Recently, a bookseller asked me what I do when I have a reading slump. She said her tried and true method is to sit down and "read a Steinbeck story." Having just read East of Eden, I have to agree. There is almost nothing that can compare to John Steinbeck's exquisite writing. He is an author who can center place, human relationships, and history in every sentence.
For this reason, my dad and I decided to go to the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas for our holiday gift to each other. Our first stop was lunch at the Steinbeck House, the house where he was born. The most welcoming volunteer staff served us lunch with a huge side of history in the house that a group from the community saved and restored. Then, it was a four minute walk to the museum where they chart the path of Steinbeck's work through the California landscape he loved. We learned about his connection to the Central Coast, his political perspective, his mother who spurred his interest in arts and literature, and the acclaim—including the Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize in Literature—of his career. The only problem was that it made me want to re-read every single one of his books (my poor, overburdened TBR pile!).
Outside the museum, this quote adorns a rock in the garden:
"I think I would like to write the story of this whole valley, of all the little towns and all the farms and the ranches in the wilder hills. I can see how I would like to do it so that it would be the valley of the world."
We are so lucky to have this part of literature on our doorstep, and I felt even more gratitude to share it with my father.
Casey Coonerty Protti
Owner, Bookshop Santa Cruz
Books I'm loving now:
This whirlwind of a novel, by renowned local author Elizabeth McKenzie, split my heart wide open. With her signature quirky voice, reminiscent of the breath of fresh air that was her breakaway bestseller The Portable Veblen, McKenzie creates indelible characters, hilarious adventures (including some in this area), and deeply felt emotion for all the people, or dare I say misfits, that accompany us on this journey called life. Did you love the movie Little Miss Sunshine? If so, this is what you should read next.
When World War II breaks out in England, a family sends their daughter to a family in Maine in order to protect and provide for her. Told in eight different voices, Beyond That, the Sea chronicles the emotions of belonging and displacement, of growth and hardship, of children and those who raise them. A tender-hearted, emotional coming-of-age novel in extraordinary circumstances.
One of my favorite Irish authors (All We Shall Know) is back with another heartfelt and deeply introspective novel about three generations of women in Tipperary. They fiercely love and fiercely fight for their family, their agency, and their futures, leading to complex, funny, and emotional scenes that paint a perfect portrait of the messy construction of life. Boy can the Irish tell stories!