Riveting Reads by East Bay Authors
Make the most of your holiday travels by getting lost in these recent page-turners by local authors.
Nonfiction for News Junkies
Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth, by Rachel Maddow
Fans of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show will not be surprised that the host’s new book opens quietly, sneakily, with a little story—much like her news program does. Maddow, who hails from Castro Valley, offers an innocuous-seeming tale about history swept under the rug, a fable-istic account of something secret and fundamentally no good. Then, she rips into the subject, astounding the reader with details and seducing with beautifully constructed phrases and devilish characters. This un-put-downable book digs deep into the filthy history of oil and gas, exposing the enemies (why, yes, there are Russians) down to their snide grimaces. It’s a story of one slick industry’s threat to democracy—perfect for Maddow’s careful exploration. Nonfiction has rarely had it so good. —Linda Lenhoff
A Holiday-Themed Romance
Royal Holiday, by Jasmine Guillory
California women are at the heart of Jasmine Guillory’s interwoven romance novels: a writer in Los Angeles, a Berkeley mayor’s chief of staff, and a stylist from the East Bay. In Guillory’s latest, Oakland social worker Vivian accompanies her daughter to England, where the young stylist will dress a duchess for the holidays. Vivian—who was loosely inspired by Meghan Markle’s mother, Doria Ragland—forges an instant connection with Malcolm, the queen’s private secretary. Through a private tour of Sandringham House, a kiss under the mistletoe, and even a chance encounter with the queen, the Oakland-based author’s page-turning book reminds us that friendly souls can be found in unlikely places, and that it’s never too late to reconnect with family—or fall in love. —Emilie White
Historical Fiction From an LGBTQ+ Perspective
Cantoras: A Novel, by Carolina De Robertis
Now one of the more progressive nations in the region, Uruguay suffered through a brutal dictatorial regime in the 1970s that earned it the label of Latin America’s “torture chamber.” This culture of forced imprisonments and disappearances is the backdrop against which the book’s five female protagonists find themselves; it’s a world where their queerness has been deemed subversive. These different women—one is a revolutionary, one a housewife, one a teen—lead the reader on an exploration of what makes us human, how cruelty wreaks havoc upon the soul, and the importance of found family. Through her lyrical prose, De Robertis—who lives in Oakland—captures the essence of revolution by giving it a human face. —E.W.
A Gripping Cyber-Thriller
Black Nowhere, by Reece Hirsch
Walnut Creek resident Reece Hirsch spends his days working as a privacy attorney, advising clients on how to navigate social media and the internet. In a perfect case of “write what you know,” Hirsch adapts the realities of our brave new high-tech world into an entertaining nail-biter. This cyber-thriller explores “dark web” drug networks and sinister start-ups inspired by the real-life Silk Road case in which a 26-year-old programmer created a worldwide narcotics-trading ring. Hirsch’s protagonist, FBI Special Agent Lisa Tanchik, an online chameleon who infiltrates the criminal network, is an exciting heroine for these digitally defined times, and Hirsch plans to build a series around the character. —Peter Crooks