More of the Best Books About California

More of the Best Books About California


One of my favorite books about Los Angeles is Eve Babitz’s witty collection of essays “Slow Days, Fast Company.” The first time I read it, a few years ago, while living in L.A., I was struck by how a book published in 1977 — telling bold and sharply observed stories of L.A.’s bohemian artist class — could still ring true so many years later.

Christen Rensing, a reader who lives in Malibu, says the book was an impetus for him to move to California, despite the “pyrite promise” of Hollywood. “‘Slow Days, Fast Company’ is, as nearly all of Babitz’s works are, a love letter to California, but more specifically Los Angeles, which has shaped my view of the Golden State entirely,” he writes.

Babitz’s book is one of several we’ve added to our California reading list, a project of this newsletter to recommend the best books about the state. You can find the full list of novels and nonfiction here. The latest additions are shown in boldface.

If you’d like to suggest a book for the list, send an email to CAtoday@nytimes.com. Please include your full name, the city where you live and a few sentences about why your choice should be included.

Here are some other titles we’re adding, along with what readers shared about them:

“The Human Comedy” by William Saroyan (1943)

“William Saroyan is our California son from another mother. Because many of his stories are through his Armenian family’s lens, they all paint the picture of the creation of our state. This list is not complete without Mr. Saroyan’s perspective.” — Stephanie Wilson, Simi Valley

“The Library Book” by Susan Orlean (2018)

“While the book is based around the Central Library fire in 1986, it is also a deep dive into Los Angeles culture and politics of the time. It is a must read for any lover of books and libraries.” — Blair Lord, Monrovia

“Storm” by George R. Stewart (1941)

“This is an eco-novel about a massive winter storm that hits California after a summer/fall drought. It begins in San Francisco when a junior meteorologist in the Weather Bureau takes note of an anomaly and plots ‘an incipient little whorl’ on the weather map — a developing storm he privately dubs Maria. The locales throughout California will be familiar. Although I first read this book 40 years ago, it’s still pertinent.” — Angela Heiss, Midpines

“A Place at the Nayarit” by Natalia Molina (2022)

“Molina has taken the story of her grandmother’s restaurant, the Nayarit in Echo Park, and woven it into a compelling historical account of the neighborhood and the people who lived there. Maybe it is because it is centered in a real-life place (although long gone), or maybe because the stories feel real and authentic, the history presented feels extraordinarily relevant and meaningful in ways that other histories do not.” — Elee Wood, San Marino

“The King and Queen of Malibu: The True Story of the Battle for Paradise” by David K. Randall (2016)

“This is the true story of Frederick and May Rindge, he a Harvard graduate and she a Midwestern farm girl, who came to Los Angeles in 1887 when it was still a frontier town. They were hugely wealthy, and they bought all of the land that is now Malibu. After Frederick’s death in 1905, May spent the next 30 years fighting everyone to maintain Malibu as it was. I grew up in Southern California, and I learned things in this book that were totally new to me. It is a fascinating story of the area and the people.” — Juliane McAdam, Los Osos



Helms Ategeka, an Oakland teenager, was accepted at 122 of the more than 150 colleges where he applied and was offered more than $5 million in grants and scholarships, CNN reports.

Ategeka, who is interested in pursuing a music degree, faced initial resistance to his choice of major from his father, who was hoping that his son would work toward a career with more financial stability. But then came the slew of acceptance letters. “He’s so confident that music is what he wants to do, it would be a disservice for me to try to guide him otherwise,” said his father, Chris Ategeka.

A few of the colleges that accepted Ategeka are Bard College, Drexel and the University of California, Berkeley. After spending time researching each school, Ategeka has decided to attend Berkeley, his father’s alma mater.


Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Halina Bennet and Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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