6 Books That Prove L.A. Makes the Most Compelling Backdrop
Take Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion’s woman-on-the-streets account of the ’60s and ’70s, layer that with Fast Times, Slow Company by Eve Babitz, add in Raymond Chandler’s wise-cracking detective novels and Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero, and a picture of L.A.’s identity as a literary backdrop starts to emerge…or not quite. This city resists being pinned down, which is exactly what makes it an ideal muse. And it’s birthed some excellent new writing in recent years: Here, six books that capture the many sides of Los Angeles (and its environs).
The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker
One night a college freshman falls asleep… and doesn’t wake up. This happens again and again until an entire SoCal community falls into a deep, continuous slumber. Like Netflix’s Bird Box, The Dreamers dials up an intensely eerie premise with haunting control that kept us up all night reading to see what happened next.
Things That Happened Before The Earthquake by Chiara Barzini
Eugenia, the protagonist, moves from Rome to L.A. in the ’90s—just like the author herself did. The novel is a take on the familiar fish-out-of-water trope, but packed with plenty of humor, strong prose and a welcome rebellious streak. Read this on the beach, rehashing the ’90s with your BFFs.
Hollywood's Eve: Eve Babitz and the Secret History of L.A. by Lili Anolik
The reissuing of Eve Babitz’s literary catalogue has set off a veritable Eve renaissance—and we’re here for it. Although much of Babitz’s writing draws from her own experiences, Lili Anolik’s highly anticipated portrait promises to heat up where the writer left off. Count us in.
Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins
This dystopian novel opens at an abandoned home belonging to an unnamed L.A. starlet. Watkins proceeds to build a world where water is not just scarce but going, going, gone forever, sending people to seek out drastic measures in order to survive. Read it, and read it again (and midway through, enjoy the textbook study of fictitious flora and fauna). This is one end-of-days novel that hits a little too close to reality.
The Girls From Corona Del Mar by Rufi Thorpe
Sometimes you just need a good best-friends story. Mia is our narrator, guiding us around the globe while reflecting on the events of her childhood growing up on the California coast with her best friend Lorrie Ann. It’s a poignant look at the ever-changing life of a friendship and the way we define ourselves in relation to those closest to us.
Last Sext by Melissa Broder
“I pretended the lust was voices” Melissa Broder writes in her Pushcart Prize–winning poem, and it only gets better from there. Touching on addiction, mental illness, death and romantic longing, Broder’s work chisels away at the facade of perfection, revealing an emotional rawness that sticks with you long after you finish reading.