Some very Berkeley books for the holidays

On Dec. 16, Berkeleyside published the Best Books of 2016 compiled by Berkeleyside staff and community members. But there is another category of books, those about Berkeley, that is also worth noting. Here then is a list of recently published books about Berkeley that will make great gifts.

Quirky Berkeley by Tom Dalzell

Dalzell writes about all that is unusual in Berkeley, both for his website, Quirky Berkeley, and for Berkeleyside. In this slim, colorful volume, published by Berkeley’s Heyday Books, Dalzell takes a look at Berkeley’s most interesting quirks, including the Giant Orange House on Spruce Street, Buldan Seka’s large ceramic creations (also on Spruce), artist Mark Bullwinkle’s steel sculptures around town, Mark Olivier’s beach-trash art, and Eni Green’s Doggie Diner head and other dachshund knickknacks on Harper Street. Dalzell also highlights the city’s many colorful mailboxes, benches, animal sculptures and sidewalk art. The $15 book became an instant Berkeley classic when it was published in August. (Read more about Tom Dalzell and Quirky Berkeley.)

Tilden Regional Park: Queen of the East Bay Parks by Richard Langs

Langs, a retired financial adviser to the transportation industry, spent 11 years researching the history of Tilden Park, one of the jewels of the East Bay Regional Park District. He dug into the park district’s archives and those of local libraries. With 400 photos, Langs traces the history of the park from the time it was just an idea to the modern era, where it is heavily used. He documents the projects created by the Work Progress Administration, the California Conservation Corps, and the Public Works Administration. The book costs $24.95 plus tax, and is available at the Tilden Nature Area or by emailing the author at richardlangs.tildenpark@gmail.com.

Radical Bookselling: A Life of Moe Moskowitz, founder of Moe’s Books by Doris Moskowitz

Moe Moskowitz was one of the first to bring paperback books to Berkeley and he showcased them at his seminal bookstore, Moe’s Books, on Telegraph Avenue. Moskowitz, who died in 1997,  has come to life recently through the short film made by Siciliana Trevino, New Mo’ Cut. Now Moe’s daughter, Doris, has written a pictorial biography of her father that explains why he opened the store and how it weathered the tumultuous days of People’s Park, Free Speech, and the Vietnam War protests. Full of photos, reminiscences from those who knew Moe, and other tributes, the book is both a touching tribute to a man and a micro-history of Berkeley. [Read more about Moe’s Books.]

American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin

The book about Berkeley that made the largest national splash was Jeffrey Toobin’s recounting of the kidnapping of Patty Hearst from an apartment on Benvenue Avenue, her subsequent embrace of radical politics and her trial for robbing a bank. Toobin, using previously unseen FBI reports and other documents, recreates the political tensions of the 1970s, the pampered life of the Hearst Corporation heiress, the incompetency of her kidnappers, the Symbionese Liberation Army, and life underground. The book is full of Berkeley connections, as most of the members of the SLA passed through the city at one point in time. Donald DeFreeze, head of the SLA, lived in Berkeley after his release from Vacaville; Patricia “Mizmoon” Soltysik worked at the Berkeley Public Library as a janitor; Angela and Gary Atwood, and Bill and Emily Harris, also lived here, with Emily working at Cal. Kathy Soliah spoke at Ho Chi Minh Park (aka Willard Park); and the the SLA delivered communiqués to KPFA.


BART: The Dramatic History of the Bay Area Rapid Transit System by Michael C. Healy

This first-ever comprehensive history of BART, published by Heyday Books, focuses on the Bay Area-wide system but has an entire chapter devoted to Berkeley’s fight to put the BART tracks underground. The battle was led – and won – by Berkeley’s last Republican mayor, Wallace Johnson. Due to his foresight and tenacity, and Berkeley residents’ willingness to tax themselves, aerial BART tracks don’t divide the city. Healy also discusses how Berkeley’s actions promoted other cities to make their own demands about where their stations would be located.

Berkeley Walks: Revealing Rambles through America’s Most Intriguing City by Janet L. Byron and Robert E. Johnson

Byron and Johnson have created a delightful compendium of walks through Berkeley that detail the histories of particular neighborhoods and items of interest in those neighborhoods. Want to know the exact building on Benvenue from where Patricia Hearst was kidnapped? Berkeley Walks provides the answer. Ditto for where Pauline Kael, famed New Yorker film critic, lived. [Read more about Berkeley Walks and its authors.]

Susan Dinkelspiel Cerny (no relation to this reporter) died this month after years of contributing to the knowledge of Berkeley architecture. In her honor, we recommend her book,  Berkeley Landmarks: An Illustrated History of Berkeley, California’s Architectural Heritage (2001). Cerny, an artist and architectural historian, describes the history of more than 250 important buildings in the city. This book has 400 photographs that show the evolution of various buildings, and Cerny includes information about when structures were built, their architects, and tidbits about residents.

If these ideas are not enough, check out our 2013 story on 18 books about Berkeley.

Related: 
Best Books of 2016, picked by Berkeleyside editors, guests (12.16.16)
Review: Jeffrey Toobin’s ‘American Heiress’ (08.16.16)
Tom Dalzell: The man behind the book ‘Quirky Berkeley’ (08.01.16)
Daughter aims to document life of Moe’s Books founder (06.08.16)
‘Berkeley Walks’ explores different facets of the city (12.15.15)
The List: 18 books about Berkeley for Berkeley lovers (12.23.13)

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