Saturday, November 20, 2010


IN HONOR OF NOT SHOPPING ON BLACK FRIDAY, I again visited my most local independent bookseller – “The Bookseller” in Grass Valley, California, and selected (or ordered) several titles that may (or may not) have been overlooked by big publishing or the corporate bookstores. Here’s another short list of books worth gifting this season.

The Art of Racing in the Rain (Harper Collins, 2008). Those loving wheels, dogs and/or a compelling story will not be disappointed by this 2008 New York Times bestseller. Author Garth Stein reminds us about patience, compassion and love as his main character helps a race car driver named Denny navigate troubled waters following the death of a loved-one. Allow an uninterrupted ninety minutes for the last fifty pages or so.

The Signal (Penguin, 2009). As the director of the UC Irvine writing program, Ron Carlson teaches writing. And he writes. Really well. The Signal is set in the Teton Country of Wyoming. The narrative of lost love and confidence - and the intimate nature of redemption - is as stunning as the scenery in which it is set. If his novel Five Skies broke your heart as it did mine, this work repairs and nourishes it.

The Dark Horse (Penguin, 2009). Fifth in the Walt Longmire series, Craig Johnson continues to develop the character of an our-age guy who is sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming. Longmire, the everyman sheriff confronts human cruelty with dry wit and cunning, surrounded by a cast of characters whose strengths and frailties are the same as ours. The good guys usually win, but not without paying hell along the way. Consider starting with The Cold Dish and moving through the series.

Long Way Down (Atria, 2007). While not riding locally, if one likes to dream about rides globally, this work by Ewen McGregor and Charley Boorman gives one plenty to dream about. This book follows their round-the-world adventure chronicled in The Long Way Round. A bit self-congratulatory in passages, this trip from Scotland to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa reminds us of the varied cultures on the African continent and the good that can be done by opening our eyes and hearts to the similarities inside all of us. Since I won’t be touring Africa, it was nice that Ewen and Charley took me along for this ride.

The Essential Mary Austin (Heyday Books, 2006). Reading Mary Austin’s view of the east side of the Sierra is better than viewing a photo album. Her precise language evokes details that the most sophisticated digital camera will never pick up. It is a pleasure to walk with her and meet the denizens of this oft-raced-through area of California, feel the sunrise, taste the rain and let sleep cleanse the day’s grit from one’s eyes.

California Place Names (University of California Press, 1998). Honey Run. Putah. Gibsonville. Henness Pass. Loomis. Noyo. Sinkyone. These are but a few place names I’ve visited on the bike and later looked up in this resource. This 40th anniversary edition of Erwin G. Gudde’s dictionary of California place names is a hoot to carry along or refer back to when traveling throughout the state. Editor William Bright has provided short and insightful thumbnails of places one might otherwise simply pass right through. This work inspires the reader to stop, explore and to seek other resources to read and find out more. Add this to your reference library next to DeLorme’s California Atlas and Gazetteer and Storer and Usinger’s Sierra Nevada Natural History.

Make Way for the Ducklings remains Bumpa's favorite children's book.

If you have a favorite new book, obscure or otherwise, please pass the title along to the Church of the Open Road's comment section.

Happy reading!

© 2010
Church of the Open Road Press

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