When it comes to entertainment, no city does it quite like Los Angeles. From music to movies to TV to anything on trend, LA has been the epicenter.
Stories of LA go far beyond celebrity gossip. The city is full of thriving communities from all cultures, all with unique perspectives. Narrowing down a reading list from a city full of creatives proved to be a challenge, but here are 5 books to help you start discovering LA.
The White Boy Shuffle, by Paul Beatty
The wit, emotion, and societal critique in this 1996 debut novel from Paul Beatty still hits home in 2021. The story follows Gunnar Kaufman, a Black surfer boy from Santa Monica whose mother moves him to the inner city of West LA. The stark difference between LA neighborhoods is easy to see in this satirical depiction of American culture. Beatty, a Man Booker Prize winning author, manages to make you laugh and cry all at once.
Because of high COVID-19 rates and the restrictions that followed, LA restaurants struggled. The LA food scene is full of rich flavors and stories, and Takeaway Los Angeles brings that to the printed page. Each book highlights a unique LA restaurant to help tell their story and to help keep them afloat through closures and reduced capacity dining. The cookbook shop Now Serving partnered with an innovative Australian publisher, Somekind Press, to bring attention and proceeds to some of LA’s small but special dining spots. Read more about how the series helps support restaurants.
Sansei and Sensibility, by Karen Tei Yamashita
This collection of short stories by Japanese-American author Karen Tei Yamashita brings Jane Austen’s works into modern LA. Yamashita blends classic literature with humor to explore the complex blend of cultures experienced as a sansei, a person born in America whose grandparents immigrated from Japan. The stories have a comforting familiarity, yet allow the reader to witness an incredibly unique perspective.
Borrowed Bones, by Luis J Rodriguez
Former Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis J Rodriguez is also an activist, healer, and community leader. In his youth, Luis Rodriguez was involved in gang activities in LA. After a time of incarceration, he pursued a career in journalism. Now a renowned poet and novelist, Rodriguez leads workshops in prisons, shelters for homeless people, schools, and community centers. He is best known for his 1993 memoir Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A. His 2016 book of poems depicts Los Angeles in rich language and moving voices.
Yearbook, by Seth Rogen
Okay, it wouldn’t be an LA reading list without at least one celebrity memoir. Hollywood memoirs range from inspirational to salacious, and Seth Rogen’s is downright funny. His collection of essays tells the story of his entry into comedy as a teenager, his adventures through LA that have inspired his films, and some hilarious celebrity encounters with notable names like Kanye West and Nicolas Cage. For a laugh and some insight into LA fame, pick up this book.