Upcoming Events



Best Kept Secrets: The Fiction of Lucia Berlin. With Stephen Emerson, Gloria Frym, Barry Gifford, August Kleinzahler, Jim Nisbet, and Michael Wolfe
Wednesday, September 9, 2015, 6:30-8 pm

Join City Lights Books and the Book Club of California to celebrate the release of A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories, by Lucia Berlin. Edited by Stephen Emerson. Foreword by Lydia Davis. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Opening statement and appreciation by Stephen Emerson, with readings by Gloria Frym, Barry Gifford, August Kleinzahler, Jim Nisbet, and Michael Wolfe

A Manual for Cleaning Women compiles the best work of the legendary short-story writer Lucia Berlin. With her trademark blend of humor and melancholy, Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday–uncovering moments of grace in the cafeterias and Laundromats of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Northern California upper classes, and from the perspective of a cleaning woman alone in a hotel dining room in Mexico City. The women of Berlin’s stories are lost, but they are also strong, clever, and extraordinarily real. They are hitchhikers, hard workers, bad Christians. With the wit of Lorrie Moore and the grit of Raymond Carver, they navigate a world of jockeys, doctors, and switchboard operators. They laugh, they mourn, they drink. Berlin, a highly influential writer despite having published little in her lifetime, conjures these women from California, Mexico, and beyond. Lovers of the short story will not want to miss this remarkable collection from a master of the form.

Lucia Berlin (1936-2004) was first published when she was twenty-four in The Atlantic Monthly and in Saul Bellow and Keith Botsford’s journal The Noble Savage. Berlin worked brilliantly but sporadically throughout the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. Her stories are culled from her early childhood in various Western mining towns; her glamorous teenage years in Santiago, Chile; three failed marriages; a lifelong problem with alcoholism; her years spent in Berkeley, New Mexico, and Mexico City; and the various jobs she later held to support her writing and her four sons, including as a high-school teacher, a switchboard operator, a physician’s assistant, and a cleaning woman.

Stephen Emerson is the editor of A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories of Lucia Berlin. He was her close friend and constant correspondent from soon after their first meeting in 1978. His own books include Neighbors (stories, Tombouctou) and The Wife (short novel, Longriver Books). His work has appeared in New Directions in Poetry and Prose, Hambone, and The Review of Contemporary Fiction. Emerson worked as an editor for many years and, later, toiled in what Elmore Leonard called “the advertising game.” He is now writing new stories steadily, but slowly.

Gloria Frym is the author of two short story collections—Distance No Object (City Lights) and How I Learned (Coffee House Press)—as well as many volumes of poetry, including Mind Over Matter and Any Time Now. Her book Homeless at Home received an American Book Award. She currently chairs and teaches in the MFA in Writing program at California College of the Arts. The True Patriot, a collection of her prose, is due out in Fall 2015.

Novelist, screenwriter, and poet Barry Gifford’s most recent books include The Up-Down, Sailor & Lula: The Complete Novels, Imagining Paradise: New & Selected Poems and The Roy Stories. His film credits include Wild at Heart, Perdita Durango, Lost Highway, and City of Ghosts. His novel Night People was awarded Italy’s Premio Brancati, and he has received awards from PEN, the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Library Association, the Writers Guild of America, and the Christopher Isherwood Foundation. Gifford’s work appears in such magazines as The New Yorker, Punch, Esquire, La Nouvelle Revue Française, Film Comment, and Rolling Stone.

August Kleinzahler’s most recent collections of poetry are Sleeping It Off in Rapid City (Selected Poems), which won the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award, and Hotel Oneira, both from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. He is the author of two books of prose, Cutty, One Rock: Low Characters and Strange Places, Gently Explained and Music: I-LXXIV. Kleinzahler also edited the Selected Poems of Thom Gunn (2009). He is a regular contributor to the London Review of Books (where he’s written extensively about Lucia Berlin). In 2008, Kleinzahler won the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry. He walks in beauty like the night .

Jim Nisbet, a long-time friend of Lucia Berlin and an avid fan of her stories, has published twenty books including Lethal Injection, widely regarded as a classic roman noir, and Laminating The Conic Frustum, his sole non-fiction title. Current projects include a fourteenth novel, You Don’t Pencil, and a complete translation of Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal.

Michael Wolfe writes poetry and prose and produces documentary films. Twice a recipient of the Amy Lowell Traveling Poetry Scholarship, he was for many years the publisher of Tombouctou Books, a press based in Bolinas, California that published, among many other titles, Lucia Berlin’s second collection, Phantom Pain. His most recent book is a set of ancient Greek epitaphs in translation from Johns Hopkins University Press, Cut These Words into Stone. He lives with his wife in San Juan Bautista.

At the Book Club of California.


From A to B: Collections and Discoveries from Atlanta to Berkeley. An Illustrated Talk by David Faulds.
Monday, September 21, 2015, 5-7 pm

Co-sponsored by the NCC/ABAA. David Faulds has spent over a decade working with some of the finest rare book collections in the country. In his talk, David will discuss highlights of Emory University’s library and talk about some of the treasures he’s discovered in the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, where he is currently Curator of Rare Books and Literary Manuscripts–everything from medieval manuscripts and modern literary manuscripts, to fine bindings and cookbooks–while comparing and contrasting the collections at the two institutions.

Free and open to the public but seating is limited. RSVP to shruti@bccbooks.org.

David Faulds is Curator of Rare Books and Literary Manuscripts at The Bancroft Library. A native of Scotland he received his Masters in Library Science from North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC. After graduation he worked as Assistant to the Librarian at St Edmund Hall, a college that forms part of the University of Oxford. He then returned to the United States to spend two years as Catalog Librarian at Yale University’s Beinecke Library. This was followed by a twelve year term as Rare Book Librarian at Emory University in Atlanta, GA before his move to the Bay Area in 2014.


Exhibition Opening: The Exhibition That Never Was: The Panama-Pacific International Exposition, the Book Club of California, and a Century of Fine Books.
Monday, September 28, 2015, 5-7 pm

PPIElogoWEBThe program will begin with brief remarks by Book Club Librarian Henry Snyder, and feature historian Laura Ackley, who will present an illustrated talk, “A Whirlwind Tour of the PPIE,” which traces the history of the fair from its original concept in 1904 through its development and all the way to its gala opening in February 1915.

Laura Ackley is the author of San Francisco’s Jewel City: The Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915published by Heyday Books, and winner of the 2015 California Book Award, Gold Medal for Californiana.

The event is free and open to the public. Presented in conjunction with PPIE100, the citywide celebration of the 100th anniversary of the PPIE.

More information on the exhibition here.



Offsite Litquake Event: The Growth and Evolution of the Bay Area Artisanal Food Movement.
Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Club will co-present a panel on the growth and evolution of the artisan food movement as part of Litquake’s inaugural food book festival: Eat, Drink, and Be Literary (located offsite at Z space in SF’s Mission District). Moderated by author and chef Joyce Goldstein, this panel will feature leaders of Bay Area culinary treasures such as Cowgirl Creamery, Guittard Chocolate, Fatted Calf Charcuterie, Della Fattoria Bread, and Bi-Rite Market.

For more information on ticketing, please visit the Litquake event page.


Litquake Event: Materiality and the Longfellows.
Monday, October 12, 2015, 5-7 p.m.

Nicholas Basbanes speaks about his work-in-progress Cross of Snow: The Love Story and Lasting Legacy of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Alfred A. Knopf), which traces the lives of 19th-century poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his wife Frances Appleton Longfellow. Earlier this year, Basbanes was awarded a Public Scholar research fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities in support of this effort, one of 36 scholars selected nationwide in the new program. In this talk, he will give us an early look at the book’s narrative structure, which heavily relies on an examination of material objects, and what they can tell us about these interesting people and their times.

Space is very limited, so please RSVP to programs@bccbooks.org. Co-presented by Litquake.

A long-time Book Club member, Nicholas Basbanes is the author of nine critically acclaimed works of cultural history, focusing primarily on books and book culture. His first, A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books, was a finalist in 1995 for the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction, and was named a New York Times Notable Book. His most recent, On Paper: The Everything of Its Two Thousand Year History (Knopf, 2013, Vintage, 2014), was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities research fellowship, and was a finalist for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction for 2014.


POSTPONED: Gold Beating: How Gold Leaf Is Made. An Illustrated Talk by John Hastings.

Please check here for the rescheduled date. 

In 1820, John Hastings’ great grandfather founded Hastings and Company, a gold leaf manufacturing company in Philadelphia. It went on to become the largest gold leaf manufacturing company in America, lasting nearly 150 years. In this illustrated talk, Hastings will describe the age-old craft and all the traditions, methods, and surprising facts surrounding it–for example, it takes one ounce of gold to make 175 square feet of gold leaf. Hastings will also discuss gold beating in Japan and Burma, various uses of gold leaf, and why the market for gold leaf collapsed, and he will show an 80-year-old film about gold beating.

John Hastings was the fourth generation to run his family’s business, Hastings & Co., which manufactured gold leaf in Philadelphia for 148 years. After the business closed in 1968, he spent twenty years at the archeological museum of the University of Pennsylvania, developing computer databases for archaeology, and also working on digs in France, India an Tunisia. He moved to the Bay Area in 2001 and lives in Orinda. In recent years he has written several books about gold leaf and his family’s genealogy.

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