Best of Everyday: Books We Love

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SOULFUL Bryant Terri’s book ‘Vegetable Kingdom’ tops our Best Of.

Best of Everyday applies to the little things that made each day of pandemic  lockdown a little more bearable: Grocery stores that limited the amount of toilet paper each customer could buy at one time, thus putting the brakes on hoarders and saving the rest of us from … using copy paper or this newspaper for purposes other than originally intended. The Bay Area’s diverse culinary industry also supported underserved communities and many, many, healthcare workers with meals; often at some cost or barely breaking even, but nonetheless doing it to keep their staff gainfully employed.

And then there were books and independent booksellers. Reading became equivalent to travel. For example: In one week it was possible to journey worldwide on a research ship to an imagined alternative life with Nora Seed, the protagonist in author Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library, visit chef and cookbook author Bryant Terry’s diasporic Vegetable Kingdom and take a liberating weekend spin through San Francisco and the 1980s in writer, historian, feminist and activist Rebecca Solnit’s searing memoir, Recollections of My Nonexistence. The country’s oldest Black-owned bookstore, Oakland-based Marcus Books, came on strong with an extensive offering of the best of titles for all ages addressing racism, anti-racism, allyship and more. Of course, this was only the tip of the shop’s literary iceberg, for customers could order from every genre to fill the long days and even longer nights with beloved classics, poetry, nonfiction, biographies, cookbooks, short story collections, anthologies and more.

Other East Bay bookstores not to be outdone or overlooked by any stretch include A Great Good Place for Books, Mrs. Dalloway’s, Moe’s Books, Walden Pond Books, Pegasus Books, Owl and Company Bookshop, Books Inc., Orinda Books (Orinda), Rakestraw Books (Danville) and others. Many supplemented their considerable book stock with Zoom and online author talks and virtual, interactive writing workshops. 

Regardless of income or any classification other than cardholding status—free for all—libraries made it possible for everyone to experience the best of escapes through reading, films and much more. Books made an unbearable year … bearable.