Alta Launches California Book Club

The Journal of Alta California to inaugurate monthly virtual gathering— a book club like no other—on October 15

Alta’s partners in innovative project include public libraries, independent bookstores, and literary publications; six distinguished literary figures to select book club’s titles

SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Alta, the quarterly journal, announced today that it will inaugurate a monthly virtual book club—the California Book Club—on October 15, 2020.

A gathering like no other, the California Book Club, or CBC, will showcase exceptional works that make up a new California canon: books from and about the Golden State by some of the most prominent—and promising—authors of our day.

Alta is more than a journal. It’s also a community where people interested in the arts and culture of the West can feel at home. The founding of the California Book Club represents a fulfillment of that ideal,” says Will Hearst, editor and publisher of Alta.

The book club is open to all, and joining is free. Those who sign up at the club’s website——will receive a set of four bookplates featuring the club’s logo, custom designed by renowned illustrator Michael Schwab.

The CBC will host lively one-hour discussions each month with writers whose books are as richly varied as the state itself. Club members will have the opportunity to hear authors read from their works and to ask questions of them and featured guests.

All the conversations will be held on the third Thursday of the month, at 5 p.m. Pacific time, and will stream on Zoom.

The California Book Club will kick off on October 15 with San Francisco author C Pam Zhang and her critically acclaimed debut novel, How Much of These Hills Is Gold. In his review of the book for Alta, Christian Kiefer called it “a superb and moving work” and “a reinvention of the Old West—near-apocalyptic in its despair and longing.”

The club is produced by Alta—whose mission is to demystify the West with riveting storytelling—and our innovative project has invaluable partners: the Los Angeles Public Library, the San Francisco Public Library, the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, Narrative magazine, ZYZZYVA, Book Passage, Books Inc., Book Soup, Vroman’s Bookstore, and Bookshop.

“The California Book Club would not be possible without the support of our great libraries, independent booksellers, and literary stakeholders,” Hearst adds. “Together, we hope to celebrate a canon for the Golden State that reflects its wonderful diversity and humanity, and above all, to encourage reading and thoughtful discussion.”

The California Book Club will be hosted by John Freeman, a native of California who is the editor of the literary journal Freeman’s, the executive editor of Literary Hub, and the author of numerous nonfiction and poetry books. The club has as its guiding principle Freeman’s recent Alta essay on the new California curriculum. “Week to week, this big glorious, strange, wonderful state is coming to life on the page,” Freeman writes. “In a state of 40 million people, with the world’s fifth-largest economy, with a quarter of America’s immigrant population, literature is being reinvented.”

A panel of six distinguished literary figures from across the state will select each month’s title: journalist and author Lynell George, UCLA professor Marissa López, novelist and essayist Danzy Senna, Alta books editor and author David L. Ulin, ZYZZYVA managing editor Oscar Villalon, and City Lights Booksellers lead buyer Paul Yamazaki.

In addition to Zhang’s novel for October, the panel has selected titles for the club’s November and December gatherings, giving club attendees time to read the books and join in the conversation. The books are Reyna Grande’s revelatory cross-border memoir The Distance Between Us (November 19) and Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress, the first book in the author’s popular Easy Rawlins series of detective novels (December 18).

John Freeman will discuss the aspirations of the California Book Club, our first selection, and his own new book, Tales of Two Planets, with Alta editor at large Mary Melton at a special Alta Asks Live event on Crowdcast on September 16, at 12:30 p.m. Pacific time. Readers can register here.

The California Book Club will be a new and exhilarating forum for Alta members and others to take part in. We are eager to have readers everywhere join us in a vital and continuing conversation about the literary landscape of California.

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram or go to the CBC website for updates:

Alta, based in San Francisco and founded by William R. Hearst III, is a celebration and examination of all things about California and its environs: the lifestyle, the history, the people, the environment, the arts, the culture, the politics. More information can be found at


Amy Bonetti, Alta, 415-407-9008,


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