Adam Mansbach's new novel, "Rage Is Back," is the star offering in January's releases by Bay Area authors. Art and poetry figure prominently with works by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Zubair Ahmed and others, as 2013 gets off to a great literary start.

  • "Rage Is Back" by Adam Mansbach (Viking, $25.95, 304 pages). Kilroy Dondi Vance is in big trouble. Since his father, legendary graffiti artist Billy Rage, disappeared in 1989, 18-year-old Dondi has been scraping by -- dealing pot, crashing on friends' couches and skating through the New York prep school he attends on scholarship. Flash-forward to 2005: Rage is back, determined to finish his very public feud with the police officer who killed his fellow graffiti writer. Dondi -- a self-described "nerd with swagger" -- is a wry, engaging narrator, and as art, crime and family intersect, he takes the reader on a fierce and funny thrill ride through the train yards and back streets of the graffiti underground. Mansbach, the San Francisco-based author of "Go the ... to Sleep," writes with splendid rhythm and intensity. (He will read from the book Jan. 28 at the Marsh in Berkeley, Jan. 29 at Book Passage San Francisco and Feb. 12 at City Lights in San Francisco.)

  • "Time of Useful Consciousness" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (New Directions, $22.95, 96 pages). At age 93, Ferlinghetti shows no sign of relinquishing his literary gifts. The legendary Beat poet again turns his watchful eye on the world in this short but potent volume. The title derives from an aeronautical description of the interval between the moment one loses oxygen and when one passes out -- a brief span in which lifesaving action is possible. It's an apt title: Ferlinghetti's poems are a wake-up call to anyone paying attention.

  • "City of Rivers" by Zubair Ahmed (McSweeney's, $18, 96 pages). New on the Bay Area scene is poet Ahmed, who was born in Bangladesh and is now a student of mechanical engineering and creative writing at Stanford University. He makes his debut with "City of Rivers," a collection of short works that reflect two worlds: the Bangladesh of his youth -- "the silver light that shines through my past" -- and the American culture he currently occupies. (Ahmed appears Thursday at a book launch at the Stanford Bookstore.)

  • "Robert Duncan in San Francisco " by Michael Rumaker (City Lights, $12.95, 158 pages). Just out is this expanded edition of Michael Rumaker's classic book about poet Robert Duncan, who was born in Oakland and lived in San Francisco as an openly gay man during the late 1950s. Duncan died in 1988, and Rumaker no longer lives in San Francisco, but the book offers an intriguing view of the city during the pre-Stonewall era. Of particular interest are previously unpublished letters between Rumaker and Duncan.

  • "Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers" by Anne Lamott (Riverhead, $17.95, 112 pages). Lamott's fans will want this small book about faith as only she can describe it. The Marin-based author of "Operating Instructions" boils it down to three central recommendations: ask for assistance, appreciate the good in the world and recognize the awe that others inspire. Happiness, she suggests, is a habit she's cultivated -- "just as I had to do with daily writing, and flossing."

  • "An Intimate Life: Sex, Love and My Journey as a Surrogate Partner" by Cheryl T. Cohen Greene, with Lorna Garano (Soft Skull Press, $15.95, 224 pages). If you've seen the 2012 film "The Sessions," you might want to read this memoir from the woman who inspired it. San Francisco-based Cheryl T. Cohen Greene has spent 40 years as a sex surrogate; the book charts a path from her straight-laced Catholic childhood to a professional career helping clients overcome sexual barriers. Her work with Berkeley-based writer Mark O'Brien was portrayed in the film.

  • "Dancing With the Playa Messiah: A 21-Year Burning Man Photo Album" by George P. Post (George Post Photography, $45, 216 pages). Each year, thousands head to the Black Rock Desert of northwestern Nevada for the iconic event known as Burning Man. East Bay photographer George Post has been there every year since 1991, and nearly 1,000 of his full-color photographs are included here. Post's stunning images -- of people, art installations, extravagant costumes and "mutant vehicles" -- are remarkable in the way they capture Burning Man's freewheeling creativity. The book is available at Pegasus and Books Inc. in Berkeley, Diesel in Oakland and online at http://playa-messiah.com.

    Georgia Rowe's Books by the Bay column is published monthly. Contact her at features@mercurynews.com.