The Greatest "Los Angeles" Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 280 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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Los Angeles

The "Los Angeles" category of books refers to literature that is set in or explores the unique culture, history, and lifestyle of the city of Los Angeles. This category encompasses a wide range of genres, including fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, and poetry, and often delves into themes such as Hollywood, the entertainment industry, urban development, race relations, and the city's diverse communities. Books in this category offer readers a glimpse into the vibrant and complex world of Los Angeles, from its glitz and glamour to its grit and struggle.

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  1. 1. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

    This novel follows the story of a young man and his friend as they embark on a series of cross-country road trips across America during the late 1940s and early 1950s. The protagonist, driven by a desire for freedom and a quest for identity, encounters a series of eccentric characters and experiences the highs and lows of the Beat Generation. The narrative is a testament to the restlessness of youth and the allure of adventure, underscored by themes of jazz, poetry, and drug use.

  2. 2. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

    In this classic detective novel, a private investigator is hired by a wealthy family to resolve a blackmail issue involving the younger daughter. As he delves deeper into the case, he uncovers a web of deceit, murder, and organized crime. The detective's investigation is further complicated by his growing attraction to the older daughter, adding a layer of personal involvement to an already complex case. The novel is renowned for its gritty depiction of 1930s Los Angeles and its sharp, witty dialogue.

  3. 3. The Long Goodbye: A Novel by Raymond Chandler

    This novel follows the story of a hard-boiled detective in Los Angeles who becomes embroiled in a complex case when he befriends a drunk named Terry Lennox. After Lennox's wife is found dead, Lennox disappears to Mexico and the detective is left to unravel the mystery. The detective then takes on another case of a missing husband, which becomes intertwined with the Lennox case, leading to a web of deceit, corruption, and murder. The detective's pursuit of the truth leads him through a gritty and corrupt world, testing his resolve and morality.

  4. 4. The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West

    "The Day of the Locust" is a novel set in 1930s Hollywood, portraying the dark side of the American dream through the lives of its desperate characters. The protagonist, a young artist from the East Coast, finds himself disillusioned by the superficiality and decay of Hollywood society, which is filled with failed actors, charlatans, and lost souls. The narrative culminates in a violent riot, symbolizing the destructive power of frustrated dreams and the harsh reality of the American dream.

  5. 5. Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion

    The novel centers around a woman named Maria Wyeth, a former model and actress, who is drifting through life in the 1960s Hollywood scene. As she struggles with a failing marriage, a difficult relationship with her daughter, and a career that's spiraling downwards, she grapples with existential despair. Told in a series of fragmented narratives, the story reveals Maria's mental breakdown, her self-destructive behavior, and her desperate attempts to find meaning in a seemingly meaningless world.

  6. 6. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

    The novel is a post-apocalyptic horror story that centers around a solitary man who may be the last human alive on earth after a pandemic has turned the rest of humanity into vampire-like creatures. He spends his days fortifying his home, hunting for food, and killing these creatures while they sleep. At night, he is tormented by their attempts to break into his home and kill him. His isolation drives him to the brink of insanity, and the novel explores themes of loneliness, survival, and the human capacity for hope in the face of utter despair.

  7. 7. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

    "Kindred" is a gripping and thought-provoking novel that follows the life of Dana, a young African American woman living in the 1970s. Suddenly, she finds herself inexplicably transported back in time to the early 19th century, where she becomes entangled in the lives of her ancestors, who are enslaved on a plantation. As Dana navigates the brutal realities of slavery, she grapples with her own identity, the complexities of race, and the enduring legacy of the past. With its powerful storytelling and exploration of the connections between past and present, "Kindred" is a profound examination of history, race, and the enduring resilience of the human spirit.

  8. 8. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

    In a future America where the federal government has largely collapsed and been replaced by corporate entities, a computer hacker and pizza delivery driver becomes embroiled in a plot involving a dangerous new drug and a computer virus called "Snow Crash". He is joined by a teenage skateboard courier and a host of other characters in a high-stakes race to uncover the truth behind the virus and its origins in ancient Sumerian culture. The narrative explores themes of linguistics, philosophy, computer science, religion, and cryptography.

  9. 9. Farewell, My Lovely: A Novel by Raymond Chandler

    In this noir detective novel, a private investigator is hired to find a former lover of a recently released convict. His investigation leads him into a web of corruption and crime in Los Angeles, involving a missing nightclub owner, a wealthy widow, and a stolen jade necklace. As he delves deeper into the case, he must navigate through a world of deceit, violence, and betrayal, while trying to stay alive.

  10. 10. Double Indemnity by James M. Cain

    "Double Indemnity" is a gripping crime novel that follows the story of an insurance salesman who becomes entangled in a dangerous plot with a seductive woman, leading to murder and deceit. As the protagonist finds himself increasingly trapped in a web of lies, he must navigate the consequences of his actions while trying to outsmart those around him. With its noir atmosphere and complex characters, this thrilling tale explores themes of greed, desire, and the destructive power of temptation.

  11. 11. Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard

    A Miami loan shark travels to Los Angeles to collect a debt from a low-budget movie producer, only to get entangled in the Hollywood scene. Through a series of events, he ends up pitching a movie idea based on his own life as a mobster. This comedic crime novel explores the similarities between the film industry and organized crime, while offering a satirical look at the behind-the-scenes workings of Hollywood.

  12. 12. Beast In View by Margaret Millar

    "Beast In View" by Margaret Millar is a gripping psychological thriller that follows the story of Helen Clarvoe, a troubled woman who becomes entangled in a web of deception and manipulation. When Helen receives a series of disturbing phone calls from an unknown caller, she becomes convinced that someone is out to destroy her life. As she desperately tries to uncover the identity of her tormentor, Helen finds herself questioning her own sanity and unraveling dark secrets from her past. With its intricate plot and complex characters, this suspenseful novel explores themes of obsession, betrayal, and the fragile nature of the human mind.

  13. 13. Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley

    Set in 1940s Los Angeles, the novel follows an African American war veteran who, after losing his job, becomes a private investigator to pay his mortgage. He is hired to find a white woman known to frequent African American jazz clubs, and in the process, he gets entangled in a web of political scandal and corruption. The story explores themes of race, class, and the complex social dynamics of the time.

  14. 14. In A Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes

    Set in post-World War II Los Angeles, "In A Lonely Place" follows the story of Dix Steele, a former fighter pilot turned Hollywood screenwriter. Dix becomes a prime suspect in a series of brutal murders plaguing the city. As the investigation unfolds, the novel delves into the dark depths of Dix's psyche, exploring themes of love, obsession, and the blurred lines between reality and fiction. With its gripping narrative and psychological tension, "In A Lonely Place" offers a chilling portrayal of a disturbed mind and the destructive power of loneliness.

  15. 15. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

    "The Sympathizer" is a gripping spy novel set during the Vietnam War. The protagonist is a half-French, half-Vietnamese army captain who is a communist double agent. After the Fall of Saigon, he moves to America with other South Vietnamese refugees and struggles to reconcile his dual loyalties as he continues to spy on his fellow countrymen in exile. The novel explores themes of identity, war, and politics, while providing a unique perspective on the Vietnam War and its aftermath.

  16. 16. The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley

    The Last Good Kiss is a hardboiled detective novel set in the American West. The protagonist, a hard-drinking private investigator, is hired by a drunken, ex-con author to find his long-lost daughter. The search takes him from the streets of San Francisco to the Montana wilderness, where he encounters a variety of colorful characters and dangerous situations. As he delves deeper into the case, he uncovers a web of deceit, corruption, and violence that forces him to confront his own demons and question his values.

  17. 17. The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy

    This noir crime novel is set in 1940s Los Angeles and follows two LAPD officers, Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard, as they investigate the brutal murder of a young woman, dubbed the Black Dahlia by the press. As they delve deeper into the gruesome crime, they are drawn into a dark world of corruption, obsession, and madness. The case becomes personal for both men, testing their friendship and sanity, and leading them down a path of self-destruction.

  18. 18. Ask The Dust by John Fante

    The novel follows the story of an aspiring young writer of Italian-American descent living in Los Angeles during the Great Depression. Struggling to make his mark in the world of literature, he grapples with poverty, his own insecurities, and a tumultuous love affair with a fiery Mexican waitress. As he navigates the gritty underbelly of the city, he seeks to find his voice and identity amidst the dust and desperation of his surroundings, often confronting the challenges of prejudice and his own personal demons. The narrative is a raw and introspective journey through the pursuit of the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of a conflicted and passionate protagonist.

  19. 19. American Tabloid by James Ellroy

    "American Tabloid" is a gritty crime novel that delves into the underbelly of American society during the late 1950s and early 1960s. The narrative follows three rogue law enforcement officers involved in various illicit activities, including drug trafficking, union corruption, and political conspiracies. The story intertwines with real historical events leading up to the JFK assassination, suggesting a sinister link between organized crime, the CIA, and the highest levels of government.

  20. 20. The Sellout by Paul Beatty

    This satirical novel follows the story of an African-American man living in a small, agrarian town on the outskirts of Los Angeles. After his father's death, he attempts to reinstate slavery and segregation in his town as a means of creating a sense of identity for himself and his community. The novel explores themes of racial identity and equality in America, challenging societal norms and expectations through its provocative narrative.

  21. 21. The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh

    The book is a satirical examination of the American funeral industry, set in Los Angeles. It follows the experiences of a young British poet working at a pet cemetery who becomes entangled in the superficial and bizarre practices at a funeral parlor for humans, as well as a love triangle with a cosmetician and her colleague. The narrative delves into themes of cultural clash, the commercialization of death, and the vacuity of the American way of life, all delivered with a sharp, darkly comedic edge.

  22. 22. Myra Breckinridge by Gore Vidal

    This novel follows the story of Myra Breckinridge, a transgender woman who moves to Hollywood with the plan of both achieving stardom and challenging traditional gender roles and sexuality. The protagonist uses her wit, charm, and sexual appeal to manipulate those around her to further her own ambitions. The book is a satirical exploration of gender, sexuality, and the American Dream, set against the backdrop of 1960s Hollywood.

  23. 23. The Big Nowhere by James Ellroy

    "The Big Nowhere" is a gripping crime novel set in 1950s Los Angeles, where three protagonists find themselves entangled in a web of corruption, violence, and deceit. As they navigate the dark underbelly of Hollywood and the police force, their lives become intertwined in a dangerous investigation involving murder, organized crime, and political scandal. With a relentless pace and intricate plot twists, the book explores themes of loyalty, ambition, and the blurred lines between good and evil in a city where everyone has something to hide.

  24. 24. Women by Charles Bukowski

    "Women" is a semi-autobiographical novel that explores the chaotic love life of an aging writer. The protagonist, a hard-drinking and crude poet, navigates through a series of relationships with a variety of women, each with their own eccentricities and troubles. The narrative delves into the gritty, often sordid details of these relationships, depicting the protagonist's struggle with his own demons and the complexities of his romantic entanglements. Despite the seemingly bleak tone, the novel is punctuated with moments of raw humor and profound insight into human nature.

  25. 25. The Lady In The Lake by Raymond Chandler

    In this classic hard-boiled detective novel, a wisecracking private investigator is hired to find the missing wife of a wealthy businessman, only to become embroiled in a complex web of deceit, corruption, and murder. As he delves deeper into the case, he encounters a cast of shady characters and uncovers a trail of betrayal that leads him to a remote mountain lake, where the discovery of a body threatens to expose the dark secrets of a seemingly tranquil town. With sharp dialogue and a gritty portrayal of 1940s Los Angeles, the detective navigates through the twists and turns of the investigation, determined to solve the mystery of the lady in the lake.

Reading Statistics

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