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The San Diego Magazine Book Awards


It’s March, which means it’s time for the San Diego Magazine Book Awards, honoring the best locally authored books. To be considered for an award, a book has to have been reviewed in this column during the previous calendar year. Picking the winners this year was no easier than last, with so many good titles to choose from. However, like cream in milk, the books included on this page rose to the top:

T. Jefferson Parker’s Silent Joe (Hyperion, $23.95) gets our nod for best fiction. On the surface, it’s a murder mystery, but the story is far more than just the crime. Fallbrook author Parker has been called a writer of “the thinking man’s bestseller,” and in Silent Joe he painstakingly crafts the details of a father’s life—missteps, dishonesty, corruption and all. The adopted son, Joe Trona, is at the center of this story. When his father is murdered, Trona is forced to come to terms with the truth about his father’s life and then turn inward, toward his own painful history.

Two books were chosen as winners in the nonfiction category. The first, Star-Spangled Eden: 19th-Century America Through the Eyes of Dickens, Wilde, Frances Trollope, Frank Harris, and Other British Travelers (Carol & Graf, $26), covers two critical dec-ades in U.S. history—1830 to 1850. La Jolla author James C. Simmons tells the story of those years through the thoughts and words of eight famous British visitors, with colorful, engaging tales of their adventures in America.

The second, Blue Frontier: Saving America’s Living Seas (W.H. Freeman & Co., $24.95), was written by former San Diegan David Helvarg. Although he left in the mid-’80s, journalist Helvarg writes in great detail about San Diego’s problems with ocean pollution, presenting a compelling and disturbing history of maritime America and ocean politics. The book includes interviews with everyone from Navy personnel and oil-industry executives to local surfers and environmental activists.

For best business book, we picked Retirement Bible (Hungry Minds, $34.99), an enormously informative guide to investing for retirement, regardless of your age. San Diego finance writer Lynn O’Shaughnessy wrote this for the layperson, and she covers the intricacies of 401(k) and other retirement plans, IRAs, stocks, bonds and mutual funds. The book also provides step-by-step action plans for investing at and before retirement.

Choosing an exceptional children’s book is always tough, because of our region’s abundance of talent in this area. This year we selected the beautiful, tender-hearted Peepers (Harcourt, $16), written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by James Ransome. As brothers Andy and Jim help ferry tourists around the New England countryside they call home, they crack jokes about their surroundings and the tourists, known as leaf peepers. Despite their bravado, the boys wind up awed at the beauty around them.

Lawrence Hogue gets our vote for best travel book. His All the Wild and Lonely Places: Journeys in a Desert Landscape (Island Press, $24.95) is a beautifully written record of the landscape and wildlife of the Anza-Borrego Desert, as well as the history of the people associated with it. Hogue also paints a very real picture of the contradictions that arise when we try to manage a wilderness environment.

These were the best in 2001, but nearly every book included in the Books column is worthy of note in some way. Nature’s Virus Killers (M. Evans & Co., $19.95), by La Jolla physician Mark Stengler, is a fascinating look at how viruses work and how the right combination of diet, herbs, vitamins and minerals can inhibit their harmful effects. Tradewinds and Coconuts: A Reminiscence and Recipes from the Pacific Islands (Tuttle Publishing, $34.95), by San Diego food writer Jennifer Brennan, is far more than a recipe collection. She includes the history of island cooking, line drawings of native cookware and enchanting stories of her travels to the region. And Ashes of Aries (St. Martin’s Minotaur, $23.95), the fifth astrologically themed novel from Escondido writer Martha Lawrence, is a fast-paced page-turner of a mystery—complete with kidnapping, arson and murder.

And that’s just for starters. Keep up with San Diego’s finest authors all year long right here in the Books column.

The Winners

Silent Joe
T. Jefferson Parker

Star-Spangled Eden
James C. Simmons

Blue Frontier
David Helvarg

Retirement Bible
Lynn O’Shaughnessy

Eve Bunting
(illustrated by James Ransome)


All the Wild and Lonely Places
Lawrence Hogue
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