This 12 month immersion in our storied past seems like a fun trip for aficionados of Los Angeles history and the evolution of modern architecture to embark upon with him. I plan to closely follow along, especially on the books I have as yet not read. For those of you who choose to join Hawthorne on this trek through our past he states that this effort is not organized as a formal book club as many of the titles are out of print and some are almost impossible to find. This is especially true of the first month’s selections, “The Truth About Los Angeles” by Louis Adamic and “Los Angeles” by Morrow Mayo. I was able to recently find a fairly reasonably priced copy of the Mayo book in a library buckram binding. Many local libraries have copies. The book is extremely scarce in the dust jacket. (See original dust jacket below). The Adamic book is much scarcer and can only be found at select research institutions. Have fun tracking it down.
The dust jacket flap bio of Mayo states that he served for six years at the Pasadena Star News, Los Angeles Express, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Chronicle and Associated Press in Los Angeles writing on California subjects for eastern newspapers and magazines such as The Nation, New Republic, Life, Plain Talk, The American Mercury, Current History, The Commonweal and numerous West Coast periodicals of opinion. His “History with side-shows from the Conquistador to Aimee Semple McPherson” begun in 1931 took 13 months to finish and includes 28 illustrations, 2 maps and importantly, from my perspective, an extensive bibliography. Kevin Starr cited Mayo in The Dream Endures, “Here is an artificial city which has been pumped up under forced draught, inflated like a balloon, stuffed with rural humanity like a goose with corn.” With prose like this I can’t wait to read it.
As an avid collector of Los Angeles architecture books, I have in my library the lion’s share of the 25 classics Hawthorne has included in his list and have read most of them. I have found, however, that rereading important books such as these, or at least sections of them, every few years from the fresh perspective of accumulated knowledge and experience uncovers new treasures and ideas that did not surface on first reading thus I am looking forward to the experience.
As with most lists established by noted critics such as Hawthorne, of whom I am a big fan by the way, they tend to gain a life of their own. I expect this list to possibly become known as “The Hawthorne 25″ along the lines of a poor man’s Zamorano 80 created by the Zamorano Club and its erstwhile leader Phil Townsend Hanna. Hawthorne seems somewhat flexible in the final list as he states it is not set in stone. I have had many comments since posting his list on my Facebook page about someone’s faves being left off. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have added a few additional recommended titles at the end of this article and will continue to add more as we go through the list in the coming months. Once one begins reading a few of these books, their bibliograhies and end notes always provide good clues for further serendipitous research for pursuing personal interests. It would be fun if Hawthorne comes up with an on-line final exam at the end of the year to test who read the most books the most closely. Happy reading, L.A.
Follow Hawthorne’s progress at:
Five California Architects, Reinhold, 1960. Julius Shulman cover photo. (From my collection).