Generations of filmmakers and writers have drawn inspiration from Los Angeles—the city of angels and big dreams—so here’s a guide on what Bookers should read and watch before visiting.
A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood
Stroll down Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica
Christopher Isherwood’s ode to LA takes place right after one of the city’s most difficult moments: the Cuban missile crisis. In “A Single Man,” Isherwood captures the unique combination of relief and paranoia that the LA community was experiencing in the aftermath. The novel’s protagonist is a university lecturer who lives in Santa Monica, which is worth exploring for a few days to fully immerse yourself in the coastal backdrop of Isherwood’s great love story. Book a stay at The Channel Road Inn, which features a pastel color scheme and classic Californian cuisine popular back in Isherwood’s day. Enjoy a warm evening of reading “A Single Man” on the inn's porch, followed by a stroll down the pier.
Bathwater Wine by Wanda Coleman
See the Watts Towers by Simon Rodia
Wanda Coleman—a poet from the Watts suburb of LA—writes about a sensual, humorous, yet deeply-flawed city. “Bathwater Wine” is a product of Coleman’s experience growing up in the shadow of the famous Watts Towers – 17 connected metal and ceramic towers installed by artist Simon Rodia on his own property. These twisted, corkscrew sculptures dominate the southern Los Angeles skyline, and their influence on Coleman’s poetry is evident in the way each line seems to push the reader further and further. If you’re looking for accommodations nearby, the Diamond Bell Inn & Suites is only a 20-minute drive from the towers and offers free parking.
In the Heart of the Valley of Love by Cynthia Kadohata
A city full of sci-fi and speculative fiction writers
LA has always been a favorite among sci-fi and speculative fiction writers, and Cynthia Kadohata is the latest in this long-standing tradition. “In the Heart of the Valley of Love” is a dystopian novel about the ultimate inhospitable city. However, it’s clear Kadohata still holds plenty of affection for LA, since many of the city’s most recognizable landmarks remain intact and the interactions between characters mimic the dialects you’ll hear here today. Bookers love the rooftop bar at the chic Ace Hotel for appreciating the cityscape that has inspired so many other dystopian works.
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
Visit the iconic Los Angeles City Hall
Raymond Chandler—hailed as one of the city’s best known chroniclers—introduced the world to another side of LA. Chandler filled books like “The Big Sleep” with tons of landmarks, such as the Santa Monica Pier, Union Street, Bunker Hill, Los Angeles City Hall, the art deco Bullocks Wilshire, and the Grauman’s Chinese Theater. For a taste of 1930’s LA, stay at the historic Hotel Normandie, built in 1926. This boutique hotel has a wonderful, industrial-style bar, a cocktail list as long as Chandler’s book list, and a luxurious, intimate atmosphere.
Head to the glamorous Beverly Hills
“Clueless” is both a hilarious tribute to all Valley Girls, as well as the ultimate Jane Austen remake. Cher Horowitz lives with her devoted father and disapproving step-brother in a Beverly Hills mansion while she grapples with issues like learning to drive, match-making her teachers, and which furry handbag to take to the mall. Book a weekend at the Viceroy L'Ermitage to stay in Cher’s neighborhood. Set on a quiet residential street, this 5-star hotel includes the access to a Maserati and a rooftop pool.
The Big Lebowski
All fans of "The Dude" must make the pilgrimage to Venice Beach
Bookers can complete their LA prep by watching the Coen Brothers’ “The Big Lebowski” and focusing their attention on a different breed of Valley culture. This tribute to often overlooked areas like Pasadena, the Valley, and Venice Beach takes you on a ride with the city’s deadbeats and burn-outs. Stay at the NoMas Los Angeles, which is just a short drive from the Palace Theatre, where a big portion of the movie was shot.
Check out the Urban Light sculpture at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Steve Martin’s tribute to LA takes on the city’s quirky side. Art aficionados on roller skates glide through the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, traffic signs offer passersby unsolicited advice, and the film’s protagonist—Harris Telemacher—takes his date on a tour of the Hollywood Cemetery. Staying at the Hotel Tuck will put Bookers right near the movie’s key locations, though the hotel is what steals the show. Its dark interiors and classic cocktails will transport you back to the days of old Hollywood glamor, while the limited number of rooms (14) and its British-inspired name create an atmosphere that’s both classy and cozy.