California History Reading List


Thank you for your interest. Please click here to suggest a book for our reading list. Our list is focused mainly on California in the statehood period, but we welcome all suggestions. 


California Study Group Reading List

Other California History Reading (post Columbian)

  • California: A History by Kevin Starr
  • Americans and the California Dream, 1850-1915 by Kevin Starr
  • Inventing the Dream: California through the Progressive Era by Kevin Starr
  • Material Dreams: Southern California through the 1920s by Kevin Starr
  • Endangered Dreams: The Great Depression in California by Kevin Starr
  • The Dream Endures: California Enters the 1940s by Kevin Starr
  • Embattled Dreams: California in War and Peace, 1940-1950 by Kevin Starr
  • Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963 by Kevin Starr
  • Coast of Dreams: California on the Edge, 1990-2003 by Kevin Starr
  • Murder State: California’s Native American Genocide, 1846-1873 by Brendan C. Lindsay
  • Right Out of California: The 1930s and the Big Business Roots of Modern Conservatism by Kathryn S. Olmsted
  • The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream by H.W. Brands
  • Growing Up Nisei: Race, Generation, and Culture among Japanese Americans of California, 1924-49 by David K. Yoo
  • Historical Atlas of California: With Original Maps by Derek Hayes and Chris Labonté
  • California: A History by Andrew Rolle and Arthur C. Verge
  • The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream by H.W. Brands
  • Exterminate Them: Written Accounts of the Murder, Rape, and Enslavement of Native Americans during the California Gold Rush by Clifford E. Trafzer (Editor), Joel R. Hyer (Editor)
  • History of Alta California: A Memoir of Mexican California by Antonio Maria Osio (Author), Robert M. Senkewicz (Contributor), Rose Marie Beebe (Contributor)
  • Decline of the Californios: A Social History of the Spanish-Speaking Californias, 1846-1890 by Leonard Pitt and Ramon A. Gutierrez
  • Negotiating Conquest: Gender and Power in California, 1770s to 1880s by Miroslava Chávez-García
  • California Conquered: The Annexation of a Mexican Province, 1846-1850 by Neal Harlow
  • Murder State: California’s Native American Genocide, 1846-1873 by Brendan C. Lindsay
  • Land in California: The Story of Mission Lands, Ranchos, Squatters, Mining Claims, Railroad Grants, Land Scrip, Homesteads by W. W. Robinson
  • Lands of Promise and Despair: Chronicles of Early California, 1535-1846 by Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz
  • Testimonios: Early California through the Eyes of Women, 1815-1848 by Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz
  • The Cattle on a Thousand Hills: Southern California, 1850-1880 by Robert Glass Cleland
  • The Associates: Four Capitalists Who Created California by Richard Rayner
  • Taking Risks: A Jewish Youth in the Soviet Partisans and His Unlikely Life in California by Joseph Pell and Fred Rosenbaum
  • The Lucky Ones: One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America by Mae Ngai
  • California’s Prodigal Sons: Hiram Johnson and the Progressives 1911-1917 by Spencer C. Olin
  • A Bloc of One: The Political Career of Hiram W. Johnson by Richard Lower
  • City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles by Mike Davis (Author), Robert Morrow (Photographer)
  • Southern California: An Island on the Land by Carey McWilliams
  • Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight: Fear and Fantasy in Suburban Los Angeles by Eric Avila
  • The Fragmented Metropolis: Los Angeles, 1850-1930 by Robert M. Fogelson
  • The Reluctant Metropolis: The Politics of Urban Growth in Los Angeles by William Fulton
  • Right Out of California: The 1930s and the Big Business Roots of Modern Conservatism by Kathryn S. Olmsted
  • Barons of Labor: The San Francisco Building Trades and Union Power in the Progressive Era by Michael Kazin
  • The World Rushed In: The California Gold Rush Experience by J. S. Holliday
  • The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War by Leonard L. Richards
  • California Rising: The Life and Times of Pat Brown by Ethan Rarick
  • Big Daddy: Jesse Unruh and the Art of Power Politics by Bill Boyarsky
  • Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945 by George J. Sanchez
  • Trailblazer: A Biography of Jerry Brown by Chuck McFadden
  • Making Ethnic Choices: California’s Punjabi Mexican Americans by Karen Leonard
  • Rush to Gold by Malcolm J. Rohrbough
  • The Great Ocean: Pacific Worlds from Captain Cook to the Gold Rush by David Igler
  • My Blue Heaven: Life and Politics in the Working-Class Suburbs of Los Angeles, 1920-1965 by Becky M. Nicolaides
  • They Saw the Elephant: Women in the California Gold Rush by JoAnn Levy
  • Rebirth: Mexican Los Angeles from the Great Migration to the Great Depression by Douglas Monroy
  • Growing Up Nisei: Race, Generation, and Culture among Japanese Americans of California, 1924-49 by David K. Yoo
  • American Exodus: The Dust Bowl Migration and Okie Culture in California by James N. Gregory
  • Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s by Donald Worster
  • The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan
  • Making Lemonade out of Lemons: Mexican American Labor and Leisure in a California Town 1880-1960 by Jose M. Alamillo
  • The Color of America Has Changed: How Racial Diversity Shaped Civil Rights Reform in California, 1941-1978 by Mark Brilliant
  • The Devil in Silicon Valley: Northern California, Race, and Mexican Americans by Stephen J. Pitti
  • The Los Angeles Plaza: Sacred and Contested Space by William David Estrada
  • Intimate Frontiers: Sex, Gender, and Culture in Old California by Albert L. Hurtado
  • Desert Exile: The Uprooting of a Japanese American Family by Yoshiko Uchida
  • The Bad City in the Good War: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Diego by Roger W. Lotchin
  • Conquests and Historical Identities in California, 1769-1936 by Lisbeth Haas
  • The Four Immigrants Manga : A Japanese Experience in San Francisco, 1904-1924 by Henry Kiyama and Frederik L. Schodt
  • Land of Sunshine: An Environmental History of Metropolitan Los Angeles by William Deverell
  • The Anza Trail and the Settling of California by Vladimir Guerrero
  • Farming the Home Place: A Japanese Community in California, 1919-1982 by Valerie J. Matsumoto
  • Only What We Could Carry: The Japanese American Internment Experience by Lawson Fusao Inada
  • The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler by Ben Urwand
  • An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood by Neal Gabler
  • The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney’s Dream by Sam Gennawey
  • Walt Disney by Neal Gabler
  • Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers by Frank Bardacke
  • Cesar Chavez: A Biography by Roger Bruns
  • Cesar Chavez and the Common Sense of Nonviolence by José-Antonio Orosco
  • Young Nixon and His Rivals: Four California Republicans Eye the White House, 1946-1958 by James Worthen
  • John Steinbeck, Writer: A Biography by Jackson J. Benson
  • The First to Cry Down Injustice?: Western Jews and Japanese Removal During WWII by Ellen M. Eisenberg
  • Jack London: An American Life by Earle Labor
  • Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full by Conrad Black
  • Reagan: The Life by H.W. Brands
  • Upton Sinclair: California Socialist, Celebrity Intellectual by Lauren Coodley
  • Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan by Edmund Morris
  • The Politics of Prejudice: The Anti-Japanese Movement in California and the Struggle for Japanese Exclusion by Roger Daniels
  • The Anti-Chinese Movement in California by Elmer Sandmeyer
  • The Indispensable Enemy: Labor and the Anti-Chinese Movement in California by Alexander Saxton
  • L.A. City Limits: African American Los Angeles from the Great Depression to the Present by Josh Sides
  • Whitewashed Adobe: The Rise of Los Angeles and the Remaking of Its Mexican Past by William Deverell
  • California History: A Topical Approach by Gordon Morris Bakken
  • Mining California: An Ecological History by Andrew C. Isenberg
  • Thrown Among Strangers: The Making of Mexican Culture in Frontier California by Douglas Monroy
  • Industrial Cowboys: Miller & Lux and the Transformation of the Far West, 1850-1920 by David Igler
  • The King Of California: J.G. Boswell and the Making of A Secret American Empire by Mark Arax and Rick Wartzman
  • Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta: Celebrated California Bandit by John Rollin Ridge and Yellow Bird
  • The Joaquín Band: The History behind the Legend by Lori Lee Wilson
  • Searching for Joaquin: Myth, Murieta and History in California by Bruce Thorton
  • Gold Dust and Gunsmoke: Tales of Gold Rush Outlaws, Gunfighters, Lawmen, and Vigilantes by John Boessenecker
  • A Frontier Lady: Recollections of the Gold Rush and Early California by Sarah Royce
  • The Literature of California, Volume 1: Native American Beginnings to 1945 by Al Young
  • Many Californias: Literature from the Golden State by Gerald W. Haslam (Editor)
  • That Constant Coyote: California Stories by Gerald W. Haslam
  • The Great Central Valley: California’s Heartland by Stephen Johnson, Gerald Haslam and Robert Dawson
  • The Other California: The Great Central Valley In Life And Letters by Gerald W. Haslam
  • Highway 99: A Literary Journey Through California’s Great Central Valley by Stan Yogi (Editor)
  • California: An Interpretive History by James Rawls and Walton Bean
  • Major Problems in California History by Sucheng Chan and Spencer Olin
  • The Elusive Eden: A New History of California by Richard Rice, William Bullough, Richard Orsi and Mary Ann Irwin
  • Garden of the Sun: A History of the San Joaquin Valley, 1772-1939 by Wallace Smith (Author), William B Secrest (Editor)
  • Roaring Camp: The Social World of the California Gold Rush by Susan Lee Johnson
  • So Far from Home: Russians in Early California by Glenn J. Farris
  • California Through Russian Eyes, 1806–1848 by James R. Gibson (Editor)
  • Radical L.A.: From Coxey’s Army to the Watts Riots, 1894-1965 by Errol Wayne Stevens
  • Fire This Time: The Watts Uprising And The 1960s by Gerald Horne
  • Catching Hell In The City Of Angels: Life And Meanings Of Blackness In South Central Los Angeles by Joao H. Costa Vargas
  • Seeking El Dorado: African Americans in California by Lawrence B. de Graaf, Kevin Mulroy, Quintard Taylor (Editors)
  • The Golden State in the Civil War: Thomas Starr King, the Republican Party, and the Birth of Modern California by Glenna Matthews
  • American Heathens: Religion, Race, and Reconstruction in California by Joshua Paddison
  • L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City by John Buntin
  • Los Angeles: Portrait of a City by David L Ulin and Kevin Starr
  • Water to the Angels: William Mulholland, His Monumental Aqueduct, and the Rise of Los Angeles by Les Standiford
  • Golden Gate: The Life and Times of America’s Greatest Bridge? by Kevin Starr
  • Bear Flag Rising: The Conquest of California, 1846 Dale L. Walker
  • Bear Flag and Bay State in the Civil War: The Californians of the Second Massachusetts Cavalry by Thomas E. Parson
  • Their Horses Climbed Trees: A Chronicle of the California 100 and Battalion in the Civil War, from San Francisco to Appomattox by Larry Rogers and Keith Rogers
  • California Sabers: The 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry in the Civil War by R. James McLean
  • This Land Was Mexican Once: Histories of Resistance from Northern California by Linda Heidenreich
  • Orange Empire: California and the Fruits of Eden by Douglas Cazaux Sackman
  • Freedom’s Frontier: California and the Struggle over Unfree Labor, Emancipation, and Reconstruction by Stacey L. Smith
  • Contested Eden: California Before the Gold Rush by Ramón A. Gutiérrez (Editor), Richard J. Orsi (Editor)
  • Juana Briones of Nineteenth-Century California by Jeanne Farr McDonnell
  • What’s Going On?: California and the Vietnam Era by Marcia A. Eymann (Editor), Charles Wollenberg (Editor)
  • Berkeley at War: The 1960s by W.J. Rorabaugh
  • At Berkeley in the Sixties: The Making of an Activist by Jo Freeman
  • Doing Time in the Depression: Everyday Life in Texas and California Prisons by Ethan Blue
  • Journey to the Sun: Junipero Serra’s Dream and the Founding of California by Gregory Orfalea
  • Junipero Serra: California’s Founding Father by Steven W. Hackel
  • Junípero Serra: California, Indians, and the Transformation of a Missionary by Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz
  • The Other Californians: Prejudice and Discrimination Under Spain, Mexico and the U.S.to 1920 by Robert F. Heizer (Editor), M.A. Whipple (Editor)
  • Spain in the Southwest: A Narrative History of Colonial New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and California by John L. Kessell
  • California Native American History Suggested Reading
  • Handbook of the Indians of California, with 419 Illustrations and 40 Maps by A. L. Kroeber
  • The California Indians: A Source Book by Robert F. Heizer (Editor), M. A. Whipple (Editor)
  • Way We Lived, The: California Indian Stories, Songs & Reminiscences by Malcolm Margolin (Editor)
  • California Indians and Their Environment: An Introduction by Kent G. Lightfoot and Otis Parrish
  • The Natural World of the California Indians by Robert Fleming Heizer and Albert B. Elasser
  • Indians, Missionaries, and Merchants: The Legacy of Colonial Encounters on the California Frontiers by Kent G. Lightfoot
  • Chief Marin: Leader, Rebel, and Legend by Betty Goerke
  • Lands of Promise and Despair: Chronicles of Early California, 1535-1846 by Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz
  • December’s Child: A Book of Chumash Oral Narratives by Thomas C. Blackburn
  • Surviving Through the Days: Translations of Native California Stories and Songs by Herbert W. Luthin (Editor)
  • The Dawn of the World: Myths and Tales of the Miwok Indians of California by C. Hart Merriam
  • The Early Ethnography of the Kumeyaay by M. Steven Shackley
  • Chiefs and Challengers: Indian Resistance and Cooperation in Southern California, 1769–1906 by George Harwood Phillips
  • Converting California: Indians and Franciscans in the Missions by James A. Sandos
  • The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco-Monterey Bay Area by Malcolm Margolin
  • Converting California: Indians and Franciscans in the Missions by James A. Sandos
  • Indians, Franciscans, and Spanish Colonization: The Impact of the Mission System on California Indians by Robert H. Jackson and Edward Castillo
  • The Destruction of California Indians by Robert F. Heizer
  • The Ethnohistory of the Chowchilla Yokuts by Robert Fletcher Manlove
  • Indian Summer: Traditional Life Among the Choinumne Indians of Califronia’s Central Valley by Thomas J. Mayfield
  • The Destruction of California Indians by Robert F. Heizer (Editor)
  • Indian Survival on the California Frontier by Albert L. Hurtado
  • Indians of California: The Changing Image by James J. Rawls
  • Exterminate Them: Written Accounts of the Murder, Rape, and Enslavement of Native Americans during the California Gold Rush by Clifford E. Trafzer (Editor), Joel R. Hyer (Editor)