L.A. Stories: Non-Fiction

Updated: March 31, 2022

L.A. is a huge city that has grown quickly, and represents a cross-section of the world in its history, people and places.

The Autograph Book of L.A.: Improvements on the Page of the City
Kun, Josh, compiler
Call Number: 027.47949 L881Ku folio

Inspired by the Los Angeles Public Library's autograph collection, this lavishly illustrated book, with an abundance of full-page photographs, documents the signatures of the famous and not so famous.The text by Josh Kun notes the significance of leaving your mark on the City of Los Angeles.

The Best Team Money Can Buy: The Los Angeles Dodgers' Wild Struggle to Build a Baseball Powerhouse
Knight, Molly,
Call Number: 796.231 L8788Kn

Knight digs deep into the turbulent 2013-14 seasons of the Los Angeles Dodgers as they emerged from the bankruptcy of the McCourt ownership to the untold wealth of the Mark Walter and company ownership. A fascinating behind the scenes look at a team that was both succeeding on the field and sometimes coming apart internally. 

Blue Sky Metropolis: The Aerospace Century in Southern California
Call Number: 338.4A17 B6585

The aerospace industry, more than the entertainment industry, created a monumental population growth within a short period of time and changed the Southern California region in unimagined and unthought of ways which still have repercussions today. This unique collection of essays examines various aspects of the growth of that industry and brings attention to another major aspect of the history of Los Angeles.

Bound for Freedom: Black Los Angeles in Jim Crow America
Flamming, Douglas
Call Number: 979.41 L881Fl

Many African Americans migrated to Los Angeles during the first half of the 20th century in search of a better life, but frequently encountered segregated schools, racially restrictive housing covenants, and institutionalized racism. Flamming chronicles Los Angeles's black community and the fight for civil rights in Los Angeles through the Jazz Age, the Great Depression, and World War II.

Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition
Weisman, Jon, 1967-
Call Number: 796.231 L8788We

Jon Weiseman, writer and Dodger maven, writes about a golden period of baseball pitching, and why we love those Boys in Blue, even though sometimes they drive us crazy.

City at the edge of forever : Los Angeles reimagined
Lunenfeld, Peter
Call Number: 979.41 L881Lun

A playful history of what makes Los Angeles unique. This looks at the cultural, economic, technological, social anomalies and literature of the City of Angels. From surf-girls to the Manson murders to JPL.


City of nets : a portrait of Hollywood in the 1940's
Friedrich, Otto, 1929-
Call Number: 979.41 L881Fri 1997
Otto Friedrich's City of Nets tells the story of the Hollywood stars, composers, academics, artists, labor organizers, and film industry folk who made the scene in the 1940s. Surly, engrossing, and loaded with good gossip.

City of quartz : excavating the future in Los Angeles
Davis, Mike, 1946-
Call Number: 309.7949 D263 2006
One of the most notorious and scathing social histories of Los Angeles ever written, Davis examines how class, race, development, crime, and other forces have shaped the city.

The dream colony : a life in art
Hopps, Walter, author, interviewee.
Call Number: 709.2 H798

There was a time when art was happening elsewhere in the United States--not in Los Angeles. There was someone who had a different insight about this situation. Walter Hopps played a major role in promoting West Coast artists in the 1950s. This is a posthumous memoir, documenting a man who was often erratic in his work habits, but always passionate about all types of art and artists.  This autobiography fills in major gaps in modern art history and the history of modern art in Los Angeles.

Dreamers and schemers : how an improbable bid for the 1932 Olympics transformed Los Angeles from dusty outpost to global metropolis
Siegel, Barry, 1949-
Call Number: 796.321 O53 1932 Si

A vivid account of what it took to bring the 1932 Olympic Games to Los Angeles, focusing largely on the booster activities of real estate mogul, William May Garland. Siegel weaves a strong, fascinating story that illustrates how the games propelled the city into the role of a power player on the world stage.

Eternity Street: Violence and Justice in Frontier Los Angeles
Faragher, John Mack
Call Number: 979.41 L881Far

There is nothing sweet, quaint, or gentle about the history of Los Angeles, especially during the last half of the 19th century.  It was a city of mob rule, violence and murder. Historian John Mack Faragher's extensive research presents a portrait of a city that is a match for any modern horror film.

Feels Like Home: Reflections on Central Library
Call Number: 027.47949 L881Fe

Painful memories of the devastating 1986 fire, which destroyed one-fifth of Central Library’s holdings, are starkly juxtaposed with euphoric feelings about the library's reopening in 1993. Moving photographs reflect how the institution came back—with sizable public support—to a bigger and better facility after being closed seven years for renovation and expansion. An architectural landmark built in 1926 was greatly expanded and modernized. Bruckman Rare Books Friends Award for 2019

From cows to concrete : the rise and fall of farming in Los Angeles
Surls, Rachel,
Call Number: 630.9794 S961

Great photos and maps grace this interesting book about L.A.’s early days as an agricultural town, as well as the “Victory Garden” years of WWII. Population boom, urban spread post-WWII due to GI Bill housing loans and an end to wartime rationing of food squeezed out the farms, orchards and dairies, leaving behind the sprawling metropolis we have today.  

The Great Black Way : L.A. in the 1940s and the lost African-American Renaissance
Smith, R. J., 1959-
Call Number: 301.45096 S657
Smith shows how Los Angeles's Central Avenue was a hub for artistic, political, and civic life for African Americans in the 1940s.

L.A. noir : the struggle for the soul of America's most seductive city
Buntin, John.
Call Number: 979.41 L881Bunt
The 1950s in Los Angeles marked the rise of notorious gangster Mickey Cohen and controversial police chief William Parker. Buntin chronicles their struggles to control Los Angeles.

L.A. son : my life, my city, my food
Choi, Roy,
Call Number: 641.595 C545

Angeleno and rising star in the L.A. culinary landscape, Roy Choi chronicles--with charisma and sincerity--the story of his life and the Los Angeles food scene. From Korean taco inventor with his Kogi truck, to Chego to community-based inititiatives in the inner city, Choi is much more than a celebrity chef. Includes 85 recipes.

LACMA so far : portrait of a museum in the making
Muchnic, Suzanne,
Call Number: 708.1 L8817Mu

A meticulously researched book which covers the history of LACMA up to the date of the book's publication. It is very well-written, readable, and therefore will appeal to a wide variety of readers: the general public, scholars and others.  In its coverage of how the museum came into existence, Muchnic provides a good deal of Los Angeles history from that time period and the present. The book has a table of contents, index, and reference notes; there are color, black and white photographs throughout the book.

Bruckman Rare Book Friends Award, 2017.

Land of smoke and mirrors : a cultural history of Los Angeles
Brook, Vincent, 1946-
Call Number: 979.41 L881Bro
This book takes a look at local Los Angeles history through the lens of the movies. It provides a plethora of interesting details about LA in days gone by.

The Library Book
Orlean, Susan.
Call Number: 027.47949 L881Or

On the surface, The Library Book is about the history of the Los Angeles Public Library, particularly about the devastating fire in 1986 that destroyed 400,00 books and damaged hundreds of thousands more. This part of the book is a true crime story as she explores the possible origins of the fire, and the investigation at the time. It is also a book about the sometimes eccentric City Librarians of the past, and the role of the library in the rapidly growing City of Los Angeles.

More than that, the book is a love letter to libraries everywhere, highlighting the importance of libraries to the vitality of a city and the value they bring to individual lives. While it was a delight to read about colleagues, and the history of the institution all of us proudly serve, the book is a poignant reminder of the personal love of libraries and reading that was fostered by many of our parents, as well as the necessity and relevance of the profession we love.

Los Angeles : the architecture of four ecologies
Banham, Reyner.
Call Number: 720.910941 B2165 2009
Los Angeles is often considered to be a fragmented city, but architect Reyner Banham draws it all together by showing how Angelenos interact with the beach, the freeways, the flatlands, and the foothills of the city.

Los Angeles Central Library: A History of Its Art and Architecture
Gee, Stephen
Call Number: 027.47949 L881Ge

Writer Stephen Gee and photographer Arnold Schwartzman are perfect partners in creating this carefully researched and exquisitely photographed history of Los Angeles Public Library's Central Library. They cover the history of why it took more than 80 years, from conception to acutalization, for a building to finally appear. The result is a compelling and engaging history of the political and social leaders, artists and architects who created a building that is home to the largest public library collection west of the Mississippi.

The Los Angeles Central Library: Building an Architectural Icon, 1872-1933
Breisch, Kenneth A,
Call Number: 027.47949 L881Br

The history of Los Angeles Central Library from 1872 to 1933, and how it changed and grew from a private library to become one of the largest public libraries in the United States.

Los Angeles City Hall: An American Icon
Stephen Gee

When Los Angeles City Hall was completed in 1928 it was the tallest building in the Los Angeles basin. Stephen Gee presents a history of a building which some may take for granted, or not even consider as a significant work of architecture since it has been eclipsed by glitzier, larger and taller buildings in DTLA. There were various ideas about the proposed building, which provide insights into LA’s early history. In addition to the overall history of City Hall, Gee emphasizes the artistic features and functions of the building. Sandra Stojanovic’s contemporary photographs are sensational. The book also includes historical photographs in color, black and white, drawings and blueprints.

Los Angeles in Maps
Creason, Glen.
Call Number: 979.41 L881Crea

A lively cartographic history of Los Angeles featuring maps of everything from streetcars and sewers to stars' homes and Sleepy Lagoon.

Bruckman Rare Book Friends Award, 2015.

The mirage factory : illusion, imagination, and the invention of Los Angeles
Krist, Gary,
Call Number: 979.41 L881Kri

Krist contends that the narratives of William Mulholland, D.W. Griffith and Aimee Semple McPherson were emblematic of the social, technological, economic and spiritual mythology that shaped the development of modern Los Angeles. The book is brought to life by an engaging cast of historical figures, some exciting storytelling and a provocative thesis. A compelling and engaging book for anyone interested in Los Angeles history.  


Piecing Together Los Angeles: An Esther McCoy Reader
McCoy, Esther
Call Number: 720.910941 M131

Esther McCoy was one of modern architecture's most important critics and writers. She was the first architectural critic to take Los Angeles architecture seriously. This is a new anthology which includes a variety of her work.

Rebels in paradise : the Los Angeles art scene and the 1960s
Drohojowska-Philp, Hunter, 1952-
Call Number: 709.794 D784
During the 1960s Los Angeles was a place of great possibility and freedom for all kinds of artists. Today's well-known and respected artists were then rebels who stirred things up, created controversies and unintentionally challenged figures from the East Coast art establishment (who thought Los Angeles was a cultural wasteland). This is a joyous account of those glory days when the city provided the best blank canvas ever!

Stealing home : Los Angeles, the Dodgers, and the lives caught in between
Nusbaum, Eric
Call Number: 796.231 L8788Nu

An absorbing account chronicling the dismantling of the Mexican American community of Chavez Ravine that paved the way for Dodger Stadium. Nusbaum revives the shady dealings and power players that have become part of L.A. lore, but his decision to focus on a single Chavez Ravine family instills a sense of humanity in this vivid and engrossing narrative.

Terminal Island: Lost Communities of Los Angeles Harbor
Hirahara, Naomi
Call Number: 979.41 L881Hir

Numerous archival photographs enhance the little known story of the Japanese fishing community on Terminal Island. With the issuance of Executive Order 9066, the residents had 48 hours to evacuate. Their homes and the community were subsequently destroyed.

Bruckman Rare Book Friends Award, 2016.

Thirsty : William Mulholland, California water, and the real Chinatown
Weingarten, Marc,
Call Number: 979.41 L881Wein

Los Angeles is a city not rich in water resources. Marc Weingarten documents the politics and intricacies of getting water to a city that does not have the type of water supply needed to support a huge metropolis.

Turn up the radio! : rock, pop, and roll in Los Angeles 1956-1972
Kubernik, Harvey, 1951-
Call Number: 789.1 K95 folio

There was a time when radio ruled new rock and pop music, and Los Angeles had dueling DJs and stations. Filled with a who's who of the rock and pop scene, lots of photographs, Kubernik gives us nostalgia and history.

West of Eden : an American place
Stein, Jean,
Call Number: 979.41 L881Stei

Jean Stein masterfully uses oral history to convey five stories that have shaped the social history of Los Angeles. A strata of personalities ranging from average people to members of LA’s influential elite are interviewed in order to construct a book that is intimate, surprising and a welcome addition to LA’s cultural narrative.

Wild LA: Explore the Amazing Nature in and Around Los Angeles
Higgins, Lila M.
Call Number: 570.9794 H636

After a review in LAPL Reads, there was and continues to be a phenomenal interest in this book. Librarian Andrea Borchert, who wrote the review, says it best, "Sometimes L.A. seems like an endless stretch of strip malls and freeways. But L.A. is more than that! L.A. is part of the California Floristic Province, a biodiversity hotspot. In its wide range of habitats, from deserts to beaches, there are many wonderful, fascinating plants, animals, and fungi figuring out how to live side by side with us."