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Book Talk: Books and news from the local front

I’m not sure if you, dear readers, are aware of how many writers live amongst you in our region. I can’t even provide you with the actual number, but it is definitely high. Writers are not only those people whose work appears on the pages of a book, in a magazine or journal, or even on a blog. Writers are artists. Like artists in all professions, writers sometimes do not rise to that glory. If someone tells you that he or she is a writer, don’t let the first question be “Where were you published?” Instead, congratulate that writer because writing is often lonely. And it is always difficult.

If you thought I was going to talk about all of the unpublished writers in today’s column, sorry to disappoint you, but I will discuss some books that might have slipped under the radar and some books that might put Sacramento on someone’s map far outside our region.

Let’s begin with “Lost Restaurants of Sacramento and Their Recipes” (American Palate, 2013), which has shattered some records for sales and publishing. American Palate is one division of The History Press, a favorite new press for this reader and one that is gaining much attention here in Sacramento. This book was released a mere few months ago, yet it is already in its third printing, with buyers as far away as England.

What is the fuss about this book? Well, Sacramento is not only home to writers, but it is also home to people who love their food and their restaurants. This book, however, is even more than that. One look at the photos inside tells you that. Photos alone include neon signs, menus, receipts and proof that food trucks aren’t all that new.

Included are cartoons and those wonderful soda fountains, often located inside drugstores like the Tower Cut-Rate Drug Store, or inside dime stores like Woolworth’s. Photos don’t just show the outside of the stores, though. Photos of revelers and lunch patrons bring these places to life, and the team of Burns and Burns went to the streets to acquire stories like the one Mary Gee tells about where she went for sodas and how “‘Broadway, most of the area heading towards the river, just beyond Edmonds Field, was still vegetable gardens tended by Chinese.’”

If you have an interest in where the politicians talked business, check out “Political Watering Holes,” a chapter that is as intriguing as it is interesting. It might make you wonder where those watering holes are now. Travel through several of these places and stop along the way to recreate one of the recipes, perhaps “Roast Chicken Antonina” from Antonina’s.

Color photos of Stan’s, Espanol, Shakey’s Pizza Parlor, Jim-Denny’s Hamburgers, Sam’s Hof Brau, Old Ironsides and Golden Tee are included with several other still-recognizable names.

You might expect the usual fare – Italian, Chinese, hamburgers – but you might not have expected Basque food, though you’ll soon discover why “Basque Spaghetti” is included. It is one that was told to the authors by Karen Zito, and it was one of several meals served to boarders at Espanol.

If, like me, you want to read more, then the included bibliography will please you. This book is a treasure for those interested in the history of restaurants, the Sacramento region or even signs, and it is sure to please for many years, especially since it’s also quite useful with all of those recipes.

In support of this book, reading events are scheduled for Sept. 17 at Central Library, Sept. 25 at McClatchy Library and Sept. 28 at The California Museum. Check with these venues for exact times and discussion topics.

* * *

Soon to be released from The History Press is William Burg’s much-anticipated second book, “Sacramento Renaissance: Art, Music & Activism in California’s Capital City.” In the wake of redevelopment, Sacramento’s art and music scene surged, as did its activism. You’ll read stories about the Black Panthers of Oak Park, the beatniks, the “League of Nations” in Southside Park, George Raya of Lavender Heights and Alkali Flat’s Royal Chicano Air Force.

Burg will be available during the Labor Day weekend among the colorful sidewalks at the Chalk It Up Festival, and he’ll give a public reading Sept. 12 at Time Tested Books. Look for a review of this wonderful book, sure to find a home on many shelves, in the next column.

* * *

Keep reading, and seek out your local authors – including those wonderful poets – at public events and local bookstores.

If you know of a new book, local author or publisher, or other book news or events, please contact SacramentoBookTalk@gmail.com.

Editor’s note: Every Thursday we deliver a local event guide straight to your inbox, right on time to make your weekend plans. Sign me up.
 

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