A few years back I began a new tradition: When traveling to a US city or foreign country I haven’t been to, I take along a book set in that place. I’ll start the book before I leave home, read a ton on the plane, then wrap the book up while on trains or buses throughout the vacation. The English major in me loves to make literary connections — for example, reading Murakami’s After Dark while in Tokyo gave me an interesting mental narration as I walked past izakaya’s bursting with diners in the wee hours of the night. Other books I’ve read abroad:
Sightseeing while in Thailand.
Let the Great World Spin while in New York.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running and After Dark while in Japan.
And so on.
So why not read a good book about home every so often? I started doing this as well, and I get the same sense of satisfaction — without the $$$ for a plane ticket, though.
There’s a ton of good literature set in and around Los Angeles: Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Brando Skyhorse’s The Madonnas of Echo Park, Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays, unforgettable sections of Kerouac’s On the Road. I mean, who can read this On the Road quote just once?
I could hear everything, together with the hum of my hotel neon. I never felt sadder in my life. LA is the loneliest and most brutal of American cities; New York gets godawful cold in the winter but there’s a feeling of wacky comradeship somewhere in some streets. LA is a jungle.
Goodreads has a pretty comprehensive list of L.A. books to take a look at as well, and here are three more to consider — all non-fiction so we can get our learn on — recommended by By The List.
What better way to explore the city than by tramping up 90-year-old steps in picturesque neighborhoods?
I think the photos are what I like the most about this book: actual locals showing off there duds and describing their styles. I need this so that I can better understand what the heck people around town are wearing.
The quintessential L.A. food book. Prepare to feel hungry for as long as it takes you to finish the text.
Any other gems you love? Leave the title(s) in the comment section!