8 Books by Sacramento Area Authors That Should Be on Your Summer Reading List
The Sacramento area is dotted with a myriad of talented authors, known across the globe for their compelling novels, short stories, autobiographies and the like. We searched far and wide to find some of the best authors who either currently live in the area, were born here, or spent a large portion of their lives in and around Sacramento. Many of them recall their experiences with our beloved Sacramento in the books they went on to write!
Grab one of these books by local authors to throw in your beach or pool bag. Or stock up on some reads to delve into on your next plane ride. There’s something for the romantic, the thrill-seeker, the sentimental and the open-minded. Wherever your adventures take you, these books are sure to enhance your summer vacation!
We are all familiar with #1 New York Times best-selling author Nicholas Sparks and his repertoire of romantic, heart-wrenching novels, the most popular of which being The Notebook. However, you may not be aware that Sparks grew up in the area, as his father became a professor of business at Sacramento State and his family settled in Fair Oaks, where they remained through his high school days. In 1984, Sparks graduated as the valedictorian of Bella Vista High School. Although he now lives in North Carolina, Sparks spent his formative years in the area and we are very proud to claim him as one of our own!
Every Breath is Sparks’ most recent novel. It tells a heartbreaking yet romantic story about a chance encounter in Sunset Beach, North Carolina, that becomes a touchstone for two vastly different people, which transcends decades, continents and the bittersweet workings of fate.
Jennifer Provenza and her family moved to Sacramento when she was just five. She went to high school in Davis, which is when she discovered her love for acting, music and performing. After high school, she moved to New York and received her BFA in theatre from NYU and MFA in acting from Brooklyn College, got married and wrote a novel. After living in San Diego, Provenza and her husband eventually returned to their roots in Sacramento, where she began acting, writing, directing and producing.
Provenza’s novel, Life is But a Dream, follows the story of Angela, who is a narcoleptic. She has two lives existing in parallel universes, one where she is single and successful in New York City and the other where she is a loving wife and mother in suburban Sacramento. Angela has to discern which is real and ultimately, what she desires in life.
James Paul Czajkowski, known by his pen name, James Rollins, is a well-known author and resident of El Dorado Hills. He left his veterinary practice in Sacramento to become a full-time author and he has many devoted fans who are glad he did. Rollins is perhaps most known for his Sigma Force Series, which includes 13 thrillers in total. If you’re new to Rollins and his work, you may want to start with the first book of the Sigma Force series, which will set the stage for the remainder of the exciting book collection.
Sandstorm starts with a bang — literally. “A freak explosion in the British museum in London ignites a perilous race for an earth-shaking power source buried deep beneath the sands of history. Painter Crowe is an agent for Sigma Force, a covert arm of the Defense Department tasked with keeping dangerous scientific discoveries out of enemy hands. (From Amazon)”
Joan Didion is considered one of America’s most iconic writers and journalists. In fact, a documentary about Didion was released on Netflix in 2017. Didion was born in Sacramento and recalls writing her thoughts down as early as age five. She did not attend school on a regular basis throughout her childhood, as her father was in the Army Air Corps during World War II and had to be relocated constantly. In 1943 or 1944, the Didion family returned to Sacramento, where they remained for a number of years. Didion’s 2003 memoir, Where I Was From, details the emotions she experienced while moving so often as a child.
Considered one of Didion’s most legendary and meaningful books, The Year of Magical Thinking, explores the intensity and emotions of the year after she lost her husband to a heart attack in 2003. Didion details the realities, grief and anguish that she experienced in that year, creating a compelling and beautiful story relatable for anyone who has lost a loved one.
Author Sam Silvas now lives in Southern California but grew up in Lincoln, a small town just northeast of Sacramento. Silves recalls his childhood and his charming hometown with a collection of short stories titled, Stanton, California. Through this raw collection of stories, he depicts the fictional town of Stanton as both a sanctuary and prison to its inhabitants, describing the emotions he experiences in regards to small-town living. Silvas seamlessly weaves personal truths in with fictional stories in a vulnerable and honest way.
Long-time locals may remember Karen Kijewski, an American writer of mystery novels who has lived in Sacramento for decades. She started out bartending while establishing herself as a respected novelist in the ‘90s. And that she did — her Kat Colorado series received plenty of attention and praise. Kijewski is a Shamus and Anthony award-winner, and was once the president of the Mystery Writers of America’s Northern California chapter. The first book of her series is Katwalk, which tells the story of private eye Kat Colorado, who accepts a routine assignment investigating a man’s finances and eventually becomes involved in an elaborate and risky scheme of a madman. Much like her mysterious main character, Kijewski disappeared from the spotlight soon after completing the series in 1998.
A few years back, three Americans — and Sacramento area natives — stopped a deadly attack on train #9364 in Brussels, bound for Paris. This heroic intervention with ISIS ultimately saved 500 lives and garnered attention from all around the globe. Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler grew up in and met at Freedom Christian School in Fair Oaks and continued their friendship into adulthood.
In their autobiographical book, the three detail the events of the 2015 Thalys train attack in addition to their stories of growing up in the Sacramento area. The 15:17 to Paris is an incredible true story of friendship and courage, and an event that changed the course of their lives — and the hundreds of lives on that train. The book has since been made into a film, which stars all three young men playing themselves in a dramatic retelling of the story.
Joan Lunden is both a local and national celebrity. She was the co-host of ABC’s Good Morning America from 1980 to 1997 and is now a special correspondent for NBC’s Today. Lunden was born and raised in Fair Oaks and earned a liberal arts degree from Sacramento State. She got her first news anchor job at KCRA-TV and began her broadcasting career working for Channel 3 (KCRA) before moving to New York. Alongside her highly successful career in television, Lunden has authored eight books.
One of the most compelling is Had I Known: A Memoir of Survival. This personal memoir delves into the details of Lunden’s journey with breast cancer and the effect it has had on her life. As a mother of seven children and a respected journalist, Lunden pours out the difficulties of her fight against the disease in this heartbreaking book about pain, persistence and perseverance.
What books by local authors are on your bookshelf? Let us know in the comments below!