Santa Barbara Reads 2022

Our 2022 Roundup of Books by Local Authors

Santa Barbara Reads

Our 2022 Roundup of Books by Local Authors

By Leslie Dinaberg | Courtesy Photos

December is a great time to buy books as gifts, as well as to restock your own shelves and bedside tables with some enticing reads. Here’s a peek at what some of our local scribes will have been up to in 2022, and what you can find in bookstores this season.

Children’s & Middle-Grade Books

New York Times best-selling author and illustrator Rachel Ignotofsky wrote and designed her latest creation — The History of the Computer: People, Inventions, and Technology that Changed Our World — from her new home on the Mesa. Her striking illustrations are also jam-packed with painstakingly researched information that takes readers of all ages on an entertaining and educational journey from the ancient beginnings to the modern-day inventors and innovators of the computing machines that now dominate so much of modern life. “I’ve been drawing on the computer since I was 7,” shared Ignotofsky, when asked about her fascination with the subject. “We started our own vintage computer collection as part of this project.”

The friendship between an eastern blue jay and an American elm tree takes center stage in Charlie’s Dream, the sequel to writer/illustrator William Dalziel’s book Ulma, the Kidnapped Tree. Both books revolve around themes of courage, dreams, and freedom. 

Dragons on the Purple Moon, by Peter G. Martin, with illustrations by Sabine Michael Ovesen, follows the exciting space adventures of siblings Anna and Avi as they travel to a mysterious purple moon in the land of the stars and face their fears together when they have an unexpected encounter with dragons. 

Additional titles on the kid-friendly front include: Monty’s Marvelous Adventures by Dori Edwards, with illustrations by Ryan Carr, a penguin story that benefits the Santa Barbara Zoo; sports biography Who Is Cristiano Ronaldo? by James Buckley Jr.; an ABC board book with a twangy twist, Ashley Hayes’s ABCs for Future Country Music Stars, which features illustrations by Derek Mast; a tale for budding young environmentalists, Wiggly Worm and Her Friends Recycle Organics, by Lissa Landry; and coming-of-age adventure The Ghost and the Greyhound by Bryan Snyder. 

Also: Themes of respect for other people and the planet are embedded into Colleen McCarthy-Evans’s The Crazy Old Maid and How She Became Known as Flora, the Quite Sane, Age-Defying, Domestic Goddess; literacy expert Judith E. Torres’s ABC book An Alphabet Pet Parade in Topsy-Turvy Town, Population 26; the story poem Parsley, by Ann Lewin-Benham, with illustrations by Karen Busch Holman; Janet Lucy’s award-winning Makana Is a Gift, illustrated by Alexis Cantu; Bruce Hale’s energetic Clark the Shark, with illustrations by Guy Francis; James Burks’s spy adventure Agent 9: Mind Control!; space adventure Abby in Orbit by Andrea J. Loney, with illustrations by Fuuji Takashi; and the mutant bagel adventure Bite the Bagel, by Joel Ross, illustrated by Nicole Miles.

Young Adult

Set in Montecito, Elizabeth Foscue’s YA novel Pest follows a young protagonist whose father owns a pest control company, while she spends her days traipsing from one lavish estate to the next … spraying ant poison.

Mary Penney’s new novel, Green Eyes and Ham, is a heartfelt story of a young boy who discovers he has a crush on another boy, while Golden Secrets by Anita Perez Ferguson explores some of our local history through the eyes of a 14-year-old Mexican girl, and Everything Within and In Between by Nikki Barthelmess is about a young woman’s journey to rediscover her Mexican roots. 


Novellas, like the fine pair found in Victoria Shorr’s 2022 book Mid-Air, are a lovely way for today’s short-attention-span-plagued readers to explore the fictional form. Aside from Shorr’s appealingly rendered prose, these two stories are linked by the upswing and downswing of family fortunes. In “Great Uncle Edward,” a formerly aristocratic family gathers for dinner, and “Cleveland Auto Wrecking” follows an immigrant clan through the Great Depression through the booming American West. Both of these “fine novellas unfurl the kind of complicated family tapestries that every generation ends up weaving from money and love,” writes Daniel Akst in the Wall Street Journal

A page-turner from screenwriter David Koepp, Aurora is a terrific setup for a disaster movie — and it is reportedly coming to Netflix with Academy Award winner Kathryn Bigelow at the helm. Meanwhile on the page, the lights go out — not just in Aurora, Illinois, but across the globe — and an estranged family’s complicated history takes center stage. 

Renowned for his short stories, TC Boyle is at it again with his new collection, I Walk Between the Raindrops: Stories. The title story involves a woman walking into a bar and claiming she has ESP — not exactly a tough scenario to imagine at any of our local watering holes. 

Other fiction titles with local connections include: Romeo’s Breakfast, a short story collection from Gary Delanoeye; Metropolis by Monte Schulz (read David Starkey’s interview with the author of this complicated dystopian love story here); A Hard Place by Dennis Koenig, which explores the idea that we can sometimes be our own worst enemies; Beyond the Clouds the Sky Is Blue, a story that spans three generations by Dennis Santos; Oil and Water: Stories from the Windward Shore, a collection of coastal-centered tales by Terry Dressler; A Parable of Lies by Lawrence Spann, which the author describes as “an experiment in healing fiction”; and the reflective novel As Time Goes By by W. Royce Adams.

Also: Former Indy writer DJ Palladino’s novel Werewolf, Texas explores the dark side of a bloodthirsty dynasty (read Jean Yamamura’s review here); Tracy Shawn’s novel Floating Underwater mashes magical realism with psychology and mysticism; and Native Air, Jonathan Howland’s novel about friendship, is set in the world of mountain climbing. 

Mystery & Thriller

Max Talley’s newest work, Santa Fe Psychosis, is the story of an out-of-work private investigator who, in his hunt for a missing teenager, discovers a child trafficking operation. 

Set in Santa Barbara, Eva Shaw’s new Beatrix Patterson historical mystery, The Finder, explores a disbanded cult and a dodgy inheritance in our town, post-WWII; Murder in a Small Town by AJ Harris takes place in 1941 in the small, quiet town of Newbury, Wisconsin; Other People’s Money by Cynthia Hamilton is the seventh book in the beloved Madeline Dawkins series of mystery novels; The Angkor Abduction by Austin I Pullé takes place in Cambodia; and The Transentients, by Sergio Missana, translated from Spanish by Jessica Powell, is a psychological thriller set in Chile.

Historical Fiction

Meeting Mozart: A Novel Drawn from the Secret Diaries of Lorenzo Da Ponte by Howard J. Smith spans generations and involves Mozart, mysteries, masquerades, opera, and spies. Bedtrick by Jinny Webber takes place in the London stage world of Shakespeare. Front Row Rebel by Loretta Redd is a front-row view of how cinema and society shaped each other. The Whisper of a Distant God by David L. Gersh is the story of the little-known War of New Mexico. Clara’s Secret by Stephan R. Frenkel is the story of a young woman living in Berlin during Belle Époque.


Cinephiles will enjoy Cinema in Flux, Santa Barbara International Film Festival Executive Director Roger Durling’s thoughtful collection of movie recommendations that also served as a pandemic diary of sorts, in addition to raising funds for the film festival (read Charles Donelan’s story here).

Another beautiful coffee-table book, The Fig District by architect Jeff Shelton, shares the colorful backstory behind eight of his most playful and exuberant buildings, all of which are within walking distance of each other and his downtown Fig Avenue office. The book also includes a walking tour map to help readers explore El Jardin, Cota Street Studios, El Zapato, Vera Cruz, the Ablitt Tower, El Andaluz, and the Pistachio House, as well as requiem to the now-closed Casa Blanca Restaurant. 

Additional beautiful coffee-table books with a Santa Barbara spin are: Montecito Style: Paradise on California’s Gold Coast, with photographer Firooz Zahedi and writer Lorie Dewhirst Porter capturing the unique loveliness of 20 distinct area homes and estates; artist Richard Schloss’s treatise on the way we perceive light and atmosphere, Painting the Light, which explores how he’s been painting that light for the last 50 years; Lotusland: Eccentric Garden Paradise, a stunning creation by photographer Lisa Romerein and the Lotusland team as a welcome addition to any garden lover’s home (read my story about it here); Santa Barbara and Beyond: The Photography of Mike Eliason (read Nick Welsh’s story here), which takes a look at our town through the lens of the longtime local photographer; Rancho Sisquoc: Enduring Legacy of an Historic Land Grant Ranch by Chase Reynolds Ewald (read an excerpt here), which history buffs will appreciate; Africa by Andrew Antone and Patrick Antone, which provides a visual safari to the second-largest continent on Earth and gives half the proceeds to the Santa Barbara Zoo (read Tyler Hayden’s story here).

Other real-life tales include: Spies on the Sidelines: The High-Stakes World of NFL Espionage by Kevin Bryant; Richard Eager’: A Pilot’s Story from Tennessee Eagle Scout to General Montgomery’s Flying Fortress by Richard Ernest Evans and Barbara Evans Kinnear; Werewolf: The True Story of an Extraordinary Police Dog by David Alton Hedges; Sinkable: Obsession, the Deep Sea, and the Shipwreck of the Titanic by Daniel Evan Stone; The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis; Mavericks, Mystics, and Misfits: Americans Against the Grain by Arthur Hoyle; and A Spy in Plain Sight: The Inside Story of the FBI and Robert Hanssen — America’s Most Damaging Russian Spy by Lis Wiehl. 

In the spiritual/self-help realm, check out: A Map to Your Soul: Using the Astrology of Fire, Earth, Air, and Water to Live Deeply and Fully by Jennifer Freed, PhD (read Hilary Dole Klein’s story here); Trusting the Dawn: How to Choose Freedom and Joy After Trauma by Mary Firestone (read Ellie Bouwer’s story here); Yes She Can: Biblical and Practical Reflections on Women in Leadership in the Church by John Jenks; The Thread: Let God Into Your Heart And Achieve Intentional Transformation by Leonie H. Mattison; At Heaven’s Door: What Shared Journeys to the Afterlife Teach About Dying Well and Living Better by William J. Peters (read Hilary Dole Klein’s story here); Outposts of Change: How to Create a Morally Rich, Socially Just Society in Harmony with Nature and Why We Must by Benjamin R. Wiener; and The Surfer and the Sage: A Guide to Survive & Ride Life’s Waves by Shaun Tomson and Noah benShea (read Keith Hamm’s story here) .

Additional nonfiction titles include: Movies & Million-Dollar Mansions: Silent Movies Made in Montecito by Independent columnist Betsy J. Green (read Sarah Sinclair’s story here); Medicinal Herbs of California: A Field Guide to Common Healing Plants by Lanny Kaufer; Hike the Channel Islands by John McKinney and Chuck Graham (read Matt Kettmann’s story here); Conspiracy: Why the Rational Believe the Irrational by Michael Shermer; The Accidental Ecosystem by Peter Alagona (read Matt Kettmann’s story here); Rincon Point by Vincent Burns and Stephen Bates; Caren Rideau: Kitchen Designer, Vintner, Entertaining at Home by Caren Rideau (read Matt Kettmann’s story here); Cramm This Book: So You Know WTF Is Going On in the World Today by Olivia Seltzer (read Charles Donelan’s story here); The Shame Machine: Who Profits in the New Age of Humiliation by Cathy O’Neil; The Bankers’ Blacklist by Julia C. Morse; and Healing Grounds: Climate, Justice, and the Deep Roots of Regenerative Farming by Liz Carlisle (read Matt Kettmann’s story here). What Are Our Supports? an anthology based on a series of artists’ projects and co-edited by Jeff O’Brien, a curator in UCSB’s art department, is a late addition to the nonfiction list, as is Resetting Civilization by Patrick M. Foster, who is retired from the Construction Technology faculty at SBCC. His book examines the concept of bioregionalism.

Memoir & Autobiography

The Sedgwick family’s connections to Santa Barbara run deep, so Alice Sedgwick Wohl’s new book, As It Turns Out: Thinking About Edie and Andy is particularly fascinating. Wohl writes about her sister Edie Sedgwick and her muse-like relationship with Andy Warhol as if she were telling the story to their brother Bobby, who died in a motorcycle accident in 1965, just before their sister met Warhol.

A fascinating and funny read (even for non-baseball lovers like me), Ron Shelton’s The Church of Baseball: The Making of Bull Durham: Home Runs, Bad Calls, Crazy Fights, Big Swings, and a Hit tells the behind-the-scenes story of the writer-director’s classic Bull Durham.

Lemons and Ladybugs is a one-of-a-kind personal story by Mike Critelli about piecing together someone’s life — through one-on-one interviews with close friends, Facebook posts, and phone-call transcripts — when they’re already gone. 

Other memoirs include: Off-Script: a Mom’s Journey Through Adoption, a Husband’s Alcoholism, and Special Needs Parenting by Valerie Cantella; American as Apple Pie by Rodney H. Chow; Spiritual Growth Through Travels, Nature, and Living Life by Lance T. Crawford; From Where I Sit: Essays/Art by Judy Ann Gilder; Building Community: Answering Kennedy’s Call by Harlan Russell Green; Dancing on Waves: A True Story of Finding Love & Redemption in the Ocean by Hillary Hauser; Blood from a Stone by Adam McHugh (see Matt Kettmann’s story here); Rough Draft by UCSB grad Katy Tur; Through the Dark by Yolanda Nava; and From WHITE to BLACK: One Life Between Two Worlds by Iris Rideau (read Vanessa Vin’s story here). An additional memoir we learned about after publication was The Dark Room, by Claudia Chotzen, which tells her story as one of eight children of parents who fled Nazi Germany.

Autobiographies include: Your Path of Best Existence: A Medical Guide’s Roadmap by Glenn Wollman with Tracey Davis; Once Upon a Kentucky Farm: Hope and Healing from Family Abuse, Alcoholism, and Dysfunction by Connard Hogan; and Tales of Al: The Water Rescue Dog by Lynne Cox.


Among the notable poetry titles this year: An Imaginary Affair: Poems Whispered to Neruda by Diana Raab (read my story here); Free at Last: A Juneteenth Poem by Sojourner Kincaid Rolle (read my story here); and The End of Michelangelo by Dan Gerber (read David Starkey’s story here). Susan Read Cronin’s new release, What’s Left, is a late addition to the local poetry list.

While every attempt has been made to make this list as comprehensive as possible, if we left your book out, please email and we’ll update the list.


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