Books set in California

Written by:
September 27, 2022
Goodreads

Books set in California

Every state has its hallmark writers. Mississippi has William Faulkner and his incomparable (fictional) Yoknapatawpha County and Missouri can lay claim to Mark Twain. The state of Maine is gifted with Pulitzer winner Richard Russo and horror icon Stephen King. Rural Pennsylvania is the playground of the much-heralded (and occasionally maligned) John Updike, and when many bibliophiles think of New Jersey, they also think of Richard Ford's series of novels featuring recurring Everyman character Frank Bascombe. Illinois can lay claim to William Maxwell, Sandra Cisneros, and Adam Langer, among numerous others. And what reader can think of Washington State without contending with the sparkle-vampire yarns of Stephanie Meyer?

What makes authors like these inextricably associated with a particular state is not simply the matter of their having been born there or choosing to live there. The connection, from a writerly standpoint, is deeper than that—their work, nearly all of it, is set in "their" state.

Of course, there are certainly exceptions. Whether a writer sets a tale in the town where they went to college or spent part of their childhood—like Donna Tartt's "The Secret History" and its New England arts school setting and the almost-factual small town of Jo Ann Beard's "In Zanesville," respectively—or crafts a story that follows a social or political theme to a location they know little about but lay narrative claim to anyway, the world is rife with books known, loved, and respected that also capture the essence of place—books where setting itself is one of the strongest characters.

Stacker compiled a list of books set in California from Goodreads. Whether you're looking for a good read set in the state you call home, or you're looking to expand your curiosity with a writer you're already familiar with, we've got you covered.

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Goodreads

Of Mice and Men

- Rating: 3.88 (2.3 million ratings)
- Author: John Steinbeck
- Published: February 25, 1937
- Genres: Classics, Fiction, School, Historical Fiction
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Goodreads

The Grapes of Wrath

- Rating: 3.99 (838,909 ratings)
- Author: John Steinbeck
- Published: April 14, 1939
- Genres: Classics, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literature
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Goodreads

East of Eden

- Rating: 4.39 (485,610 ratings)
- Author: John Steinbeck
- Published: January 1, 1952
- Genres: Classics, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literature
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Goodreads

The Joy Luck Club

- Rating: 3.95 (643,076 ratings)
- Author: Amy Tan
- Published: January 1, 1989
- Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Classics, China
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Goodreads

Cannery Row (Cannery Row, #1)

- Rating: 4.05 (125,277 ratings)
- Author: John Steinbeck
- Published: January 1, 1945
- Genres: Classics, Fiction, Literature, Historical Fiction
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Goodreads

The Maltese Falcon

- Rating: 3.89 (100,167 ratings)
- Author: Dashiell Hammett
- Published: January 1, 1930
- Genres: Mystery, Fiction, Classics, Crime
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Goodreads

The Big Sleep

- Rating: 3.96 (144,959 ratings)
- Author: Raymond Chandler
- Published: February 6, 1939
- Genres: Mystery, Fiction, Classics, Crime
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Goodreads

Daughter of Fortune

- Rating: 3.92 (124,864 ratings)
- Author: Isabel Allende
- Published: January 1, 1998
- Genres: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Historical, Romance
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Goodreads

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

- Rating: 4.09 (406,191 ratings)
- Author: Philip K. Dick
- Published: January 1, 1968
- Genres: Science Fiction, Fiction, Classics, Dystopia
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Goodreads

White Oleander

- Rating: 3.98 (340,290 ratings)
- Author: Janet Fitch
- Published: January 1, 1999
- Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Coming Of Age, Drama
- Read more on Goodreads

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Goodreads

The Black Dahlia (L.A. Quartet, #1)

- Rating: 3.77 (87,987 ratings)
- Author: James Ellroy
- Published: September 1, 1987
- Genres: Mystery, Fiction, Crime, Noir
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Goodreads

Ten Good Reasons (Sandy Cove, #2)

- Rating: 4.23 (306 ratings)
- Author: Lauren Christopher
- Published: April 7, 2015
- Genres: Romance, Contemporary Romance, Contemporary
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Goodreads

The Day of the Locust

- Rating: 3.73 (21,301 ratings)
- Author: Nathanael West
- Published: January 1, 1939
- Genres: Fiction, Classics, Literature, Novels
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Goodreads

Tales of the City (Tales of the City, #1)

- Rating: 4.01 (41,183 ratings)
- Author: Armistead Maupin
- Published: January 1, 1978
- Genres: Fiction, LGBT, Queer, Humor
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Goodreads

The Tortilla Curtain

- Rating: 3.66 (30,504 ratings)
- Author: T. Coraghessan Boyle
- Published: January 1, 1995
- Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Book Club, School
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Goodreads

The White Album: Essays

- Rating: 4.11 (27,122 ratings)
- Author: Joan Didion
- Published: January 1, 1979
- Genres: Nonfiction, Essays, Memoir, History
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Goodreads

Island of the Blue Dolphins

- Rating: 3.85 (317,911 ratings)
- Author: Scott O'Dell
- Published: September 9, 1960
- Genres: Young Adult, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Classics
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Goodreads

Mildred Pierce

- Rating: 3.93 (9,143 ratings)
- Author: James M. Cain
- Published: January 1, 1941
- Genres: Fiction, Classics, Noir, Mystery
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Goodreads

Freaks I've Met

- Rating: 3.53 (1,058 ratings)
- Author: Donald Jans
- Published: May 1, 2015
- Genres: Humor, Drama, Contemporary, Fiction
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Goodreads

L.A. Confidential (L.A. Quartet, #3)

- Rating: 4.17 (33,808 ratings)
- Author: James Ellroy
- Published: January 1, 1990
- Genres: Fiction, Crime, Mystery, Noir
- Read more on Goodreads

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Goodreads

China Blues

- Rating: 4.14 (1,547 ratings)
- Author: Ki Longfellow
- Published: January 1, 1989
- Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Fiction, Historical
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Goodreads

House of Sand and Fog

- Rating: 3.85 (129,966 ratings)
- Author: Andre Dubus III
- Published: January 1, 1999
- Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Adult Fiction
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Goodreads

Ask the Dust (The Saga of Arturo Bandini, #3)

- Rating: 4.11 (31,979 ratings)
- Author: John Fante
- Published: January 1, 1939
- Genres: Fiction, Classics, Novels, American
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Goodreads

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, #1)

- Rating: 3.73 (193,971 ratings)
- Author: Robin Sloan
- Published: September 26, 2012
- Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Fantasy, Books About Books
- Read more on Goodreads
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Goodreads

Less Than Zero

- Rating: 3.59 (78,774 ratings)
- Author: Bret Easton Ellis
- Published: May 1, 1985
- Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Novels, American
- Read more on Goodreads

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Goodreads

The Language of Flowers

- Rating: 4.09 (209,682 ratings)
- Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh
- Published: August 23, 2011
- Genres: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Book Club
- Read more on Goodreads
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Goodreads

Play It As It Lays

- Rating: 3.91 (46,707 ratings)
- Author: Joan Didion
- Published: January 1, 1970
- Genres: Fiction, Classics, Literary Fiction, Novels
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Goodreads

A is for Alibi (Kinsey Millhone, #1)

- Rating: 3.86 (175,831 ratings)
- Author: Sue Grafton
- Published: April 15, 1982
- Genres: Mystery, Fiction, Crime, Mystery Thriller
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Goodreads

Devil in a Blue Dress (Easy Rawlins, #1)

- Rating: 3.87 (23,957 ratings)
- Author: Walter Mosley
- Published: January 1, 1990
- Genres: Mystery, Fiction, Crime, Noir
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Goodreads

Farewell, My Lovely

- Rating: 4.11 (37,048 ratings)
- Author: Raymond Chandler
- Published: January 1, 1940
- Genres: Mystery, Fiction, Crime, Noir
- Read more on Goodreads

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Goodreads

The Bonesetter's Daughter

- Rating: 3.99 (126,173 ratings)
- Author: Amy Tan
- Published: February 19, 2001
- Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction, China, Historical
- Read more on Goodreads
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Goodreads

The Kitchen God's Wife

- Rating: 4.02 (81,747 ratings)
- Author: Amy Tan
- Published: January 1, 1991
- Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction, China, Asia
- Read more on Goodreads
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Goodreads

Post Office

- Rating: 3.95 (116,461 ratings)
- Author: Charles Bukowski
- Published: January 1, 1971
- Genres: Fiction, Classics, Novels, Literature
- Read more on Goodreads
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Goodreads

Tortilla Flat

- Rating: 3.83 (50,143 ratings)
- Author: John Steinbeck
- Published: January 1, 1935
- Genres: Fiction, Classics, Literature, Novels
- Read more on Goodreads
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Goodreads

Stories and Early Novels: Pulp Stories / The Big Sleep / Farewell, My Lovely / The High Window

- Rating: 4.51 (1,395 ratings)
- Author: Raymond Chandler
- Published: January 1, 1933
- Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Short Stories, Crime
- Read more on Goodreads

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Goodreads

The Octopus: A Story of California

- Rating: 3.81 (1,759 ratings)
- Author: Frank Norris
- Published: January 1, 1901
- Genres: Fiction, Classics, Historical Fiction, Novels
- Read more on Goodreads
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Goodreads

The Girl with Ghost Eyes

- Rating: 3.87 (4,029 ratings)
- Author: M.H. Boroson
- Published: November 3, 2015
- Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Fiction
- Read more on Goodreads
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Goodreads

The Postman Always Rings Twice

- Rating: 3.79 (38,286 ratings)
- Author: James M. Cain
- Published: January 1, 1934
- Genres: Fiction, Classics, Mystery, Crime
- Read more on Goodreads
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Goodreads

Zorro

- Rating: 3.78 (21,857 ratings)
- Author: Isabel Allende
- Published: May 3, 2005
- Genres: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Adventure, Historical
- Read more on Goodreads
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Goodreads

The Long Goodbye (Philip Marlowe, #6)

- Rating: 4.19 (39,426 ratings)
- Author: Raymond Chandler
- Published: January 1, 1953
- Genres: Mystery, Fiction, Crime, Noir
- Read more on Goodreads

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Goodreads

Double Indemnity

- Rating: 4.06 (24,949 ratings)
- Author: James M. Cain
- Published: January 1, 1936
- Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Noir, Classics
- Read more on Goodreads
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Goodreads

Miss Lonelyhearts / The Day of the Locust

- Rating: 3.90 (9,773 ratings)
- Author: Nathanael West
- Published: May 16, 1939
- Genres: Fiction, Classics, Literature, Novels
- Read more on Goodreads
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Goodreads

Shanghai Girls (Shanghai Girls, #1)

- Rating: 3.90 (149,722 ratings)
- Author: Lisa See
- Published: May 26, 2009
- Genres: Historical Fiction, Fiction, China, Historical
- Read more on Goodreads
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Goodreads

The Wayward Bus

- Rating: 3.86 (10,651 ratings)
- Author: John Steinbeck
- Published: February 1, 1947
- Genres: Fiction, Classics, Literature, Novels
- Read more on Goodreads
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Goodreads

1st to Die (Women's Murder Club, #1)

- Rating: 4.09 (322,519 ratings)
- Author: James Patterson
- Published: March 5, 2001
- Genres: Mystery, Fiction, Thriller, Crime
- Read more on Goodreads

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Goodreads

The Pastures of Heaven

- Rating: 4.07 (8,205 ratings)
- Author: John Steinbeck
- Published: January 1, 1932
- Genres: Fiction, Classics, Short Stories, Literature
- Read more on Goodreads
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Goodreads

The Witching Hour (Lives of the Mayfair Witches, #1)

- Rating: 4.11 (109,420 ratings)
- Author: Anne Rice
- Published: October 1, 1990
- Genres: Horror, Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal
- Read more on Goodreads
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Goodreads

The Buddha in the Attic

- Rating: 3.66 (50,444 ratings)
- Author: Julie Otsuka
- Published: August 23, 2011
- Genres: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Japan, Historical
- Read more on Goodreads
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Goodreads

The Man in the High Castle

- Rating: 3.61 (194,484 ratings)
- Author: Philip K. Dick
- Published: October 1, 1962
- Genres: Science Fiction, Fiction, Classics, Dystopia
- Read more on Goodreads

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