Orinda Books | Reading recs for right now
By Lou Fancher
Pat Rudebusch bought her favorite bookstore, Orinda Books, in October 2019. Roughly seven months later, she says brisk online and phone orders has created a tricky balancing act. Throughout the lockdown, Orinda Books has offered free delivery in Lamorinda, Rossmoor and for special orders to customers in Piedmont—as well as orders shipped all over the United States for a $3.95 flat fee. Curbside pickup now adds yet another opportunity for Orinda books to serve local readers.
“Book stores, like everyone else, are trying to find their way in this COVID-19 world. It goes without saying that the health and safety of our staff and customers are the overriding concern; yet, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people say that they need books for their mental wellbeing, especially now.”
Observing trends in reading interests, she’s noticed an increase in demand for the classics. War & Peace and The Plague were two hot sellers early on, but books by Steinbeck, Austen, and Dickens also move quickly. “Just this past week, four people told me that they recently read Steinbeck’s East of Eden and said it was one of the best books they’ve ever read,” she says.
In addition to the classics, customers seek uplifting stories. Rudebusch says one of her “go-to titles” for those readers is Rules for Visiting by Jessica Frances Kane. The story of a 40-year-old university botanist who decides during a one-month sabbatical to visit four different friends with whom she has lost touch, is surprisingly heartwarming—even as the protagonist discovers she is more comfortable with plants than people.
The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson, Rudebusch says continues to be among the bookstore’s top-selling books. “No one writes history that reads as a novel better than Larson, and his latest book is every bit as good as his previous works. The Splendid and the Vile tells the tale of Winston Churchill’s first year in office during the Blitz. Drawing on newly declassified documents and personal diaries, Larson brings us into Churchill’s inner circle. More than one reader has commented how the saga puts our current (pandemic crisis) into perspective.”
Other bestsellers include Sue Monk Kidd’s spirited Book of Longings, featuring a strong-willed, independent-thinking female protagonist and Anne Tyler’s Redhead by the Side of the Road, a long-anticipated novel from a reliable author that Rudebusch says offers comfort during uncertain times
Anticipating a summer of escapist reading, two books coming in the next few weeks have Rudebusch anticipating multiple orders: Natalie Jenner’s The Jane Austen Society, about an unlikely band of people who join forces to preserve the remaining bits of Austen’s legacy in the small village of Chatow and The Second Home by Christine Clancey, a contemporary novel exploring family, human connections at risk, and rising tension between people living into the future while holding onto past memories.