Reading L.A.: An update and a leap from 25 to 27


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Before we get to the first two books on the “Reading L.A.” list -- that will come a bit later today -- here’s a quick update on the project. I’ve been hugely and happily surprised at how much feedback the idea has generated so far. Publications and blogs including L.A. Observed, Curbed L.A., Archinect, Unbeige and Architect magazine, among many others, have posted notices.

The writer D.J. Waldie, whose memoir “Holy Land” we’ll be considering over the summer, weighed in with some detailed thoughts on my list, as did John Crosse.


Readers also began helpfully compiling information about where to find the various books.

As I expected, I also got plenty of e-mails, phone calls and notes on Twitter suggesting books that I ought to have included. As a result of that advice I’ve decided to add two books to our list of 25, allowing it to swell to the unwieldy total of 27.

The additions -– each suggested by several readers –- are Dana Cuff’s 2000 book “The Provisional City: Los Angeles Stories of Architecture and Urbanism” and “The Los Angeles Plaza: Sacred and Contested Space,” by William David Estrada (2008). I admire Cuff’s work and came very close to including her “Provisional City” on the original list. Estrada’s book, on the other hand, is new to me, and I look forward to diving into it.

We’ll squeeze “Provisional City” into the reading for November, and Estrada’s, as the most recently published of the bunch, will now close out the project in December. An updated reading schedule follows at the end of this post. One day soon I’ll post a separate item detailing the full, long list of books I was disappointed to have to leave out.

One final bit of housekeeping: Later today I’ll post a double entry on Louis Adamic and Morrow Mayo. Next month I’ll move into a more regular schedule, writing about Carey McWilliams’ ‘Southern California: As Island on the Land’ two weeks from now and weighing in near the end of February on Esther McCoy’s ‘Five California Architects.’

The updated reading list:

January: ‘The Truth About Los Angeles,’ by Louis Adamic (1927) and ‘Los Angeles,’ by Morrow Mayo (1933).

February: ‘Southern California: An Island on the Land,’ by Carey McWilliams (1946) and ‘Five California Architects,’ by Esther McCoy (1960).

March: ‘Eden in Jeopardy: Man’s Prodigal Meddling With the Environment,’ by Richard Lillard (1966) and ‘The Fragmented Metropolis: Los Angeles 1850-1930,’ by Robert M. Fogelson (1967).

April: ‘Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies,’ by Reyner Banham (1971) and ‘Guide to the Ugliest Buildings of Los Angeles,’ by Richard Meltzer (1980).

May: ‘L.A Freeway: An Appreciative Essay,’ by David Brodsly (1981) and ‘Richard Neutra and the Search for Modern Architecture,’ by Thomas Hines (1982).

June: ‘Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water,’ by Marc Reisner (1986) and ‘City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles,’ by Mike Davis (1990).

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

August: ‘Blueprints for Modern Living: History and Legacy of the Case Study Houses,’ edited by Elizabeth A.T. Smith (1999) and ‘Magnetic Los Angeles: Planning the Twentieth-Century Metropolis,’ by Greg Hise (1999).

September: ‘Eden by Design: The 1930 Olmsted-Bartholomew Plan for the Los Angeles Region,’ edited by Hise and William Deverell (2000) and ‘The Drive-In, the Supermarket, and the Transformation of Commercial Space in Los Angeles, 1914-41,’ by Richard Longstreth (2000).

October: ‘Glitter Stucco and Dumpster Diving: Reflections on Building Production in the Vernacular City,’ by John Chase (2000) and ‘Landscapes of Desire: Anglo Mythologies of Los Angeles,’ by William Alexander McClung (2000).

November: “The Provisional City: Los Angeles Stories of Architecture and Urbanism,” by Dana Cuff (2000); ‘Reluctant Metropolis: The Politics of Urban Growth in Los Angeles,’ by William Fulton (2001); and ‘Form Follows Libido: Architecture and Richard Neutra in a Psychoanalytic Culture,’ by Sylvia Lavin (2005).

December: ‘Making Time: Essays on the Nature of Los Angeles,’ by William Fox (2006); ‘Reinventing Los Angeles: Nature and Community in the Global City,’ by Robert Gottlieb (2007); and “The Los Angeles Plaza: Sacred and Contested Space,” by William David Estrada (2008).

-- Christopher Hawthorne


Reading L.A: Introducing a year-long project