For many, September is the first official symbol that marks summer’s shift into autumn. With that shift, the ever-expanding hours of evening call for a couple of cozy pastimes to fill the long nights ahead.
And there is no activity more appropriate for autumnal entertainment than reading, an act that allows its audience to escape into worlds, thoughts and adventures far beyond the reaches of reality. Or, in some cases, so deep into those realities are readers that returning to the waking world can be a bit of a bore.
Here in the North Bay, where the natural splendor of the landscape has inspired artists for decades, it’s no surprise that local authors abound—and with astounding abundance.
Across every genre and generation, the counties north of San Francisco have hosted world-famous authors such as Jack London, Shel Silverstein and Isabel Allende, to name only an unfair few.
Now, new and not so new names alike are taking to the stage (or shelf, as it were) to represent, to readers far and wide, this season’s specially curated local literary lineup of Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties. So, snuggle up and settle in for a few fantastic fall book suggestions, all written by those who live(d) here too.
For the fall months ahead, few can compare to the most seasonally appropriate autumnal author, Bethany Browning. Browning has lived in the North Bay for over two decades and has been, in her words, “cranking out books like a madwoman.”
“I think what’s wonderful about the North Bay is not only the natural beauty we can draw from in our work, but also the people here are so interesting and wildly individualistic that I’ve been able to tap into the celebration of really odd characters, most based on people I met while living here,” Browning said.
Browning’s off-kilter tone and simultaneously cozy and spooky stories range from hilarious to hilariously horrifying, and readers can rejoice in reading Sasquatch, Baby! and Dead Spread. Even better? Browning’s third book, Shimmerfish, will be released in September of this year.
“I set out to write women’s fiction—a big commercial success like Gone Girl,” Browning explained. “But when I sat down to write…that’s not what came up. So, I started following the impulse to write my off-kilter writing, and I found a voice and a vibe in horror, weirdness and quirky mystery that I enjoyed a lot more than fitting into a broad commercial niche.”
To help support an independent local author and to learn more about Browning and her books, visit her website at bethanybrowning.com.
In a world where cargo shorts reign supreme, and chivalry is all but dead, one local author has taken it upon himself to champion against the changes in clothing and courtesy over the past couple of centuries. Local author Christian Chensvold wrote The Philosophy of Style to address not only the decline of the cravat but also the attitude surrounding its fall from grace.
“[My book] is about old-fashioned, gentlemanly topics, an exhalation of the cult of elegance,” said Chensvold, who also writes the “Spirit” column for Weeklys. “The material, although gentlemanly, is very witty, and the essays have a preservation of Oscar Wilde.”
Picturing Wilde’s downright Dandy depictions of cultured dudes and dames helps to illustrate the disparity in dress addressed in Chensvold’s book, especially when one recalls that Wilde’s death was as recent as 1900. In wardrobes, far and near, the options of what to wear have become rather woeful.
“The local angle is in [the book’s] slice of Americana, a North Bay tale of this character who goes to Berkeley in the ’60s and comes back to Sonoma disillusioned at 40,” Chensvold concluded. “The amount of detail drawn from real life that I took and transposed into fiction really stunned me—the book is a culmination of 25 years of writing about being a gentleman.”
For those looking to read all about fashion (and its decline) through a fresh, factually sound lens, look no further than Chensvold’s ‘The Philosophy of Style.’ To learn more or to take the ‘How Dandy are You?’ test, visit Chensvold’s website at dandyism.net.
Anita Gail Jones
Anita Gail Jones is a local author already earning awards for her debut novel, The Peach Seed, which was only officially published earlier this August. The Peach Seed touches on Jones’ roots, having been born and raised in Georgia (the peachiest place in the United States).
In Jones’ The Peach Seed, readers can expect an intimate glimpse into two eras of Georgia—the primary plot line in 2012, but with the added perspective of flashbacks to the not-so-distant past of the 1960s.
To learn more about Jones, her book ‘The Peach Seed’ or the Gaines-Jones Education Foundation (the scholarship foundation Jones and her husband, Rob Roehrick, founded to benefit Black students on a needs basis), visit the website at anitagailjones.com.
This local author has a whole lot more to her than words—she’s an all-around inspirational artist with works spanning from the visual arts of painting and dancing all the way to writing and to the inexorable artistry of the inner workings of the mind itself.
And after retiring from her career as a clinical psychologist in the big city of San Francisco, Sausalito resident Sapienza added “author” to her list of achievements. Her current works include The Girl in the White Cape, The Laundress and Anchor Out.
To learn more about Sapienza and her stories, visit the official website at barbarasapienza.com.
Julia Park Tracey
Though Julia Park Tracy is honored as Alameda’s poet laureate and currently resides in the rolling foothills of California’s Sierra Nevadas, she was and will always remain an acclaimed North Bay author. After all, she was born and raised in Sonoma County and has spent the rest of her life in and around the Bay.
This resplendent writer of all things historical fiction recently released her latest book, The Bereaved, which gives readers an opportunity for an intimate look into the author’s personal research of her grandfather and his adoption.
Tracey also previously wrote and published Amaryllis: Collected Poems, I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen, Reaching for the Moon: More Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen, Tongues of Angels and Veronika Layne Gets the Scoop.
To learn more about Tracey and her books, visit the website at juliaparktracey.com.