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Best Books About California

Recommendations from 6 articles, Anthony Bourdain, Kara Swisher, DeRay Mckesson and 8 others.
10 books on the list
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City of Quartz
Excavating the Future in Los Angeles
Mike Davis - Jul 17, 2018 (first published in 1990)
Goodreads Rating
The hidden story of L.A. Mike Davis shows us where the city's money comes from and who controls it while also exposing the brutal ongoing struggle between L.A.'s haves and have-nots....
East of Eden
(Penguin Orange Collection)
John Steinbeck - Oct 18, 2016 (first published in 1952)
Goodreads Rating
Part of the Penguin Orange Collection, a limited-run series of twelve influential and beloved American classics in a bold series design offering a modern take on the iconic Penguin paperbackThe story is primarily set in the Salinas Valley, California, between the beginning of the twentieth century and the end of World War I, though some chapters ar...
Recommended by
Jenn Im
Angle of Repose
Wallace Stegner - Nov 04, 2014 (first published in 1971)
Goodreads Rating
An iconic novel of the West and an American masterpiece—a deeply moving narrative of one family and the traditions of our national past. Lyman Ward is a retired professor of history, recently confined to a wheelchair by a crippling bone disease and dependent on others for his every need. Amid the chaos of 1970s counterculture he retreats to his anc...
Recommended by
Joanne Freeman
Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Essays (FSG Classics)
Joan Didion - Oct 28, 2008 (first published in 1968)
Goodreads Rating
The first nonfiction work by one of the most distinctive prose stylists of our era, Slouching Towards Bethlehem remains, forty years after its first publication, the essential portrait of America— particularly California—in the sixties. It focuses on such subjects as John Wayne and Howard Hughes, growing up a girl in California, ruminating on the n...
The White Album
Essays (FSG Classics)
Joan Didion - Nov 10, 2009 (first published in 1979)
Goodreads Rating
First published in 1979, The White Album records indelibly the upheavals and aftermaths of the 1960s. Examining key events, figures, and trends of the era—including Charles Manson, the Black Panthers, and the shopping mall—through the lens of her own spiritual confusion, Joan Didion helped to define mass culture as we now understand it. Written wit...
Parable of the Sower
A Novel
Octavia E. Butler - Feb 28, 2017 (first published in 1993)
Goodreads Rating
In 2025, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future.Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren’s father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to sal...
Farewell, My Lovely
Raymond Chandler - Aug 01, 1992 (first published in 1940)
Goodreads Rating
Marlowe's about to give up on a completely routine case when he finds himself in the wrong place at the right time to get caught up in a murder that leads to a ring of jewel thieves, another murder, a fortune-teller, a couple more murders, and more corruption than your average graveyard....
A Scanner Darkly
Philip K. Dick - Oct 18, 2011 (first published in 1977)
Goodreads Rating
Substance D is not known as Death for nothing. It is the most toxic drug ever to find its way on to the streets of LA. It destroys the links between the brain's two hemispheres, causing, first, disorientation and then complete and irreversible brain damage.The undercover narcotics agent who calls himself Bob Arctor is desperate to discover the ulti...
The Big Sleep
Raymond Chandler - Jul 12, 1988 (first published in 1939)
Goodreads Rating
"Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid....He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. This is the Code of the Private Eye as defined by Raymond Chandler in his 1944 essay 'The Simple Act of Murder.' Such a man was Philip Marlowe, pr...
Recommended by
Adam Sessler
Ecology of Fear
Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster
Mike Davis - Sep 07, 1999 (first published in 1998)
Goodreads Rating
"Graced with a bold political and environmental vision, much splendid phrasemaking and a multitude of facts. . . . A truly eccentric contribution."--The New York Times Book Review  Earthquakes. Wildfires. Floods. Drought. Tornadoes. Snakes in the sea, mountain lions, and a plague of bees. In this controversial tour de force of scholarship, unsparin...