Fall reading guide | Business to birding among local books

The Tahoe-Truckee region has produced a number of prolific writers in recent years, and I’m always glad to read new books penned about our community. This year is no exception, and the range of topics is more varied than in years past from ghost stories and tall tales to birds of the Sierra Nevada to business advice from a successful restaurateur to the memoir of a Sierra farmer. I hope you enjoying reading these books yourselves and passing them along. Many of these books are available at Bookshelf in Truckee.

“Birds of the Sierra Nevada”
A beautifully illustrated and user-friendly book, “Birds of the Sierra Nevada” Their Natural History, Status, and Distribution” is a great addition to any home library. The exhaustive research that began in 1998 to catalog the nearly 300 species of birds that call the Sierra Nevada home has resulted in a wonderful book for bird lovers or casual observers of the natural world.

“The mountains hum with activity of all sorts of animals, but none are as readily observed and enjoyed as the birds. Nearly 300 species are regular visitors, and each has its own unique story to tell about where it came from, where it is going, and how it uses these mountains,” writes authors Edward E. Beedy and Edward R. Pandolfino and illustrator Keith Hansen.

This book not only provides information on the birds, the origins of names and natural history, but also delves in the “Trends and Conservation Status” of each species, from how logging and flood controls to human encroachment effects the birds’ habitat.

Locally, Tahoe Natural Institute of Science has brought birding into the spotlight with hosted bird walks and bird watching events, along with seed gathering and other activities for everyone. Visit tinsweb.org for more information.

“From Rags to Restaurants”
Misty Young has many titles under her belt, including entrepreneur as an owner of the Squeeze In restaurants, and she share her years of wisdom, heart aches, lessons learned and business advice in her latest book “From Rags to Restaurants: The Secret Recipe.” While the book is geared toward restaurants owners, I found tidbits of advice that can be translated to any business model. (I’ll be adopted some of her advice in my own business life.).

Misty is part teacher, part coach, part cheerleader and all heart in this book. While the book is full of advice from everything from running a business to leading employees and serving customers, Misty’s real secret to her success is to love what you do.

“The truly secret recipe is to love your associates, your guests, and your business, and take action on your love,” Misty writes.

“The Ghosts of Lake Tahoe”
Legends, tall tales and true accounts blend into a delightful read in Patrick Betson’s “The Ghosts of Lake Tahoe: The Stuff of Legends.”

Betson puts a twist on some well-known Tahoe tales from Captain Richard Barter, the Hermit of Emerald Bay, to The Hole in the Lake (one of my personal favorites), to the telling of a fictional Chinese emigrant working on the railroad on Donner Summit. Betson’s stories are just that, stories for the enjoyment of the reader. He is the first to admit that his tales fly in the face of some long-believed facts, but that they are based on real people.

“Some of the tales are serious, some are purposefully amusing,” Betson says.

For more information, visit Facebook or createspace.com/3862917. The book is available at the Bookshelf, The Store and online.

“Haunted Nevada”
Just in time of Halloween comes the newest edition of Janice Oberding’s “Haunted Nevada: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Silver State.”

Hangings in downtown Reno, ghosts wandering the halls of Thunderbird Lodge and the Cal Neva, and Pyramid Lake’s waterbabies, to name a few, “Haunted Nevada” is full of ghost tales based on historical facts, witness accounts and physic readings. I don’t know if Marilyn Monroe or Frank Sinatra still wander through the Cal Neva, but Oberding’s book is a fun read anytime of the year.

“Squaw Valley & Alpine Meadows”
“Squaw Valley & Alpine Meadows: Tales from Two Valleys” offers an interesting look at the history of the two ski areas, written by local Eddy Starr Ancinas.

The book includes stories of John Reily, Wayne Poulsen and Alex Cushing, the visionaries whose dreams and determination forever transformed North Lake Tahoe. This is a great read for anyone interested in local history and offers some little-known stories of Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley. As someone who reads a lot of Tahoe and Truckee history, it’s always enjoyable to read something new.

The book is available at Alice’s Mountain Market and Mind Play in the Village at Squaw; Sports Tahoe, Swigard’s Hardware, Tahoe Dave’s, Tahoe House Bakery, Willard’s Ski and Sport Shop, Barifot Photography and Sunnyside Market in Truckee; Granite Chief, Mountain Hardware and The Bookshelf in Truckee.

“Tahoe City’s First 100 Years”
Carol Van Etten, a Tahoe research historian who has been studying and writing about Lake Tahoe history for more than 30 years, has penned a new edition of “Tahoe City’s First 100 Years: A Sentimental Stroll through Our Colorful Community.” The new edition has been revised and features a more in-depth history of Tahoe City, along with historical images from her private collection.

Van Etten’s love of Tahoe and its history date to childhood summers spent at the family cabin in Rubicon Bay, where she first heard stories of the lake in earlier times. Van Etten later became a full-time resident of Tahoe for many decades, and she has been collecting oral history interviews for many years. Since 1982, she has recorded more than 100 conversations with Tahoe’s old timers, adding greatly to the information available through written records.

Van Etten has written five books on Lake Tahoe history subjects, including “Meeks Bay Memories,” “Tahoe City Yesterdays” (out of print), “Prewar Wood,” “Lakers and Launches” and “Lake Champions.” Copies of her books, including the out-of-print “Tahoe City Yesterdays,” are available at her Web site, tahoehistory.info.

Her new book is available at Tahoe City Marina, Tahoe House, Dam Café, Tahoe Tree Company, Swigard’s and Bridgetender.

“There’s No Lake on Lake Street!”
Author James D. Umbach delves into the origins of street and place names in the region in this book full of interesting facts and stories on everything from the origins of Kingsbury Grade and Al Tahoe Boulevard in South Lake Tahoe to the names of streets, parks and schools in Reno, Carson City and Sparks.

This is a fun read for anyone who wants to know more about local and regional history and anyone who has ever just been curious about the origin of names. I’ve put my copy on the bookshelf next to my copy of “Tahoe Place Names,” which I refer to often. For more information, visit renostreetnames.com.

“Why I Farm”
I found farmer turned author turned activist Gary Romano’s book “Why I Farm: Risking It All for a Life on the Land” to be an informative, interesting and eye-opening look into the hard life of a modern-day farmer.

I didn’t grow up on a farm, but my grandfather and most of my relatives were farmers at some point from peanuts to hogs, and my father grew up working on a farm for most of his childhood. I used to listen to tales of picking peanuts in the field and rising before dawn to milk cows and feed the animals before school. And, we always had a garden that my siblings and I tended after school from weeding to picking the vegetables. So, it was with great interest that I delved into Romano’s personal journey to become a farmer.

His childhood was spent working on a flower farm in the Bay Area alongside his parents, brother and grandparents. He later turned away from the hard labor of the fields to a career in parks and recreation, only to be called back into the family business later in life. His struggle to become a successful farmer in the harsh climate of the Sierra Valley kept me reading page after page late into the night.

“The better way of life, in my opinion, is why I farm: to be outdoors in the fresh mountain air, put in a good day of hard work and get some exercise, the reap the harvest of my labor to feed my neighbors,” Romano writes.

But, “Why I Farm” is more than a memoir of Romano’s experiences; it is a call to action from would-be small farmers to local and state officials to help keep farm products made in America. It’s not easy for the small farmer, with an infrastructure, tax base and subsidies that are all designed to help corporate farmers, not family businesses, as Romano states in the book. He also calls for everyone from consumer to producer to join the movement for local, fresh, chemical-free food.

“ … My mission at this point in my life is to inspire new farmers, young and old, to assist us old-timers in going back to the old ways of life, creating a wholesome environment for our families, and providing fresh, organic food for our communities,” he writes.

“Why I Farm” is a book that I think everyone should read to learn more about today’s farmer and the small farmers’ struggle to make a living while feeding our communities. And, it gave my insight into why my father’s idea of retirement is to return to his roots and become a farmer again.

And, look for Romano’s next book “July and Winter: Farming and Gardening in the Sierra” to be released soon.

Romano operates a Farmers’ Market at Sierra Valley Farms in the summer, and can be found at Famers’ Markets in Truckee, Tahoe City, Quincy and Reno during the summer. For more information, visit sierravalleyfarms.com or bonafidebooks.com.


Other releases
Other new releases that I have not read, but that will be of interest of readers include Bona Fide Books’ newest title – “This is the Ocean,” a book of poetry by Robert Krut. Based in Meyers, this local publisher released Romano’s “Why I Farm” along with their latest poetry title from Krut. And, I’ll be anxiously awaiting the release of Romano’s new book, along with volume two of “Permanent Vacation” in 2014.

Mystery writer extraordinary Todd Borg continues to please fans in his latest Detective Owen McKenna series – “Tahoe Chase.” The newest book in the series has McKenna uncovering a string of deaths that look like accidents, with all of the victims opposed to a new, proposed ski resort development in Tahoe.

Local Bruce Simonian recently released his new book of fiction – “Reunion,” following the struggles of Dr. Gina Conrad to help her daughter, Taylor, fight stage-three Lymphoma set against secrets that can change everyone’s lives.

For those of you interested in the flora and fauna in the region, and particularly those of an invasive nature, check at “Invasive Weeds of the Tahoe National Forest” published by the U.S. Forest Service. The guide makes these plants easy to identify and includes information on how to effectively remove them, along with suggestions on native plants that look similar to the native varieties for homeowners to plant. Pick up a copy at the Truckee Ranger Station or the Truckee River Watershed Council office or online at truckeeriverwc.org, click on Resources under the Weed Warriors tab.

Upcoming releases
There also are several titles slated to be released in the coming months, including author and historian David Antonucci’s newest book – “The 1960 Winter Olympics: Images of Sports” to be released by Arcadia Publishing. The book will feature rare images taken by Olympic photographer Bill Briner, along with images from public and private collections that have never been published, mixed with historical accounts of the 1960 Winter Olympics from athletes and officials. The book is expected to be released in mid-November.

Fodor’s will be releasing its newest edition of the travel guide “Fodor’s Northern California 2014” on Christmas Eve with insights on everything from cultural events to dining covering Lake Tahoe, Napa, Sonoma, Napa, Sonoma, Yosemite and San Francisco.

Also, look for Globe Pequot Press’ “Best Hikes Near Reno and Lake Tahoe” to be released in February.


Katherine Hill

Katherine first moved to Tahoe in 1998 and has been in love with the Tahoe-Truckee region ever since. She has been in the journalism field for more than 25 years and has worked for daily and weekly newspapers and magazines, as well as online publications, as an award-winning writer and editor. In the fall of 2013, Katherine became only the third owner of the 33-year-old publication, and today serves as its Publisher and Editor In Chief. Life in Tahoe is an amazing place to live, and she enjoys hiking and water sports in the summer, and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and sledding with her nephew, Anikin.