Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Who's Got the Book? Los Angeles Times 'Reading L.A.' project

Los Angeles Times Architecture critic, Christopher Hawthorne, has given himself a project this year. He will read two Southern California-centric architecture and urbanism books a month throughout the next year and post brief essays on each to the Los Angeles Times Culture Monster blog. Here is a list of the books he currently has on his list, followed in parentheses by the local library systems that carry them in case you'd like to read along.

The library acronyms used below are Los Angeles Public Library system (LAPL), the County of Los Angeles Public Library system (COLA), the Pasadena/Glendale libraries (PPL), Santa Monica Library system (SMPL) and the Beverly Hills Public Library (BHPL).

January: "The Truth About Los Angeles," by Louis Adamic (1927) [none] and "Los Angeles," by Morrow Mayo (1933) [LAPL, PPL, SMPL].

February: "Southern California: An Island on the Land," by Carey McWilliams (1946) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL] and "Five California Architects," by Esther McCoy (1960) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL].

March: "Eden in Jeopardy: Man's Prodigal Meddling With the Environment," by Richard Lillard (1966) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL] and "The Fragmented Metropolis: Los Angeles 1850-1930," by Robert M. Fogelson (1967) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL].

April: "Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies," by Reyner Banham (1971) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL] and "Guide to the Ugliest Buildings of Los Angeles," by Richard Meltzer (1980) [PPL].

May: "L.A Freeway: An Appreciative Essay," by David Brodsly (1981) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL] and "Richard Neutra and the Search for Modern Architecture," by Thomas Hines (1982) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL].

June: "Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water," by Marc Reisner (1986) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL] and "City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles," by Mike Davis (1990) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL].

July: "Heteropolis: Los Angeles, the Riots and the Strange Beauty of Hetero-Architecture," by Charles Jencks (1993) [LAPL, PPL, BHPL]; "Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir," by D.J. Waldie (1996) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL]; and "The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory," by Norman M. Klein (1997) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL].

August: "Blueprints for Modern Living: History and Legacy of the Case Study Houses," edited by Elizabeth A.T. Smith (1999) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, BHPL] and "Magnetic Los Angeles: Planning the Twentieth-Century Metropolis," by Greg Hise (1999) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL].

September: "Eden by Design: The 1930 Olmsted-Bartholomew Plan for the Los Angeles Region," edited by Hise and William Deverell (2000) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL] and "The Drive-In, the Supermarket, and the Transformation of Commercial Space in Los Angeles, 1914-41," by Richard Longstreth (2000). [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL]

October: "Glitter Stucco and Dumpster Diving: Reflections on Building Production in the Vernacular City," by John Chase (2000) [LAPL, SMPL] and "Landscapes of Desire: Anglo Mythologies of Los Angeles," by William Alexander McClung (2000)LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL].

November: "Reluctant Metropolis: The Politics of Urban Growth in Los Angeles," by William Fulton (2001) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL] and "Form Follows Libido: Architecture and Richard Neutra in a Psychoanalytic Culture," by Sylvia Lavin (2005) [LAPL, PPL].

December: "Making Time: Essays on the Nature of Los Angeles," by William Fox (2006) [LAPL, COLA] and "Reinventing Los Angeles: Nature and Community in the Global City," by Robert Gottlieb (2007) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL].

I'll be reading along - revisiting some old favorites and (hopefully) finding some new ones!

UPDATE- Two additional books have been added to Hawthorne's project- The Provisional City: Los Angeles Stories of Architecture and Urbanism by Dana Cuff (2000) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL] and The Los Angeles Plaza: Sacred and Contested Space by William David Estrada (2008) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL]


  1. This is a great list! If you have the time and would like to add one more I suggest My Blue Heaven by Becky Nicolaides. It is a micro-history of the city of South Gate. Excellent book. Very informative and a fun read.

  2. Some of these books are also at Inglewood Public Library...look them up at: