Good reads, recommended by authors and others

Sacramentan William T. Vollmann, shown in 2005 with his “Europe Central,” cites “Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program” by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as his top non-fiction choice.
Sacramentan William T. Vollmann, shown in 2005 with his “Europe Central,” cites “Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program” by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as his top non-fiction choice. Associated Press file

It was a landmark year for book lovers, the ultimate beneficiaries of the $27 billion-a-year books industry. The landslide of titles in all genres was satisfyingly relentless, with a lineup of A-list and dark-horse authors releasing a grab-bag of best-selling titles.

Another positive was a revival of traditional bookstores despite talk of the “death of print” in the face of the digital revolution, the biggest ongoing concern in the book-publishing industry. Certainly, the marriage of e-books and electronic readers has been a fruitful one on many fronts, but not all.

“With the advances in self-publishing and digital technology, anybody can quote-unquote write and publish a book, so from that standpoint, there has never been more content from which to choose,” said Jim Milliot. He’s the editorial director of Publishers Weekly, the “bible of the book business.”

However, he added, “It’s like having 600 channels on your TV – you never really know what all is there. How do you cut through all that material and find the quality?”

The issue of “discoverability” – finding the gold among the glitter – is of major concern to publishers and to the editors of Publishers Weekly, who review 8,000 titles a year. It also affects discerning readers in search of quality titles.

“As newspapers and magazines cut back on book reviews and book sections, there are fewer authoritative sources,” Milliot said. “There are a lot of bloggers and websites with a lot of opinions, but readers have to figure out which ones to pay attention to. When it’s all said and done, word of mouth is the best way to hear about good books. Survey after survey show that.”

As for the health of print books, Milliot is cautiously optimistic: “There’s no one in the industry who doesn’t think print will be around for a long time. The panic in the industry over e-books has somewhat subsided, but there could be some disruptive technology around the corner.”

For a second opinion we called Hut Landon. As executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association in San Francisco, he is well-entrenched in the national publishing scene. One of the developments he saw in 2014 was a reinvigoration of bookstores.

“Because the e-book market has reached saturation, brick-and-mortar bookstores – independent and chain – are doing better,” he said. “Also, the ‘shop local’ movement has favorably impacted them.

“People are rediscovering the experience of walking into a bookstores,” he said. “I have friends who thought it was cool to sit in their pajamas at their dining room tables at 2 a.m. and order books online and know they would be delivered. There was an initial novelty to that, but then they started saying, ‘I miss getting out of the house and having the social experience of going into a bookstore and interacting with people.’ It’s part of the quality of life, and you can’t duplicate that online.”

For a new year of reading and some word-of-mouth recommendations, we turned to a few of our favorite authors and book-industry players for a few titles that particularly impressed them in 2014. Most of their choices were published last year or released as paperback editions of 2013 titles.

▪ James Patterson of Palm Beach, Fla., author of “Hope To Die: The Return of Alex Cross” and about 150 other titles;

Nonfiction: “Even This I Get To Experience” by Norman Lear

Fiction: “One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories” by B.J. Novak

▪ William T. Vollmann of Sacramento, National Book Award-winning author of “Last Stories and Other Stories,” nine other works of fiction, and more than a dozen nonfiction titles;

Nonfiction: “Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program” by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

▪ Gail Sheehy of New York City, author of the memoir “Daring: My Passages” and 16 other books;

Nonfiction: “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution” by Walter Isaacson; “Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs” by Joshua Wolf Shenk; “The Endless Practice: Becoming Who You Were Born To Be” by Mark Nepo

Fiction: “Stone Mattress” by Margaret Atwood

▪ Hampton Sides of Santa Fe, N.M., author of “In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette” and three other narrative-nonfiction titles;

Nonfiction: “Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson” by S.C. Gwynne

Fiction: “The Painter” by Peter Heller

▪ James Rollins of El Dorado Hills, author of “The 6th Extinction” and 25 other books;

Nonfiction: “Top Dog: The Story of Marine Hero Lucca” by Maria Goodavage; “The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest To Understand, Enhance and Empower the Mind” by Michio Kaku

Fiction: “The Heist” by Daniel Silva; “The Wise Man’s Fear: The Kingkiller Chronicle, Day Two” by Patrick Rothfuss

▪ Rivkah Sass of Sacramento, director of the Sacramento Public Library;

Nonfiction: “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” by Daniel James Brown

Fiction: “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin; “Landline” by Rainbow Rowell

▪ Kim Stanley Robinson of Davis, winner of Nebula and Hugo awards, author of “Shaman,” 10 science-fiction titles in three series, and eight stand-alone novels;

Nonfiction: “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate” by Naomi Klein

Fiction: “Afterparty” by Daryl Gregory; “Falling From Horses” by Molly Gloss

Poetry: “The Moon Before Morning” by W. S. Merwin

▪ Karen Joy Fowler of Santa Cruz, author of “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves” (shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize), seven other novels (including “The Jane Austen Book Club”) and four short-story collections;

Fiction: “Nora Webster” by Colm Toibin; “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel; “Falling From Horses” by Molly Gloss; “J” by Howard Jacobson; “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” by Richard Flanagan

▪ Ron Shoop, a Northern California sales representative for publishing giant Penguin Random House;

Nonfiction: “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future” by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

Fiction: “The Martian” by Andy Weir (the movie version will be released in November 2015, starring Jessica Chastain and Matt Damon); “The Bone Clocks” by David Mitchell; “The Children Act” by Ian McEwan; “The Book of Strange New Things” by Michel Faber

▪ Cara Black of San Francisco, author of “Murder in Pigalle” and 13 other books in the “Aimée Leduc” series;

Fiction: “All the Light We Cannot See:” by Anthony Doerr; “An Officer and a Spy” by Robert Harris; “The Bishop’s Wife” by Mette Ivie Harrison

▪ John Lescroart of Davis, author of “The Keeper” and 23 other legal thrillers;

Fiction: “Full Measure” by T. Jefferson Parker; “FaceOff,” an anthology edited by Lee Child and Michael Connelly

▪ Tina Ferguson of El Dorado Hills, owner of Face in a Book;

Nonfiction: “As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of ‘The Princess Bride’” by Cary Elwes

Fiction: “Neverhome” by Laird Hunt; “Invisible Ellen” by Shari Shattuck

▪ Rhys Bowen of San Rafael, author of “Queen of Hearts” and 31 other mysteries in three series;

Fiction: “The Long Way Home” by Louise Penny; “To Dwell in Darkness” by Deborah Crombie; “The Care and Management of Lies” by Jacqueline Winspear

▪ Max Byrd of Davis, author of “Paris Deadline” and 15 other books;

Nonfiction: “Stuff Matters” by Mark Miodownik; “Flylover Lives” by Diane Johnson

Fiction: “1914” by Jean Echenoz

Play: “Einstein’s Betrayal” by Eric-Emmanuel Schmidt

▪ Jodi Picoult of Hanover, N.H., author of “Leaving Time” and 22 other women’s-fiction titles;

Fiction: “Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands” by Chris Bohjalian; “What I Had Before I Had You” by Sarah Cornwell; “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd

▪ Hut Landon of San Francisco, executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association;

Fiction: “The Martian” by Andy Weir; “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr; “The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simsion; “The Cuckoo’s Calling” and “The Silkworm” by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K. “Harry Potter” Rowling)

▪ Brenda Novak of Carmichael, author of “The Heart of Christmas” (“Whiskey Creek” series) and 45 other romantic-suspense and romance novels;

Fiction: “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes; “The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simsion; “Mean Streak” by Sandra Brown

▪ Christian Kiefer of Newcastle, English professor at American River College, poet and author of “The Infinite Tides”;

Fiction: “Last Stories and Other Stories” by William T. Vollmann; “Let Me Be Frank With You” by Richard Ford; “Black Lake” by Johanna Lane

▪ Terry Shames of Berkeley, author of “Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek” and two other Westerns;

Fiction: “Ghostman” by Roger Hobbs; “No Stone Unturned” by James Ziskin; “Yesterday’s Echo” by Matt Coyle

▪ Paul Takushi of Davis, social media and events coordinator for UC Davis bookstores;

Nonfiction: “How Google Works” by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg

Fiction: “The Martian” by Andy Weir; “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr

▪ Eileen Rendahl of Davis, author of “Veiled Intentions” (by “Eileen Carr”) and 10 other titles;

Fiction: “The Impossible Knife of Memory” by Laurie Halse Anderson; “Truth Be Told” by Hank Phillipi Ryan; “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves” by Karen Joy Fowler

▪ Mike Troyan of Sacramento, community relations manager for Barnes & Noble;

Nonfiction: “Warner Bros.: Hollywood’s Ultimate Backlot” by Steve Bingen; “The Making of ‘Gone With the Wind’” by Steve Wilson; “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand

▪ Robin Burcell of Lodi, author of “The Kill Order” and eight other mysteries;

Fiction: “Death at the Black Bull” by Frank Hayes; “Bone Dust White” Karin Salvalaggio; “The October List” by Jeffery Deaver

▪ Catriona McPherson of Winters, author of “A Deadly Measure of Brimstone” and 12 other mysteries;

Fiction: “Midnight Crossroad” by Charlaine Harris; “Ordinary Grace” by William Kent Krueger; “Sisterland” by Curtis Sittenfeld

▪ Stan Forbes of Sacramento, owner of Avid Reader at the Tower;

Nonfiction: “Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief” by James M. McPherson; “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” by Atul Gawande; “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate” by Naomi Klein

Fiction: “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” by Richard Flanagan; “Midnight in Europe” by Alan Furst; “Cockroaches” by Jo Nesbo

▪ Alzada Knickerbocker of Davis, owner of Avid Reader in Davis;

Nonfiction: “The Conscience of the Constitution” by Timothy Sandefur: “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi” by Mitchell Zuckoff; “Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II’s Most Audacious General” by Bill O’Reilly

▪ Chris Enss of Grass Valley, author of “Death Row Allstars” and 32 other nonfiction Westerns;

Nonfiction: “Mrs. Earp: The Wives and Lovers of the Earp Brothers” by Sherry Monahan

Fiction: “How I Became a Ghost” by Tim Tingle; “Wreaths of Glory” by Johnny Boggs

▪ John Evans of Oakland, co-owner of Diesel: A Bookstore;

Nonfiction: “The Faraway Nearby: A Field Guide to Getting Lost” by Rebecca Solnit; “On Immunity: An Inoculation” by Eula Biss; “Once Upon a Time: A Short History of the Fairy Tale” by Marina Warner; “Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life” by Tom Robbins

Fiction: “An Unnecessary Woman” by Rabih Alameddine; “We Are Called to Rise” by Laura McBride; “Euphoria” by Lily King

Call The Bee’s Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128. Follow him on Twitter @apierleonisacbe.