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Old 09-17-2009, 02:04 AM
 
Location: Los Angeles......So. Calif. an Island on the Land
736 posts, read 1,386,766 times
Reputation: 448

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So many books on LA and its history that you could probably fill an entire library........here are just a few I have read and would recommend.

Now it's your turn to add to the list:

1. So. California: An Island on the Land (1943) by Carey McWilliams.

2. City of Quartz (1991) by Mike Davis.

3. Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies (1976) by Reyner Banham.

4. LA Lost & Found: An Architectural History of Los Angeles (1987) by Sam Hall Kaplan.
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Old 09-17-2009, 10:48 AM
 
Location: San Jose
894 posts, read 1,355,054 times
Reputation: 723
The Reluctant Metropolis: The Politics of Urban Growth in Los Angeles, by William Fulton

Los Angeles A to Z: An Encyclopedia of the City and County
The Fragmented Metropolis: Los Angeles 1850-1930, by Robert Fogelson

The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth, by Blake Gumprecht

Several volumes of Kevin Starr's series focus on Southern California, including:

Material Dreams: Southern California through the 1920s
Inventing the Dream: California through the Progressive Era


Not specific to LA, but highly relevant and in my opinion required reading:

Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water, by Marc Reisner
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Old 09-17-2009, 05:23 PM
 
Location: Las Flores, Orange County, CA
26,362 posts, read 55,916,172 times
Reputation: 16417
Fantastic book:

Amazon.com: William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles: Catherine Mulholland: Books



An outstanding book on the Conejo Valley from about the 1920s through maybe the 1950s or 1960s.

Amazon.ca: Branches on the Conejo: Leaving the Soil After Five Generations: Books: Anne Schroeder

Another two by Mr. Russell are "Cattle on the Conejo" and "Heads and Tails … And Odds and Ends" You can probably get them at the Westlake Village or Agoura Hills branches of the Los Angeles County Public Library or the Thousand Oaks Library.

Russell Ranch

Looking Back Through Time (http://www.stagecoachmuseum.org/pb/index.htm - broken link)



There is an excellent book which takes place in El Monte called "My Dark Places". It is the true story of the murder of crime writer James Ellroy's mother. I read it. Outstanding - even though I didn't grow up in El Monte.

"Crime novelist Ellroy (American Tabloid) was 10 in 1958 when his mother, a divorced nurse and closet alcoholic, was found strangled to death in a deserted schoolyard in California's San Gabriel Valley. The case was still unsolved in 1994, when Ellroy hired retired L.A. homicide detective Bill Stoner to investigate...."

from

Amazon.com: My Dark Places: James Ellroy: Books




I read Waldie's book on Lakewood about five years ago. I really liked it. From it I learned Lakewood was one of the first Southern California planned subdivisions. It has some interesting commentary on urban/suburban planning.

An excerpt from Holy Land A Suburban Memoir - CaliforniaAuthors



Here are some other interesting books/references/web sites I have read/visited that are set in the SoCal/LA landscape:

CaliforniaAuthors

Books about LA



Los Angeles is the backdrop of this true story on the Apollo Lunar effort and all the contractors (North American) in Southern California, which is what made Southern California: Aerospace Capital of the World

Amazon.com: Angle of Attack: Harrison Storms and the Race to the Moon: Books: Mike Gray



True story about two LAPD cops at Devonshire Division. Lots of San Fernando Valley streets and neighborhoods mentioned:

Amazon.com: The Dark Side of the Force: A True Story of Corruption and Murder in the Lapd: Books: Jan Golab



Fascinating book about an LA gang banger:

Amazon.com: Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member: Books: Sanyika Shakur



Legendary LA backdrop book, a must read:

Amazon.com: Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders: Books: C. Gentry,V. Bugliosi

For more than 34 seasons, Joe Hernandez was the voice of Santa Anita racetrack, calling 15,587 races in a row before he collapsed at the microphone Jan. 27, 1972. On the late Jim Healy's radio show, Healy once played the audio of Joe's last race. Joe had been kicked by a horse earlier in the day on January 27th, 1972. Later that day while calling a race, Joe realized he was going to pass out and on Healy's audio tape you can actually hear him have the foresight to click the microphone off before he collapsed.

The Untold Story of Joe Hernandez: The Voice of Santa Anita

Last edited by Charles; 09-17-2009 at 06:42 PM..
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Old 09-17-2009, 11:12 PM
 
Location: Los Angeles, CA
118 posts, read 294,836 times
Reputation: 94
John Fante, Ask the Dust
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Old 09-18-2009, 12:16 PM
 
Location: South Bay Native
9,758 posts, read 13,819,508 times
Reputation: 13802
Above Los Angeles - Robert Cameron. This is a book filled with aerial photographs of the city, sometimes alongside a historic snapshot to show the contrast. As a child, I loved thumbing through this book and spotting our house (well, our rooftop, anyways). There is a new, revised edition with updated photos. The version I have is from my childhood, 1978.
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Old 09-18-2009, 04:02 PM
 
Location: Earth
12,009 posts, read 13,517,658 times
Reputation: 4124
Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles View Post
Fantastic book:

Amazon.com: William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles: Catherine Mulholland: Books



An outstanding book on the Conejo Valley from about the 1920s through maybe the 1950s or 1960s.

Amazon.ca: Branches on the Conejo: Leaving the Soil After Five Generations: Books: Anne Schroeder

Another two by Mr. Russell are "Cattle on the Conejo" and "Heads and Tails And Odds and Ends" You can probably get them at the Westlake Village or Agoura Hills branches of the Los Angeles County Public Library or the Thousand Oaks Library.

Russell Ranch

Looking Back Through Time (http://www.stagecoachmuseum.org/pb/index.htm - broken link)



There is an excellent book which takes place in El Monte called "My Dark Places". It is the true story of the murder of crime writer James Ellroy's mother. I read it. Outstanding - even though I didn't grow up in El Monte.

"Crime novelist Ellroy (American Tabloid) was 10 in 1958 when his mother, a divorced nurse and closet alcoholic, was found strangled to death in a deserted schoolyard in California's San Gabriel Valley. The case was still unsolved in 1994, when Ellroy hired retired L.A. homicide detective Bill Stoner to investigate...."

from

Amazon.com: My Dark Places: James Ellroy: Books




I read Waldie's book on Lakewood about five years ago. I really liked it. From it I learned Lakewood was one of the first Southern California planned subdivisions. It has some interesting commentary on urban/suburban planning.

An excerpt from Holy Land A Suburban Memoir - CaliforniaAuthors



Here are some other interesting books/references/web sites I have read/visited that are set in the SoCal/LA landscape:

CaliforniaAuthors

Books about LA



Los Angeles is the backdrop of this true story on the Apollo Lunar effort and all the contractors (North American) in Southern California, which is what made Southern California: Aerospace Capital of the World

Amazon.com: Angle of Attack: Harrison Storms and the Race to the Moon: Books: Mike Gray



True story about two LAPD cops at Devonshire Division. Lots of San Fernando Valley streets and neighborhoods mentioned:

Amazon.com: The Dark Side of the Force: A True Story of Corruption and Murder in the Lapd: Books: Jan Golab



Fascinating book about an LA gang banger:

Amazon.com: Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member: Books: Sanyika Shakur



Legendary LA backdrop book, a must read:

Amazon.com: Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders: Books: C. Gentry,V. Bugliosi

For more than 34 seasons, Joe Hernandez was the voice of Santa Anita racetrack, calling 15,587 races in a row before he collapsed at the microphone Jan. 27, 1972. On the late Jim Healy's radio show, Healy once played the audio of Joe's last race. Joe had been kicked by a horse earlier in the day on January 27th, 1972. Later that day while calling a race, Joe realized he was going to pass out and on Healy's audio tape you can actually hear him have the foresight to click the microphone off before he collapsed.

The Untold Story of Joe Hernandez: The Voice of Santa Anita
I second these recommendations. Ellroy's fictional works do recapture much of Los Angeles in the mid-20th century as well. Walter Mosley's novels recapture black Los Angeles in that same time period.

As for portraits of Los Angeles in fiction that recapture what it was like in the old days, mentions must be made of Raymond Chandler (1930s-early '50s), Charles Bukowski (1950s-70s), Nathanael West's "The Day Of The Locust" (1938, and much of which could easily apply to L.A. in more recent times even the present with a few details changed), and Dan Ryan's "Angel's Flight" (1920s novel written by an L.A. Herald reporter, sort of like an L.A. version of Damon Runyon - good luck finding it.

John Gilmore wrote a pretty great autobiography about growing up in 1950s L.A. (and in the process hanging out with James Dean and becoming part of his circle, the bit about the teenage Gilmore smoking a joint with Hank Williams is particularly great!) Art Pepper's "Straight Life" is not only about growing up in '40s L.A. but also a good look at the jazz world and criminal underworld of the mid-20th century in L.A.

Pamela Moore's autobiographical novel "Chocolates For Breakfast" is mostly set in New York City, but a portion of it is set in L.A. and gives a good description of what life was like at the old Garden of Allah apartment complex on Sunset and Crescent Heights. (Said book also would shatter many peoples' perceptions and stereotypes about teenage girls in the 1950s!) What I've heard about the Garden of Allah validates all the descriptions by older people of how idyllic L.A. was back in the '40s/50s.

As for the Manson Family, I'd go with Ed Sanders' "The Family" over "Helter Skelter" but both are good reads.

Finally, Luis Rodriguez' "Always Running" is the best L.A. gang memoir ever.
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Old 09-18-2009, 08:04 PM
 
Location: Sherman Oaks, CA
5,163 posts, read 10,297,753 times
Reputation: 5825
Since much of the San Fernando Valley is still part of the City of Los Angeles (despite the failed secession effort in 2002), here is a good book:

Amazon.com: The San Fernando Valley: America's Suburb (9781883792558): Kevin Roderick: Books



I found the history behind the street and city names to be fascinating. Mulholland, Chandler... These were the names of people, not just places!

In fact, not to get off topic, but I just discovered this gem:

The Valley Observed: San Fernando Valley history and sense of place

Last edited by SandyCo; 09-18-2009 at 09:59 PM..
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Old 09-18-2009, 09:34 PM
 
Location: Mt Washington: NELA
1,156 posts, read 2,042,906 times
Reputation: 615
Ask the Dusk (John Fante). One of the best, IMHO. City of Quartz was written by a guy who doesn't even live in the City, which is fine I guess, but alot of his points deal with suburban blight (which he blames on L.A.). The Little Sister (Raymond Chandler) - just about anything by Chandler, actually.
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Old 09-19-2009, 01:20 AM
 
Location: Earth
12,009 posts, read 13,517,658 times
Reputation: 4124
Quote:
Originally Posted by nickdahammer View Post
Ask the Dusk (John Fante). One of the best, IMHO. City of Quartz was written by a guy who doesn't even live in the City, which is fine I guess, but alot of his points deal with suburban blight (which he blames on L.A.).
Mike Davis who wrote City Of Quartz is a Marxist academic who lives in San Diego. It has some good aspects to it but also plenty of inaccuracies and obvious bias. Davis imo is strongest when talking about cultural history.

Quote:
The Little Sister (Raymond Chandler) - just about anything by Chandler, actually.
The Little Sister is a great one. The first chapter, in which Chandler, speaking through Marlowe, talks about how the massive influx of newcomers has ruined L.A. seems quite reminiscent of much of what has been said later including on these boards, except that the newcomers Chandler complained about in the late '40s were coming from the Northeast US not from other countries. (The more things change....) Not to mention a good number of people here would look at the late '40s as L.A.'s Golden Age (and not without reason)

"Ask The Dust" is a fantastic book, which didn't get its proper due until Fante's death 40 years after it came out.
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Old 04-17-2013, 10:08 AM
 
Location: Las Flores, Orange County, CA
26,362 posts, read 55,916,172 times
Reputation: 16417
This really caught my eye this morning:

Literary L.A. - Guides - Los Angeles Times
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