Every state is known for something. As you work your way through the list, don’t miss the best books set in California. While you’re at it, check out the best movies set in California, too.
California, a western U.S. state, stretches from the Mexican border along the Pacific for nearly 900 miles. Its terrain includes cliff-lined beaches, redwood forest, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Central Valley farmland, and the Mojave Desert.
The city of Los Angeles is the seat of the Hollywood entertainment industry. Hilly San Francisco is known for the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and cable cars.
Best Books Set in California
East of Eden
Author: John Steinbeck
East of Eden was dubbed “the first book” by Nobel Laureate John Steinbeck in his journal, and it does have the primal power and simplicity of myth.
This expansive and often cruel novel, set in the fertile farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, recounts the connected fates of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly repeat the fall of Adam and Eve and the toxic rivalry of Cain and Abel.
Daughter of Fortune Eden
Author: Isabel Allende
Orphaned at birth, Eliza Sommers is raised in the British colony of Valparaíso, Chile, by the well-intentioned Victorian spinster Miss Rose and her more rigid brother Jeremy.
Just as she meets and falls in love with the wildly inappropriate Joaquín Andieta, a lowly clerk who works for Jeremy, gold is discovered in the hills of northern California.
By 1849, Chileans of every stripe have fallen prey to feverish dreams of wealth. Joaquín takes off for San Francisco to seek his fortune, and Eliza, pregnant with his child, decides to follow him.
- T. Coraghessan Boyle (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
The Tortilla Curtain
Author: T. Coraghessan Boyle
Topanga Canyon is home to two couples on a collision course. Los Angeles liberals Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher lead an ordered sushi-and-recycling existence in a newly gated hilltop community: he a sensitive nature writer, she an obsessive realtor.
Mexican immigrants Candido and America Rincon desperately cling to their vision of the American Dream as they fight off starvation in a makeshift camp deep in the ravine.
And from the moment a freak accident brings Candido and Delaney into intimate contact, these four and their opposing worlds gradually intersect in what becomes a tragicomedy of error and misunderstanding.
The Joy Luck Club
Author: Amy Tan
Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who’s “saying” the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk.
United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. “To despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable.”
Forty years later the stories and history continue.
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The Big Sleep
Author: Raymond Chandler
Raymond Chandler’s hardboiled mystery thriller The Big Sleep (1939) is the first in his famed series about investigator Philip Marlowe. The novel was turned into a film twice, initially in 1946 and again in 1978.
Various individuals double-cross each other and many secrets are revealed throughout the novel, which adds to the story’s intricacy. The title refers to contemplation in the book about “sleeping the grand slumber,” which is a euphemism for death.
Now that you’ve completed the list of best books in this state, why not check out some others? Here are the Best Books Set in All 50 States.
To continue learning, check out the California State History Project.
DOWNLOAD AND PRINT BOOKS SET IN ALL 50 STATES
Click here to download the printable. It has a list of books in all 50 states including the Best Books Set in California.
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Further Reading About the State:
- Highway 1 California: The Dream Road Along the Pacific
- California: An American History
- Coastal California: The Pacific Coast Highway and Beyond
- All About California: 100+ Amazing Facts With Pictures (Kid's Book Series -24)
- Only in California: Weird and Wonderful Facts About The Golden State (Volume 1) (The 50 States, 1)
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