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Shelf Awareness

New, notable and buzz-worthy titles in literature

Local husband-and-wife team Andrew Tonkovich and Lisa Alvarez collect a marvelous array of place-based writing in “Orange County: A Literary Field Guide.” If you live here and fancy yourself a literature lover, then this volume of prose and poetry absolutely belongs on your shelf. Local legends like Steve Martin and Philip K. Dick share space alongside UCI creative writing alums including Michael Chabon.

Sometimes an author is so masterful that even her notes can become one of the most anticipated works of the year, and that’s pretty much what’s happening this month with Joan Didion. Unlike “The Year of Magical Thinking” and “Blue Nights,” which were straightforward memoirs, her latest release, “South and West,” is a loose collage of observations and snippets from her journey through the south in 1970.

Fans of Maria Semple are bound to fall in love with Jami Attenberg’s “All Grown Up” (she’s the best-selling author of “The Middlesteins”). An endearing novel about a glamorous-yet-unhappy 39-year-old who questions societal notions of adulthood after failing to reach certain age-based benchmarks of “success.”

It’s been a decade since Ray Kurzweil’s “The Singularity Is Near” and transhumanists are still trying to merge the organic human body with technology to prolong life. Journalist Mark O’Connell offers a tour of this grandiose movement – in all its wacky glory – with “To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death.”

National Book Award finalist and acclaimed author of “You Remind Me of Me” Dan Chaon is poised to dazzle both critics and suspense lovers alike with his latest novel, “Ill Will.” A dark psychological thriller with literary heft.

Critically acclaimed Bay Area novelist Joshua Mohr, author of “Damascus,” avoids navel-gazing and other pitfalls of the addiction memoir sub-genre with “Sirens,” his first work of nonfiction. An engrossing narrative about how a physical hole in his heart and familial love put an end to his lifelong worship of despair.


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