This is the first in a series of posts that will cover books with Sacramento connections—those set here or written by local authors. For copies, check with local independent bookstores—including Time Tested Books (21st Street), Beers Books (S Street), Capital Books (K Street), East Village Bookshop (East Sac), Ruby’s Books (Folsom), Face in a Book (El Dorado Hills)—or through Bookshop.org, which supports independent bookstores.
All the Secrets of the World by Steve Almond (Zando)—Massachusetts-based author Steve Almond sets his recently released novel largely in Sacramento in 1981. It’s a compelling, suspenseful page-turner that begins with two teenage girls who become unexpected friends and then introduces readers to their very different families. Then, one girl’s father disappears, the police step in, and we’re off on a wild journey that takes us from the Reagan-era Fab Forties to South Sac to Death Valley and Mexico and beyond. The book includes some creepy aspects—including a middle-aged man’s infatuation with a teenage girl and, oh yeah, scorpions. Lots of them. (Thankfully, the scorpion scenes are not, for the most part, set in Sacramento!) About his choice to set the novel here, Almond says the early-’80s political landscape made it the perfect spot, plus, “It’s one of those places that doesn’t get written about as much, celebrated in literature.” Almond, who was the featured author at Sacramento Stories on Stage in April, also spent a fair bit of time here while concepting the novel. “I was reminded of the Palo Alto I grew up in during the ’70s and early ’80s. It had fancy neighborhoods and it had middle and working class neighborhoods. There was a certain quieter rhythm to the place. It felt human, not mythic.” Fun fact: Those are Nancy Reagan’s eyes peering out from the cover; also, can you spot the scorpion? Book lovers will recognize Steve Almond’s name from the long list of his other publications, including Candyfreak, Against Football and Bad Stories or perhaps from his four-year-stint with Wild author Cheryl Strayed as co-host of The New York Times’ popular Dear Sugars podcast. For more information, go to the author’s website.