By Mike Sonksen
Documenting literary Los Angeles is my lifelong project. It started early in my childhood. I grew up going to bookstores across Los Angeles. From the early 1980s, I remember my dad driving us to the Bodhi Tree on Melrose. I remember going to Acres of Books in Long Beach and many other Used Bookstores now long gone. Most of them have been gone so long that I cannot even remember their names. (I still go to the Iliad in North Hollywood.)
By the time I started at UCLA in 1992, I was driving my friends and I to Midnight Special in Santa Monica, Chatterton’s which became Skylight Books in Los Feliz, Hennessey and Ingalls in Santa Monica, Booksoup on Sunset, Beyond Baroque in Venice, Esowon Books when it was on La Brea and the little bookstore on Franklin in Hollywood, next to the Bourgeois Pig coffeehouse in Franklin Village. Buying books was a habit I acquired early. It still continues.
My love for bookstores is so deep that it is often the first thing I do when I visit a city. When I go to San Francisco I go immediately to City Lights, in Berkeley I go to Moe’s and Portland, Powell’s In Ojai, I go to Bart’s Books and in Santa Cruz I always went to Logos before they closed a few years ago..
Simultaneously, I have always loved lists. Book lists, record lists, film lists and list poems. I have been deeply embedded in Los Angeles literature from my late teen years in the early 1990s. I started collecting books on Los Angeles in my sophomore year at UCLA after taking a Los Angeles History Class. I took several other similar classes and some Urban Planning classes before I graduated in 1997. Shortly after this I became a tour guide and I have been haunting bookstores and collecting books on Los Angeles obsessively ever since.
Over the years I have written countless book reviews and essay after essay about the history of Los Angeles literature, especially Los Angeles Poetry. There are quite a few authors like Charles Bukowski, Wanda Coleman, Michael Connelly, Bill Deverell, James Ellroy, John Fante, Sesshu Foster, Lynell George, Denise Hamilton, Naomi Hirahara, Josh Kun, Carey McWilliams, Walter Mosley, Gary Phillips, Nina Revoyr, Luis Rodriguez, Carolyn See and Helena Maria Viramontes that most of their books could be on this list.
What follows is a list of Los Angeles books. The criteria for the list is that many of the books are explicitly about Los Angeles, especially the architecture, geography or elements of local history or the plot takes place within the city. There are some writers from Los Angeles that do not write about the city or address the history and geography that are not included on the list below and their exclusion is not meant to leave them out, its more so because this list is about books that confront Los Angeles and Southern California in one way or another.
There are two poets in the list, John Murillo and Jayne Cortez who grew up in Los Angeles but then moved back east but their books are included in this list because a number of the poems in their books are about growing up in Southern California. In the case of Cortez, she only alludes to LA, but she is in this list because she grew up in Watts, went to Compton College, founded the Watts Repertory Theater and performed poetry in Watts during the 1960s with Horace Tapscott and his Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra. Kevin Opstedal is another poet in this list that is no longer in LA, but he was born in Venice and many of the poems in his collection, Pacific Standard Time are about Santa Monica, Venice and Malibu. Read Rest of Article Here