100 books like Becoming Los Angeles

By D.J. Waldie,

Here are 100 books that Becoming Los Angeles fans have personally recommended if you like Becoming Los Angeles. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of In the Country of Women

William F. Deverell Author Of Kathy Fiscus: A Tragedy That Transfixed the Nation

From my list on family in California.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of the American West and a professor at the University of Southern California. I also direct the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West. I love the way very smart and ambitious family histories illuminate the fascinating (or sometimes mundane) lives of people in the past and, at the same time, use those stories to help us understand bigger-picture issues, eras, and all the turbulence of American life. That little-girl-in-the-well book I wrote is the first time I’ve attempted family history. It was so hard to try to get it right but, at the same time, exhilarating to think that maybe I did.

William's book list on family in California

William F. Deverell Why did William love this book?

Novelist as genealogist, genealogist as novelist. A fiercely loyal portrait of a range of amazing women whose lives feel as if they were fictional, but they were and are not. A tender portrait of several generations of smart and loving mothers, wives, and daughters whose California is not the place of wealth and glamor but rather of making do, getting by, and loving your people and landscapes.

By Susan Straight,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked In the Country of Women as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of NPR's Best Books of the Year

“Straight’s memoir is a lyric social history of her multiracial clan in Riverside that explores the bonds of love and survival that bind them, with a particular emphasis on the women’s stories . . . The aftereffect of all these disparate stories juxtaposed in a single epic is remarkable. Its resonance lingers for days after reading.” —San Francisco Chronicle

In the Country of Women is a valuable social history and a personal narrative that reads like a love song to America and indomitable women. In inland Southern California, near the desert and…


Book cover of Flower Grand First

Mary Camarillo Author Of The Lockhart Women

From my list on life in the real Southern California.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father was transferred to Southern California from Charlotte, North Carolina when I was fourteen years old. I was excited and my friends were jealous. At that point, all I knew about California was the music of the Beach Boys and the Gidget television series. I thought everyone lived on the beach and knew movie stars. I didn’t know there were neighborhoods like Reseda and Anaheim and Fountain Valley, places where people live lives that have nothing to do with the glamour and celebrity of Hollywood. California has been my home for more than fifty years. I still find it fascinating and puzzling, and I still feel like an outsider.

Mary's book list on life in the real Southern California

Mary Camarillo Why did Mary love this book?

Flower, Grand, First is a collection of poems about Santa Ana, California and Jalisco, Mexico. The title comes from three streets in Santa Ana, where my husband’s family has lived for more than one hundred years. Hernandez’s poems are about place and displacement and examine what it feels like to be an outsider trying to make sense of life in a strange land, always searching for home. In the wonderful poem “My Father Shows Me Catalina” Hernandez writes: “Smile so you both know it’s okay that you are different. But once-in-a-while, the division is so clean it’ll cut into you.”

By Gustavo Hernandez,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Flower Grand First as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Gustavo Hernandez’s debut poetry collection, Flower Grand First, moves through the complex roads of immigration, sexuality, and loss. These poems are points plotted on maps both physical and emotional—the rural landscapes of Jalisco, the glimmering plains of memory, the busy cities of California, and the circular paths of grief. Hernandez’s stunning elegies float along a timeline spanning three decades, honoring family, recording a personal history, and revealing a vulnerable but resilient voice preoccupied with time, place, and what is left behind out of necessity.


Book cover of Your House Will Pay

Danielle M. Wong Author Of Last Liar Standing

From my list on psychological suspense and thrillers.

Why am I passionate about this?

While I appreciate a variety of genres, my love of psychological suspense and thriller novels has only intensified over time. I often devour these books in one sitting—eyes darting across each page as my mind tries to guess the next pivotal twist! As an author, I aspire to create the same electrifying rush for my readers that my favorite stories give me. My debut novel, Swearing Off Stars, was inspired by my travels and received an Independent Press Award, a Benjamin Franklin Award, and an International Book Award. My writing has appeared in Harper’s BazaarHuffPostPopSugar, and Writer’s Digest. I hope you enjoy the recommendations on this list!

Danielle's book list on psychological suspense and thrillers

Danielle M. Wong Why did Danielle love this book?

While this novel is a suspenseful psychological thriller in its own right, the story also tackles racial tensions and contemporary family dynamics. I admire the way Steph Cha explores grief, revenge, violence, racism, and justice over the course of Your House Will Pay’s fast-paced plot. This is absolutely a must-read.

By Steph Cha,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Your House Will Pay as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Two families. One desperate to remember, the other to forget.

Winner of the LA Times Book Prize, Best Mystery/Thriller
Winner of the California Book Awards' Gold Medal for Fiction
Shortlisted for the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger
Shortlisted for the Macavity Awards, Best Mystery Novel
Shortlisted for the Anthony Awards, Best Novel
Finalist for the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award

'Masterful.' Ruth Ware

'A searing examination of racial and family politics that is also an immaculately constructed whodunit.' Daily Telegraph, Summer Reads

'Writing a page-turner about racial politics in the U.S. is a delicate enterprise fraught with pitfalls, but Cha…


Book cover of Stella Peabody's Wild Librarian Bakery and Bookstore: A Novel-in-Stories

Mary Camarillo Author Of The Lockhart Women

From my list on life in the real Southern California.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father was transferred to Southern California from Charlotte, North Carolina when I was fourteen years old. I was excited and my friends were jealous. At that point, all I knew about California was the music of the Beach Boys and the Gidget television series. I thought everyone lived on the beach and knew movie stars. I didn’t know there were neighborhoods like Reseda and Anaheim and Fountain Valley, places where people live lives that have nothing to do with the glamour and celebrity of Hollywood. California has been my home for more than fifty years. I still find it fascinating and puzzling, and I still feel like an outsider.

Mary's book list on life in the real Southern California

Mary Camarillo Why did Mary love this book?

Stacy Russo is a librarian, professor, artist, poet, novelist, children’s book writer, vegan baker, punk rock historian, dog whisperer, and a friend. Her novel told in stories is a close observation of modern life in Santa Ana, California where her protagonist, Stella Peabody runs a bakery and bookstore. The lives of her customers intertwine and create an enviably close community. The sense of place is vivid, and the characters are finely drawn. I wish this bookstore was real and in my neighborhood. Recipes included. 

By Stacy Russo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stella Peabody's Wild Librarian Bakery and Bookstore as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Welcome to the magical world of Stella Peabody's Wild Librarian Bakery and Bookstore!

Stella Peabody, an independent and free-spirited "Wild Librarian," follows her dream and opens a vegan bakery/bookstore where she and her literary-inspired baked goods form the heart of a diverse community full of beloved characters, including Robert Gonzales, a romance novel devotee and loving husband, who finds solace in Stella's "Poet's Beer Bread" when his wife goes missing under mysterious circumstances; solitary psychologist Mary Chin who leans upon her experiences with Stella's "Women Who Run With the Wolves" Book Club to find comfort and meaning following a life-changing…


Book cover of Dave Barry's Greatest Hits

Sam Bowring Author Of Sam, Jake and Dylan Want Money: A Badly Behaved Comedy

From my list on which claim to be funny, but actually are.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a stand-up comedian myself, I find a lot of so-called funny books to be hugely disappointing. In these days of authors wanting their amazing works listed in every possible category on Amazon, you often find books in the humor sections which have severely mistaken ‘a somewhat light tone’ or ‘occasional moments of levity’ for being actual comedies. And don’t even get me started on the reams of literotica with covers featuring musclebound torsos that fill up any search for something supposedly funny. Kindly f*ck off, writers of the latest Billionaire Bad Boy Romance—you do not belong here. Instead, here are some books that will actually make you laugh.  

Sam's book list on which claim to be funny, but actually are

Sam Bowring Why did Sam love this book?

A collection of American humorist Dave Barry’s newspaper columns, which I’m often re-reading and laughing a great deal. Definitely ‘of it’s time’ in parts (aka a bit dated), but it also contains plenty of general observations about life, family, and defending your home against tornados. A good one for the loo, as shaking with laughter might help you ‘move things along’. 

By Dave Barry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dave Barry's Greatest Hits as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Dave Barry is on the loose, no one is safe!

What Dave Barry did for the men’s movement in his Complete Guide to Guys and for foreign relations when he did Japan he now does for . . . everything in America. The rapacious observer of Tupperware ladies and leisure concept salesmen sounds off on:

Football—Football is more than just a game. It is a potential opportunity to see a live person lying on the ground with a bone sticking out of his leg, while the fans, to show their appreciation, perform “the wave.”

Sailing—There’s nothing quite like getting…


Book cover of Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Jean Abernethy Author Of Fergus and the Greener Grass

From my list on read-aloud fun for little folks and big folks together.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up on a farm in a musical, artistic family. Poetry, music, animals, and laughter were the fabric of daily life. I happened to be gifted with the ability to draw. With a particular passion for horses, I eventually earned my art degree and created the cartoon character Fergus the Horse. I truly believe that when extraordinarily skilled illustrations are combined with extraordinarily skilled writing to create a published work, then the projected age recommendation for readers becomes irrelevant.

Jean's book list on read-aloud fun for little folks and big folks together

Jean Abernethy Why did Jean love this book?

Like Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss is one of my illustrating/writing heroes. Every verse, every page takes you to an unexpected place.

I like this book also because of its whimsical philosophy: “You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can take yourself any  direction you choose…”

This book reminds readers of all ages to lighten up, laugh, and keep going. 

By Dr. Seuss,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Oh, the Places You'll Go! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Celebrate life's ups and downs in this exquisite slipcase and hardback edition of the bestselling Dr. Seuss classic!

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

For more than thirty years, this Dr. Seuss classic has carried us through life's ups and downs - from fun times and triumphs, to lurches and slumps!

Take an entertaining look at the adventures life has in store for all of us in this very special slipcase and hardback edition of the beloved classic.

The perfect gift for every moment in life, from graduations, weddings and birthdays, to…


Book cover of The Meaning of Life

Stephen Leach Author Of The Meaning of Life and the Great Philosophers

From my list on philosophy and the meaning of life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an honorary senior fellow at Keele University and have written books on philosophy, art history, and archaeology. In philosophy one of my main interests is the comparative analysis of a wide range of philosophical approaches to the question of the meaning of life. 

Stephen's book list on philosophy and the meaning of life

Stephen Leach Why did Stephen love this book?

This anthology is widely acknowledged to be a classic in the field.

It was first published in 1981 at which time there were few professional philosophers who took much interest in the meaning of life.

It has since been updated by Steven Cahn so as to include essays on Buddhism and Confucianism and essays on death (and the possible tedium of immortality) by Thomas Nagel, Bernard Williams, John Martin Fischer, Samuel Scheffler, Harry G. Frankfurt, and Susan Wolf.

That the question of the meaning of life is now more widely discussed by philosophers – rather than being dismissed as a meaningless question – may in some measure be due to this anthology.

By E. D. Klemke, Steven M. Cahn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Meaning of Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Meaning of Life is the preeminent anthology on the topic. Featuring twenty-five insightful selections by prominent philosophers, it serves as an ideal core text for courses on the meaning of life and introduction to philosophy courses where the topic is emphasized. In Part I the articles defend the view that without faith in God, life has no meaning or purpose. In Part II the selections oppose this claim, defending instead a nontheistic, humanistic
alternative-that life can have meaning even in the absence of theistic commitment. In Part III the readings address whether the question of the meaning of life…


Book cover of The Meaning of Life and Death: Ten Classic Thinkers on the Ultimate Question

Stephen Leach Author Of The Meaning of Life and the Great Philosophers

From my list on philosophy and the meaning of life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an honorary senior fellow at Keele University and have written books on philosophy, art history, and archaeology. In philosophy one of my main interests is the comparative analysis of a wide range of philosophical approaches to the question of the meaning of life. 

Stephen's book list on philosophy and the meaning of life

Stephen Leach Why did Stephen love this book?

The author explains the views of Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Herman Melville, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Nietzsche, William James, Proust, Wittgenstein, and Camus. 

He reminds us that: “What we find in these writers’ work is not abstract theories: we find actual people, breathing, vulnerable individuals who when they reflect on life and death also reflect on their own living and dying.”

The book ends not with a grand conclusion but with a joke which, given that life is sometimes viewed as an ‘awful joke’, may be quite appropriate.

I’ll leave it to you to decide whether the joke is good or bad.

By Michael Hauskeller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Meaning of Life and Death as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What is the point of living? If we are all going to die anyway, if nothing will remain of whatever we achieve in this life, why should we bother trying to achieve anything in the first place? Can we be mortal and still live a meaningful life? Questions such as these have been asked for a long time, but nobody has found a conclusive answer yet. The connection between death and meaning, however, has taken centre stage in the philosophical and literary work of some of the world's greatest writers: Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Soren Kierkegaard, Arthur Schopenhauer, Herman Melville,…


Book cover of The Emperor's Handbook: A New Translation of the Meditations

Wendy Thomas Russell Author Of Relax It's Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids about Religion When You're Not Religious

From my list on finding your own philosophy of life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m drawn to the intersection of psychology, philosophy and pragmatism — a dynamic that can be found in the books I write, the conversations I enjoy, and the ways I choose to spend my down time. By getting in touch with my personal psychology (influenced by my brain chemistry, temperament and upbringing) and studying various philosophies (from the Stoics to Alain de Botton), I have begun to find my own truth and formulate my own best practices in life. I don’t always nail it — not by a long shot — but that’s why it’s called a practice. There are so many different ways to live a contented life. It can be awfully rewarding to locate your own.

Wendy's book list on finding your own philosophy of life

Wendy Thomas Russell Why did Wendy love this book?

I often joke that Marcus Aurelius is my brother from another mother. Sure, he was a Roman emperor who, if he’d lived, would be 1,900 years old this year, but the things he wrote in Meditations — his book on Stoic philosophy written for himself between 170 and 180 CE — are perfectly on point. I feel like he’s writing from inside my head, struggling with the same challenges I do. Of course, Aurelius is not so much like me as much as he’s like every human on the planet; he just happened to think and express himself in a direct, accessible way. His “epithets” – guiding principles for how he lived his life – inspired me to come up with my own epithets. Maybe they’ll do the same for you.

By Marcus Aurelius, David Hicks, C. Scot Hicks

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Emperor's Handbook as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

BEAR IN MIND THAT THE

MEASURE OF A MAN IS THE WORTH OF THE THINGS HE CARES ABOUT.

IF IT IS GOOD TO SAY OR DO

SOMETHING, THEN IT IS

EVEN BETTER TO BE CRITICIZED FOR

HAVING SAID OR DONE IT.

ARE MY GUIDING PRINCIPLES

HEALTHY AND ROBUST? ON THIS HANGS EVERYTHING.

Essayist Matthew Arnold described the man who wrote these words as "the most beautiful figure in history." Possibly so, but he was certainly more than that. Marcus Aurelius ruled the Roman Empire at its height, yet he remained untainted by the incalculable wealth and absolute power that had…


Book cover of Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth

Robert M. Hazen Author Of The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet

From my list on planet Earth.

Why am I passionate about this?

Robert M. Hazen, Senior Staff Scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Earth and Planets Laboratory and the Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth Science at George Mason University, received the B.S. and S.M. in geology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Ph.D. at Harvard University in Earth science. His most recent book is The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years from Stardust to Living Planet, which explores the intricate coevolution of the geosphere and biosphere.

Robert's book list on planet Earth

Robert M. Hazen Why did Robert love this book?

Harvard geobiologist Andy Knoll vividly captures the dynamic field of Precambrian paleontology in this unique, zippy read. Personalities—both fossils and the people who study them—come alive as Knoll races across the eons. With episodes from life’s enigmatic origins, to scrappy contentious black smudges that might or might not be the remains of cells, to some of the most exquisite and revealing microfossils on Earth, Life on a Young Planet takes its readers on a unique journey.

By Andrew H. Knoll,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Life on a Young Planet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Australopithecines, dinosaurs, trilobites--such fossils conjure up images of lost worlds filled with vanished organisms. But in the full history of life, ancient animals, even the trilobites, form only the half-billion-year tip of a nearly four-billion-year iceberg. Andrew Knoll explores the deep history of life from its origins on a young planet to the incredible Cambrian explosion, presenting a compelling new explanation for the emergence of biological novelty. The very latest discoveries in paleontology--many of them made by the author and his students--are integrated with emerging insights from molecular biology and earth system science to forge a broad understanding of how…


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