In the Vault Giclee on Canvas by leftcoastlovers on Etsy
Artwork credit: “In the Vault” by Camille Youngquist on Etsy

I’m travelling the US in 3 books per state with titles authored by men, women and writers of color. Join me!

Holy cow, y’all. I’ve made it to California. After struggling to find suitable Arkansas-set novels written by Arkansas authors, I finally found three titles, and I finished reading my third last night. I woke this morning, ready to move on, ready to start my search for California-set novels written by California-based authors, and I am overwhelmed by the possibilities. Hollywood. San Francisco. California desert. Redwood forest.

Actually that last one, the redwood forest, is a setting I’d love to read, but I haven’t come across a title set there. Any ideas?

Anyway, I’ve got so many options I’m not sure what to do with myself. For the Asian-immigration experience alone I’m seeing four titles that all sound exciting (The Gangster We Are All Looking For, The Buddha in the Attic, Shanghai Girls, and of course, The Joy Luck Club). There’s an Indian-American title I want to read because I loved the movie (The Mistress of Spices). There’s a coming-of-age novel that I’ve already read and I’ve been looking for an excuse to reread (The Language of Flowers). There are recommendations from you (Ramona, Parable of the Talents), and recommendations from The Readers podcast (Tales of the City; A Way of Life, Like Any Other). There are a million light and fun and kitchy California-set titles, Hollywood and Malibu spoofs.

And then, of course, there is Steinbeck. I’m not sure I can read California without reading Steinbeck. I loved East of Eden and Grapes of Wrath, and maybe this is my chance to read Cannery Row, you know?

This is a good dilemma to have – to be presented with so many options I can choose whatever I want. If within 10 pages I don’t like a book, I’ve got a long list of backup titles and I can feel free to DNF. But where to begin?! Maybe I’ll start with whatever the library has in the format I want, right here, right now. It will be like closing my eyes and pointing, which from where I sit right now, is as good a way as any to pick my first book.

*A fat wave, according to Rippin H2O’s surf lingo, is “An enormous and sweet ride that comes along maybe once a day.” Reading that lingo list, with words like ducknweave (“on the bourbons”), grundle (“A totally ugly dude that thinks he’s really hot”), and party wave (“When more than one person takes a wave”) made me also want to read a California surfing book.

6 thoughts on “California: a fat wave* of options

  1. Sorry back with a PS. Going on with gold mining and thinking what comes next after sunny California, I recently heard about Sandra Dallas, a Colorado writer who was a senior editor at Business Week for years. I haven’t seen her books over here but ‘Prayers for Sale’ sounds interesting despite the Romantic Writers Award


  2. Andrea, total serendipity ! After my last post, I went out to collect my daughter (10.45pm). We have this quaint old custom on our BBC Radio 4 called ‘Book at Bedtime’. This week, they are reading ‘The Collected Works of AJ Fikry’ by Gabrielle Zevin about a bookshop on an island off New England. It came on as I started up the car. What was she talking about? ‘The Luck of Roaring Camp’ by Francis Bret Harte. How weirdly random was that. I imagine there are a tiny number of people in the UK who think about FBH in a day. Btw, in the book, a child is left in the shop while the mother goes off to drown herself. Thankfully, this has not happened to me yet although I run a small bookstore on an island etc ….


    1. Yes, let’s hope that type of connection does not happen! But that’s crazy they were talking about FBH just after you were thinking and writing about him here. I love crazy coincidences like that. I’ve added him to my list – thank you.


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