Prince Harry, Colleen Hoover top checkout lists for San Jose library

Sal Pizarro

What were we reading in 2023? It seems that a lot of San Jose Public Library patrons were devouring Prince Harry’s memoir “Spare” with all its family drama and Colleen Hoover’s bestselling romance novel, “It Starts With Us.”

Those were the top books checked out in the system during the year, according to a set of top 10 lists published by the library system at the end of the year.

Notably, with the exception of the one royal author, all the writers in the top 10 were women: Jennette McCurdy (“I’m Glad My Mom Died”), Bonnie Garmus (“Lessons in Chemistry”), Gabrielle Zevin (“Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow”), Emily Henry (“Happy Place” and “Book Lovers”), Michelle Obama (“The Light We Carry”), Nita Prose (“The Maid”) and Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan (“Mad Honey”).

If you’ve got kids, it may come as no surprise that Dav Pilkey and Jeff Kinney ruled the top 10 list for children’s books with their Cat Kid, Dog Man and Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. The library also crunched numbers for fiction, nonfiction, ebooks and audiobooks for adults and kids. You can check out those at

THE ART OF FENCING: This weekend, San Jose is the epicenter — or is that “epee-center” — of American fencing with USA Fencing’s North American Cup drawing thousands of athletes, coaches and fans to the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. Fencing might be stereotypically viewed as a European “gentleman’s sport,” but looking inside the main hall where the competitions were taking place tells a very different story: The range among the men and women athletes is almost as broad in terms of ethnic diversity as it is in age.

According to USA Fencing, the competitors range in age from 12 to 86 — and are from at least 40 states as well as a dozen other countries. Some are working toward qualifying for the USA Fencing Junior Olympics, the Veteran Fencing World Championships and even the 2024 Olympics. There are 163 athletes from Northern California competing, including 82-year-old epee fencer Ernie Simard of Petaluma. The tournament, which runs through Monday, is free and open to the public, and more information is available at

San Francisco artist Thalia Stratton poses with two of her fencing paintings at her booth at the North American Cup, a USA Fencing event being held at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center from Jan. 5-8, 2024. (Sal Pizarro/Bay Area News Group) 

You can count San Francisco artist Thalia Stratton among the fans of the sport, but she’s a bit more than that, too. Inspired by her teenage niece who took up fencing, Stratton began creating a series of more than a dozen paintings capturing the sport. Stratton, who grew up in Los Gatos, said she’s received great response from people at the tournament who hadn’t seen any fencing art previously.

“I love the movement and the strong values of contrast — lights and darks,” said Stratton, who while really liking the sport says she would rather stick to paintbrushes than picking up a blade herself.

SUNNYVALE SUCCESS: The new year should be somewhat less stressful for Sunnyvale Community Services thanks to a generous gesture by the city of Sunnyvale last fall.

The social services agency, which served more than 10,000 residents last year, purchased and renovated a building on Kern Avenue — giving it a much-needed larger space for its safety-net services. It bought the building with a lot of money raised in the community along with a traditional bank loan. But last spring, Sunnyvale Community Services found itself in a tricky situation, needing to liquidate its bank loan at a time when donations were in decline.

In late September, the Sunnyvale City Council approved an unusual agreement that would help the agency while not providing a direct contribution or loan. Instead, Sunnyvale bought an equity share in the property in proportion to the $4 million that Sunnyvale Community Services needed to pay off its mortgage.

That allowed the agency to turn its focus to raising funds for its core services just as the winter months and holidays were approaching. It held an event Dec. 7 to celebrate the installation of a display listing donors to the building.

“We’re celebrating and relieved,” Executive Director Marie Bernard said. “Having our mortgage paid off takes a big load off our shoulders, but it was just in the nick of time.”

DINNER AND A MOVIE: Pruneyard Dine-In Cinemas in Campbell has announced the latest offerings in its Culinary Cinema series, which pairs three-course dinners with classic movies, and it’s one of my favorites they’ve done so far.

It kicks off Jan. 15 with Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” — which is nearly sold out — and continues with “Sleepless in Seattle,” just before Valentine’s Day on Feb. 12; “Dr. No,” the first James Bond movie from 1962, on March 12; the Coen brothers classic “The Big Lebowski” on March 25; and two flashbacks to the 1980s — “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” on April 15 and “Back to the Future” on May 6.

The kitchen and bar staff have gotten really inventive with the menus for the dinners and specialty cocktails, which are also inspired by the movies. You can take a look, and purchase tickets, at

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2024-01-06 15:00:46 , Bay Area news from San Jose, Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, Alameda County and Santa Cruz County | The Mercury News

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