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California has always been our Shangri-la–the promised land of countless pilgrims in search of the American Dream. Now the Golden State’s premier historian, Kevin Starr, distills the entire sweep of California’s history into one splendid volume. From the age of exploration to the age of Arnold, this is the story of a place at once quintessentially American and utterly uniq California has always been our Shangri-la–the promised land of countless pilgrims in search of the American Dream. Now the Golden State’s premier historian, Kevin Starr, distills the entire sweep of California’s history into one splendid volume. From the age of exploration to the age of Arnold, this is the story of a place at once quintessentially American and utterly unique. Arguing that America’s most populous state has always been blessed with both spectacular natural beauty and astonishing human diversity, Starr unfolds a rapid-fire epic of discovery, innovation, catastrophe, and triumph. For generations, California’s native peoples basked in the abundance of a climate and topography eminently suited to human habitation. By the time the Spanish arrived in the early sixteenth century, there were scores of autonomous tribes were thriving in the region. Though conquest was rapid, nearly two centuries passed before Spain exerted control over upper California through the chain of missions that stand to this day. The discovery of gold in January 1848 changed everything. With population increasing exponentially as get-rich-quick dreamers converged from all over the world, California reinvented itself overnight. Starr deftly traces the successive waves of innovation and calamity that have broken over the state since then–the incredible wealth of the Big Four railroad tycoons and the devastating San Francisco earthquake of 1906; the emergence of Hollywood as the world’s entertainment capital and of Silicon Valley as the center of high-tech research and development; the heroic irrigation and transportation projects that have altered the face of the region; the role of labor, both organized and migrant, in key industries from agriculture to aerospace. Kevin Starr has devoted his career to the history of his beloved state, but he has never lost his sense of wonder over California’s sheer abundance and peerless variety. This one-volume distillation of a lifetime’s work gathers together everything that is most important, most fascinating, and most revealing about our greatest state. From the Hardcover edition.


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California has always been our Shangri-la–the promised land of countless pilgrims in search of the American Dream. Now the Golden State’s premier historian, Kevin Starr, distills the entire sweep of California’s history into one splendid volume. From the age of exploration to the age of Arnold, this is the story of a place at once quintessentially American and utterly uniq California has always been our Shangri-la–the promised land of countless pilgrims in search of the American Dream. Now the Golden State’s premier historian, Kevin Starr, distills the entire sweep of California’s history into one splendid volume. From the age of exploration to the age of Arnold, this is the story of a place at once quintessentially American and utterly unique. Arguing that America’s most populous state has always been blessed with both spectacular natural beauty and astonishing human diversity, Starr unfolds a rapid-fire epic of discovery, innovation, catastrophe, and triumph. For generations, California’s native peoples basked in the abundance of a climate and topography eminently suited to human habitation. By the time the Spanish arrived in the early sixteenth century, there were scores of autonomous tribes were thriving in the region. Though conquest was rapid, nearly two centuries passed before Spain exerted control over upper California through the chain of missions that stand to this day. The discovery of gold in January 1848 changed everything. With population increasing exponentially as get-rich-quick dreamers converged from all over the world, California reinvented itself overnight. Starr deftly traces the successive waves of innovation and calamity that have broken over the state since then–the incredible wealth of the Big Four railroad tycoons and the devastating San Francisco earthquake of 1906; the emergence of Hollywood as the world’s entertainment capital and of Silicon Valley as the center of high-tech research and development; the heroic irrigation and transportation projects that have altered the face of the region; the role of labor, both organized and migrant, in key industries from agriculture to aerospace. Kevin Starr has devoted his career to the history of his beloved state, but he has never lost his sense of wonder over California’s sheer abundance and peerless variety. This one-volume distillation of a lifetime’s work gathers together everything that is most important, most fascinating, and most revealing about our greatest state. From the Hardcover edition.

30 review for California: A History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    Returning to my home state after a 12-year exile, I realized the last time I'd studied California history was in the fourth grade. Kevin Starr's slim volume was just what I needed to catch myself up. 344 pages is by no means enough for a truly comprehensive history, but Starr deftly surveys the development of the state from Native American enclave and figure of Spanish legend into the behemoth it is today, while simultaneously tracing the artistic, scientific, political and social threads that m Returning to my home state after a 12-year exile, I realized the last time I'd studied California history was in the fourth grade. Kevin Starr's slim volume was just what I needed to catch myself up. 344 pages is by no means enough for a truly comprehensive history, but Starr deftly surveys the development of the state from Native American enclave and figure of Spanish legend into the behemoth it is today, while simultaneously tracing the artistic, scientific, political and social threads that make the tapestry of California culture. It's a great primer for those with casual interest, and a great jumping off point for those interested in a more detailed study of the subject through his or others' other works.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Marion Dickel

    A little dry. Filled with lists of people - artists, politicians, etc. I need a more interesting history of CA to read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Anna From Gustine

    Who is so boring that they would actually read a whole book about California? Me, that's who. I am just that boring. California is actually my beloved home state. I am from the Central Valley (Gustine, in fact) which is NOT what most people think of when they think of California. A large part of the state is not San Francisco or Los Angeles. And that is one of the reasons I liked this book. It gives a full picture of the state which I appreciated. This book is not for everyone. It may look dry, bu Who is so boring that they would actually read a whole book about California? Me, that's who. I am just that boring. California is actually my beloved home state. I am from the Central Valley (Gustine, in fact) which is NOT what most people think of when they think of California. A large part of the state is not San Francisco or Los Angeles. And that is one of the reasons I liked this book. It gives a full picture of the state which I appreciated. This book is not for everyone. It may look dry, but it's actually just really dense. It starts way back during the Spanish colonization and ends in the nineties I think. I learned a lot. The best sections were the ones on the labor agitation in the state, predominately in the 20s and 30s. I also appreciated the attention on how the Native Californians were treated and decimated (how many people even know there were tribes in California and that remnants still remain?) The worst are the last couple of chapters which I scanned as they were pretty much lists of names from the world of science and Hollywood. I appreciated the moments when the author's voice appeared. They were few and far between, but telling. For example, when talking about racism, he makes it very clear in a professorial way how he personally felt about it. When talking about an attack on Mexican Zoot suiters, he pointedly refrains from quoting the racist jargon in newspapers at the time. I appreciated that integrity. Finally, if you take one thing from this review, it's that California is a complex state. It mixes the liberalism of urban areas with small town conservatism. It's all there, but you need to know where to look.

  4. 5 out of 5

    N

    In the notes of this book, Kevin Starr comments on his initial hesitation about how successful a one-volume history of the state of California could be. After reading California: A History, I think his first inclination was correct. There's a lot to say about California's colourful history, and I'm really not sure that this slight (~300-page) book does it justice. It's not a bad book. But it's also not, all told, a book I got much out of.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Hakan Jackson

    This book is like an encyclopedia on California. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. The bad thing is that there is little continuity, it goes from one piece of history to the next with little structure other than that it's mostly chronological. However, it was good in that I feel like I've walked away from this book learning a lot. So in short: it was worth the read, but don't expect a page turner from beginning to end.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Phillip Fernberg

    Well written and impressively comprehensive journey into the history of my dear homeland. This is the type of book that is worth owning if you’re interested in always having an easy reference for California general knowledge that’s not a dry textbook. It could use an update already as I feel a lot has happened in the last decade, but in any case this is probably the first book I will refer to people interested in state history from here on out. California pride = reinvigorated

  7. 4 out of 5

    Misael G

    I thoroughly enjoyed Kevin Starr’s exploration of California’s history as we’ve come to know it. My favorite parts were the mythologizing of California by the Spanish, early American settlers, and then again in the 1920s during the development of SoCal. The section on Disneyland as encapsulating the values of the time and suburban SoCal also blew my mind (I grew up in the OC). I struggled a bit with the book - because it encompasses 500 years of history, it can be difficult to follow at times. C I thoroughly enjoyed Kevin Starr’s exploration of California’s history as we’ve come to know it. My favorite parts were the mythologizing of California by the Spanish, early American settlers, and then again in the 1920s during the development of SoCal. The section on Disneyland as encapsulating the values of the time and suburban SoCal also blew my mind (I grew up in the OC). I struggled a bit with the book - because it encompasses 500 years of history, it can be difficult to follow at times. Characters and players come in and out like a Wild West Saloon, making it hard to keep track of who’s who but helping you understand some subthemes of the Golden State’s History. All that said, an excellent primer on the development of “that sunshine state where the bomb-ass hemp be, a place where you never find the dance floor empty.”

  8. 5 out of 5

    Abhinav

    A very wide ranging history that covers most of what I wanted to know about the history of California. I picked up a lot of interesting tidbits about the people, places and the history of how California came to be. Would definitely recommend this to folks interested in interested in the subject.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Robert Coleman

    This was a good primer for my time in California. It reads like reference book most of the time, and the lists of people, organizations, etc. can wear on you, but for a general overview of the state's history up to Arnold's governorship, it's not bad.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sylvie

    This a book I’ve been meaning to read for some time but non-fiction is always a hard sell in terms of getting me to actually pick it up. Generally, I prefer to listen to this type of thing as an audiobook. Given the topic, I decided to take it on my recent cross-country drive, which started with an eight-hour drive through the state. I have to say I was a little disappointed. If you don’t know Kevin Starr, he is a historian who produced a seven-book chronological series about Americans and the C This a book I’ve been meaning to read for some time but non-fiction is always a hard sell in terms of getting me to actually pick it up. Generally, I prefer to listen to this type of thing as an audiobook. Given the topic, I decided to take it on my recent cross-country drive, which started with an eight-hour drive through the state. I have to say I was a little disappointed. If you don’t know Kevin Starr, he is a historian who produced a seven-book chronological series about Americans and the California Dream, so I thought this one-volume book would be a condensed narrative of that. Instead, it was far more encyclopedic than I thought it would be, yet with very patchy coverage of important places and events and, while there was lots of detail on some subjects, nothing really tied the various elements into an overarching thematic narrative. It is also overly focused on elites and the Bay Area. I live in San Francisco and love it, but do I really want a book trying to cover all of California history in only 400 pages to endlessly wax rhapsodic about the architectural plans for Stanford University over discussing Mulholland and water delivery to Los Angeles? No I do not. I think I should probably delve into the longer series and see if maybe this skewed presentation is simply a result of trying to cover so much in so few pages. But, if they are as dry as this volume, I’m not sure how far I’ll get.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Grant Mulligan

    California: A History is one of those special nonfiction histories that reads like a novel. Fast, beautifully written, and captivating. It's a great read for California citizens and non-citizens alike. After moving to the state recently and knowing little of its history, Starr's book served as a fast-paced primer. Nonresident fans of American history will appreciate the story not because they'll know who so many SF streets are named after, but as reminder that New England doesn't hold sole posse California: A History is one of those special nonfiction histories that reads like a novel. Fast, beautifully written, and captivating. It's a great read for California citizens and non-citizens alike. After moving to the state recently and knowing little of its history, Starr's book served as a fast-paced primer. Nonresident fans of American history will appreciate the story not because they'll know who so many SF streets are named after, but as reminder that New England doesn't hold sole possession over the events that shaped America's creation and evolution. You won't be an expert on California history when you finish, but you'll have a better appreciation of the broad strokes and the exposure to names and ideas for further exploration. Highly recommended.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Falk

    This is a brief but generally engaging history of what was the most magnificent and productive American state. Some of the later chapters are incomplete and dubious. (Starr is much less adept at art and cultural history. In an account of the state's architecture, he barely mentions the Wrights and neglects to mention John Lautner at all. As an enthusiast of modernism, he neglects to mention the innovations of Hollywood romanticism or Ayn Rand. The Beach Boys are mentioned in passing as Brian Wil This is a brief but generally engaging history of what was the most magnificent and productive American state. Some of the later chapters are incomplete and dubious. (Starr is much less adept at art and cultural history. In an account of the state's architecture, he barely mentions the Wrights and neglects to mention John Lautner at all. As an enthusiast of modernism, he neglects to mention the innovations of Hollywood romanticism or Ayn Rand. The Beach Boys are mentioned in passing as Brian Wilson's vehicle, and Frank Zappa is omitted. Etc.) Stylistically, Starr writes long sentences that can be hard to follow. Hopefully, some of these lacunae are covered in his other books.

  13. 5 out of 5

    John

    A really great book! I checked it out with the idea of reading just the bits and pieces relevant to the San Francisco Bay Area in preparation for a family trip back to where I grew up, but I ended up reading the entire book. It did not matter where I opened up the book, each chapter was really fascinating and pleasant to read. I expected a history book of California to be somewhat dry, but it was not. Learning about California history is not necessarily a high priority on my learning goals, but A really great book! I checked it out with the idea of reading just the bits and pieces relevant to the San Francisco Bay Area in preparation for a family trip back to where I grew up, but I ended up reading the entire book. It did not matter where I opened up the book, each chapter was really fascinating and pleasant to read. I expected a history book of California to be somewhat dry, but it was not. Learning about California history is not necessarily a high priority on my learning goals, but having finished this book, I checked out his book, "California and the American Dream," and I find it equally compelling. This book, "California: A History" covers from 1850 til about 2005. My guess is that this book is a condensed version of his other 8-9 books. I should add that I have lived in San Diego for the past 20 years and in the Bay Area for my first 18 years as well as 3 years of graduate school. This book was interesting in part because it talked about places and names that I know from visiting and living here, and now I know more about how they came to be and who or what they were named for. For example, everybody who attended 4th grade in California knows something of the missions and the gold rush. Reading it again as a grownup, having visited more sites along the El Camino Real as well as small towns in gold country, I have more appreciation for understanding the state's origins and impacts on the state today. I was not aware of the strong influence of Irish on the labour movement in San Francisco in the late 19th and early 20th century, nor that it was known for tolerating liberal lifestyles (albeit not necessarily immigrants) dating back to the gold rush. The names on the streets in San Diego, L.A., and San Francisco date back to individual influencers from 1846 and 1850. It makes you realize how small and local politics was then and still is now. Mr. Starr includes a multitude of facts that, when taken as a whole, offer a perspective on California that seems to speak to its grandness and simplicity at the same time. Silicon Valley may be a source of great wealth today, but it owes a debt to World War II, the Cold War, and the race to the moon, as well as the vision of the founders and developers of universities like Stanford and Cal. In short, an informative and fascinating read for anyone living in California and not a dry, historical tome as one might expect.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Frank Stein

    It was inevitable that Kevin Starr, the semi-official historian of California, would do a short synopsis of his work and of the history of the state. It was also inevitable that the resulting book would be little more than a collage of names and anecdotes with little structure, since squeezing together 200-plus years would leave little room for original insights. There are a lot of odd factoids about inventions from California (did you know the tractor was created by Fresno wagoneer Benjamin Hol It was inevitable that Kevin Starr, the semi-official historian of California, would do a short synopsis of his work and of the history of the state. It was also inevitable that the resulting book would be little more than a collage of names and anecdotes with little structure, since squeezing together 200-plus years would leave little room for original insights. There are a lot of odd factoids about inventions from California (did you know the tractor was created by Fresno wagoneer Benjamin Holt in 1904?) and writers who lived there (Mark Twain of course spent about a decade there; Wallace Stegner spent most of his adult life in Stanford University; Ray Bradbury was a Southern Californian). There's a lot of commonly known history: the Watts riots in LA get a paragraph, the Jonestown massacre coming out of People's Temple in San Francisco gets a paragraph, the OJ Simpson case gets a paragraph. Some events or people described here, however, are more distinctly "Californian," and have been forgotten by the wider public. William Coleman was a San Francisco businessman who organized the two "vigilance committees" that brought lynch law to the city in the wake of Irish "invasions" and high crime rates in the 1850s. Strangely enough, he also organized a 1877 vigilante group to stop the Workingmen's Party from murdering Chinese laborers. Agoston Harazthy was a Hungarian-born farmer who produced his "Report on Grapes and Wines in California" in 1859 for the State Agricultural Society, and two years later, brought back two-hundred thousand cuttings from Europe under the patronage of the state legislature to bootstrap the wine industry. He basically founded the Napa wine world we know today. So overall there are some fun stories and a lot of well-worn tales. Perhaps as a refresher or an introduction it provides some value. I would advise most to skip it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Simpreet Kaur

    A history of my beloved state in one volume, why not? I had heard of Kevin Starr as an excellent historian and a lot of praise for this book. It certainly did not disappoint. This book can be a bit dry though and I would recommend only for history buffs or people interested in California and its history. There is enough myth around California's origin- the name came from a popular Spanish novel from the 1500s which referred to a mythical island west of Indies that was ruled by a Queen by the nam A history of my beloved state in one volume, why not? I had heard of Kevin Starr as an excellent historian and a lot of praise for this book. It certainly did not disappoint. This book can be a bit dry though and I would recommend only for history buffs or people interested in California and its history. There is enough myth around California's origin- the name came from a popular Spanish novel from the 1500s which referred to a mythical island west of Indies that was ruled by a Queen by the name of Califia. The gold rush came in 1848 when gold was discovered in the state and everyone rushed to the state to make a life for themselves. In 1863, the name California became the sort of official name for the golden state. The book covers some key highs and lows, events in history- from the discovery of the state to it's institution to the gold rush, railroad, construction of the iconic buildings and bridges, agriculture boom, cultural melting pot, race clashes, the rise and fall of the dot com, the building of the Silicon Valley. There's also a chapter on my childhood favorite, Arnold Schwarzenegger, ex-governor. Some readers will complain that the book is not comprehensive enough, that is something I believe wouldn't be possible to do in a single volume. A Historian would have to write an epic to cover how one state became the 5th largest economy in the world, earning the title of nation-state.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tim Abraham

    A great historical overview of our great state. Starts with the first European contact and ends with the rise of Silicon Valley. You'll encounter a lot of characters we see in names of places every day: Sutter, Fremont, Powell, Vallejo to name a few. Fitting as much history into a few hundred pages is an amazing task when you think about all the rich cultural, economic, and natural gifts California has provided to the world in the last few centuries. From the gold rush to Yosemite to Hollywood an A great historical overview of our great state. Starts with the first European contact and ends with the rise of Silicon Valley. You'll encounter a lot of characters we see in names of places every day: Sutter, Fremont, Powell, Vallejo to name a few. Fitting as much history into a few hundred pages is an amazing task when you think about all the rich cultural, economic, and natural gifts California has provided to the world in the last few centuries. From the gold rush to Yosemite to Hollywood and Silicon Valley, the beats and the hippies, the boom-and-bust business cycles, natural disasters, extreme wealth inequality and labor issues, immigration, the "Governator", there's a lot to touch on in California. This book doesn't sugarcoat anything, showing California not as a shining paradise but as a complex, volatile place that no one can quite properly classify. One thing I felt was missing was the cultural contribution by people of color. For example, in the section on musicians there was no mention of any of the great rappers and hip hop artists from California like Dr Dre, Snoop and Tupac. Maybe this guy wasn't a hip hop fan :/

  17. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Stuart

    Recently, I finished Kevin Starr's "California: a History," which I had heard recommended from various sources as the best introduction to the history of our state. It brings you in to the story of how California became what it is today (ending with the Schwartzenegger years). I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to complete their vision of the story of our state and get a glimpse of the spirit of California as well. He links Spanish and Mexican Alta California to the state that grew out of the Recently, I finished Kevin Starr's "California: a History," which I had heard recommended from various sources as the best introduction to the history of our state. It brings you in to the story of how California became what it is today (ending with the Schwartzenegger years). I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to complete their vision of the story of our state and get a glimpse of the spirit of California as well. He links Spanish and Mexican Alta California to the state that grew out of the gold rush in a way that highlights he continuity between the two. I thought his covering of the missions was surprisingly superficial and condemnatory - not at all indicative of the rest of the book, though. The second part of the book shifts to a thematic approach, so it can be a little hard to keep track of the chronology at times. He is careful to include the development of the arts and the way they reflected on and even influenced the history of California. For its length, this book provides an in-depth and comprehensive look at the story of California which succeeds in its stated goal of explaining how the state became what it is today.

  18. 5 out of 5

    LeeAnn Heringer

    For such a short book, it does hit all the high points. I'd be hard pressed to come up with important events in California that the book does not at least devote a paragraph on. But the book is rather superficial because it's trying to cover everything about 400 years of history. It runs at a gallop without really getting you close up to any of the cast of characters. I would suggest this as a reference book to get a list of events to read about more thoroughly if you don't know where to start r For such a short book, it does hit all the high points. I'd be hard pressed to come up with important events in California that the book does not at least devote a paragraph on. But the book is rather superficial because it's trying to cover everything about 400 years of history. It runs at a gallop without really getting you close up to any of the cast of characters. I would suggest this as a reference book to get a list of events to read about more thoroughly if you don't know where to start reading about California history because history is in the details and there's very little of that here.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jeffery James

    The approach of this book is history as an inch deep and a mile wide. I can't say that I gained any insight into California, save for some trivial knowledge here and there. I also didn't appreciate the very sympathetic tone Starr takes towards European conquerors and colonists from the Spanish mission system to Anglo-American gold miners. The end of the book devolves into lists of names of artists, musicians, film makers, and entrepreneurs that were famous in the 20th century with a brief aside The approach of this book is history as an inch deep and a mile wide. I can't say that I gained any insight into California, save for some trivial knowledge here and there. I also didn't appreciate the very sympathetic tone Starr takes towards European conquerors and colonists from the Spanish mission system to Anglo-American gold miners. The end of the book devolves into lists of names of artists, musicians, film makers, and entrepreneurs that were famous in the 20th century with a brief aside on immigration and a VERY friendly interpretation of the prop 187/Ron Unz movement to limit immigration in the state.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Maggie

    A really worthwhile read- every paragraph could be a paragraph of its own. I picked this up because, even as a native Californian and someone pretty well-traveled and studied within the state, I felt like I didn't understand key moments of CA history and had big holes during certain eras of CA history. I think this did a good job at highlighting key histories, places, people, and events, but obviously didn't have the space to provide detail. I felt like there was a good balance between the white A really worthwhile read- every paragraph could be a paragraph of its own. I picked this up because, even as a native Californian and someone pretty well-traveled and studied within the state, I felt like I didn't understand key moments of CA history and had big holes during certain eras of CA history. I think this did a good job at highlighting key histories, places, people, and events, but obviously didn't have the space to provide detail. I felt like there was a good balance between the white-guy does things/big infrastructure achievement and the stories of non-white Californians/working class struggles/the dark and violent stuff. Would recommend- lots of good facts!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Matt Schiavenza

    A concise, elegantly-written history of California by the state's most acclaimed historian, California: A History is reliably informative and readable. What's missing is an argument for why California became as exceptional as it is, both as an early-warning system for American politics and as our most future-facing state. Starr's volume functions more as a textbook than anything else — it tells you the facts but distances itself from controversy or offers much of a point of view. This is arguabl A concise, elegantly-written history of California by the state's most acclaimed historian, California: A History is reliably informative and readable. What's missing is an argument for why California became as exceptional as it is, both as an early-warning system for American politics and as our most future-facing state. Starr's volume functions more as a textbook than anything else — it tells you the facts but distances itself from controversy or offers much of a point of view. This is arguably a feature, not a bug, but it did not make for particularly memorable reading for this Californian.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Phillip Goodman

    Starr covers an impressive amount of ground with this brief history of California. Accordingly, the chapters in this book would be a great reference on any number of topics in California history: I most enjoyed the statehood process, the creation of new communities and towns, and the balance of politics in the early 2000s. I found the book slower at times when the author attempts to cover too much ground by moving away from a narrative style e.g. the 20th century labor struggles and the battle f Starr covers an impressive amount of ground with this brief history of California. Accordingly, the chapters in this book would be a great reference on any number of topics in California history: I most enjoyed the statehood process, the creation of new communities and towns, and the balance of politics in the early 2000s. I found the book slower at times when the author attempts to cover too much ground by moving away from a narrative style e.g. the 20th century labor struggles and the battle for control prior to statehood. In any event if you live in California and want to know where all our names of streets, buildings, and towns came from, read this.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    It’s rare that I ever get bored from reading history. But at times this book was hard to get through. Perhaps it was the endless list of names without much backstory or narrative or perhaps it was the author’s dry writing style. There were moments such as when Starr was describing the gold rush or the American annexation of California when it livened up and it felt more like a story rather than listing names of famous men. The book ends with Starr falling all over himself with praise for the ele It’s rare that I ever get bored from reading history. But at times this book was hard to get through. Perhaps it was the endless list of names without much backstory or narrative or perhaps it was the author’s dry writing style. There were moments such as when Starr was describing the gold rush or the American annexation of California when it livened up and it felt more like a story rather than listing names of famous men. The book ends with Starr falling all over himself with praise for the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ankit Gupta

    It was a pretty average book. Honestly, I couldn't finish it, but for two reasons- one because I couldn't finish it before coming back from my California vacation :) and secondly, it was too many people names with not as much insight in a crisp way as I would have liked. Some of the insights which I did pull out from the book were good and it gave me a good view of what is California. Anyways, not the best history book I have read. I would discover more when I do move there sometime in my life. It was a pretty average book. Honestly, I couldn't finish it, but for two reasons- one because I couldn't finish it before coming back from my California vacation :) and secondly, it was too many people names with not as much insight in a crisp way as I would have liked. Some of the insights which I did pull out from the book were good and it gave me a good view of what is California. Anyways, not the best history book I have read. I would discover more when I do move there sometime in my life. It is just too awesome a place!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    Kevin Starr's masterful, condensed history of California in 300 pages ranges from politics to the arts and social change and succinctly covering all the ground he previously covered in his astonishing 8 volumes of California history. I've read them all and this is a great, quick review or an introduction for those unfamiliar with his work. He's a fine writer with a true love for California but few if any blind spots. He's particularly good on labor and cultural history and skilled at finding the Kevin Starr's masterful, condensed history of California in 300 pages ranges from politics to the arts and social change and succinctly covering all the ground he previously covered in his astonishing 8 volumes of California history. I've read them all and this is a great, quick review or an introduction for those unfamiliar with his work. He's a fine writer with a true love for California but few if any blind spots. He's particularly good on labor and cultural history and skilled at finding the telling detail or personal story to illuminate the big picture.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rafael

    This is a good book to learn about the history of California since it was first discovered by the Europeans, to becoming a state of the United States, to current times. It doesn't go into detail for things that aren't necessary, and it covers many aspects of California culture such as arts, nature and environment, architecture, sciences and engineering, the dot-com companies and how its lifestyle influenced the whole world.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Snortum-phelps

    OK, it's crazy to try to cram all of California history into 400 or so pages. But he did it! Sort of... Lots has to be skipped, lots of personal perspectives leaving out other, entirely valid, perspectives (OK, every history does that), lots of quick summarizing. But I really appreciated it, and of course if you're a histo-geek, it just gives you the areas that you want to pursue more deeply with other books.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Shane Young

    I really enjoyed this book but it left me wanting more. For example, the author covered some time periods in-depth but other periods only briefly. There were key elements and stories about different parts of the state that were clearly left out. I can understand because there is a ton of information to cover. This would have easily been a series of 3 or 4 books. I would love to see something similar for other states.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tim Basuino

    I elected this to be my first e-checkout from the county library, and it was a pretty decent pick. For those who want a general overview of America's greatest state's history before delving deeper, I would highly recommend this. Yes, at times the late Starr can be repetitive, but pretty much every major aspect of California's economy, history, and culture is touched upon. I am now planning to go through the author's individual components of this narrative.

  30. 4 out of 5

    joseph

    The author covers a lot of ground in only 344 pages. I appreciated the major theme of regret in the California promise over the centuries - the shadow along with the sunshine - the diversity and the xeonphobia. There was some material about the process of becoming a state of which I'd not heard. The close links between the military and California development and economy are also new items to me.

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