Holiday Recommendations 2018

Click on a title to purchase the book.

Art & Photography

The Lost Words by Robert MacFarlane, illustrated by Jackie Morris. In 2007, when a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary--widely used in schools around the world--was published, a sharp-eyed reader noticed that around forty common words concerning nature had been dropped. Apparently they were no longer being used enough by children to merit their place in the dictionary. The list of these "lost words" included acorn, adder, bluebell, dandelion, fern, heron, kingfisher, newt, otter, and willow. Taking their place were attachment, blog, broadband, bullet-point, cut-and-paste, and voice-mail. The news of these substitutions--the outdoor and natural being displaced by the indoor and virtual--became seen by many as a powerful sign of the growing gulf between childhood and the natural world, prompting the author and illustrator to restore and celebrate them in "this union of natural history, poetry, art, and whimsy...A  truly enchanting all-ages book of life to contemplate, read aloud, and share.”--Booklist

Just Kids, Illustrated Edition by Patti Smith. New York locations vividly come to life where, as young artists, Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe met and fell in love: a first apartment in Brooklyn, Times Square with John and Yoko’s iconic billboard, Max’s Kansas City, the gritty fire escape of the Hotel Chelsea. The extraordinary people who passed through their lives are also pictured: Sam Shepard, Harry Smith, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg. Along with never-before-published photographs, drawings, and ephemera, this edition captures a moment in New York when everything felt possible.

Double Vision: The Unerring Eye of Art World Avatars Dominique and John de Menil by William Middleton. A vivid behind-the-scenes look at the art world of the 20th century and the enormous influence the de Menils wielded through what they collected and built and through the causes they believed in. “There cannot be a better moment for us to be reminded of the principled, visionary art patronage and extraordinary contribution to the cultural legacy of the 20th century made by Dominique and John de Menil. With exquisite sensitivity to atmosphere and detail, William Middleton’s dual biography is resoundingly alive.” --Tilda Swinton

Biography & Memoir

Becoming by Michelle Obama. In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private. A deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations.

Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home by Nora Krug. A revelatory, visually stunning graphic memoir by award-winning artist Nora Krug, telling the story of her attempt to confront the hidden truths of her family's wartime past in Nazi Germany and to comprehend the forces that have shaped her life, her generation, and history.

Fashion Climbing: A Memoir with Photographs by Bill Cunningham. This entertaining memoir, published posthumously, is written with same verve and irreverence with which the author lived his life. Cunningham was a legendary New York Times photographer and columnist whose passion for fashion and high society made him an icon in those worlds during the mid-20th century. His lifelong fascination with women's couture began at age 4, when he donned his sister's pink party dress, and it never abated. After dropping out of Harvard at age 19, he began making and selling hats while sneaking into fashion shows at every opportunity. It was a heady time, and Cunningham paints an engaging portrait of a stylish and bygone era.

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David Blight. The definitive, dramatic biography of the most important African-American of the nineteenth century. The escaped slave who became the greatest orator of his day and one of the leading abolitionists and writers of the era. "Brilliant and compass- ionate….Blight's Douglass is an unapologetic prophet and radical, and the eloquent voice of this 'sacred extremist' has never been more relevant. A must-read."--Booklist (starred review)

Sara Berman’s Closet by Maira Kalman. Filled with family photographs and Maira Kalman’s distinctive, charming art, this graphic memoir looks at the life of Kalman’s grandmother, an emigre from Tel Aviv whose beautifully preserved closet became an exhibit unto itself at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s an art piece and poignant memoir all in one.

Cooking & Food

Almonds, Anchovies, and Pancetta: A Vegetarian Cookbook, Kind Of  by Cal Peternell. The celebrated Chez Panisse chef and home cook likes to eat today the way people have been eating forever: with vegetables at the center of the plate, seasoned with a little bit of meat or fish to make a meal savory and satisfying. This kind of cooking is healthy, leans toward sustainability, and is economical in a way that pleases both palate and pocketbook.

Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook by Dorie Greenspan. Following up on her award-winning Dorie's Cookies, the social media maven now delivers a collection of 150 recipes featuring casual food that she makes for her husband and friends. The dishes are practical and able to be prepared with common ingredients from the supermarket, farmers' market, or pantry. Many of the recipes provide tips on swaps and substitutions, and Greenspan invites mixing and matching of ingredients.

Cooking South of the Clouds: Recipes and Stories from China's Yunnan Province by Georgia Freedman. A tour of Yunnan's many foods, from the famed Crossing the Bridge Noodles to dishes like spiced chicken grilled in banana leaves, which will introduce cooks to a side of Chinese cooking still relatively unknown outside of the country itself.  

Ottolenghi Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi. Everyone’s favorite International vegetarian chef is back, with easy, flavorful dishes perfect for weeknight dinners. Not all of these are vegetarian, if you have hungry carnivores to feed, but all are accessible and delicious. And it’s Ottolenghi --you’re guaranteed fresh flavors in every recipe, without having to resort to exotic ingredients or tedious techniques.

Solo: A Modern Cookbook for a Party of One by Anita Lo. The chef and owner of the Michelin starred restaurant Annisa in New York City for 17 years (it closed last year), approaches her solo recipes with both affection and experience, noting "I've been dumped almost as many times as I've been in relationships."  She gives readers a guide to self-love through the best means possible--100 accessible, contemporary, and sophisticated recipes for lone home cooks.


The Dakota Winters by Tom Barbash. A beautiful 'Dear John' letter to New York, as Anton Winters bids farewell to his role as son-of-famous-TV-celebrity and sets out to make his own name. A poignant evocation of the city in the year leading up to John Lennon's assassination, when the Upper West Wide is becoming gentrified, John McEnroe rules the tennis courts, and Saturday Night Live is the show to beat. Played out brilliantly to a nostalgic soundtrack of The Specials, Delta5, and Tom Petty.

Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne. "A deliciously dark tale of ambition, seduction and literary theft...compelling and terrifying...powerful and intensely Maurice Swift, Boyne has given us an unforgettable protagonist, dangerous and irresistible in equal measure. The result is an ingeniously conceived novel that confirms Boyne as one of the most assured writers of his generation."--The Observer

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty. The Australian best-selling author is back at it again and does not disappoint! Nine people, all searching for some kind of transformation at the exclusive Tranquillum Spa. A mysterious all-seeing director about to expose them all to her new “protocol”. Moriarty’s ability to tell an intense story with humor, pathos and depth is all on display in this fantastic novel. You’ll laugh out loud and gasp at the same time.

Transcription by Kate Atkinson. To say that Atkinson's new book is a story of WWII espionage, betrayal, and loyalty is strictly accurate but also simplistic. In Transcription, she again proves her ability to effectively move a story back and forth in time and also shows off considerable wit and humor, something not often found in spy novels. The story begin in 1940, when 18-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Ten years later, now a radio producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past.

Virgil Wander by Leif Enger. In this warm and wonderful novel, residents of a small,  down-on-its-luck Minnesota town rally together to change their lot with the help of the local movie house--rundown but still with some magic left in its walls. The book's narrator, Virgil Wander, nearly lost his life (in a car accident) and is--like his town of Greenstone--attempting to recover from his near-death experience and pull off a rebirth of sorts. He is the town clerk and owner of the Empress Theater, which shows classic movies to dwindling audiences. As such, Virgil is a linchpin of his once-vibrant community, whose citizens decide to change their town's fortunes by holding a festival called Hard Luck Days.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Part of this painfully beautiful novel's attraction is that it can't be pigeonholed into one genre. It's a coming-of-age story that becomes a love story and turns into a taut courtroom thriller with a twist at the end. The protagonist is Kya, a young woman abandoned by her family as a child who has grown up alone amidst the coastal marshes of North Carolina's Outer Banks. She's a self-taught naturalist who has lived in solitude and off the land since age 10. As she matures, Kya becomes involved with two men and is the prime suspect when one of them is killed. Among the book’s other fans is Reese Witherspoon, who chose it for her Hello Sunshine book club.

The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason. Five stars for this absorbing, haunting novel about a medical student suddenly thrust into the role of field hospital doctor in World War I. A marvelous story that echoes Doctor Zhivago and The English Patient but of course it is its very own tale, beautifully imagined and executed.

Mystery & Crime

Dark Sacred Night: A Ballard and Bosch Novel by Michael Connelly. He’s the master of the cop thriller, and last year Connelly introduced a new protagonist, LAPD detective Renee Ballard, in The Late Show. She’s a terrific character, now teamed with Harry Bosch to solve another puzzling unsolved murder, and the pairing has breathed new life into Connelly’s venerable Bosch series.

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny. The 14th installment of the Inspector Gamache series begins when a peculiar letter arrives inviting Gamache to an abandoned farmhouse where he discovers that a complete stranger has named him one of the executors of her will. Still on suspension, and frankly curious, Gamache accepts and soon learns that the other two executors are Myrna Landers, the bookseller from Three Pines, and a young builder...Another winner from Louise Penny.

Science Fiction

Books of Earthsea Illustrated Edition by Ursula K. LeGuin. The late, great, grandmaster LeGuin published the six Earthsea books over the course of her long career, from 1968 to 2001. They are all collected in this handsome illustrated edition for the first time. If you’re feeling the lack of an illustrated Harry Potter this holiday season, this may be the perfect gift, and if you’re nostalgic for the life work of this groundbreaking author, you might want a copy for yourself.


Gardenlust by Christopher Woods. In this sumptuous global tour of modern gardens, intrepid plant expert Woods spotlights 50 modern gardens that push boundaries and define natural beauty in significant ways. Featuring both private and public gardens, this journey makes its way from the Americas and Europe to Australia and New Zealand, with stops in Asia, Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula. Beautifully designed with excellent photography, this book will enchant both gardeners and those who delight in armchair travel.

Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively. There is nothing quite like a literary author who writes knowingly and lovingly about her  personal reflections on the importance and meaning of gardens in our lives.  Both a memoir and a history of the English garden, Lively’s book keenly observes nature and the many ways gardeners throughout history have worked to tame and enhance it. Sprinkled throughout are humorous asides which make these essays engaging and entertaining.

Dry Gardens, High Style for Low Water Gardens by Daniel Nolan. Lest we forget, we garden in an increasingly dry environment wherever we live, but especially in the Bay Area. Beautifully photographed by Caitlin Atkinson, the gardens in this volume will delight and inspire us to work with simple plantings to create gorgeous, liveable, lush feeling landscapes--making less water feel like a benefit.

Ground Rules by Kate Frey. A set of 100 rules of (green) thumb for a beginning gardener, or for a pro who wants to get back to the basics. Handsome photos illustrate each rule. From how to outsmart Bambi to where and why to install a water feature, Ground Rules will inspire your next gardening adventure.

History & Politics

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari. In Sapiens, he explored our past. In Homo Deus, he looked to our future. Now, one of the most innovative thinkers on the planet turns to the present to make sense of today's most pressing issues. How do computers and robots change the meaning of being human? How do we deal with the epidemic of fake news? Are nations and religions still relevant? What should we teach our children?

The Browns of California: The Family Dynasty that Transformed a State and Shaped a Nation by Miriam Pawel. A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist's panoramic history of California and its impact on the nation, from the Gold Rush to Silicon Valley--told through the lens of the family dynasty that led the state for nearly a quarter century. Enhanced by dozens of striking photos, many published for the first time. This book gives new insights to those steeped in California history, offers a corrective for those who confuse stereotypes and legend for fact, and opens new vistas for readers familiar with only the sketchiest outlines of a place habitually viewed from afar with a mix of envy and awe, disdain, and fascination.

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis. What are the consequences if the people given control over our government have no idea how it works? Lewis’s latest brilliant narrative takes us into the engine rooms of a government under attack by its own leaders. In Agriculture the funding of vital programs like food stamps and school lunches is being slashed. The Commerce Department may not have enough staff to conduct the 2020 Census properly. Over at Energy, where international nuclear risk is managed, it’s not clear there will be enough inspectors to track and locate black market uranium before terrorists do. If there are dangerous fools in this book, there are also heroes, those public servants whose knowledge, dedication, and proactivity keep the machinery running. Lewis finds them, and he asks them what keeps them up at night.

In My Father’s House: A New View of How Crime Runs in the Family by Fox Butterfield. From the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter, a pathbreaking examination of our enormous crime and incarceration problem seen through the lens of one Oregon family that leaves a legacy of lawlessness going back generations.

Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin. The noted presidential historian focuses on four Presidents--Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson--to show how they recognized leadership qualities within themselves and were recognized as leaders by others. Interestingly, no common pattern describes the trajectory of the four's leadership, but Goodwin argues that they all shared a fierce ambition and a deep-seated resilience that enabled them to surmount uncommon hardships.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean. New Yorker reporter Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief, showcases the crucial historical role of libraries and reopens the unsolved case of an infamous and mysterious fire at the 1986 Los Angeles Public Library in a book that is part history, part true crime, and an homage to the joys of reading.

These Truths: A History of the United States by Jill Lepore. Harvard historian Lepore has produced an ambitious one-volume American history that looks at the the origins and rise of a divided nation. The book posits that America's creation was based, at least in part, on three ideas or "truths." Thomas Jefferson described them in the Declaration of Independence as political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people. Lepore uses those principles to examine our history; in doing so, she exposes the many contradictions between the ideals and realities of American life.


#Sad!: Doonesbury in the Time of Trump by Garry Trudeau. From the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist comes the sequel to Yuge! that millions prayed would be unnecessary. #SAD!: Doonesbury in the Time of Trump tracks the shocking victory, the inept transition, and the tumultuous eternity of POTUS's First 500 Days. Curl up with this clarifying collection of hot takes on the First Sociopath, his enablers, and their appalling legacy. Whether resisting or just persisting, readers will find Trudeau's cartoons are just the thing to ease the pain of remorse ("Could I have done more to prevent this?") and give them a shot at a few hours of unfitful sleep. There are worse things to spend your tax cut on.

The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons: A Semi-Serious A-To-Z Archive edited by Bob Mankoff. This monumental, two-volume, slip-cased collection includes nearly 10 decades worth of New Yorker cartoons selected and organized by subject with insightful commentary by Bob Mankoff and a foreword by David Remnick.

Poetry & Literature

America We Call Your Name edited by Sixteen Rivers Press. Soon after the 2016 presidential election, the press conducted a call for submissions, seeking unpublished poems that would "respond to the cultural, moral, and political rifts that now divide our country: poems of resistance and resilience, witness and vision, that embody what it means to be a citizen in a time when our democracy is threatened." At the same time, the poet-members of the press nominated poems--anything from anywhere that spoke to this moment in the voice of poetry. They gathered poems ranging from Virgil and Dante to Claudia Rankine and Mai Der Vang, from Milton to Merwin, from Bai Juyi to last Thursday's just-posted Poem-a-Day. This anthology is a blend of poems from these two sources.

Bibliophile: an Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount. This beautiful book is perfect for any self-identified book-lover (or bibliophile). It is filled with lovely illustrations featuring famous bookstores, authors, a carefully curated selection of beautiful book covers, author pets, and author work spaces, along with some fun categories and great literary facts.

End of the End of the Earth: Essays by Jonathan Franzen. For the past twenty-five years, even as his novels have earned him worldwide acclaim, Franzen has led a second life as a risk-taking essayist. Now, at a moment when technology has inflamed tribal hatreds and the planet is beset by unnatural calamities, he is back with a new collection of essays that recall us to more humane ways of being in the world. Franzen's great loves are literature and birds, and The End of the End of the Earth is a passionate argument for both.

The Flame: Poems Notebooks Lyrics Drawings by Leonard Cohen. The final work from Cohen, the revered poet and musician whose fans span generations and whose work is celebrated throughout the world. Featuring poems, excerpts from his private notebooks, lyrics, and hand-drawn self-portraits, The Flame offers an unprecedentedly intimate look inside the life and mind of a singular artist. A reckoning with a life lived deeply and passionately, with wit and panache, The Flame is a valedictory work.

So Far So Good by Ursula LeGuin. The legendary author was lauded by millions for her ground-breaking science fiction novels, but she began as a poet, and wrote across genres for her entire career. In this clarifying and sublime collection--completed shortly before her death in 2018--Le Guin is unflinching in the face of mortality, and full of wonder for the mysteries beyond. Redolent of the lush natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, with rich sounds playfully echoing myth and nursery rhyme, Le Guin bookends a long, daring, and prolific career.

Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart by Alice Walker. A bilingual collection that is both playfully imaginative and intensely moving. Presented in both English and Spanish, Walker shares a timely collection of nearly seventy works of passionate and powerful poetry that bears witness to our troubled times, while also chronicling a life well-lived. From poems of painful self-inquiry, to celebrating the simple beauty of baking frittatas, Walker offers us a window into her magical, at times difficult, and liberating world of activism, love, hope and, above all, gratitude.

Science & Nature

Birds of Berkeley by Oliver James. This charming, full-color field guide to 25 birds easily found in Berkeley proves that even the city's avian residents are a little quirky. Meticulously detailed illustrations capture each bird's distinctive physicality and temperament. Even in composition, each bird is strikingly individual, whether depicted in mid-dive or creeping into frame. While descriptions of identification and vocalizations are straightforward, author-illustrator Oliver James takes a delightfully creative approach to his write-ups of each species. A joy to read and pore over, Birds of Berkeley will enchant readers far beyond the city limits with its findings gleaned from painstaking and patient wildlife observation.

Cat Paws by International PIE. What is it about cats’ paws that makes us go all melty? Maybe it’s the velvet toes. Maybe it’s the rounded tufts of fur in between. Maybe it’s the sharp little claws concealed in all that cuteness. Either way, this sweet book will make your favorite cat lover go, “Awwwww”.

Never Home Alone by Rob Dunn. You know how scientists are always kiting off to South America to study tree frogs, or flying to the Himalayas to study snow leopards? That’s all very glamorous, but we know shockingly little about right where we are--even in our homes. Have you ever wondered what’s living in the drywall of your house? A citizen scientist decided to find out. An observant woman with a terrarium uncovered secrets about daddy longlegs spiders that were previously unknown to science. Pick up this fabulous book and make a few discoveries of your own!


Practical, fanciful, beautiful, we’ve pulled together designs that are informed by nature, gardening and just plain good design. You’ll find our new line of soaps and lotions by “Joan’s a Keeper”--a beekeeper that is--filled with good smells and soothing ingredients. We have pottery from Potterseed based in Cape Town, South Africa, painted in wonderful designs based on traditional textile patterns. There are garden spades and forks from the Kew Collection in England, and watering cans from Yugoslavia, enameled inside and out for a long life in the garden. There are yummy scarves in a wool blend that is soft to the touch and warming as well as handsome and flattering.  Much of our small jewelry collection is made by local artists.  Please come by and see for yourself. There’s something for everyone on your list!


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