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LA History

What to read and watch on history of Los Angles

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A must-read as believed by many Angelenos: City of Quartz by Mike Davis. While reading, it is important to remember that the author is known as a Marxist and has his own opinions.

A documentary called “Inventing LA: The Chandlers and Their Times”. It was aired in 2009, the show’s web page contains just broken links now. An updated website contains the timeline based on the show. A DVD is sold on Amazon for 80 bucks.

Privileged Son: Otis Chandler And The Rise And Fall Of The L.A. Times Dynasty also explores the rise of L.A. Times.

Another read on the history of LA Times on Curbed.com. And one more article by them.

Autobiography of Charles Mingus is recommended as an examination of Watts neighborhood of LA.

Water and Power by William Kahrl is extensive research on the history of the LA aqueduct.

Fragmented Metropolis by Robert M. Fogelson covers the early history of LA up to 1930.

Globalizing L.A. by Steven Erie analyzes how Los Angeles could become such a powerful economy.

The Reluctant Metropolis by William B. Fulton. Published in 1997, it covers more recent history of the city.

L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City by John Buntin is a good read on the mid-century events in LA.

Los Angeles. Portrait of a City. A big and beautiful coffee table book traces LA from 1880s to the modern days.

Reminiscences of a Ranger: Early Times in Southern California. The earliest days of LA.

Many, many books by Arcadia Publishing about virtually every aspect of LA history.

Street Meeting: Multiethnic Neighborhoods in Early Twentieth-Century Los Angeles by Mark Wild. On immigrant neighborhoods of LA.

The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory, New and Fully Updated Edition by Norman M. Klein. How LA creates its own myth.

A Dangerous Place: California’s Unsettling Fate by Marc Reisner. A research of the earthquake danger in the region.

Mexican American Mojo by Anthony Macías. An account of Mexican American urban culture in wartime and postwar Los Angeles.

Lost LA explores the region’s hidden past through documents, photos and other rare artifacts from California libraries and archives. Youtube playlist.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean. On the history of library system in LA and the city history in general.

Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies. How the Angelenos relate to the beach, the freeways, the flatlands, and the foothills.

It’s an Old California Custom by Lee Shippey. Customs of California, a 1948 book.

The Mirage Factory: Illusion, Imagination, and the Invention of Los Angeles. History from 1900 to 1930.

Land of Sunshine: An Environmental History of Metropolitan Los Angeles. An exploration of the environmental history of greater Los Angeles.

Los Angeles: From mission to modern city. From the earliest days to 1950s.

Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles. A story of pollution, progress, and how an optimistic people confronted the epic struggle against airborne poisons barraging their hometowns.

Water to the Angels: William Mulholland, His Monumental Aqueduct, and the Rise of Los Angeles. The story of the largest public water project ever created — William Mulholland’s Los Angeles aqueduct.

Creating the Future: Art and Los Angeles in the 1970s by Michael Fallon. On the L.A. art scene in the 1970s.

Smile Southern California, You’re the Center of the Universe: The Economy and People of a Global Region by James Flamigan. How the economy shaped the region.

California: A History by Kevin Starr. Everything you need to know about California’s history.

Eternity Street: Violence and Justice in Frontier Los Angeles by John Mack Faragher

The Chinatown War: Chinese Los Angeles and the Massacre of 1871 by Scott Zesch

To Live and Dine in L.A.: Menus And The Making of the Modern City by Josh Kun

Songs in the Key of Los Angeles: Sheet Music from the Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library by Josh Kun

Deadly Times: The 1910 Bombing of the Los Angeles Times and America’s Forgotten Decade of Terror by Lew Irwin

Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times by Bill Boyarsky

Hollywood’s Spies: The Undercover Surveillance of Nazis in Los Angeles by Laura B. Rosenzweig

Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America by Steven J. Ross

The Water Seekers by Remi Nadeau. On the history of LA’s water saga.

Southern California: An Island on the Land by Carrey McWilliams. Widely recognized as the best non-fiction book written about Southern California for the period 1920s through the 1940s.

Fiction books

Ask the Dust by John Fante. A story of a young writer in 1930s Los Angeles.