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Los Angeles histories & cultures: General resources

Recommended resources on the histories and cultures of Los Angeles, providing location info for print resources and links for digital resources.

Recommended books

Recommended articles

Arts & Architecture magazine began as California Arts & Architecture in 1929, but it became the unsurpassed magazine of Southern California modernism after John Entenza became the editor in 1940. The A&A website provides PDFs of issues from 1945-1967. The Kappe Library has the Taschen 2008 reprint of 1945-1954 and original issues for 1944-June 1946, 1947-8, 1952-5, 1957-67. Ask at the Office.

Los Angeles Times Historical Archives (Proquest) searchable digitized images covering 1881-1992. Requires Los Angeles Public Library user i.d.

Recommended image resources

California Revealed, via Internet Archive (Digitized materials from California libraries, museums and archives)

Instagram locations Los Angeles, and hashtag #losangeles

LA Public Library Online Photo Collection (Searchable database of historic news images from Southern California), (Personal site by Martin Locke with extensive pictures, addresses and dates)

Other resources

Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation

Shades of L.A., via Los Angeles Public Library (collection of oral histories reflecting Southern California’s ethnic histories)

USC Regional History Center

Vox Media, L.A.Curbed (“The Los Angeles neighborhoods and real estate blog” since 2005)

Recommended for all architectural research

Specialized resources on related topics

Banham, Reyner, Architecture of four ecologies, University of California Press, NA735 .L55 B3 2009

Berry, Rob, et al., LA Forum reader, L.A. Forum for Architecture and Urban Design and Actar, HT168.L6 L34 2018

Betsky, Aaron, et al., Experimental architecture in Los Angeles, Rizzoli, NA735.L55E97 1991

Betsky, Aaron, et al., Myth and mirage : inland Southern California, birthplace of the Spanish colonial revival, Riverside Riverside Art Museum, NA730.C22 S686 2017

Cuff, Dana, The Provisional city: Los Angeles stories of architecture and urbanism, MIT Press, NA7238.L6 C84 2000 (Housing, real estate, development and redevelopment)

De Witt, Wim & Christopher James Alexander, Overdrive : L.A. constructs the future, 1940-1990, J. Paul Getty Museum, NA735.L55O94 2013

Gebhard, David & Harriette von Breton, Los Angeles in the Thirties, Peregrine Smith, NA735.L55G42 1989

Gebhard, David & Robert Winter, An architectural guidebook to Los Angeles, Gibbs Smith, NA735.L55G44 2003

Gebhard, David, "The Spanish Colonial revival in Southern California," Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians,, May 1967, p. 131-147 (PDF via Jstor)

Golden, Greg, Never built Los Angeles, Metropolis Books, NA2705.5.G65 2013

Grant, Thurman & Joshua G. Stein, Dingbat 2.0 : the iconic Los Angeles apartment as projection of a metropolis, DoppelHouse Press, NA7862 .L67 D58 2016

Hines, Thomas, Architecture of the sun: Los Angeles modernism 1900-1970, Rizzoli, NA735. L55H56 2010

Jencks, Charles, Heteropolis: Los Angeles, the riots and the strange beauty of hetero-architecture, Academy Editions, Office NA735.L55J46 1993

Kaplan, Wendy, Found in translation : design in California and Mexico, 1915-1985, LACMA, NK1410.C2 D47 2017

Kaplan, Wendy, et al., Living in a modern way: California design, 1930-1965, MIT Press, NK835. C3 C35 2011 (Survey of all design arts)

Lavin, Sylvia, et al., Everything loose will land: 1970s art and architecture in Los Angeles, MAK Center, NA735.L55E94 2013

Longstreth, Richard W., The Drive-in, the supermarket, and the transformation of commercial space in Los Angeles, 1914-1941, MIT Press, HF5429.5.L7L663 1999

Longstreth, Richard W., City center to regional mall: architecture, the automobile, and retailing in Los Angeles, 1920-1950, MIT Press, HF5429.5.L7L66 1997

McCoy, Esther & Randell L. Makinson, Five California architects, Reinhold, NA730.C2M3 (on Gill, Greene & Greene, Maybeck, Schindler)

McCoy, Esther, Case Study Houses 1945-1962, Reinhold, NA7235.C2M2 1977

McCoy, Esther, The second generation, Peregrine Smith, NA730.C2M33 1984 (on Ain, Davidson, Harris, Soriano)

Moore, Charles W., et al., The City observed, Los Angeles: a guide to its architecture and landscapes, Random House, NA735.L55M66 1998 (Originally published 1984, but the analytical essays are still relevant)

Smith, Blueprints for Modern Living: the Case Study House program, NA7235.C22S684 1989

Tigerman, Bobbye, et al., A Handbook of California design1930-1965: craftspeople, designers, manufacturers, MIT Press, NK835 .C3C35 2011

Winter, Robert, Toward a simpler way of life: the Arts and Crafts architects of California, University of California Press, NA730.C2T68 1997 

Haas, Lisbeth, Saints and citizens : indigenous histories of colonial missions and Mexican California, University of California Press, 2013. (Ebook via Proquest Ebook Central)

Online Archives of California (part of the California Digital Library project)

Osborne, Thomas J., Pacific Eldorado: a history of greater California, Wiley/Blackwell, F861.O63 2013

Pacific Historical Review (journal of the American Historical Association, Pacific Coast Branch. PDFs of articles from 1932, with a 3-year delay, are available via Jstor)

Rolle, Andrew & Arthur C. Verge, California : a history, John Wiley & Sons, 2014 (Ebook via ProQuest Ebook Central)



Kevin Starr’s volumes covering 1850 to 2003, published by Oxford University Press, constitute a standard history of modern California:

  • Americans and the California Dream 1850-1915, F867.M25 1973
  • Inventing the Dream: California through the Progressive Era, F867.S8 1985
  • Material dreams: Southern California through the 1920s, F867.S82 1990
  • Endangered dreams: the Great Depression in California, HB3717.1919.S73 1995
  • The dream endures: California enters the 1940s, F866 .S78 2002
  • Embattled dreams: California in war and peace,1940-1950, F866 .S786 2003
  • Golden dreams: California in an age of abundance, 1950-1963, F866.2.S733 2009
  • Coast of dreams, California on the edge, 1990-2003, F866.2 .S73 2006

Bahr, Ehrhard, Weimar on the Pacific: German exile culture in Los Angeles and the crisis of modernism, University of California Press, BH301.M54B34 2007

Bricker, Lauren Weiss, “History in Motion: A Glance at Historic Preservation in California,” Future Anterior: Journal of Historic Preservation, History, Theory, and Criticism, vol. 1, no. 2, 2004, pp. 4–13 (PDF via Jstor)

Cenzatti, Marco, Los Angeles and the L.A. School, Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design, F869.L83C36 1993

Davis, Mike, City of quartz, Verso, HN80.L7D38 1991

Davis, Mike & Jon Wiener, Set the night on fire: L.A. in the sixties, Verso Books, 2020 (ebook via Ebook Central)

Decherney, Peter, Hollywood : a very short introduction, Oxford University Press, PN1993.5.U65 D44 2016

Faragher, John Mack, Eternity Street: violence and justice in frontier Los Angeles, W. W. Norton, F869.L857F37 2016 (On L.A. in the 19th century)

Flamming, Douglas, Bound for freedom: Black Los Angeles in Jim Crow America, University of California Press, 2005 (ebook via Ebook Central)

Fogelson, Robert M., The Fragmented metropolis: Los Angeles 1850-1930, University of California Press, F869.L95F64 1993

Gottlieb, Robert & Simon Ng, Global cities : urban environments in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and China, The MIT Press, HC79.E5 .G6573 2017

Hurewitz, Daniel, Bohemian Los Angeles and the making of modern politics, University of California Press, F869.L86E24 2007

Klein, Norman M., The history of forgetting: Los Angeles and the erasure of memory, Verso, F869.L857K57 2008

Matsumoto, Valerie J., City girls : the Nisei social world in Los Angeles, 1920-1950, Oxford University Press, F869.L89 J339 2014

Podair, Jerald E., City of dreams : Dodger Stadium and the birth of modern Los Angeles, Princeton University Press, GV417.D63 P63 2017

Scott, Allen John & Edward W. Soja, The city: Los Angeles and urban theory at the end of the twentieth century, University of California Press, HN80.L7C57 1996

Sloane, David C., Planning Los Angeles, American Planning Association, NA9127.L7P52 2012

Southern California Library (South L.A. landmark that “documents and makes accessible histories of struggles that challenge racism and other systems of oppression”)

Southern California Quarterly (journal of the Historical Society of Southern California. PDFs of articles from 1962, with a 3-year delay, are available via Jstor)

Torres-Rouff, David Samuel, Before L.A. : race, space, and municipal power in Los Angeles, 1781-1894, Yale University Press. F869.L857 T67 2013

City of Los Angeles General Plan (re-adopted August 8, 2001)

Deverell, William, Water and Los Angeles : a tale of three rivers, 1900-1941, University of California Press, HD4464.L7 D48 2016

Erie, Steven P. & Harold Brackman, Beyond Chinatown: the Metropolitan Water District, growth, and the environment in Southern California, Stanford University Press, HC107.C23E5585 2006

Kahrl, William L., Water and power: the conflict over Los Angeles' water supply in the Owens Valley, University of California Press, HD4464 .L7K33 1982

Libecap, Gary D., Owens Valley revisited: a reassessment of the West's first great water transfer, Stanford Economics and Finance, F868.O9L53 2007

A new infrastructure: innovative transit solutions for Los Angeles: results of an open ideas competition, SCI-Arc, NA 2440 .L67 S688 2009

Varnelis, Kazys, et al., The infrastructural city: networked ecologies in Los Angeles, Actar, HT168 .L8 I54 2008

Walton, John, Western times and water wars: state, culture and rebellion in California, University of California Press, HN79.C22949 1992

Gumprecht, Blake, Los Angeles River: its life, death and possible rebirth, Johns Hopkins University Press, F868.L8G86 1999

Hall, Clarence A., Jr., Introduction to the geology of Southern California and its native plants, University of California Press, 2007 (Ebook via ProQuest Ebook Central)

Hise, Greg & William Deverell, Eden by design: the 1930 Olmsted-Bartholomew plan for the Los Angeles region, University of California Press, HT394 .L67E34 2000

McPhee, John, Assembling California, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, QE89.M37 1993

Ornduff, Robert et al., Introduction to California plant life, University of California Press, QK149 .O73 2003

Rundel, Philip W., Introduction to the plant life of Southern California: coast to foothills, University of California Press, QK149.R86 2005

Schoenherr, Allan A., A natural history of California, University of California Press, QH105.C2 S36 2017

Southern California Earthquake Center

Ulin, David L., The myth of solid ground: earthquakes, prediction, and the fault line between reason and faith, Viking, QE538.8.U45 2004


David Carle has covered the four classical elements for the California Natural History Guides:

Adelman, Andrew A., City of Los Angeles zoning code: manual and commentary, City of Los Angeles, KFX1632.A2 2013

Bestor, Barbara, et al., Bohemian Modern: living in Silver Lake, Regan Books, NA735.L55B47 2006

Chávez, Ernesto, Mi raza primero! nationalism, identity, and insurgency in the Chicano movement in Los Angeles, 1966-1978, University of California Press, 2002 (ebook via Ebrary)

City of Los Angeles, Business Improvement Districts

City of Los Angeles, Historic Preservation Overlay Zones

City of Los Angeles, Neighborhood Councils

County of Los Angeles, Incorporated cities within L.A. County

Deener, Andrew, Venice: a contested Bohemia in Los Angeles, University of Chicago Press, HN80.L7D44 2012

Flamming, Douglas, Bound for freedom: Black Los Angeles in Jim Crow America, University of California Press, 2004 (via ProQuest Ebrary)

Fong, Timothy P., The first suburban Chinatown: the remaking of Monterey Park, California, Temple University Press, F869.M7F68 1994

Gottlieb, Robert, Reinventing Los Angeles: nature and community in the global city, MIT Press, HT168.L6G68 2007

Gottlieb, Robert, et al., The next Los Angeles: the struggle for a liveable city, University of California Press, HN80.L7 N49 2005

Greenwood, Roberta S., Down by the station: Los Angeles Chinatown, 1880-1933, Institute of Archaeology, UCLA, F869. L86C454 1996

Neighborhood and homeowners associations in Los Angeles include Baldwin Hills Estates, Brentwood, Cheviot Hills, Downtown Pasadena, Valley Village,  West Adams, West L.A., Wilshire Vista, ....

Rawitsch, Mark Howland, House on Lemon Street: Japanese pioneers and the American Dream, University Press of Colorado, 2012 (ebook via Ebrary)

Sánchez, George J., Becoming Mexican American: ethnicity, culture, and identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945, Oxford University Press, 1993 (ebook via Ebrary)

Sidesk Josh, L. A. City limits: African American Los Angeles from the Great Depression to the present, University of California Press, 2004 (ebook via Ebrary)

Waldie, D. J., Holy Land, W. W. Norton, F869.L217W35 1996 (on Lakewood, CA)

Waldinger, Roger David, Ethnic Los Angeles, Russell Sage Foundation, F869.L89A1 1996

Weibel-Orlando, Joan, Indian country, L.A.: maintaining ethnic community in complex society, University of Illinois Press, E78.C15W48 1991

Andersen, Thom, Los Angeles plays itself [videorecording​], Cinema Guild, Media Shelf F869.L857L677 2014

Balio, Tino, Grand design: Hollywood as a modern business enterprise, 1930-1939, Schribner, PN1995.5.U6H55 1995 (volume 5 of the History of the American cinema series)

Brown, Jane, et al., Both sides of Sunset: photographing Los Angeles, Metropolis Books, F869.L843B68 2015

Clark, Robin, et al., Phenomenal: California light, space, surface, University of California Press, N6530.C22 2011

Davis, Mike, Ecology of fear: Los Angeles and the imagination of disaster, HN80 .L7 D37 1998

Field, Allyson, et al., L. A. Rebellion : creating a new Black cinema, University of California Press, PN1995.9.N4 L24 2015 (Ebook also available via Proquest Ebook Central)

Film L.A. (city government office in charge encouraging and facilitating location filming in Los Angeles)

Gilbar, Steven, Natural state: a literary anthology of California nature writing, University of California Press, QH105.C2N425 1998

Grenier, Catherine, Catalog L.A.: birth of an art capital, 1955-1985, Chronicle Books, N6535. L6C38 2007

James, David E., The most typical avant-garde: history and geography of minor cinemas in Los Angeles, University of California, PN1993.5 .U718J36 2005

Jones, Kellie, Now dig this! art & Black Los Angeles, 1960-1980, Prestel, N6538 .N5 J666 2011

Kennedy, Marla Hamburg, et al., Looking at Los Angeles, Metropolis Books, Oversize Shelf F869.L843L655 2005

Mark, Lisa Gabrielle & Paul Schimmel, Under the big black sun: California art, 1974-1981, Prestel, N6530 .C2U53 2011

Nelson, Harold B., The House that Sam built: Sam Maloof and art in the Pomona Valley, 1945-1985, Huntington Library, NK2439 .M28 N45 2011

Peabody, Rebecca, et al., Pacific standard time: Los Angeles art, 1945-1980, J. Paul Getty Museum, ND235 .L6P33 2011

Perry, Claire, et al., Pacific arcadia: images of California 1600-1915, Oxford University Press, N8214.5.U6P473 1999

Roettinger, Brian &J.C. Gabel, Slash : a punk magazine from Los Angeles, 1977-1980, CA Hat & Beard, ML3534.3 S537 2016

Schatz, Thomas, The genius of the system: Hollywood filmmaking in the studio era, Pantheon Books, PN1993.5.U65S3 1996

Ulin, David L., Sidewalking : coming to terms with Los Angeles, University of California Press,  F869.L875 A27 2015

Ulin, David L., Writing Los Angeles: a literary anthology, Library of America, PS572.L6W74 2002

Please note

  • These guides are intended to provide initial orientation, and suggest a variety of different lines of investigation—not take the place of individual research.
  • All the resources cited here--print and digital--are available through the Kappe Library at SCI-Arc.Items not available at SCI-Arc are not included.
  • Surveys covering multiple projects are preferred over monographic studies focusing on specific works or individuals.
  • Resources on Los Angeles and Southern California are stressed.
  • Proprietary digital resources (Avery Index, Oxford Art Online, ArtStor, etc) can be accessed on-campus at SCI-ARC via any SCI-Arc internet provider. Off-campus they can be accessed 24/7 via the Kappe Library proxy server, and a valid SCI-Arc Network username and password.

The Kappe Library at SCI-Arc

The Kappe Library physical facility is currently closed due to the COVID-19 quarantine.
Access Kappe Library online resources:
Be sure to activate EZProxy to access all proprietary databases: