Books Set In California

Want to learn more about the state of California or the people that have lived there? We put together a list of some of our favorite books set in California.

Books Set in California

When I challenged myself to read a book about every U.S. state, I had no idea how much I would learn about the different people, places, and cultures that make up the U.S.

The challenge has forced me outside of my reading comfort zone and has taught me so much about the history of states that I never knew.

I have a list of the books that I read for my Nonfiction Books for Every State challenge, but I realize that not everyone wants to read a book about every state. However, I know some of you want to know about a specific state or two. So I decided to put together some lists for the individual states as well.

The Nonfiction Books for Every State Challenge includes only the books that I have read, but there are many of books based in individual states that didn’t fit my challenge. They didn’t fit because they were fiction, I hadn’t read them, or I read them years ago.

The individual state lists will include all kinds of books, but they will all be books that Grace or I have read. We will also update these lists as we read more books based in each state.

Our goal is to share a few states each month. So keep a watch out for the state you are from, the state you live in, or a state that you want to learn more about.

If we missed a book that you think should be added to the list, leave a comment letting us know.

Today’s list is all about the state of California

Books Set In California

Rise of the Rocket Girls

Rise of the Rocket Girls 

Rise of the Rocket Girls takes place in the California during the 1940’s and 1950’s. It covers a lot of the history of how that part of California made a big impact during the cold war. This is a great book for those that love science and math related books. I gave this book as a gift to my father in-law who went to college in that area of California because he knew all about the places they mentioned in the book.

Bad Blood

Bad Blood

Bad Blood was one of my favorite books of 2018. This book is a little outside of my normal reading comfort zone, but I loved it. Once I started reading it, I could not put it down. I read it in less than two days.

Bad Blood is one of those books that makes you realize that fact is often stranger than fiction. If I didn’t know that this was a true story, I would have thought I was reading fiction. The writing in Bad Blood draws you into the story in a way few nonfiction do.

I highly recommend this book for anyone, but it would be especially good for anyone that loves science, technology, or medicine.

Black Death at the Golden Gate book

Black Death At the Golden Gate

Black Death At the Golden Gate by David K. Randall is a reminder that not much has changed. It is about the Bubonic Plague in California in 1900.

Quarantines, travel restrictions, the battle between the medical world and the public, and the battle between the government and individual freedoms have been around for years. It isn’t just current times.

This book was a good reminder that a lot of people don’t know their history. Not everyone wants to read books about plagues and pandemics, but I wish more people would read this book.

riding with reagan book

Riding With Reagan 

Riding with Reagan is not specifically about California, but it contains a lot of information about the time Reagan spent at his ranch in California, so it is a book based in California. It is also a great book to and a little bit of a different view of President Reagan than we usually hear about.


Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe

Jimmy Stewart was an Academy Award winning actor who starred in many movies that you are probably familiar with. This book isn’t specially about California, but because Jimmy Stewart was an actor for many years, it includes a lot of information about Hollywood and California during his acting years.

Farewell to Manzanar

Farewell To Manzanar

Farewell To Manzanar is a memoir of life in Manzanar, a Japanese internment camp in California, during WWII. This book was published in 1973 and is part of history that more people need to know about.

A lot of people have no idea the internment camps existed. This book is a good way to learn not only about WWII, but about California history.

Disney's Land book

Disney’s Land

Disney’s Land by Richard Snow is the story of how Disneyland became Disneyland. Walt Disney change theme parks, but he also changed the area in California where Disneyland was built.

The book Disney’s Land shares a part of California history while sharing Disneyland’s history.

Mad at the World book cover

Mad at the World

I read Mad at the World while reading The Grapes of Wrath. Mad at the World is about the life of John Steinbeck. Because John Steinbeck spent most of his life living in California, this book covers a lot of California history, especially during the early 1900s.

I can’t say that I loved this book, but I did find this book very interesting. It helped me understand John Steinbeck’s writing and what made him write The Grapes of Wrath.

The Lost and Found Bookshop book

The Lost and Found Bookshop

The Lost and Found Bookshop is about love, family, tragedy, and books all set in a bookstore in California. This is a fun fiction book set in California. It is also a great book for those that love books about books. Be sure to read my full review on this though because it is PG-13.

Where Fire Falls book

Where the Fire Falls

Karen Barnett, the author of Where the Fire Falls, spent years as a park ranger and it shows in her writing. Where the Fire Falls is set in Yosemite National Park in California. This is a fun, light, fiction read. It is a clean Christian romance that is perfect for a lighter easy read.

The Californios by Louis L'Amour

The Californios

And for a fun fiction read The Californios by Louis L’Amour is a great read. It is a western book about the California Gold Rush. This gives an interesting idea of what California may have been like before and once gold was found in California.

Do you have a favorite book set in California? We would love to hear what it is? 

2 thoughts on “Books Set In California”

  1. The book I read for California is called “The Mirage Factory: Illusion, Imagination, and the Invention of Los Angeles” by Gary Krist. It was really interesting to read about how Los Angeles grew and began to thrive in a geographic environment that by all intents and purposes shouldn’t have supported a large city.


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