Los Angeles has seen big changes in the past century. It morphed from a landscape of orange groves and small towns to the ever-expanding concrete jungle it is today, complete with miles of freeways and a signature “car culture.” Its transformation has stimulated the imagination of writers who want to tell the story of the City of Angels and introduce others to its hidden gems. From stories of life in L.A. at the start of the 20th century to tips to how best walk its streets, the following books will help you get further acquainted with your magnificent city.
The 2009 book by John Buntin, a journalist who covers crime and urban affairs for Governing magazine, puts together the biographies of two influential men in the Los Angeles of the 1920s – one a notorious gangster, the other a future police chief. Buntin has been praised for reconstructing their stories with such talent that the resulting book reads like a novel, like something to pick up just for fun, yet one that ends up leaving the reader with a lot of historical knowledge. Buntin presents a city that at first look is blessed by the sun and the spirit of Hollywood and development, but that hides an underground world of political corruption and rising organized crime.
‘Hollywood: The Movie Lover’s Guide’
The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie L.A.
Something that makes Los Angeles attractive to visitors and locals alike is its intricate connection with Hollywood and its movie stars. Author Richard Alleman provides in this book a guide to satisfy every curiosity: It reveals the location of buildings and restaurants seen on film, the places in the city that the Hollywood stars have favored throughout the years, the location of the apartments or homes where bygone movie stars lived, and even where some of the deceased Hollywood icons rest. It covers a large span of time of Hollywood history showing you, for example, the department store that became the gorgeous hotel seen in the 1936 film “Topper,” as well as the location of the glamorous club seen in the 2004 movie “The Aviator.”
‘Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times’
Bill Boyarsky, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was once an editor for the L.A. Times, utilized his experience as a writer to create this book, meant as a companion to a PBS documentary story produced by Peter Jones. Like the film, the 2009 book follows the story of the Los Angeles Times as handled by several generations of Chandler men who became molders of opinion in a city that has been said to influence the rest of the world. It sees the progress of the Los Angeles Times from a tool for achieving political power to the unbiased and respected newspaper it became.
‘Vanishing Los Angeles County’
Postcard History Series
Written by Cory and Sarah Stargel, who have collected postcards of early Los Angeles for years and who are members of the Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society, “Vanishing Los Angeles County” considers how the City of Angels has changed in the past century. The book is full of images selected from the Stargel’s collection of landmarks such as hotels, orange groves and restaurants, plenty of which have already disappeared. This book was released in 2010 and is available online and at bookstores.
‘Walking L.A. – Second edition’
No doubt Angelenos love cars, yet author Erin Mahoney Harris set out in this book to provide 38 exciting walking tours that explore sections of Los Angeles and introduce readers/walkers to places they never knew about before. The readers may decide whether to make their adventure just a couple of hours long or a full day of fun. Either way, they are guaranteed to discover hidden gems in a city so seldom seen up close. Explore Silver Lake, San Pedro’s waterfront, the Sunset Strip in Hollywood and Venice Beach through the eyes of a man who truly knows the city.
Related: Top Unique Tours in LA
Dena Burroughs is a freelance writer living in Azusa, CA. She is a CSULA graduate with specialties in Creative Writing and Communications. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.