A magazine article I recently read contained a US map that named the titles of the books that best represented each state. For California, the book was Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion. This stirred my curiosity, so I read the book. I found I didn’t agree with the article’s choice. In my opinion, Play It As It Lays is not the quintessential California book. If one is going to focus strictly on Hollywood and its culture, then it is perhaps the book that best describes that world. But there is more to California than Hollywood movies stars and wannabes
My personal list of quintessential California books includes John Steinbeck’s East of Eden and The Grapes of Wrath. And, how about Ramona? These books offer a historical view of California and the everyday people who made the state what it is today.
I enjoy novels set in California and, especially, in Los Angeles. That’s why I’m such a fan of Michael Connelly’s mysteries. A precursor of Connelly was Raymond Chandler. I believe it was in The Big Sleep where the small street I lived on while attending college was mentioned as the protagonist drove around LA. I always feel a little thrill when I recognize a street or location in a novel that I am reading. It makes the story seem more real.