2018 saw a fantastic number of great books about Los Angeles, and even some great content from L.A. authors (such as Walt Disney’s Disneyland). Even Los Angeles Magazine contributor David Kipen released an excellent piece titled Dear Los Angeles: The City in Diaries and Letters, 1542 to 2018. However, here we’re going to focus on some lesser-known books and authors that look at the artier side of Los Angeles. Here are five great reads covering the beautiful city of L.A.
By Jim Heimann
Author Jim Heimann spent decades searching libraries and swap meets, gathering photos, historical evidence, and matchbooks, and gathering first-hand input from the folks who were there, all to prove that a California Crazy world existed. The world he writes about, where drive-through doughnuts, giant hot dogs, and derby-shaped restaurants captivated the attention of the city of L.A., existed only during the 1920s and ’30s, and most of the evidence of its existence disappeared decades ago. The larger-than-life Taschen art book is the perfect showcase for the California Crazy world and is definitely worth a read.
By Stephen Gee
Los Angeles City Hall spent decades being hailed as the tallest building in L.A. It became famous around the world as the Daily Planet in The Adventures of Superman and was destroyed in War of the Worlds by aliens. Today, more than 50 movies and TV series are filmed at Los Angeles City Hall every year. Why? Because it’s an amazing building that provides a dramatic scene for the boring course of city life. This elegant book by Stephen Gee brings us up close and personal, allowing us to take in all the tiny details of the iconic tower. The rare photos and gorgeous, original illustrations from architects John and Donald Parkinson are awe-inspiring to say the least.
By Emily Bills, Pierluigi Serraino, and Sam Lubell
This beautiful, large book shines a spotlight on a talented photographer who spent much of his life shining the spotlight on his clients. Photographer Marvin Rand, who was born in Boyle Heights, learned advertising photography at Los Angeles City College. He spent his career capturing the beautiful architecture of mid-century L.A. in a way that convinced people to hire his clients, including Welton Becket and Craig Ellwood. His work never received the exposure it deserved, and most of his gorgeous photographs have been hidden away since his death in 2009. This book allowed his work to finally get the exposure it deserved.
By Chris Enss and Howard Kazanjian
Before it became home to Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Big Brother, before Leave it to Beaver and Gilligan’s Island were filmed there, what’s now the CBS lot in Studio City was Republic Pictures. Cowboys, Creatures, and Classics: The Story of Republic Pictures is a cozy scrapbook-style book that tells the story of the days when Roy Rogers and John Wayne rode horses and shotguns at the studio. Republic Pictures was known for its Westerns of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s, but maybe known even more so for its cliffhanger shorts – the ones that played in theaters before the movies.
By Leonard Maltin
Hooked on Hollywood is a treasure for anyone who loves Hollywood and the movies. Leonard Maltin is a New York native who started collecting old photographs and writing about movie stars in the fifth grade. By 13 years old, he had his own movie magazine. After relocating to L.A., he spent over 30 years reviewing movies for Entertainment Tonight and two decades teaching at USC. His latest work combines deep digging into a few obscure movies, with interviews dating back to his years of showcasing movie stars of the silent era and beyond, with shining a light on the Los Angeles movie industry as no one else could. Not only is Leonard Maltin a superfan of the movie industry who’s spent many decades mining the brains of actors, actresses, and historians to give context to what we see on the big screen, but he’s proven time and again that he genuinely loves the work he does.
Any of these books would be a great read, and all of them showcase the city in a unique and beautiful way. So if you’re looking for a new book or want to see the wonder of L.A. in a new light, check out one of these great works of art.