California has a rich history, full of both bright spots and dark corners … And there are plenty of well-written books out there that explore that history


The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust Across California
By Mark Arax
Knopf, $30.00, 576 pages

The Central Valley is one region of California that often gets somewhat overlooked by the rest of the country, overshadowed as it is by the Bay and SoCal. But the Valley is where one can find a great many of California’s farmers, and the area has been the driving force behind much of the state’s confusing water policies. In this book, California native Mark Arax explores the decades that shaped how much of the state gets its water, and how those policies have helped to grow some of California’s biggest agricultural empires–and how they may someday be one of farming’s downfalls.


California Exposures: Envisioning Myth and History

By Richard White
W. W. Norton & Company, $45.00, 320 pages

California has a rich and storied history, and much of it is darker than we’d like to acknowledge. Father and son team Richard and Jesse White delve into some of this history in this impressive new book. Jesse is an extremely talented photographer, and his pictures provide the backdrop for the various historical happenings that Richard expounds upon. Readers will learn about a number of interesting cities and sites and individuals and groups, as well as the reason why those places and people are notable. Be prepared to learn some things that aren’t covered in school history classes!