Book talk | January 22, 2021 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

- January 22, 2021

Book talk

TOP LOCAL PICKS FROM 2020 ...

We're taking a look back at some our top picks from 2020 that either showcase the people, history and culture that define the area or were written by local award-winning/best-selling authors:

"Uncanny Valley," by Anna Wiener was published by MCD Books in January. The memoir captures the headiness and absurdity of startup life in Silicon Valley. Now a reporter for The New Yorker, Wiener recounts the dizzying highs and stomach-dropping lows as she moves across the country to work in tech.

"Why Fish Don't Exist," by Lulu Miller was published by Simon and Schuster in April. In this nonfiction book, NPR reporter Miller spotlights ichthyologist and eugenicist David Starr Jordan, founding president of Stanford University, credited with discovering nearly one-fifth of the fish known to mankind. Jordan saw his life's work destroyed in The Great1906 San Francisco Earthquake, and Miller connects the biologist's chaos-filled life to her own, uncovering reservoirs of resilience and optimism.

"Orphan Eleven," by Gennifer Choldenko was published by Random House Children's Books in May. In this children's book, four orphans escape the Home for Friendless Children and wind up in a traveling circus. Newbery Honor-winner Choldenko highlights the magic of life on the road, perfect for readers 8 years and older.

"Dragon Hoops," by Gene Luen Yang was published by Macmillan Publishers in March. Yang, a San Jose cartoonist and author of "American Born Chinese," captures the excitement of a remarkable basketball season at Oakland's Bishop O'Dowd High School. The comics medium reveals itself as perfectly suited for the task, as Yang addresses issues of race, class and identity.

"A Beginning at the End," by Mike Chen was published by MIRA in January. The author of "Here and Now and Then," uses a pandemic (before the COVID-19 outbreak) in this fictional story to jump-start his new post-apocalyptic novel. A pop star, an event planner and a widowed father with a young daughter navigate a harsh landscape where draconian rules can separate parent and child forever.

"Transcendent Kingdom," by Yaa Gyasi was published by Alfred A. Knopf in September. Gyasi's first fictional novel, "Homegoing," was an acclaimed best-seller. This sophomore effort follows Gifty, a sixth-year Stanford University neuroscience Ph.d. candidate, as she studies addiction and depression while struggling with her own feelings about her absent father, distraught mother and dead older brother.

"The Book of Lost Light," by Ron Nyren was published by Black Lawrence Press in November. Nyren looks back to another era of cataclysmic uncertainty, when The Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake upended the family of photographer Joseph Kylander. Love, betrayal, Finnish folklore and theater each play a role in the recovery process.

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