Why not books?

Local authors offer a wide range of attractive, readable works

Heather Lyon, co-owner of Lyon Books, with the latest addition to Chico history.

Heather Lyon, co-owner of Lyon Books, with the latest addition to Chico history.

It had been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up of themselves like grass.—Eudora Welty

Above and below: Some of the other books by local authors we recommend.

I always open a new book with excitement. I know I’ll find something in it that will surprise me and perhaps, if the book is a good one, change my life.

I like to give books as presents, and not only because I know a lot of readers and am a lazy shopper. It feels, well, intimate to share a book with someone I love, as if by enjoying the book I’ve made it personal to me.

I especially like to give books by local authors. I’ve lived here long enough to know many of them as friends or acquaintances, and I value what they give to Chico. More than that, though, I know how good their work is and what terrific presents their books make.

Here are some of the recently published, locally created books I recommend this holiday season. I found them all at Lyon Books downtown, but most of them are available at other local bookstores as well as online.

Topping the bunch is Lois McDonald’s delightful new biography, Annie Kennedy Bidwell: An Intimate History ($44.95). If there’s anyone on your list who enjoys reading about Chico history, this book is perfect. As the subtitle suggests, it’s a close-up look at Annie Bidwell, her marriage, her sometimes rocky relations with her own family and with Chico townsfolk and the secrets—some of them stunning—she carried through life.

In the category of coffee table books, I really like Classic Cottages ($39.95), by Brian Coleman, with photos by Chico’s Douglas Keister. Released in April, this is the most recent of Keister’s many books, and it’s delightful, a tour of gorgeous art deco, Craftsman, Prairie-style and other cottages up and down the West Coast.

Another attractive book is My Hometown Chico, by Marsha Myers Wilhite. It’s a glossy, nicely designed large-format book that makes up for its idealized approach to Chico by providing a wide range of historical and current photos. It would make a good gift for anyone who regularly visits here.

Chico is home to many excellent poets, and two of them have new books out. George Keithley’s latest, The Starry Messenger ($12.95 paperback), is a tour-de-force collection thematically structured around the life of Galileo. (Keithley is the author of the epic poem The Donner Party, as well as several volumes of superb lyric poetry.) And Susan Woodridge, whose book about writing poems, poemcrazy, is a national best-seller in its category, has a fine new chapbook out, Bathing with Ants ($10).

For spiritual seekers, local Taoist and Zen teacher Bill Martin has a new book coming out in mid-December, A Path and a Practice ($14.95 paperback), which offers a way to implement the insights contained in Lao Tzu’s classic Tao Te Ching in a spiritual practice. Martin is also the author of three remarkable “rewritings” of the Tao Te Ching—one each for parents, couples and elders.

Similarly, local yoga teacher Annalisa Cunningham offers several attractive books, including the popular and useful Gentle Yoga for Healing ($17.95 soft cover).

Finally, if someone on your list is a fan of Henri Bourride, whose witty articles about food and restaurant reviews have appeared in the CN&R for the last couple of years, his new collection of columns, Some Like It Hot ($15), would make a fun and informative stocking-stuffer.

Happy Holidays—and good reading!—Robert Speer