Michael Chabon, Michael Pollan, and Michael Lewis appeared at a Berkeleyside event in December 2012.
Berkeley authors Michael Lewis, Michael Pollan, and Michael Chabon at a Berkeleyside event in December 2012. Photo: Pete Rosos

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think so.

So far as I can tell, people living in what has become my home town of Berkeley, California, have been writing an inordinate number of really good books in recent years. That’s probably because the town attracts creative people like . . . well, should I say, like flies? No, that wouldn’t fit.

For example, we have our own famous “Three Michaels” — Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay), Michael Lewis (Liar’s Poker), and Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma). They’re hardly alone. It’s tough to stumble into any corner coffee shop here and not find some future Pulitzer-winner hunched over a laptop and the coffee cup by her side that’s been empty all day.

Though I do have a certain affection for the products of the town I call home, and am thus more likely to pick up a locally grown effort than one labeled Brand X, I can’t possibly keep up with all the collective literary output of my landsmen. So, what I’ve read is just a smattering of what’s on offer. And it all arrived on my Kindle only after squeezing through the finely meshed sieve of my idiosyncratic reading taste.

Here, then, are ten Berkeley-sourced books I’ve read and reviewed in the last few years that I can still wholeheartedly recommend.


Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals and Reagan’s Rise to Power, by Seth Rosenfeld Grounded in thirty years of dogged research, including mountains of documents from Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, an investigative journalist reveals the close collaboration between J. Edgar Hoover and Ronald Reagan that brought violence to a generation of college students and the Right Wing to the White House.


 All Our Yesterdays, by Erik Tarloff With sparkling dialogue and finely honed psychological insight, the celebrated screenwriter and novelist explores the town’s historical obsessions with sex, drugs, and revolution in this brilliant novel about six friends whose lives and loves intersect and overlap over the course of four decades.

Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water, by Peter H. Gleick MacArthur Fellow Peter Gleick, one of the world’s reigning experts on water resources, exposes the scandalous practices of the bottled-water industry and its unfortunate environmental impact.

Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party, by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin III Two scholars probe the tragic, short-lived history of the Black Panther Party, which flourished in Berkeley and Oakland in the late 1960s, spread through African-American ghettos nationwide in the 1970s, and collapsed early in the 1980s under the pressure of violent FBI and police suppression as well as internal conflicts.

Continue reading on Mal Warwick’s Blog on Books. 

3 Michaels talk writing, inspiration, and Berkeley quirks
Review: Subversives, by Seth Rosenfeld
Review: All our Yesterdays, by Erik Tarloff
Review: Bottled and Sold, by Peter Gleick
Review: Black Against Empire, by Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin III

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Freelancer Mal Warwick's reviews on his blog, occasionally appear on Berkeleyside. He is an author, entrepreneur, and impact investor who is one of three...