Tuesday, July 7
Kevin Starr, historian, USC prof, and state librarian emeritus, is responsible for an indispensable series of books known collectively as Americans and the California Dream. His latest, Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963 (Oxford University Press, $35), elaborates on the expansion of Golden State suburbia, the ascendancy of Los Angeles, the uncertainty of San Diego, the maturation of the University of California network, and much more, in 576 dense but consistently readable pages. Just try not to get sucked in. Starr reads at 7 p.m. at the Opera Plaza branch of Books Inc., 601 Van Ness (at Turk). 776-1111, www.booksinc.net.
Thursday, July 9
Do you remember Zak Smith? He's the stylish, scary-smart punk artist who did Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon's Novel Gravity's Rainbow. He also did porn. But not by himself. That's why his new book is called We Did Porn (Tin House, $25). Recently, San Francisco's online magazine The Rumpus asked him, "Why work in porn?" He replied, "Nobody ever asks me, 'Why make paintings?' Is wanting to spend your time around attractive women who like to have sex much more difficult a desire for journalists to understand than wanting to dip wisps of horsehair into a wet lake of colored goo and smear it all over a piece of paper until it looks pretty?" Meet Smith at 7 p.m. at City Lights Books, 261 Columbus (at Broadway). 362-8193, www.citylights.com.
Wednesday, July 15
Now that we're on the subject of porn, and on the related subject of City Lights author events, return there the following Wednesday for Paul Krassner and his new book Who's to Say What's Obscene? Politics, Culture, and Comedy in America Today (City Lights, $17). Section titles include "The Romance of Tampons" and "Was Moses Tripping?" from the chapter "The War on Some People Who Use Some Drugs," and "Norman Mailer's Foreskin" from the chapter "Several Dead Icons." Not surprisingly, the "investigative satirist" — and that's in quotes not to be snarky, but because it's what he calls himself — also knows how to work a crowd. 7 p.m. at City Lights, 261 Columbus (at Broadway). 362-8193, www.citylights.com.
Friday, July 17
Those of us who were suburban teenagers wondering what to do with our futures (monk? surf bum? writer?) and wanting to run away to Hawaii with a tattered copy of Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha will have to give props to local writer Jaimal Yogis, who actually did that, and wrote about it in Saltwater Buddha: A Surfer's Quest to Find Zen on the Sea (Wisdom Publications, $15). The result? Swells of five-star Amazon reviews with headlines like "Stoked" and "What is the sound of one wave clapping?" should give you the idea. Yogis continues his deliberately coastal book tour at 7:30 p.m. at the Marina branch of Books Inc., 2251 Chestnut (at Avila). 931-3633, www.booksinc.net.
Wednesday, July 22
Ten years ago, writer Alan Drew lived in San Francisco. Then he got a job teaching literature in Turkey, so he and his wife moved to Istanbul. Four days after they arrived, the Marmara earthquake killed tens of thousands of people. Like many other books, Drew's debut novel, Gardens of Water (Random House, $14), deals with dubious teen romance — the boy is American, the girl is Kurdish, and her Muslim father doesn't approve. Unlike many other books, it also deals with a devastating natural disaster that its author just happened to live through. Drew reads from his book at the San Francisco branch of Book Passage, 1 Ferry Building #42 (Market at Embarcadero). 6 p.m., 835-1020, www.bookpassage.com.