Book Club newsletter: Ron and Clint Howard on growing up on television

A triptych of Ron Howard, the book cover for "The Boys" and Clint Howard
(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times; ‎ William Morrow; JeanPaul San Pedro)

Good morning, and welcome to the L.A. Times Book Club newsletter.

While other families moved to neighborhoods to be near good schools, Ron Howard’s parents chose their new home because it was close to Desilu Studios, where their 6-year-old son walked a half-block to work each day in the fictional town of Mayberry.

Howard and his kid brother, Clint, rose to fame on popular shows of the 1960s and ‘70s. Their new memoir brings readers inside a childhood spent on TV, growing up amid sweaty soundstages, Hollywood legends, on-set tutors and trained bears while their real parents struggled to keep their family grounded.


From first grade through eighth grade, Ron Howard famously played Opie on “The Andy Griffith Show” and later moved on to a successful run on “Happy Days.” Clint Howard got his break as the star of child-bear buddy show “Gentle Ben,” on CBS every Sunday night, and also appeared on TV shows ranging from “The Mod Squad” to “Star Trek.”

“To us, our childhoods seemed normal, but they were really anything but,” writes Ron Howard, who grew up to become an Academy Award-winning director of more than two dozen films.

“In our off-hours we did fun, normal-family stuff: Little League, rassling on the living room floor, dinners out at the Sizzler,” writes Clint Howard. “My mother coined a term for herself and Dad: ‘sophisticated hicks.’ Worldly enough to broaden their horizons through travel and the performing arts, yet homespun enough to live simply and humbly — as if the next town over weren’t Hollywood but Duncan, Oklahoma.”

Ron and Clint Howard will join book club readers Oct. 15 to share the stories behind “The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family” with Times columnist Mary McNamara. The 7 p.m. Pacific book talk will be live at L.A. Live’s Rooftop Terrace, a new outdoor venue atop the Grammy Museum.

This is our first in-person L.A. Times Book Club book night since February 2020 and you can choose how to be part of it. Join the discussion in downtown L.A. — or connect virtually to watch from home. Get tickets.

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September events

On Sept. 28, journalist Jaime Lowe takes us to the front lines of California’s wildfires, which have burned more than 2 million acres so far this year.

Lowe is the author of “Breathing Fire,” a new book about the women inmates who live and sometimes die battling the state’s runaway fires. This sweeping story tackles climate change and mass incarceration through the personal stories of prisoners assigned to fire camps in Malibu and around the state.

Lowe will discuss “Breathing Fire” with Times columnist Erika D. Smith at a virtual book club event live streaming on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter starting at 6 p.m. on Sept. 28. Sign up on Eventbrite. What questions do you have about the book? Share your comments in an email to

Book cover for "Breathing Fire: Female Inmate Firefighters on the Front Lines of California's Wildfires" by Jaime Lowe.
(MCD/Farrar, Strauss and Giroux/ Jeff Montgomery)

On Sept. 30, science writer and bestselling author Mary Roach will be in conversation with Times columnist Patt Morrison about “Fuzz,” a new book that investigates the unpredictable world where wildlife and humans meet. The Ideas Exchange event starts at 5:30 p.m. Pacific.

Roach lives in Oakland and has written five previous nonfiction books: “Grunt,” “Stiff,” “Spook,” Gulp” and “Packing for Mars.” Get tickets on Eventbrite.


Keep reading

Paradise revisited. Here’s another addition to your California fire reading list: Sports columnist Bill Plaschke has written “Paradise Found,” a November release that follows the Paradise High School football team through its first season after the 2018 Camp fire leveled the Northern California town. “Inevitably, this book will be compared to Buzz Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights, but its story has more inherent drama,” says Kirkus Reviews. “While the Camp Fire disaster has been skillfully reconstructed by others — including Lizzie Johnson in her recent Paradise — Plaschke focuses on the football team and athletic staff, especially the 60-year-old head coach, Rick Prinz.”

Boiling point. As John Steinbeck noted, Californians have a short memory of past disasters and a history of building up myths. That’s especially true when it comes to water, says Mark Arax, author of “The Dreamt Land.” “In the driest decade of California’s recorded history, we planted hundreds of thousands more acres of almonds and pistachios…The lesson of drought should be to get smaller, and smarter. But these guys have gotten bigger.” Read more of Stuart Leavenworth’s Q&A with Arax.

Inspired in the OC. Natalie Graham, chair of the African American Studies department at Cal State Fullerton, has been selected as Orange County’s first poet laureate. Book club readers will remember Graham from last September’s book club poetry night when she read her poem “Touching the Bird.” Along with Graham’s appointment, Tina Mai, a 16-year-old writer from Newport Beach, was named youth poet laureate.

Masked audiences return. L.A.’s vibrant poetry scene is making a tentative comeback, with new sites established and old spaces reborn.

Historic revival. The landmark building that publishing titan William Randolph Hearst collaborated with architect Julia Morgan to build for his Los Angeles newspaper has reopened downtown. Arizona State University moved in last month. Roger Vincent explores the history and what’s ahead for the Herald Examiner Building, which closed in 1989 and has remained vacant except for use as one of L.A.’s most popular filming locations.

Memoirist’s manifesto: Don’t miss columnist Jean Guerrero’s interview with Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodríguez about “For Brown Girls With Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts.” “I hope it provides almost like a map as to what to anticipate and how to maneuver those spaces,” Mojica Rodríguez says. “A playbook for how to survive.”

Her deal. The offers rained down on Amanda Gorman after she stood on the steps of the Capitol, reading “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration. This month the 23-year-old Los Angeles poet became the face of Estée Lauder, via the NYT.

Books that never let go. On the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, Chris Vognar looks at the most enduring novels on the war on terror.