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The Eight Best Local Things We Read This Year

By Theodore Gioia and Ellen Cushing | December 31, 2013 | Story

This was a great year for teh Bay Area lit scene! in no particular order, our very favorites:

1. Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America by Jon Mooallem
"Sometimes dismaying, weirdly reassuring" just about sums it up: In Wild Ones, Mooallem, one of the Bay Area's most curious minds and best storytellers, explains everything we wanted to know (and some we probably didn't) about humans' relationships with the rest of the food chain.— E.C.

2. Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, by Mary Roach
Everyone’s favorite science writer, Mary Roach takes on the ickier aspects of the human body in her latest book exploring eating, digestion, and—um—removal with characteristic humor and hilarious digressions on topics such as how much you really have to eat to make your stomach burst.—T.G.

3. Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation and GPS Technology, by Caroline Paul, with illustrations by Wendy McNaughton.
Ever wonder where your cat goes at night? Author Caroline Paul and her partner Wendy MacNaughton asks herself this question in her short illustrated memoir about tracking the movements of her cat Tibia through GPS when he suddenly returns after mysteriously vanishing for five weeks while she was recovering from an accident.—T.G.

4. Cool Gray City of Love, by Gary Kamiya
There's a possibility that we're the teensiest bit biased here, seeing as Kamiya is San Francisco's very own executive editor, but really, it's the best book about San Francisco we've seen in a very long time; every chapter is an invitation fall in love with your city, over and over and over agin—E.C.

5. At Night We Walk in Circles, by Daniel Alarcón
No local novel this year was as baldly thrilling, as strange or seductive or simmering with energy, as Daniel Alarcón's metafictive masterpiece about theater and politics and political theater in an unnamed South American country. —E.C.

6. Sumo, by Thien Pham
Back in March, I described Sumo as a "graphic novel for people who don't like graphic novels." Which is true, sure, but it's a small way to look at Sumo, a stunning, sweeping, heart-stopping, breathtaking little jewel of a (graphic) novel, one of only a handful of books that I read this year and still think about regularly. This is a graphic novel for people, period.—E.C.

7. Radio Silence, Issue 2
The second issue of Radio Silence, a local print magazine devoted to literature and rock & roll, is highlighted by a conversation between Bruce Springsteen and Robert Pinsky, a poem by Ray Bradbury published for the first time in America, and essays by Rick Moody and Jim White. —T.G.

8. One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses, by Lucy Corin
Yup, Lucy Corin's excellent new collection of vignettes really is about apocalypses: 100 of them to be exact, scary and funny and chilling and sad; some summed up in a few sentences, others stretching for as much as a couple pages; each the most exquisite and imaginative version of the end times you've ever imagined, until you flip the page and the whole thing starts, deliciously, anew. — E.C.

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