Top Six Summer Books to Read for California Dreamers

The moment I set foot in California, I felt at home. It was not just the clear blue sky or the Golden Gate Bridge shaking under my feet or the orange and violet painted sunset in Huntington Beach or walking along the canals in Venice Beach at dusk humming my favorite The Doors song.

It was also the vibrancy of nature and cities alike, the kindness and open-heartedness of its people, the uplifting energy of land buzzing with life. For decades, California sparked imagination and dreams and drew in the bold, the brave, the explorer, the artist. You will find them all in these top six summer books to read for California dreamers.

Tara Botel Doherty – Growing Up Hollywood

An amazing collection of short stories about what it was like to grow up in legendary make-believe Hollywood of the 1970s. Annie and Gracie, sisters aged 7 and 10, live near the Boulevard in the Hollywood Hills. As their mother and father edge toward divorce, these two young girls try to make sense of their lives amid their domestic chaos.

Follow the sisters’ adventures as they grow up among the famous Hollywood landmarks and learn about life and people. Visit the Boulevard with its tacky and sometimes shady establishments, and the patrons who inhabit them. Meet the eccentrics looking for fame and fortune among the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Laurel Anne Hill – The Engine Woman’s Light

This multiple award-winning steampunk novel will take you on a fantastic journey in an alternate nineteenth-century California. A mystical vision of an airship appears to fifteen-year-old Juanita. The long-dead captain commands her to prevent California’s thrown-away people—including young children—from boarding trains to an asylum.

That institution’s director plots murder to reduce the inmate population. Yet to save innocent lives Juanita must take lives of the corrupt and find a way to reconcile her assignment with her belief in the sacredness of all human life.

Konni Granma – Lonely Hearts Bar

If you wonder how does Hollywood look like through the eyes of a youngster aspiring to stardom, this novel is for you. With high hopes of conquering Hollywood, Connie goes to Los Angeles to study directing and screenwriting.

On the way, her car breaks downs. Connie ends up spending the night at a roadside bar where she finds out she is not the only one giving up everything to follow her dreams. Together with David and Lee, Connie will discover that the Universe works in mysterious ways and the power of true friendship.

Sheryl Benko – The Last of Will

An outstanding novel that will take you on a road trip as Greer Sarazen—a teenager like any teenager— is forced to tag along on a road trip with her father to deliver a stranger’s ashes out of state. 

A stranded van, a clown, a rodeo, a disco-dancing nerd and a belligerent dwarf threaten to throw off the itinerary, while the departed “passenger” becomes an unexpected friend proving that, sometimes, the things we truly need are the last things we would ever expect. A fun read you don’t want to miss.

Cheryl Strayed – Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Considered one of the Best Books of the Year by NPR, The Boston GlobeEntertainment Weekly, Vogue and turned into a major motion picture, this adventure memoir will make you put on your hiking shoes and retrace at least some of Cheryl Strayed’s footsteps on Pacific Crest Trail.

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything —her mother, her family, her marriage. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she hiked alone over a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State. Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

John Steinbeck – East of Eden

John Steinbeck’s novel is not only an American literary masterpiece but also one of the books readers return to periodically for each time it unveils new meanings and layers.

Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel.
Steinbeck is at his best creating mesmerizing characters and exploring his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity, the inexplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of love’s absence.