The first eight years of my life, my father worked on military aircraft and was transferred around to various military bases, criss-crossing the country with our family of five and moving every three to six months. Extreme shyness and length of stay were not conducive to forming friendships, so books became my friends, and the library, my retreat. We were not a wealthy family, so my brothers and I amused ourselves by playing outside most of the day and reading at night. And somewhere between an attic bedroom in Iowa and a sleeping porch in Florida, I fell in love with books.

When gloomy days force us indoors, books keep our minds active. Judging from the sheer number of local book clubs, there are lots of active minds in Benicia. Here’s a sampling of recommendations from Benicia Magazine readers:

From Emily Thomas, owner, LightTouch Medical Spa:

“My book club is reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and for fun I am reading The Girl Who Played with Fire, the second book in the Millenium Trilogy."

Elegance of a Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery, Gallimard, 2006
The Girl Who Played with Fire, by Stiegg Larsonn, Norstedts Forlag, 2006

From DeWitt Cheng, Art writer and curator:

“I just finished, during my holiday hibernation, Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts, and The Bauhaus Group: Six Masters of Modernism."

Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts, Clive James, Pan McMillan 2008
The Bauhaus Group: Six Masters of Modernism, Nicholas Fox Weber, Knopf, 2009

From Sue Fisher-Jones, Public Affairs Manager for Valero:

“I finished a nonfiction book last month that I purchased after my October trip to San Simeon. I had read much about the Hearst family in the past, but after touring Hearst Castle I wanted to know more about the woman architect who was the creative genius behind the project."

Julia Morgan, Architect, By Sara Holmes Boutelle, (1909-1999), Abbeville Press 1995

From Larnie Fox, Arts Benicia Executive Director:

“The best book I’ve read in a very long time is Anathem. Its good story with engaging characters, has interesting philosophical and scientific ideas, and, like Tolkien’s books, takes you away to another realm.”

Anathem, by Neil Stephenson, William Morrow and Company, 2008

From Candi Estey Swanson, owner, Estey Real Estate:

“I love this read: It is the story of Rita Golden Celman, an ordinary woman living an extraordinary existence. At the age of 48, on the verge of a divorce, she left an elegant life in L.A. to follow her dream of connecting with people in cultures all over the world. Rita sold everything and traveled."

Tales of a Female Nomad, by Rita Golden Gelman, Broadway, 2002

From Betty Steinmann, retired, and her book club in Denver, Colorado:

"My book club has just selected books for this year’s reading. Here are two interesting choices from the list:"

The Athena Project, by Brad Thur, Simon and Schuster, 2010
The Seige, by Stephen White, Dutton Adult, 2009

From Bill Harsh, local artist and art instructor:

“I am reading two excellent books on my favorite hobbyhorse subject: Peak Oil. The author is not as much of a doom and gloomer as some of the other Peak Oil writers, and he is also a very good, very readable author, and a thoughtful and very impressive polymath to boot.”

The Long Decent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age, by John Michael Greer, New Society Publishers, 2008
The Eco-Technic Future: Envisioning a Post-Peak World, by John Michael Greer, New Society Publishers, 2009

From Ann Lindsay, co-owner, Lindsay Art Glass:

“I’m in the middle of U is for Undertow,  the latest Sue Grafton novel. It’s a nice read and great escape from working!”

U is for Undertow, by Sue Grafton, A Marian Wood Book/Putnam, 2009

From Christine Mayall, owner, Bookshop Benicia:

“I really recommend this book, from the author of Sea Biscuit. It’s a well written, fascinating historical biography.”

Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, Random House, 2010

All books on this list can be ordered from Bookshop Benicia,, 707.747.5155