Wednesday, Feb. 3
Bay Area author Carol Sklenicka's new book is called Raymond Carver: A Writer's Life (Scribner, $35). That isn't a bad title. Gets right to the point. You might even call it Carverlike, in its way. But maybe a better, more obvious, and even more Carverlike title would have been What We Talk About When We Talk About Raymond Carver. Nobody has ever thought of that one, right? Because it's so obvious, right? Anyway, Sklenicka's book didn't go that route, probably because she believes her subject deserves some dignity. She reads from Raymond Carver and talks about the great American minimalist's life — presumably including his time in the Bay Area — at the Booksmith, 1644 Haight (at Cole), S.F. 7 p.m., free; 863-8688 or www.booksmith.com.
Thursday, Feb. 11
Just because it no longer tops the list of newsmaking Middle Eastern nations doesn't mean Kuwait has any shortage of stories to tell. Maybe, instead, it has a surplus. For example, consider Bay Area author Anastasia Hobbet's second novel, Small Kingdoms (Permanent Press, $29), set there during the years between the two Gulf wars and unfolds in a mosaic of multiple perspectives, weaving together the stories of five characters from very different backgrounds and persuasions. Hobbet lived in Kuwait for several years, and came away with a heap of literary insights about clashing cultures. She presents the book for an hour beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin (at Grove), S.F. Free; 557-4400 or www.sfpl.org.
Tuesday, Feb. 16
The conspicuously dreadlocked Silicon Valley computer scientist, Web watcher, and prognosticator Jaron Lanier, one of the first to use the phrase "virtual reality" in a sentence without being laughed at, has been monitoring humanity's progress these recent years, and he is not pleased. Hence his new book, You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto (Knopf, $25), which collects several of his older, smaller manifestos to raise an alarm against what he sees as the hive-mind hell Web 2.0 hath wrought: fake friendships, debasements of privacy and dignity, a barren dead-ended culture of open-source mashups, and so much more. Join Lanier for a reading, discussion and perhaps some sort of call to arms at City Lights, 261 Columbus (at Broadway), S.F. 7 p.m., free; 362-8193 or www.citylights.com.
Monday, Feb. 22
Poet laureate Kay Ryan, who lives in Marin, writes poems for regular people. But don't worry – they're still good. If you need a more highfalutin endorsement, consider this one from J.D. McClatchy, who described Ryan's poems as "compact, exhilarating, strange affairs, like Erik Satie miniatures or Joseph Cornell boxes." And furthermore, "She is an anomaly in today's literary culture: as intense and elliptical as Dickinson, as buoyant and rueful as Frost," but in a way that regular people can understand and appreciate. Now that's talent. This evening with Ryan at the Jewish Community Center (3200 California at Presidio) begins at 8 p.m. and costs $15 for members, $10 for students, and $18 for everyone else; 292-1200 or www.jccsf.org.
Thursday, Feb. 25
When counting reasons to appreciate 18 Reasons, the mouthwateringly community-minded Mission nonprofit, be sure to remember its variously clever combinations of the literary and the culinary. You don't have to be a member of its food-lit book club, or even the kids' food-writing workshop, to understand the value of a quasiregular cookbook swap (in association with Omnivore Books on Food). Whether it's the Rachael Ray tome you're embarrassed to let anyone see on the dining-room shelf, the M.F.K. Fisher anthology you've worn out from reading too many times, or that copy of Spam: The Cookbook from which you didn't get quite as much use as you'd planned, your fellow swappers are here for you. Tonight's event takes place at 18 Reasons, 593 Guerrero (at 18th St.), S.F. 7-9 p.m., $10 general admission or $5 members; 282-4712 or www.omnivorebooks.com.