26 Books Set in California That Perfectly Capture the Golden State of Mind

I grew up being lulled to sleep by the San Francisco foghorns until I was lured to Los Angeles by the neon lights, pink sunsets, and quadruple-lane highways. Now that I'm far from home in New York City, I find myself drawn to anything and everything that evokes that elusive and often gritty yet vivid California spirit. Lucky for me, it's arguably one of the most anthropomorphized places in the world, often taking on a more central role in movies, music, books, and even global news and history textbooks than any human characters or agents.

Sitting at the edge of the continent, it's a vast and varied universe of a place. In just one day, its roads can you lead you deep inside majestic redwood forests and remote desert vistas drowning in stars, up high mountain peaks, through cities so energetic they seem to have their own living pulse, and to the end of a palm tree–lined highway overlooking the glistening Pacific Ocean. Aside from its obvious beauty, it's also a fascinating place wrought with projections of a broken California dream, too, thanks to its sprawl, drought, and modern-day iterations of the materialism and futility of hitting the Gold Rush jackpot in Hollywood or Silicon Valley.

So if you've recently moved there and are just beginning to get to know it, you've relocated far from home and miss it, or you've never even visited it before but are curious about it, read these books set in the Golden State. They're California dreaming on tap.