The best books about California

Who picked these books? Meet our 362 experts.

362 authors created a book list connected to California, and here are their favorite California books.
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What type of California book?


Beautiful Boy

By David Sheff,

Book cover of Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction

Katherine Ketcham Author Of Under the Influence: A Life-Saving Guide to the Myths and Realities of Alcholism

From the list on addiction, recovery, and the triumph of the human spirit.

Who am I?

Katherine Ketcham is the coauthor of 17 books about alcoholism/addiction, recovery, spirituality, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and empathy. She is also the author of the memoir, The Only Life I Could Save. She recently updated and revised her first book, Under the Influence: A Life-Saving Guide to the Myths & Realities of Alcoholism, for a 40th anniversary edition (published in September 2021 by Penguin Random House).  A dedicated photographer, columnist, and storyteller, she isn't sure what her 70s have in store for her but she's saving 12 hours of every day for her husband, three children, two grandchildren, extended family, and friends.  Books, walks, golf, yoga, gardening, story-collecting, daydreaming, and a good night's sleep should fill up the rest.

Katherine's book list on addiction, recovery, and the triumph of the human spirit

Discover why each book is one of Katherine's favorite books.

Why did Katherine love this book?

If only.” Sheff‘s book about his meth-addicted son dives deep into the “if only” agonies of parents who question their every action, wondering what they could have done differently, or said (or not said) in a different way to help their children avoid the horrors of drug addiction. I asked the same questions in my book, The Only Life I Could Save, and I came to the same terrifying conclusion: We cannot make the choice of life or death for our children.

My favorite lines: “I am in a silent war against an enemy as pernicious and omnipresent as Evil . . . only Satan himself could have designed a disease that has self-deception as a symptom, so that its victims deny they are afflicted, and will not seek treatment, and will vilify those on the outside who see what’s happening.”

By David Sheff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Beautiful Boy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'What had happened to my beautiful boy? To our family? What did I do wrong?'

Those are the wrenching questions that haunted every moment of David Sheff's journey through his son Nic's addiction to drugs and tentative steps toward recovery.

Before Nic Sheff became addicted to crystal meth, he was a charming boy, joyous and funny, a varsity athlete and honor student adored by his two younger siblings. After meth, he was a trembling wraith who lied, stole,…

Five Came Back

By Mark Harris,

Book cover of Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War

Brooke L. Blower Author Of Americans in a World at War: Intimate Histories from the Crash of Pan Am's Yankee Clipper

From the list on surprising histories about Americans abroad during WWII.

Who am I?

I am a history professor at Boston University, where I teach and write about modern American popular thought, political culture, trade, travel, and war especially in urban and transnational contexts. I enjoy histories that are based on deep and creative bodies of research and that push past timeworn myths and clichés about the American past.

Brooke's book list on surprising histories about Americans abroad during WWII

Discover why each book is one of Brooke's favorite books.

Why did Brooke love this book?

Only a small fraction of the millions of Americans in uniform during World War II were engaged in combat operations. Harris’s well-researched account zeroes in on the service of five Hollywood directors, who, like many other professionals, were asked to adapt their civilian skills to wartime needs.

Tacking back and forth between Washington and other stateside locales and posts far afield—from Midway and the Aleutian Islands to North Africa and Italy—the book’s carefully drawn action conveys the far-flung exploits of filmmakers during the war as well as how those experiences impacted their craft.

By Mark Harris,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Five Came Back as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“One of the great works of film history of the decade.” —Slate

Now a Netflix original documentary series, also written by Mark Harris: the extraordinary wartime experience of five of Hollywood's most important directors, all of whom put their stamp on World War II and were changed by it forever 

Here is the remarkable, untold story of how five major Hollywood directors—John Ford, George Stevens, John Huston, William Wyler, and Frank Capra—changed World War II, and how, in turn, the war changed them. In a move unheard of at the time, the U.S. government farmed out its war propaganda effort…

Cougar Crossing

By Meeg Pincus, Alexander Vidal (illustrator),

Book cover of Cougar Crossing: How Hollywood's Celebrity Cougar Helped Build a Bridge for City Wildlife

Erica Silverman Author Of Wake Up, City!

From the list on celebrating cities.

Who am I?

I am an award-winning author of picture books and early readers. I have set my stories in many kinds of locations, including a haunted house, an Eastern European shtetl, an English Renaissance village, and a working cattle ranch. For Wake Up, City, I turned to the setting I know best, the city. I drew on memories of walking to kindergarten in early morning Brooklyn. This book is my love song to cities everywhere. As a lifelong city dweller, I worry about the impact of urban spread on the planet, but I feel hopeful, too, because many cities are becoming more nature and wildlife-friendly. The books I'm excited to share celebrate city wildlife. 

Erica's book list on celebrating cities

Discover why each book is one of Erica's favorite books.

Why did Erica love this book?

A true story about my favorite cougar. P-22, (Puma 22) became famous when he miraculously managed to cross four freeways and make his home in a big city park near downtown Los Angeles. His fame inspired a campaign to build a wildlife crossing between two mountain ranges, over one of the world’s busiest highways. This book tells of P-22 and the scientists who are creating a better future for wild creatures and the humans who love them. I’ve been a fan of P-22 for many years and was thrilled to read this wonderful book about him. 

By Meeg Pincus, Alexander Vidal (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cougar Crossing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Discover the amazing true story of P-22, the wild cougar living in Los Angeles, in this inspiring picture book.

P-22, the famed “Hollywood Cougar,” was born in a national park near Los Angeles, California. When it was time for him to leave home and stake a claim to his own territory, he embarked on a perilous journey—somehow crossing sixteen lanes of the world’s worst traffic—to make his home in LA’s Griffith Park, overlooking the famed Hollywood sign. But Griffith Park is a tiny territory for a mountain lion, and P-22’s life has been filled with struggles.

Residents of Los Angeles…

The Black Dahlia

By James Ellroy,

Book cover of The Black Dahlia

Ward Howarth Author Of River City Blues

From the list on WWII era reads no crime fiction fan should miss.

Who am I?

I’m an author, reader, and cinephile with a real appetite for all things crime. If it’s a mystery, if it’s a detective story, if there are questionable morals at play in a story with no easy answers and no clear way out, then count me in. I’m also fascinated by the WWII era and was spellbound by the stories my maternal grandfather told me about his time as an infantry soldier in Italy during the war. These passions moved me to write my own novels and continue to inspire me in my embrace of art. I hope you enjoy the books on this list as much as I do!

Ward's book list on WWII era reads no crime fiction fan should miss

Discover why each book is one of Ward's favorite books.

Why did Ward love this book?

James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia needs no introduction to the serious crime fiction fan.

Like Hughes’ novel, we’re in postwar LA, in 1947, following the murder of Elizabeth Short, a young Hollywood hopeful whose disemboweled body is found one morning in a vacant lot.

Ellroy had authored six previous novels by this point, but it’s here, with The Black Dahlia, that many, myself included, find his style truly begins to shine.

It’s a standout of neo-noir literature that stuns with its prose, characters, and plotting. You’ll study it, you’ll re-read it, and you’ll memorize passages from it, so you better get one for the bookshelf.

By James Ellroy,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Black Dahlia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The highly acclaimed novel based on America's most infamous unsolved murder case. Dive into 1940s Los Angeles as two cops spiral out of control in their hunt for The Black Dahlia's killer in this powerful thriller that is "brutal and at the same time believable" (New York Times).
On January 15, 1947, the torture-ravished body of a beautiful young woman is found in a Los Angeles vacant lot. The victim makes headlines as the Black Dahlia -- and so begins the greatest manhunt in California history. Caught up in the investigation are Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard: Warrants Squad cops,…

Policing Los Angeles

By Max Felker-Kantor,

Book cover of Policing Los Angeles: Race, Resistance, and the Rise of the LAPD

Clarence Taylor Author Of Fight the Power: African Americans and the Long History of Police Brutality in New York City

From the list on race and policing.

Who am I?

I am Professor Emeritus of History at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.  I grew up in Brooklyn, New York during the turbulent decades of the 1950s and 1960s where there were numerous social protest movements against the War in Vietnam, school segregation, and police brutality.  My books explore the men and women who battled institutional racism.

Clarence's book list on race and policing

Discover why each book is one of Clarence's favorite books.

Why did Clarence love this book?

Between 1960 and the 1990s, the budget, size, and power of LAPD dramatically grew in spite of attempts to use regulatory powers of the government to control the police. “Racial targeting was central to the LAPD’s expansion despite twenty years of liberal leadership of the city. The problem in LA, similar to most urban centers, was a reliance on the police to manage social problems that were “rooted in Los Angeles’ history of segregation, inequality, and poverty.” But such an approach “led to disciplinary practices of surveillance, harassment, and arrest that criminalized and excluded black and Latino/a residents.”

Black Los Angeles citizens were seen by the police as threats to public safety and not deemed worthy of the protection of the law. In its battle against crime, social movements, and drug gangs, the Los Angeles Police Department was able to legitimate their authority to use coercive power to control the…

By Max Felker-Kantor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Policing Los Angeles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts erupted in violent protest in August 1965, the uprising drew strength from decades of pent-up frustration with employment discrimination, residential segregation, and poverty. But the more immediate grievance was anger at the racist and abusive practices of the Los Angeles Police Department. Yet in the decades after Watts, the LAPD resisted all but the most limited demands for reform made by activists and residents of color, instead intensifying its power.

In Policing Los Angeles, Max Felker-Kantor narrates the dynamic history of policing, anti-police abuse movements, race, and politics in Los Angeles from the…

Tales of the City

By Armistead Maupin,

Book cover of Tales of the City

Christopher DiRaddo Author Of The Family Way

From the list on uplifting and celebrating queer kinship and chosen family.

Who am I?

I'm a queer author based in Montreal. When I came out in the early 1990s, at the age of 21, I remember feeling concerned about my future. Family has always been important to me, but I couldn’t imagine what mine would look like as I got older. I knew I wasn't going to have a traditional family like my parents, but I didn’t know what else was possible. Thankfully, I found the answer in books… As queer people, we must seek out and learn our traditions and history. We’re not taught them from birth. Finding books that demonstrate and uplift the bonds that queer people share provides a roadmap for those of us seeking community.

Christopher's book list on uplifting and celebrating queer kinship and chosen family

Discover why each book is one of Christopher's favorite books.

Why did Christopher love this book?

There were only three Tales of the City books when I picked up my first copy. There are now nine of them, spanning 40 years.

First written as a newspaper serial, the collected Tales explore the lives and loves of a diverse group of folks living in the same boarding house at 28 Barbary Lane in San Francisco. Among them is landlord Anna Madrigal, an early trans icon, and gay everyman Michael ‘Mouse’ Tolliver, a hopeless romantic looking for love in the Castro.

The book is an easy read with short chapters, lots of dialogue, and zany plot twists. What I love most is how much these characters – some of whom are estranged from their biological families – start to feel like close friends whose lives you get to follow. 

By Armistead Maupin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


Now a Netflix series starring Elliot Page and Laura Linney . . .

'It's an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco.' Oscar Wilde

Mary Ann is twenty-five and arrives in San Francisco for an eight-day holiday.

But then her Mood Ring turns blue.

So obviously she decides to stay. It is the 1970s after all.

Fresh out of Cleveland, naive Mary Ann tumbles headlong into a brave new world of pot-growing landladies, cut throat debutantes, spaced-out neighbours and outrageous parties. Finding a…

Book cover of Light From Uncommon Stars

Hannah Fergesen Author Of The Infinite Miles

From the list on queer stories about time and space travel.

Who am I?

I am a queer writer whose early love of science fiction and fantasy gave me an outlet for my creativity and new ways of seeing myself in the world. It was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle and Timeline by Michael Crichton that first introduced me to time and space travel in fiction, but it was the new Doctor Who and shows like Twelve Monkeys that made me realize how mad and wonderful stories about time and space travel could be. And once I came to terms with my own queer identities, I saw an obvious space for my own contribution to the time travel canon. 

Hannah's book list on queer stories about time and space travel

Discover why each book is one of Hannah's favorite books.

Why did Hannah love this book?

The Light From Uncommon Stars is, at its sci-fi core, a story about being human and all of the messiness that comes from that state of being.

Even the aliens share a sweet humanness – a desire to find home, to find love, to find family. Plus, you can never go wrong with a donut-shop setting. This book is queer and gender-expansive, with all the beauty and trauma that comes with each.

I wouldn’t call this book cozy – and it’s worth noting that not all of the queer characters are “good queers”, but it isn’t gritty or dark – it is what it is, and isn’t that the most beautifully human thing it could be?

By Ryka Aoki,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Light From Uncommon Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Good Omens meets The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in Ryka Aoki's Light From Uncommon Stars, a defiantly joyful adventure set in California's San Gabriel Valley, with cursed violins, Faustian bargains, and queer alien courtship over fresh-made donuts.

Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six.

When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka's ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She's found her final candidate.

But in a donut shop…

The Dawn Patrol

By Don Winslow,

Book cover of The Dawn Patrol

Tina LeCount Myers Author Of The Song of All

From the list on surfing (from a surfer).

Who am I?

The moment I rode my first wave 25 years ago, I fell in love with the raw energy of that swell that traveled all the way across the ocean to share the last bit of its journey with me. My love of surfing became an all-consuming passion. I abandoned graduate school and reorganized my life to spend every possible minute in the water. Hours a day, I sit on my board, watching the horizon for the next wave, anticipating that sublime connection, when wind and water unite with my breath and blood. Out of the water, I seek a similar kind of transcendence in the stories I write. 

Tina's book list on surfing (from a surfer)

Discover why each book is one of Tina's favorite books.

Why did Tina love this book?

The Dawn Patrol is the first in Winslow’s Boone Daniels detective series. It has many hallmarks of a Winslow novel: a Southern California backdrop (San Diego), a host of morally ambiguous characters, a generally good guy trying to do what’s right, snappy writing, and surfing. This book also presents a surf culture we’ve come to recognize from television and movies, with a language, that while not universally shared by all surfers, is understood as the sport’s lingua franca—dude, gnarly, epic, wipeout. Where this book excels, however, is in capturing surfing’s dualistic nature as both a solitary pursuit and a place of a tight-knit community. Main character Boone Daniels is both the lone wolf and a member of a pack, one that can both have his back in the lineup and turn on him on dry land.

By Don Winslow,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the bestselling author of Savages (now an Oliver Stone film).

As cool as its California surfer heroes, Don Winslow delivers a high velocity, darkly comic, and totally righteous crime novel.

Every morning Boone Daniels catches waves with the other members of The Dawn Patrol: four men and one woman as single-minded about surfing as he is. Or nearly. They have "real j-o-b-s"; Boone, however, works as a PI just enough to keep himself afloat. But Boone's most recent gig-investigating an insurance scam—has unexpectedly led him to a ghost from his past. And while he may have to miss the…

Force of Chaos

By Lin Senchaid,

Book cover of Force of Chaos: The Coming of Age of the Antichrist

Jaq D Hawkins Author Of Dance of the Goblins

From the list on non-fantasy books for fantasy readers.

Who am I?

I've been an avid reader across many genres since I learned to read as a child and have wandered into all sorts of categories to find literature I love. Fantasy became my first love, but that didn't mean I had to abandon everything else. I like finding great books that don't make the big publisher lists with their generic output. Since the rise of indie publishing, I've developed a habit of sampling anything that sounds like it might be interesting and have found some amazing and very original stories!

Jaq's book list on non-fantasy books for fantasy readers

Discover why each book is one of Jaq's favorite books.

Why did Jaq love this book?

This one is classed as YA, and might actually fall under Fantasy but with a difference. The protagonist is the antichrist, normally the stuff of Horror, but he's in high school and trying to fit in as best he can and gather friends rather than followers. What could go wrong?

Well, falling in love with a girl with religious parents might be an error in judgment and the local Satanist groups trying to enlist him doesn't help. It's a story of a teenager at the heart of it, albeit one with special powers and demons harassing him, but it's a fun read and has some great humour when it comes to dealing with bullies or misguided young Satanists trying to sacrifice a duck. Trust me, the duck is okay.

By Lin Senchaid,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Force of Chaos as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Incarnation bestows free will and the Antichrist is waging a teenage rebellion!Lucas doesn't want to grow up to be like his father. What teenager does? But for Lucas it's not the same because his father is the devil himself and Lucifer expects his incarnated son to embrace his destiny as the Antichrist. Lucas has other ideas.A California high school is the perfect environment for an adolescent boy with special abilities to play down being 'different' and seek friends, rather than followers, but what teenager could resist using his powers to get to class on time or deal with the school…

Steeped in Stories

By Mitali Perkins,

Book cover of Steeped in Stories: Timeless Children's Novels to Refresh Our Tired Souls

Leslie Bustard Author Of Wild Things and Castles in the Sky: A Guide to Choosing the Best Books for Children

From the list on there's no such thing as too many books.

Who am I?

I've always loved reading to myself and others. I've been an English teacher for years. I love sharing good books and have the reputation of being a good resource, especially for moms with children. I’m happy to share everything from memoirs and history books to classics and children’s picture books. Walking through a library or a bookstore is a favorite activity, so finding not only new books but excellent books about books is always a treat. I love to understand what makes a book work well as a story, thus books that delve into the richness of a story through personal narrative or literary criticism have been favorites to keep on my shelves. 

Leslie's book list on there's no such thing as too many books

Discover why each book is one of Leslie's favorite books.

Why did Leslie love this book?

Mitali Perkins is a winsome, thoughtful writer who easily draws the reader into her discussions of the timelessness of each classic book. This book is a blend of memoir, literary criticism, and moral formation. My favorite part of Steeped in Stories was her contagious love for each book. She reminded me why I loved them, and why I wanted my children to read them when they were younger. Not only does Mitali guide the reader through what makes these books classics in a good sense, she also helps us see them with discerning eyes so that instead of ditching old books for problematic parts, she helps us navigate them with young readers in mind. Steeped in Stories discusses The Hobbit, Heidi, Emily of Deep Valley, Little Women, and The Silver Chair

By Mitali Perkins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Steeped in Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The stories we read as children shape us for the rest of our lives. But it is never too late to discover that transformative spark of hope that children's classics can ignite within us.

Award-winning children's author Mitali Perkins grew up steeped in stories—escaping into her books on the fire escape of a Flushing apartment building and, later, finding solace in them as she navigated between the cultures of her suburban California school and her Bengali heritage at home. Now Perkins invites us to explore the promise of seven timeless children's novels for adults living in uncertain times: stories that…

The Firefly Jar

By Laurie Beach,

Book cover of The Firefly Jar

Audrey Wick Author Of Seeing Us

From the list on classic and contemporary Southern women’s fiction.

Who am I?

As a full-time English professor at Blinn College, I always try to choose stories for the literature classes I teach which will resonate with students. Likewise, as an author myself, I aim for that same approach with fiction writing: I want people to remember and reflect on what they read. Memorable settings can help achieve that, so it’s my pleasure to share some of these in America's South that span both the classic side of the spectrum as well as the contemporary side.

Audrey's book list on classic and contemporary Southern women’s fiction

Discover why each book is one of Audrey's favorite books.

Why did Audrey love this book?

Southern life shines in all its quirks and beauty in this debut novel by contemporary author Laurie Beach.

The Firefly Jar is about a woman returning to her mother’s South Carolina roots only to uncover family secrets. The title becomes a thread for the plot which, like a firefly jar, will capture readers, too. And with more books planned, this fresh new voice is one to watch!

By Laurie Beach,

Why should I read it?

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

Synanon Kid

By C.A. Wittman,

Book cover of Synanon Kid

Vennie Kocsis Author Of Cult Child

From the list on children growing up in cults.

Who am I?

Because I was brought up in a cult, I'm determined to serve as a voice for children. I'm an advocate for assisting children born into cults or taken into them in finding their true identities outside of the indoctrination they received. It's important to me that there is a network of support available to those who want to learn how to lead a balanced life. As a post-cult adult, I went on to study creative writing and art at the University of Tennessee. I have a deep appreciation for poetry as a form of expression, and I recommend using it as a method to work through the complex range of feelings.

Vennie's book list on children growing up in cults

Discover why each book is one of Vennie's favorite books.

Why did Vennie love this book?

In this novel, which is set in the late 1970s, the protagonist, Celena, is abducted by two extremist women who are members of the Synanon cult. She would later find out that one of those women was her mother, whom she had not seen for more than two years at the time of the kidnapping. The culture of Synanon was one of abuse and deviation. This book packs a punch, and its story is an important one in the ongoing battle against cults that recruit parents to give over their children under the guise of improving their quality of life.

The accounts of survivors of the troubled teen industry are extremely upsetting due to the cultic practices of the industry, which include shunning, abuse, the use of forced labor, sexual assault, and more. It is essential to place a hold on this book because it provides one of the most…

By C.A. Wittman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Synanon Kid as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"I told you mothers do not matter here. We are all your mothers. Isn't that better than just having one?"

An ordinary weekend becomes surreal when Celena's mother, whom she has not seen for years, returns to claim her. Told that she is going to visit a place called Synanon, six-year-old Celena leaves her native Los Angeles on a bus for a secluded ranch setting in Northern California where the residents are strangely bald and dressed uniformly in overalls.

Coming to realize this eerie institution is to be her new home, Celena is ultimately forced to develop a new strength…

Wild Trail

By A.M. Arthur,

Book cover of Wild Trail

Barbara Elsborg Author Of Edge of Forever

From the list on gay cowboys.

Who am I?

I’m fascinated by men, the way they think and behave, the problems they have in their relationships. The very first gay romance I wrote was a cowboy story – Cowboys Downand who doesn’t love cowboys? They’re enigmatic, strong, rugged, ultra-masculine. But what if they were also gay? I think it’s that challenge, to show another side of a role that has so predominantly been drawn in one particular way in western books and films. I think gay men must have to work even harder to be accepted as a cowboy than in many other industries and exploring that is enthralling.

Barbara's book list on gay cowboys

Discover why each book is one of Barbara's favorite books.

Why did Barbara love this book?

This is the first in the Clean Slate Ranch series. An opposite attract story set at a dude ranch. The lives of Mack – the ranch owner, and Wes – the tourist who’s an actor and doesn’t trust cowboys collide, and it takes a while for the two to sort themselves out. I like opposites attract stories and these two couldn’t be more opposite. A.M. Arthur has written a lot of cowboy tales and they all have a brilliant sense of place as well as intriguing characters. I’ve not read one I’ve not liked.  

By A.M. Arthur,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wild Trail as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Welcome to Clean Slate Ranch: Home of tight jeans, cowboy boots, and rough trails. For some men, it’s a fantasy come true.

“[A] passionate, trope-heavy romance…scintillating romantic tension and steamy sex scenes.” —Publishers Weekly on Hard Ride

Mack Garrett loves the rolling hills surrounding his Northern California dude ranch. Leading vacationers on horse trails with his two best friends is enough—romance is definitely not in the cards. When a sexy tourist shows up at Clean Slate, he’s as far from Mack’s type as can be. So why is the handsome city slicker so far under his skin in less than…

My Life

By Lyn Hejinian,

Book cover of My Life

Mike Albo Author Of Another Dimension of Us

From the list on putting you in a trance (in a good way).

Who am I?

As a queer teenager, I loved reading because it transported me away from my oppressive reality and into another one. My friend, writer Virginia Heffernan, calls it ‘The Trance’—when you’re so into a book, time and space fall away. Recently I learned about the work of cognitive neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf, who writes that “deep reading” of dense, poetic works (not the “skimming” we’re always doing now in our digital culture) uses, remarkably, all areas of the brain—carving neuronal pathways, engendering empathy, imagination, self-reflection, and more. No-brainer: reading is really good for you. While there’s no lack of classics that can do this, here are obscurer titles that have put me in a trance.  

Mike's book list on putting you in a trance (in a good way)

Discover why each book is one of Mike's favorite books.

Why did Mike love this book?

Published in 1980, Hejinian’s breakthrough book of poetry asks for your full attention—not in a demanding way—more like how the aroma of coffee or perfume softly takes you back to your past. It’s a poetic record of her life, year by year. There’s no linear narrative, rather the sentences build upon each other, rub up against the next sentence, lead the mind from one thought to the next like memories do. This book absolutely changed the way I perceive. It allowed me to relax, and let my memories wash in and out. It will coax you to float in the ocean of your existence. 

By Lyn Hejinian,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Recognized today as one of the great works of contemporary American literature, My Life is at once poetic autobiography, personal narrative, a woman’s fiction, and an ongoing dialogue with the poet and her experience. Upon its first publication by Sun & Moon Press (the edition reprinted here) the publication Library Journal described the book as one that "is an intriguing journey that both illuminates and perplexes, teases and challenges, as it reveals an innovative artist at work."

Lyn Hejinian is the author of The Cell, The Cold of Poetry, Writing Is an Aid to Memory and A Border Comedy. She…

Book cover of Hollywood's Golden Year, 1939: A Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration

Thomas S. Hischak Author Of 1939: Hollywood's Greatest Year

From the list on 1939 Hollywood.

Who am I?

I have been writing books about film, theatre, and popular music since 1991 but my love of old movies goes back much further. Before VCRs, DVDs, and streaming, one could only catch these old films on television (often cut to allow for commercial time) or revival houses. Today even the more obscure movies from 1939 are attainable. Writing 1939: Hollywood's Greatest Year gave me the opportunity to revisit dozens of old favorites and to see the many also-rans of that remarkable year.

Thomas' book list on 1939 Hollywood

Discover why each book is one of Thomas' favorite books.

Why did Thomas love this book?

Ted Sennett is one of the most prolific and widely-read writers about Hollywood and this book on 1939 is one of his very best works. It is filled (one might even say, stuffed) with behind-the-scenes stories. The writing is sometimes critical and analytical rather than gushing as in some of Sennett's many coffee table books. He concentrates on only seventeen 1939 movies so one doesn't get a full picture of that amazing year of movies. It's good to see some lesser-known classics like Midnight and Angels Have Wings included in the seventeen.

By Ted Sennett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hollywood's Golden Year, 1939 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book on the famous year 1939 an epic year for great classic films.

Ask the Dust

By John Fante,

Book cover of Ask the Dust

Peter Alson Author Of The Only Way To Play It

From the list on characters who are down and out.

Who am I?

All of the books on my list are about characters who—either due to their own failings and character flaws, or bad luck, or the body blows that life has thrown their way, or a combination of all those things—have hit rock bottom (though as it sometimes turns out, there’s a bottom below that bottom). I think because of my own struggles, and because I’ve often been my own worst enemy, I’ve found comfort in reading stories of this sort. Like many of the writers on my list, I’ve also found that, more often than not, the only way out was to start writing about what I was going through. 

Peter's book list on characters who are down and out

Discover why each book is one of Peter's favorite books.

Why did Peter love this book?

This tale of Arturo Bandini, a young would-be writer living on the edge in 1930s Los Angeles, is the book that Charles Bukowski discovered in a local library and was purportedly his inspiration for becoming a writer himself. Like Henry Chinaski in Buk’s autobiographical works, Bandini is a stand-in for Fante, and his personal disasters are mined for their comic gold. He falls in love with a waitress named Camilla, only to watch her fall in love with another man and eventually suffer a nervous breakdown. In the end, Bandini realizes he can't help Camilla and must focus on his writing instead—a conclusion that I, as a young writer, totally identified with.

By John Fante,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ask the Dust as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ask the Dust is a virtuoso performance by an influential master of the twentieth-century American novel. It is the story of Arturo Bandini, a young writer in 1930s Los Angeles who falls hard for the elusive, mocking, unstable Camilla Lopez, a Mexican waitress. Struggling to survive, he perseveres until, at last, his first novel is published. But the bright light of success is extinguished when Camilla has a nervous breakdown and disappears . . . and Bandini forever rejects the writer’s life he fought so hard to attain.

Almost an Island

By Bruce Berger,

Book cover of Almost an Island: Travels in Baja California

Jennifer Silva Redmond Author Of Honeymoon at Sea: How I Found Myself Living on a Small Boat

From the list on nonfiction Baja that can transport you there.

Who am I?

I grew up on Southern California beaches—Manhattan Beach, Venice Beach, Ocean Beach, La Jolla—but first experienced Baja as an adult. It was like a different world. Returning repeatedly over the next decade, I came to know the stunning shorelines and quiet bays of the peninsula’s midriff as intimately as my home state’s beaches. Swimming and diving Baja’s clear blue waters and hiking its dusty trails and palm-studded mountains, I have admired the many moods of this unique desert peninsula. A writer and editor, I have read extensively from the vast selection of books about Baja, both new and classic works.

Jennifer's book list on nonfiction Baja that can transport you there

Discover why each book is one of Jennifer's favorite books.

Why did Jennifer love this book?

My favorite memoirs blend personal observations with some history and natural history and this book delivers on all those fronts.

I enjoyed how Berger’s essays ranged from the microcosm to the macrocosm, focusing on subjects as diverse as the dogs who lived on the rooftops of La Paz neighborhood, to the joy and the business of chasing eclipses.

An amateur natural historian who previously wrote about the environmental effects of the Glen Canyon Dam in “There Was a River” Berger obviously loves Baja, but more importantly, he is fascinated by the unique desert peninsula. His book drew me in from its first page and fascinated me in repeated readings.

By Bruce Berger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Almost an Island as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Long frequented by pirates and haunted by pariahs, Baja California has become a favorite destination for whale watchers, hikers, and scuba divers. For Bruce Berger it has been more. In Almost an Island, he takes readers beyond the Baja of guidebooks and offers a wildly entertaining look at the real Baja California.

Eight hundred miles long, Baja California is the remotest region of the Sonoran desert, a land of volcanic cliffs, glistening beaches, fantastical boojum trees, and some of the greatest primitive murals in the Western Hemisphere. In Almost an Island, Berger recounts tales from his three decades in this…

Book cover of Fritz B. Burns and the Development of Los Angeles

Chris Lukather Author Of Homes by Byrd: The Art & Architecture of Robert Byrd and His Son, Gary

From the list on Southern California architecture history.

Who am I?

I’ve always been interested in art and architecture. I studied Fine Arts at CalArts. I’ve written three books on Mid-century home builders and designers, William Mellenthin, Jean Vandruff, and Robert Byrd, whose life and work in Southern California had gone mostly unnoticed during their lifetimes—with very little information written about them in the press. I spent three years on each book working with the families to uncover their lives and place in local history. This is information that would have otherwise been lost. When you research the life of one person in this profession, you inevitably learn about the life and work of others—some famous, some not. 

Chris' book list on Southern California architecture history

Discover why each book is one of Chris' favorite books.

Why did Chris love this book?

I was born in Burbank, CA. This book details the early land development deals made by Fritz Burns for new single-family homes in Burbank and the surrounding area beginning in the 1930s.

Fritz Burns was an innovator, showman, and very successful businessman. His office once occupied the historic House of Tomorrow located at the corner of Highland Ave. and Wilshire Blvd. that he commissioned architects Walter Wurdeman and Welton Becket to design and build.

He also helped develop the Kaiser tract homes in the San Fernando Valley, and some of the first large hotels in Hawaii in the 1950s. When driving around the neighborhoods of Southern California I’m always searching for historically important buildings and residences.

By James Thomas Keane,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fritz B. Burns and the Development of Los Angeles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book by Keane, James Thomas

Book cover of Plants And Landscapes For Summer-dry Climates Of The San Francisco Bay Region

Pam Peirce Author Of Golden Gate Gardening,  The Complete Guide to Year-Round Food Gardening in the San Francisco Bay Area & Coastal California

From the list on California Mediterranean Gardening.

Who am I?

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you know that its climate is unique in the U.S. and that there are many microclimates within the region. It’s all mediterranean, as you can tell by its dry summers and mild, wet winters. But near the coast, summer fog carpets the land for weeks and winter is rarely frosty, while inland summers are hot, winter frosts are frequent. I live here and use my academic and first-hand experience with plants to help regional gardeners create year-round beauty and harvests in all of our wonderful, often perplexing microclimates.

Pam's book list on California Mediterranean Gardening

Discover why each book is one of Pam's favorite books.

Why did Pam love this book?

An introductory chapter describes our greater Bay Area climate and its microclimates. The plants listed are ones that will thrive in the region with a minimum of summer water. The glory of the book is in the photographs by Saxon Holt, which include close shots for identification and wider shots that will inspire you to combine plants handsomely in your garden. 

The Crucifix Killer

By Chris Carter,

Book cover of The Crucifix Killer

Bryony Best Author Of The Girl from Pompey: Bloodshed in the Hampshire Cabin

From the list on thrillers that aren't predictable or snail-paced.

Who am I?

I have a wealth of knowledge and experience for living through tragic situations from my young adult life. I have overcome a traumatic childhood, alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental health. I find psychology fascinating; I have personally had many attempts by others to take my life. I have survived violent attacks, stalkers, and abuse. I love thriller books that have psychology embedded alongside many life lessons.  

Bryony's book list on thrillers that aren't predictable or snail-paced

Discover why each book is one of Bryony's favorite books.

Why did Bryony love this book?

This book had me hooked from the very beginning, it is exciting and shocking.

Many books can have slower chapters than others but there were no slow chapters in this book. The ending was not super predictable like some thriller books can be, and the characters were rich with great background stories.

I devoured this book and if you read one thriller book this year then make sure it is this one. The MC is a detective who is being taunted by a serial killer and the story felt current and not outdated. I am a fan of Criminal Minds and Psychology and if you are too then give this book a read.  

By Chris Carter,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Crucifix Killer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*Don't miss WRITTEN IN BLOOD, the next instalment in the compulsive Robert Hunter series from Sunday Times number one bestselling author Chris Carter - available to pre-order now!*


When the body of a young woman is discovered in a derelict cottage in Los Angeles, Robert Hunter is thrown into a nightmare case. The victim suffered a terrible death, and on the nape of her neck has been carved a strange double-cross: the signature of a psychopath known as the Crucifix Killer.

But that's impossible. Because two years ago,…