Here’s how the giveaway works. If you subscribe to my newsletter, choose the titles that interest you and email me** with your choices no later than JULY 22nd. I’ll semi-randomly draw names and let winners know if they’ve been chosen. (If you’ve won a number of books already, I spread the love around and let others have a bigger chance.) If you don’t win, I hope you’ll seek these out at your local library or independent bookstore. Click on each title to reach more about them at (where you can also purchase books at a discount, benefiting indie bookstores. Win-win!)

A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib. I picked this up in Call & Response Books, recently opened in the Chicago neighborhood where I grew up. Excellent, evocative writing “in praise of Black performance” including the essayist’s takes on Soul Train, dancing, blackface, Aretha Franklin, Beyonce, Merry Clayton, and much much more. I gained new appreciation for artists and musical forms I didn’t know even if I don’t actively listen to them. Abdurraqib is due to come to Sacramento soon and I hope to hear what he has to say in person.

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts. The wonderful Friends of the Edgewater Library gave me this book as thanks for launching my new poetry collection in their library. (Gosh, I should be thanking them for hosting and promoting!) Joanne K. rightly thought that a novel told by L. Frank Baum’s wife would catch my interest. The tale alternates between the 1880s, when Maud met, married, and loved Frank through thick and thin—and 1939, when Maud insists on visiting the MGM lot where her late husband’s beloved book is being re-worked by Hollywood. Everyone is captivated by the film’s young star with the big voice. But who watches out for “Dorothy”? Based on extensive research, Letts brings Maud to life as a strong and resourceful woman.

In Kiltumper: A Year in an Irish Garden by Niall Williams with Christine Breen. There are so many Irish writers who I admire for their voice and their lilting command of language, Niall Williams among them. I’m no gardener, but this lovely volume, with illustrations by Christine and text by Niall, might persuade me to work more diligently at it. The couple left New York in their twenties to relocate to the Irish countryside. This book recounts a year when she was recovering from cancer, which brings a special poignancy to their lush and vivid descriptions.

Selling the Dream by Jane Marie. After avidly listening to the podcast “The Dream,” I ordered the book from Capital Books. As the subtitle says, it focuses on “the billion dollar industry bankrupting Americans” but don’t think for a minute the text will be heavy. Well researched, but written in the same wry, breezy style Jane Marie brings on air, you’ll learn about the history of door-to-door sales, why Avon hired women as salespeople, and a lot about pyramid schemes. (I know: they call it “multi-level marketing,” but no one other than those at the very tip-top level make any money.) Read this and then pass it on to that friend who’s always trying to sell you essential oils or vitamins or cosmetics…

The Bear by Andrew Krivak. Bellevue Literary Press sent me this book, along with another one to review. I was so glad to discover this new-to-me author and this slim novel about a father and daughter who may be the last two humans alive. They certainly never encounter another person in the (perhaps Maine) woods where they live and manage to survive. But when they encounter tragedy, it is a bear who shows the remaining person how to find a way home. Beautifully written, with unforgettable scenes. We must learn to live with nature, not in spite of it.

The Color of Water by James McBride. Years before he began winning all kinds of prizes for his novels Deacon Kong and The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store, McBride won me over with this memoir, “a black man’s tribute to his white mother.” His mother was a white woman, from an orthodox Jewish family, who married a black man and raised twelve black children. He tells her story, along with his own, and – no surprise – he does it beautifully, memorably, eloquently, and with great compassion. If you haven’t read it before (first published in 1996), don’t miss it.

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon. My sister Cindy recommended this novel to me and I liked it very much. Florence lives in a “home” for the elderly in England, where her best friend Elsie keeps her company. A new resident bears a disturbing resemblance to a dangerous man from their past. But who will believe an old woman, especially one who is given to memory lapses? Loved the strong voices in this book, although the plot was overly complicated. “Cherry Tree…was called sheltered accommodation, but I’d never quite been able to work out what it was we were being sheltered from. The world was still out there…we were the ones hidden away…and I often wondered if it was actually the world that was being sheltered from us.”