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Ten for the Road

Great Reads for Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

A summer-time "Beach Reads" feature is quite irrelevant in our beautiful foggy land, unless you can concentrate on reading while you shiver and wipe the mist out of your eyes.

These ten "Travelin' Reads" have been carefully selected to provide the following: satisfying 10 minute portions so that you won't have forgotten anything essential when you pick it up again; no cute pink "chick lit" covers with cute cartoon women; great writing. Isn't that all you need?

Beautiful Girls
by Beth Ann Bauman
Brought out by local publisher MacAdam-Cage, a great finder of quality first-fiction, these tightly-woven, compelling stories feature girls and women on the verge, and over it. "Wash, Rinse, Spin" in particular, about a not-quite functioning lawyer whose father is dying a train-ride away, stopped me in my tracks.

The Believer
Published by McSweeney's and edited by writers Heidi Julavits, Vendela Vida, and Ed Park, this heady, entertaining literary magazine is available at bookstores near you and at 826 Valencia. Now in its third issue, this is the perfect travel companion: physically light, but not lightweight reading by writers like Jim Shepard and Rick Moody, and interviews with folks like Liz Phair and Pat Benetar.

Bestial Noise: The Tin House Fiction Reader
The award-winning literary magazine Tin House has brought out it's first book-form anthology, featuring pieces from Dorothy Allison, Kevin Canty, Lydia Davis, David Schickler, Mary Gaitskill, Jim Shepard, Amy Hempel, David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Lethem, and many more.

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
by ZZ Packer
This debut collection from Pacifica-based Packer does not disappoint - even with the high anticipation her presence in the New Yorker and her large advance created. These stories about the lives of young black women and men are provocative. Whether you identify with the experiences of the characters or not, you identify strongly with their fears, frustrations, and joys.

Hinge: A Boas Anthology
edited by Lauren Schiffman
This collection of poetry and prose grew out of a series of meetings by 8 Bay Area writers, who spent their time asking questions about the nature of writing and what it means to be writing once one moves out of school and into day-to-day working life. Features writing by Stefani Barber, Erin Wilson, Jean Lieske, Elise Ficarra, Lauren Schiffman, Nicole Stefanko, Sarah Rosenthal and Tsering Wangmo Dhompa. To order, visit

When the Messenger is Hot: Stories
by Elizabeth Crane
Reminiscent of Aimee Bender, though not quite so fantastical, these are funny, biting, and touching stories, best taken in small doses and then sucked on like SweetTarts.

Patricia Unterman's San Francisco Food Lover's Guide
by Patricia Unterman
Now in its third edition, this revised and updated guide is broken out by neighborhood, providing reviews of restaurants, food stores, and recipes. Unterman, the chef/owner of the Hayes Street Grill, offers less fluff and more flavors than many food writers.

The Relative Stranger
by Charles Baxter
Really, any short story collection by Charles Baxter. After reading The Feast of Love two years ago I went back and read everything I could get my hands on by him and became somewhat evangelical, pushing everyone I knew to read him too. Baxter does love, relationships, emotion, pain, family like no other and his short stories, in particular, ring out loud, revisiting you when you least expect them.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
by Mary Roach
A laugh-out loud book about corpses? Why not! Local writer Roach does a great job pulling you in to her grotesque, occasionally smelly shoes as she traipses from body farms to plastic surgery classes featuring decapitated heads to the former San Francisco mortuary school which has now met it's own end.

Ten Little Indians
by Sherman Alexie
I haven't cracked the spine yet on this just-released collection of short stories, but I have no doubts that it'll be a keeper after hearing Alexie read at the Booksmith last week. His wits, wisdom, charm, and glorious honesty are a treasure. Nothing like a guy who can continuously crack himself up while making everyone in the audience laugh at themselves, knowingly or not.

Now get outta town!