Photo by Link Hoang on Unsplash

An empowering children’s book, a woke murder mystery, and a paean to lost wordshere’s what Sunset editors are reading this spring break. It’s Best of the West, literary edition

Sunset Staff  – March 2, 2020 | Updated March 3, 2020

No Problem’s Too Big for This Climber

I top-roped for the first time 20 years ago, but I first ascended a boulder last year and it still spooks me sometimes. What helps? Watching a video of 18-year-old climbing prodigy Ashima Shiraishi tackle an insane problem (what you call a route in bouldering) is all the inspo I need to stop chickening out. My husband and I are dead set on our son being the next Ashima (Olympics 2036 what what!), so we’re going to get him Ashima’s forthcoming kids’ book, How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (and Falls) of a Rock-Climbing Champion, when it comes out on April 7 of this year. Illustrated by super-fun graphic artist Yao Xiao, it inspires readers to learn from Ashima’s story and tackle their own problems, both on the wall and off. I can’t wait to read this to him year after year and remind him that life is a little like bouldering—you just have to forget there aren’t any safety ropes and go for it. —Dakota Kim, staff writer

How to Solve a Problem, by Ashima Shiraishi, $18

A Novel Occurrence

A Novel Occurrence
Courtesy of Mulholland Books

The enclave I live in—Castro Valley, CA—has an annual program called Castro Valley Reads that encourages everyone in town to read the same book. This year’s choice is Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke, and I actually do intend to read it on a mini spring break I’m taking in April. I’ll be headed to Death Valley for a long weekend of unplugged R&R, and I’m hoping that escaping into a book will enhance the process of recharging. I feel like it’s been a long time since I read a novel (I read a lot, but lately it’s been mostly non-fiction), and I’m finding myself really aching to settle into a literary world. I’ve got a good feeling about this book, a murder mystery set in rural East Texas with an African-American Texas Ranger as the protagonst. That’s an auspiciously inventive premise, and the fact that local music is apparently essentially a character in the book piques my interest, too. Somehow I doubt this is one where the butler did it. (Although if they did, I’d never tell—I’m strictly spoiler-free.) —Nicole Clausing, digital producer

Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke, $9

There’s a Word for Everything

There’s a Word for Everything
Courtesy of Penguin Random House

As an ecologist and fellow word-hoarder, I have long been enamored of Robert Macfarlane’s works. For anyone in love with the language of natural science—words like “krotovina” (the geomorphologic term for the tunnels that animals make through the soil), “lenticel” (the pores on tree bark and fruit skin), or “zephyr” (a gentle, warm, westerly summer breeze)—his Landmarks will read like a collection of love sonnets. Not just a glossary of the dying dialects of the British Isles, it’s a plea to preserve them; Macfarlane convinces us that the world still has room for highly specific terminology. Take for example, grimlins: “the night-hours around midsummer in the far north when dusk blends imperceptibly into dawn”—Alaskans have as much use for this word as Orcadians in the Northern Isles of Scotland. Though his book is firmly rooted in the islands of Great Britain, I think the sense of place it invokes is resonant with readers of the West as well. —Heather Arndt Anderson, garden editor

Landmarks, by Robert Macfarlane, $18

Stoked for Diane Keaton’s New Memoir

Stoked for Diane Keaton’s New Memoir
Courtesy of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Watching The First Wives Club at 10 years old ignited my love for Diane Keaton. Whether flaunting dramatic belts or drinking wine with ice and a straw, Keaton is a true icon and all I aspire to be someday. When I recently learned of Keaton’s third memoir Brother & Sister, I was excited for the chance to get a closer glimpse at a woman whose life and career are extraordinary to say the least. The memoir, published in early February, centers around Keaton’s relationship with her younger brother, Randy, as a “poignant exploration of the divergent paths siblings’ lives can take.” Though this memoir is a slim 176 pages, it’s heavy with melancholy as Keaton explores her brother’s struggles with addiction and mental illness and her regret that she could not do more to help him. I have yet to give this book a read (or purchase it for that matter), but I’m hoping to get into it before my time interning with Sunset is over and I’m back at Northwestern with dense academic reading assignments that leave little room for recreational literature. —Drake Wilson, editorial intern

Brother & Sister, by Diane Keaton, $22

The Cookbook I’m Sharing with My Tribe

The Cookbook I’m Sharing with My Tribe

Sure, a cookbook is not traditional reading material, but it is technically a book—and I couldn’t be more excited about this March release. With the tagline “for Jews who like food and for food lovers who like Jews,” Eat Something is the recipe collection of my modern bubbe’s dreams. With classic and contemporary Jewish recipes organized by holiday and occasion, it’s got everything from updated versions of the Yom Kippur break-fast (not breakfast) bagel bar to the ultimate matzo ball soup to the perennial Jewish retiree favorite, Chinese Chicken Salad (which, admittedly, is more 20th-century Jew-adjacent than of the traditional culture). Written by Evan Bloom of San Francisco’s beloved Wise Sons Deli and former Sunset editor Rachel Levin, the book really stands out due to its witty anecdotes about growing up Jewish in America, including an uncannily on-point breakdown of the ‘80s-era East Coast Jew’s pantry (authors: I have never felt so seen). I’m grabbing a copy for myself, for each of my family members, and a few more for friends who really, really love Jewish food. —Jessica Mordo, associate digital director

Eat Something, by Evan Bloom and Rachel Levin, $30

Surprise Me

I live in Los Angeles but I’m from San Francisco, and this week I’m visiting Sunset’s office in Oakland. One of my favorite places hidden around these parts is the Bookmark bookstore in Old Oakland. It’s a volunteer-run used bookstore where all proceeds benefit the Oakland Public Library. Its inventory is always changing, and when I used to volunteer there I would chronicle amazing finds on Twitter. I’m going to jet over there after work and see what hidden treasure I can uncover!  —Sally Kuchar, home editor

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