“Day of the Locust” by Nathanael West (1939)

“I taught this short novel for years to college students who liked and appreciated its grotesque satire on American culture generally, but it was only when I started teaching it to Californians who were either from or had been to L.A. that it really sang (though ‘Hollywood’ as a dream factory perhaps resonates less for the TikTok and Netflix generations). I love it so much, I refuse to watch the 1975 film adaptation.” — Matthew Stratton, Davis

“Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco” by Gary Kamiya (2013)

“A great book for anybody who wants to know/see more of San Francisco than only Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, Union Square, cable cars and all the other typical tourist spots. He writes about a park with a small canyon, hidden places with great views of the city, lesser known historical spots — including native history, different neighborhoods, literary hot spots (not just the Beats), local lore, happenings, stairs (yes, stairs!), earthquakes, etc. It is an ‘intimate’ guide by a long-term resident about his crazy, fascinating, one-of-a-kind, odd, absolutely charming city and its inhabitants.” — Ulrich Hacker, Camino

“Trees in Paradise” by Jared Farmer (2013)

“It really helped me think about the history of the area and my place in it, and because this book is grounded in trees I see every day in the Bay Area, I get little reminders: I see, hear, smell and feel (and sometimes taste, if it’s windy!) the three trees that form the basis of this book throughout my day. This is one of those books that I like so much that my friends have asked me to stop bringing it up in conversation!” — Dave Longawa, Palo Alto

“On Gold Mountain” by Lisa See (1995)

“Focusing on See’s own Chinese ancestors, some of whom arrived during the gold rush and the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, this book traces the extent and impact of Chinese immigrants to California, and their resistance to the draconian state and federal laws passed to keep them out. The family established a store in Los Angeles’s Chinatown selling rosewood furniture imported from China and renting it to movie studios for their sets. During the 20th century, studios cast white actors to play the Chinese gangsters and doomed ladies, but the furniture was authentic.” — Kathleen Courts, Oakland

“An American Genocide” by Benjamin Madley (2016)

“More history we did not learn in school — this book will blow your mind and make your heart ache. Revealing the terrible history of U.S. settlement of California between 1846 and 1873, Benjamin Madley documents in spellbinding detail the personal and collective brutalities involved in the state-supported genocide of California’s first peoples. Californians will recognize names and places, and never feel the same again about the gold rush and other Golden State settler tales taught in grammar school.” — Kate Stornetta, Mendocino County

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