In the same manner that the summer fashion seasons mocks our fog-beleaguered city with its inappropriate trappings (short-shorts, really?), so it follows that the beach read is the bane of the literate San Franciscan. We're the first to admit that it's not everyone that reads Solzhenitsyn during a pedicure, but sometimes you want for something a little more substantive, especially if you don't have an e-reader to hide your spicy preferences.
We've asked a number of Bay Area smartypants about their picks, yielding a rich and varied assortment of erudition.
Thomas Christensen, author of 1616: The World in Motion: "Currently I'm interested in the reissue by City Lights of Ring of Bones by Lew Welch. Welch, charismatic, enigmatic, and troubled, appeared as a character in Jack Kerouac's novel Big Sur (Gary and Allen appeared in his Dharma Bums). In his day job he worked as an advertising copywriter — Aram Saroyan claimed he coined the phrase "Raid kills bugs dead." In 1971 he walked out of Gary's house, Kitkitdizze, and disappeared into the foothills of the Sierras, a presumed suicide. His body has never been found, and a sort of D.B. Cooper mythology has grown up around his disappearance.'
Alissa de Vogel, SFist cycling correspondent, advises we pick up the sometime-San Franciscan John Waters' Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters. Given that we've taken to riding the bus more often, we keep expecting to run into the artist and bon vivant, but his absence is easily explained.
Andrew M. Dalton, Associate Editor, SFist: "I read Model Home, which is actually the One City One Book thing this year, but no one will talk about it with me :((((" Dear City, won't you start a book club with our Mr. Dalton?
Greg Hernandez, producer & maker of great mixtapes, suggests Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde. Confuse and confound your friends when you tell them what you're reading, meanwhile breaking the hegemony of that other book with Grey in the title. This one's about a world where color perception dictates your place in the social order, as opposed to being a book where your place in the social order is boringly determined by sex.
And it wouldn't do at all if we didn't go straight to the source and ask the professionals. Librarians Anna and Jennifer convinced this writer to pick up Vanessa Diffenbaugh's The Language of Flowers. Topping the reading list for Bay Area teen librarians, the novel tells the story of a young woman caught in the San Francisco foster system and her struggle to make a life out of nothing. The teen librarians' Bay-centric reading list is a gift to those of us who never got over our love for Judy Blume and her kind.
Got a recommendation? Comment away. Maybe this is the year we beat Pittsburgh in the ranking for most literate city.