Well, it took me much longer to write than I thought it would. Back in early March things were going swimmingly. I was out and about discovering new things when, BAM, good old COVID-19 came disrupted everything. But I really can’t complain. I’m healthy. My whole family is healthy. I’m working from home. Things are about as good as they can be under the circumstances. Plus, I’ve had extra time for more leisure pursuits. I’m putting together puzzles, watching classic films and, of course, reading. Lucky for me, right before it all went down Rare Bird Books sent me two brand new titles to read and I’ve been spending time enjoying them.
I was lucky enough to chose the books I was interested in and as I perused the catalog Slouching Towards Los Angeles: Living and Writing by Joan Didion’s Light immediately stood out to me. Now, I must admit it was Los Angeles that got me. Anything written about my favorite city immediately sparks my interest. So much so that I completely ignored the second line regarding Joan Didion when it should have been the first thing I noticed. Because here’s the thing: I had never read any of her works. I know, I know. How could I be an avid reader who loves Los Angeles and yet never read any works by one of its preeminent authors?
When I received the book and started to dive in I immediately discovered my error. Rather that being filled with essays devoted to Los Angeles it was filled with essays devoted to Didion (although LA does feature prominently in the majority of them). Instead of tossing it aside I decided to forge ahead and found myself really enjoying it. Featuring essays by 25 diverse authors it provides a fascinating glimpse into the influence of one America’s greatest authors. By the time I reached the end there was one thing I knew for certain – I had to read Didion.
I immediately ordered a copy of The White Album and instantly devoured it. As I read Didion’s essays I realized I was discovering a new favorite author. Now this may come as a shock but the gal has talent! Her essays regarding Los Angeles during the transition from the 60’s to the 70’s showed me a side of the city I always wanted to learn more about. Honestly, Joan Didion was made for someone like me and I’m kicking myself for not getting more into her work earlier. But it just goes to show how a minor mistake in reading a book title can open up a whole new world.
After reading two essay collections I was longing for some fiction so I grabbed my second Rare Bird title The Road to Delano by John DeSimone. Just as Los Angeles stood out on the first book Delano was calling my name on this one. After last year’s adventure along Highway 99 I’ve been fascinated with central California farm towns and was eager to dive into a book taking place in the region.
Delano is synonymous with grapes and the crop features prominently in the book. The year is 1968 and protagonist, Jack Duncan, just wants to get out of his small town. After the death of his father 10 earlier life hasn’t been easy and a potential baseball scholarship offers a ticket to freedom. The only problem is the more he tries to leave the more he gets sucked into a web of greed and corruption that surrounds the town and it looks like escape may be anything but possible.
Although fiction The Road to Delano prominently features Cesar Chavez and the plight of the local farm-workers. It’s a period of history that I’ve long been aware of yet didn’t know much about and DeSimone’s well research work offers a detailed glimpse into their mighty struggle. Yet, it’s never preachy. Instead it’s a highly entertaining mystery novel that also happens to provide insight into an important piece of California history. Now I call that a win win.
Before receiving my books I was unfamiliar with Rare Bird but now I’m eager to dive further into their immense catalog. Quarantine will eventually end but I’ll never stop reading and I can’t wait to see what fascinating worlds I discover next.