California favorites in print

04/22/2012 12:00 AM

04/20/2012 5:55 PM

Kevin Starr

History professor at the University of Southern California. Author of the multititle series "Americans and the California Dream."

"The World Rushed In" by J.S. Holliday – "Based on 49ers' letters, it evokes the pain, loneliness and exultation of the Gold Rush."

"The Ohlone Way" by Malcolm Margolin – "The first Californians discovered the California dream long before anyone else."

"California Under Spain and Mexico" by Irving Berdine Richman – "Seventy percent of Californians still live in the landscape that Spaniards and Mexicans explored and developed."

"The Big Four" by Oscar Lewis – "Four Sacramentans get together and organize the western half of the Transcontinental Railroad."

"City of Quartz" by Mike Davis – "All you need to know about Los Angeles, but were afraid to ask."

Stacy Aldrich

California state librarian

"Gidget" by Frederick Kohner – "A tale of youth and the California surf culture in the 1950s."

"California Calls You" by K.D. Kurutz and Gary Kurutz – "The most amazing promotional art used to lure people to California for work and play."

"Bandito: The Life and Times of Tiburcio Vasques" by John Boessenecker – "The famous bandit was not only a thief, but a thief of hearts."

"Walt Disney: An American Original" by Bob Thomas – "He came to California with dreams and became an American legend."

"Chez Panisse Café Cookbook" by Alice Waters – "Savor the recipes of this amazing food thinker, creator and chef."

Rivkah Sass

Director of the Sacramento Public Library system

"The Higher Power of Lucky" by Susan Patron – "The Newbery Medal winner chronicles the life of a little girl who is guided by listening in at 12-step meetings."

"Farewell to Manzanar" by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston – "The story of Japanese internment camps told from the unique perspective of a 10-year-old girl."

"Martin Eden" by Jack London – "Martin is a sailor who becomes a famous writer. London's autobiographical novel."

"Cannery Row" and its sequel, "Sweet Thursday" by John Steinbeck – "The characters are so real it's hard to believe they are fiction."

Malcolm Margolin

Writer, publisher and founder of Heyday Books in Berkeley

"Angle of Repose" by Wallace Stegner – "A wheelchair-bound historian is obsessed with the lives and letters of his pioneer grandparents." 

"The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" by Anne Fadiman – "An epileptic girl is caught between her loving Hmong parents and her well- intentioned white doctors."

"The Journey of the Flame" by Walter Nordhoff – "A lusty 104-year-old recounts the eventful 1810 expedition from Baja to Monterey that he accompanied as a lively 12-year-old boy."

"The Mountains of California" by John Muir – "The Sierra Nevada comes alive through his elegiac descriptions of geology, flora, fauna and weather."

"The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" by Tom Wolfe – "A psychedelic schoolbus ride of delight (as) Wolfe follows Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters across the country."

Christina Creveling

Co-manager and partner of University Press Books/Berkeley

"The Geography of Home" by Christopher Buckley and Gary Young – "A great anthology of poems to celebrate and witness California and its people."

"China Boy" by Gus Lee – "San Francisco in the 1950s; so many cultures, so much tenderness and terror along the way for a Chinese boy learning to survive."

"Mabel McKay: Weaving the Dream" by Greg Sarris – "A biography of the renowned basket-weaver and medicine woman of the Pomo tribe."

"The Wisdom of John Muir" compiled by Anne Rowethorne – "Compilation of 100-plus selections from the naturalist's most evocative writings."

"Field Guide to California Agriculture" by Paul Starrs – "Invaluable guide to (what grows where), with photos."

Ralph Lewin

Executive director of the California Council for the Humanities

"The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck – "Your name could be Nguyen, Gonzalez or Barkhausen and you'd see your – or your predecessors' – family history in this coming-to-California story."

"The Morning the Sun Went Down" by Darryl Babe Wilson – "A moving memoir about what it means to live in rural California and be a California Indian."

"Farewell to Manzanar" by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston – "Funny and sad, a true story about the fragility of democracy."

"Lunch Bucket Paradise" by Fred Setterberg – "You'll laugh out loud reading this riveting story about California suburbia during the booming 1950s and 1960s."

"Mother California" by Kenneth E. Hartman – "You can't fully understand California unless you understand its massive prison system."

Cara Black

Author of the 12-title Aime Leduc mystery series ("Murder at the Lanterne Rouge")

"Red Wind" by Raymond Chandler – "He gave the world an indelible image of mid-20th-century Los Angeles as a noir city where lawlessness and luxury were old drinking buddies."

"My First Summer in the Sierra" by John Muir – "Muir has profoundly shaped the very categories through which Americans understand their relationships with the natural world."

"Ishi the Last Yahi" by Robert F. Heizer – "We used to camp in the Lassen Peak area, and I found it amazing that Ishi had lived in the original California."

"The Valley of the Moon" by Jack London – "California was discovered by hard-edged men not afraid to explore the unknown."

"The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld" by Herbert Asbury – "Saloons, brothels, tong wars, the wild days of the Gold Rush."

William T. Vollmann

National Book Award-winning journalist and moralist.

The Sacramento writer noted, "This is a quick list without comment, because if I do comments, your answering machine might cut me off." Consequently, the summaries are generic.

"Reminiscences of a Ranger" by Horace Bell – Adventures of the Los Angeles Rangers, formed in 1853 to battle rampant lawlessness.

"Surviving Through the Days," edited by Herbert W. Luthin – An anthology of myths and memories from California Indian cultures.

"The Great Thirst" by Norris Hundley, Jr. – To understand California, it's essential to know its historical and present-day policies regarding its most precious resource – water.

"Ramona" by Helen Hunt Jackson – The activist worked to get better treatment for American Indians, in this case through a love story.

"In Dubious Battle" and "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck – "Battle": Fruit-pickers go on strike in a California valley, while the Communist Party lurks in the background. "Eden": Love and drama among two Salinas Valley families.

John Lescroart

New York Times best-selling legal-thriller novelist ("The Hunter")

"East of Eden" by John Steinbeck – "Its evocation of the Salinas Valley as a modern-day (for its time) Garden of Eden is one of the most place-specific novels ever written."

"Angle of Repose" by Wallace Stegner – "Stegner's masterpiece explores multiple generations of Californians through the eyes of a wheelchair-bound historian."

"California Girl" by T. Jefferson Parker – "A stunning work combining the great themes of land development, memory, loss and redemption."

"The Maltese Falcon" by Dashiell Hammett – "Introduces the iconic private investigator Sam Spade and put San Francisco on the literary map as a setting for mystery fiction – a point of immense relevance to at least one of the contributors to these lists."

"A Rage for Justice: The Passion and Politics of Phillip Burton" by John Jacobs – "Back in the days when California politics still marginally 'worked,' this biography makes a strong case that it was largely through the passions of one man.

Michael Troyan Community relations manager for Barnes & Noble in Citrus Heights

"East of Eden" by John Steinbeck – "Visiting there, you see his rich descriptions of Salinas come alive."

"Ramona" by Helen Hunt Jackson – "You've got the end of the Spanish era in California, the Native American plight and the missions of Father Junipero Serra."

"By the Great Horn Spoon" by Sid Fleischman – "Another great story of immigration from the East to California. It became Disney's 'The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin,' starring Roddy McDowell. Great for young-adult readers."

"Footsteps in the Fog: Alfred Hitchcock's San Francisco" by Jeff Kraft and Aaron Leventhal – "Includes the director's Northern California locations where he filmed such greats as 'The Birds' (Bodega Bay), 'Vertigo' (San Francisco and Marin County) and 'Shadow of a Doubt' (Santa Rosa)."

"The Ghosthunter's Guide to California's Gold Rush Country" by Jeff Dwyer – "A guide to hauntings and ghost stories in our area."

Hut Landon

Executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association

"China Boy" by Gus Lee – "Fact-based novel about a Chinese American boy growing up in San Francisco's Tenderloin in the 1950s."

"Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas" by Rebecca Solnit – "Fabulous re-imagining of a traditional atlas features 22 colorful maps and related text that describes the city through a series of unique themes. Very cool."

"Hollywood Station" by Joseph Wambaugh – "One of the great police procedural writers returned to his roots with this raucous look at quirky cops working L.A.'s Hollywood Division."

"Farm City" by Novella Carpenter – "A thoughtful memoir by a woman who turned a vacant lot in downtown Oakland into a thriving urban farm."

"Stella and Roy Go Camping," written and illustrated by Ashley Wolff – "Stella and younger brother Roy head to Yosemite with Mom, where Roy keeps hoping the animal tracks he spots are those of a bear. Careful what you wish for, Roy."

William Burg

Vice president of the Sacramento County Historical Society

"Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight" by Eric Avila – "A history of Los Angeles' mid-20th century shift from traditional urbanism to postmodern suburbanism via racial formation, redevelopment, Disneyland, film noir and building a stadium on top of a Mexican barrio."

"Gold Rush Capitalists" by Mark Eifler – "The story of Sacramento's early days as a trade and transportation center during the Gold Rush."

"Barrio Boy" by Ernesto Galarza – "The classic biography of a Mexican boy's journey to America and how he learned to become an American in Sacramento."

"Living Downtown" by Paul Groth – "How residential hotels served as homes for the wealthy and middle class as well as the poor, and how social reformers inadvertently contributed to the homelessness crisis through destruction of this undervalued housing form."

"Hackers" by Steven Levy – "The birth of the microcomputer in Silicon Valley and the hacker culture that produced it."


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