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David Kipen's top 5 books from 2016 with California angles

David Kipen at KPCC.
David Kipen at KPCC.

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It's winter in California and the holidays are upon us. It's a great time of year to curl up by the fireplace with a good book. Or perhaps you're looking for the perfect literary gift?

Alex Cohen sat down with David Kipen, founder of Libros Schmibros Lending Library for Take Two's monthly literary segment, Reading by Moonlight.

David Kipen offered his 2016 top picks of books from the Golden State. 

1. "California's Wild Edge: The Coast in Prints, Poetry, and History" by Tom Killion and Gary Snyder

David Kippen: It's illustrated by this great Marin-based wood block artist named Tom Killion and the text is Gary Snyder and a whole host of Californian writers. And it's the whole coast, it's not just Northern California. And it's gorgeous. 

2. "Commonwealth" by Ann Patchett and 3. "Moonglow: A Novel" by Michael Chabon

David Kippen: It's been a good year for California fiction. Ann Patchett and Michael Chabon both have semi autobiographical novels out. 

Ann Patchett who grew up in Southern California but lives in Nashville now and runs her own bookstore— a real heroine. Just has a great travel guide for readers in the New York Times. Her new book, "Commonwealth" is about blended families. And she came from one and I gather her family, at least, thinks it's quite a bit about them.

Michael Chabon similarly, from outside of Baltimore but longtime resident of Berkeley, has a novel called "Moonglow" that people absolutely love. 

4. "White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World" by Geoff Dyer

David Kippen: This one is a collection of his travel pieces— travel to among other places, White Sands, New Mexico but the last couple of them are very California-centric. And one of them is sort of him walking around in the footsteps of the German philosopher Theodor Adorno in Southern California.

5. "The Mothers: A Novel" by Brit Bennett

Alex Cohen: Man, that woman can write about love like nobody's business.... It's good stuff. And you see her as part of a bigger renaissance. 

David Kipen: She's an African American writer from Orange County and there's this little groundswell going on that's not so little anymore, of African American writers from Southern California. 


Looking for more great books to gobble up? David Kipen recommended a couple of blogs that publish lists of books that may turn into your preferred reading themselves. 

Largehearted Boy

David Kippen: You can find literally hundreds of year-end lists, from not just from America but Britain and New Zealand and Australia. And you can fall into it. You can spend longer than you would reading a book reading all these lists. 


David Kippen: This is an English woman and she gives you somewhat fewer lists but gives you a little bit about each of them. And it's totally addictive reading and yet, sort of bite-sized reading which can come in handy when you're sleeping off Turkey. 

*Quotes edited for clarity. 

To hear the full interview, click on the Blue Arrow above.