor Jenkins Reid contemporary novel Malibu Rising deserves a look. The author of Carrie Soto Is Back, and Daisy Jones & The Six does an excellent job of recreating Malibu surf culture. The narrative shifts between the lives of four siblings in the 1980s and the lives of their parents in the 1960s, as the younger generation grapples with the fallout from their parents’ dysfunctional relationship. The 1960s are a little sketchier, but this is a thoughtful, well-crafted story of four young people finding their identities and stepping out of the shadow of a famous but absent father. 

Myasthenia Gravis: The Musical!, by Jane Marla Robbins 

Topanga poet Jane Marla Robbins turns her two-year ordeal with a rare medical condition into a book that is part one-woman show, part poetry, and entirely original.

Plus One: A Year in the Life of a Hollywood Nobody, by Claire Fordham

We’re revisiting TNT contributor Claire Fordham’s 2016 autobiography Plus One this summer. Claire is the author of a series of features and podcasts for TNT called “Transplants.” This book is her own story of being a transplant—coming to America from Great Britain and making a new life for herself. It’s a sharp, witty, and genuinely delightful memoir. 

A Stone House in Topanga, by Pablo Capra 

Topanga Historical Society Archivist Pablo Capra’s most recent book chronicles the history of what is possibly the oldest house in Topanga. This small stone cottage is most famous as the site of a 1968 sheriff’s department marijuana raid that involved busting Buffalo Springfield members Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills, and Neil Young, but its history goes all the way back to the 1880s. Each chapter follows a different owner, and the book is illustrated throughout with photos. Purchases made through the Topanga Historical Society webpage help support THS: www.topangahistoricalsociety.org

Turn and Go!: 50 Years of Surf Writings, by Steve Pezman

Thoughtful, compelling, and sometimes deeply moving, this collection of essays from Steve Pezman’s years at Surfer Magazine isn’t just for surfers. Pezman is a compelling writer who uses written words to create a vivid image of surf culture and the idiosyncratic individuals who have made surfing a lifestyle and religion as well as a sport. There’s a moving but unsentimental reminiscence about a final visit to legendary surfer Miki Dora in his last weeks of life, a conversation with Timothy Leary about surfing and philosophy, and a previously unpublished essay on Pezman’s first surfing trip in the 1960s. This book distills the essence of surfing.

Terminal Island: Lost Communities on America’s Edge, by Geraldine Knatz, Naomi Hirahara, foreword—William Deverell, afterword— George Takei 

In the early 1940s, Terminal Island—a man-made island in Los Angeles Harbor,  was home to 3,000 Japanese and Japanese-American residents, the first Japanese Americans who were forced to leave their homes and lives and give up their rights, and be imprisoned in internment camps during World War II. The thriving community became a ghost town, but its history hasn’t been forgotten. The authors of Terminal Island have gathered stories and photographs chronicling the lives of the Japanese Americans who made this island their home. There is also a wealth of information on the origins of the island and its other uses over the past hundred years. This is a compelling book for anyone interested in Los Angeles history.

Weathering Widowland, A Journal of Landscapes and Loss, by Andrea Ehrgott

Topanga author Andrea Ehrgott teaches earth science at a local college. In her book, she uses themes from her field of study, poetry, and personal anecdotes to help process her grief over the loss of her husband. She describes the book as a tribute to her late husband, but it is also a moving and lyrical exploration of grief and memory.

What Fire Brings, by Rachel Howzel 

Topanga serves as the backdrop for bestselling Los Angeles novelist Rachel Howzell’s latest novel. This isn’t the real Topanga—it’s a colorful backdrop painted in broad strokes that suggests the author chose it more for its reputation than its reality, but this is an exciting thriller and a lot of fun. The plot revolves around Bailey Meadows, introduced to us as a detective posing as a writer as a way to investigate an unsolved disappearance in Topanga Canyon. Things aren’t always what they seem, as the author peels back more layers of twists and revelations than a night time soap in the 1980s. Topanga readers who can divorce themselves from the inconsistencies in the setting will find a fast-fast thoroughly enjoyable summer read featuring a smart, determined protagonist and a clever, well-plotted mystery with plenty of suspense.

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