Which novels nicely complement a warm summer day in L.A.? As part of our Summer in L.A. content, we went to Skylight Books for the answer. Here's the indie book store's choice picks:
"Los Angeles, give me some of you! Los Angeles come to me the way I came to you, my feet over your streets, you pretty town I loved you so much, you sad flower in the sand, you pretty town!"
-- John Fante, Ask the Dust
Comfortably nestled in Los Feliz on Vermont Ave., Skylight Books has a strong and unique connection to books about our fair city of Los Angeles. We would be remiss if we didn't mention the novels and poetry of Charles Bukowski, or the fiction of John Fante--in particular, Ask the Dust and Dreams of Bunker Hill--as staples of our bookstore diet. But our staff also has some favorites that they will more than likely put firmly in your hand if you utter the question, "What are your favorite novels about Los Angeles?"
Many novels old and new have turned to our mercurial city for inspiration and setting, but we have a few favorites. An author that comes up often is Nina Revoyr. Dan and Emily are big fans and recommend Southland and The Age of Dreaming , respectively. Southland delivers a compelling read about the racial and ethnic stories that are part of this city's ever-changing history. Revoyr addresses racial tensions again in her third novel, The Age of Dreaming, which centers on an aging silent movie star and is described as "part historical novel, part mystery, and part unrequited love story."
And speaking of novels about movies that feature a "cineautistic" film editor, Steve Erickson's Zeroville scored high with quite a few of our booksellers. Emily thinks that Tortilla Curtain, T.C. Boyle's lean social epic about finding the American dream, is a classic L.A. read. Our basketball star, Liz, wouldn't have you leave the store without a copy of Nathaniel West's Day of the Locust, about a group of disillusioned movie industry outsiders during the Great Depression.
If you're looking for a bit of alternative lifestyle fodder, a store favorite is John Rechy. His classic City of Night and its follow-up, The Coming of Night, are an homage to gay Los Angeles from the sixties to the eighties. And if you're looking for the perfect read that address the fallowness of celebrity L.A., Joan Didion's Play It as It Lays for cutting commentary on Hollywood in the sixties.
Arlo and Monica think Janet Fitch's Paint It Black perfectly captures the eighties punk scene in Los Angeles. Several of our past and present staff members couldn't wait for us to mention Salvador Plascencia's People of Paper about a group of people who move from Mexico to Los Angeles. Our illustrious manager, Steve, raves about the new Scott Bradfield novel, The People Who Watched Her Pass By, which chronicles a three-year-old's quest for self-discovery through L.A. and points beyond.
Monica thinks that whenever you're down and out in L.A. you should grab a copy of Joseph Mattson's little book of short stories, Eat Hell, shove it in your ripped jeans and head to the Sunset Strip. If you want a literary page turner that hearts Silver Lake, try Silver Lake, by Peter Gadol.
And our general manager and co-owner Kerry Slattery recently blurbed the new Brando Skyhorse novel, The Madonnas of Echo Park, which she describes as a "powerful, touching, and revelatory novel, reminiscent of The Bridge of San Luis Rey in its fatefully interrelated secret stories. These long-time Mexican-American residents of a changing L.A. neighborhood struggle for identity and are often almost invisible to the worlds they work in, but their compelling and sometimes shocking stories leave an indelible stamp on an increasingly gentrified neighborhood. Skyhorse is an important chronicler of a community that needs to be heard from."
And this is just a selection of what Skylight Books staffers think you should read if you're looking for some great, interesting novels about Los Angeles and all the stories our city holds within its streets.
KCET thanks Skyights Books for contributing to Summer in L.A.: Top SoCal Books. Don't forget to check out the Skylight Books blog this summer for other great picks.
Make sure to check out more of our Summer in L.A.. lists and events.