Local News Matters aims to support the lively literary scene in the greater Bay Area. With our latest initiative, we’re asking community leaders about which great book they have on their nightstand, next to their armchair, or on their reading device, in hopes of enriching our to-be-read lists and contributing to the promotion of Bay Area public libraries and independent book vendors.

“Elena Knows” cover art. (Courtesy of Charco Press)
Professor Fisk has authored several books herself. (Courtesy of Catherine Fisk)

Who: Catherine Fisk, professor at Berkeley Law

Recommendation: “Elena Knows” by Claudia Piñeiro

Why it’s a good read: Sometimes charming and gentle, sometimes painful and pointed, this novella is at once a mystery, a meditation on living with Parkinson’s, and an exploration of how and why people control women’s bodies.

Synopsis: After Rita is found dead in the bell tower of the church she used to attend, the official investigation into the incident is quickly closed. Her sickly mother is the only person still determined to find the culprit. Chronicling a difficult journey across the suburbs of the city, an old debt and a revealing conversation, “Elena Knows” unravels the secrets of its characters and the hidden facets of authoritarianism and hypocrisy in our society. (Charco Press)

Check if the book is available to borrow from your local public library.

“The 8th Habit” cover art. (Courtesy of Free Press)
Ryan Nakashima is a Bay City News Foundation board member. (Courtesy of Nakashima)

Who: Ryan Nakashima (Director of Product Management, Subscriptions, Hearst Newspapers)

Recommendation: “The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness” by Stephen R. Covey

Why it’s a good read: This takes time-worn classic “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and expands on it for the age of knowledge workers. While this turn-of-the-millenium book published in 2004 has anachronisms like references to videos in the enclosed DVD (which I skipped because I don’t have a DVD player anymore), this book guides the way to helping others find their voice, and convincingly demonstrates how empathic listening is one of the key traits of successful leadership. I blew through it, like a spiritual experience.

Check if the book is available to borrow from your local public library.

“Fledgling” cover art. (Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing)
Lindsay Green-Barber is a Bay City News Foundation board member. (Courtesy of Green-Barber)

Who: Lindsay Green-Barber, Founder and Principal of Impact Architects

Recommendation: “Fledgling” by Octavia E. Butler

Why it’s a good read: Anything Octavia Butler is a must read, but I’d skipped over Fledgling until recently. It’s an entertaining vampire love story, but also lays bare some of humanity’s darkest us vs. them reactions.

Synopsis: Fledgling is the story of an apparently young, amnesiac girl whose alarmingly inhuman needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: She is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must at the same time learn who wanted—and still wants—to destroy her and those she cares for and how she can save herself. Fledgling is a captivating novel that tests the limits of “otherness” and questions what it means to be truly human. Read more on the author’s website.

Check if the book is available to borrow from your local public library.

Want to take part? Fill out our “One Good Read” survey here.

“What Makes a Marriage Last” cover art. (Courtesy of Harper Collins)
Walnut Creek city councilman Kevin Wilk. (Courtesy of Wilk)

Who: Kevin Wilk (Walnut Creek city councilman)

Recommendation: “What Makes a Marriage Last” by Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue

Why it’s a good read: It’s a series of 40 interviews with 40 famous couples on how their marriages have lasted decades. The couples are as diverse as Elton John & David Furnish and Jesse & Jacqueline Jackson. Each chapter is insightful and funny with a variety of ways that these couples have figured out what works for them, to keep things interesting and how they’ve overcome hurdles in their relationships, while being famous and still raising a family.

See a full list of contributors, from Lily Tomlin to Viola Davis, and find out how you can read the book at https://whatmakesamarriagelast.com.

“Fellowship Point” cover art. (Courtesy of Simon & Schuster)
Katherine Ann Rowlands, publisher of Local News Matters, is a member of two book clubs and has many unfinished books on her nightstand. (Photo by D. Ross Cameron)

Who: Katherine Ann Rowlands (Publisher, Local News Matters)

Recommendation: “Fellowship Point” by Alice Elliott Dark

Why it’s a good read: This novel sparked a lively discussion in my book club about friendship, feminism, the lives of authors, and what it means to protect land and legacy. Most found it a fast read, although I listened to the audio version (19 hours unless you speed-listen).

Synopsis: Lifelong best friends Agnes Lee and Polly Garner own shares in Fellowship Point, a beautiful summer colony and bird sanctuary on the coast of Maine. As they turn 80, it’s time to make decisions about what will become of their legacy, a question that threatens to tear them apart. Inspired by the breadth and drama of 19th century novels, this tour de force book looks at the women’s lives, loves, families and work across the 20th century, finally rising to a shocking revelation that will lead to a surprising answer to the dilemma. Read more on Simon & Schuster’s website.

Check if the book is available to borrow from your local public library.

Want to take part? Fill out our “One Good Read” survey here.