This group of books has a familiar look, since seven of the authors have already appeared in the first thirty entries. We do, however, have the first book by a member of an ethnic minority and the second book by a woman.
31. The Day of the Locust (1939) by Nathanael West. Here’s the outsider look at Hollywood -- and Los Angeles and maybe the whole country. Accessible and absorbing throughout, the book should be taken away from English teachers and returned to ordinary readers. It’s a must-read.
32. The Continental Op (1974) by Dashiell Hammett. Hammett featured his nameless detective in some three dozen magazine stories during the 1920s. Seven are collected here. They're hefty enough (30-60 pp.) to satisfy fans of hard-edged mysteries.
33. Mama’s Bank Account (1943) by Kathryn Forbes. Nostalgic but not saccharine, this collection of stories about an immigrant family in San Francisco ought to attract grown-up readers in addition to the middle-school students to whom it is often assigned.
34. The Valley of the Moon (1913) by Jack London. This tale of a young couple’s courtship, marriage and wanderings gives a vivid picture of life in Northern California a century ago. But the writing loses crispness as the action leaves Oakland for the countryside, so the book is mostly of historical interest.
35. To a God Unknown (1933) by John Steinbeck. The author’s first shot at a California novel has its virtues, of course, but it tries too hard to find significance in the lives of Monterey County ranchers. You’ll probably want to put this near the bottom of the optional Steinbeck list.
36. Earth Abides (1949) by George R. Stewart. This apocalyptic tale of destruction and regeneration is a must-read for science fiction fans. If you’re less fond of the genre, however, you might find it a bit slow and didactic.
37. The Long Goodbye (1954) by Raymond Chandler. There’s not much fun to be had in this slow and sour detective story. Unless you’re a compulsive Chandler devotee, you can safely skip this.
38. If He Hollers Let Him Go (1945) by Chester Himes. This novel, set during World War II largely in a Los Angeles shipyard, examines both white and black attitudes toward race. Widely recognized as a major work of African American fiction, the book belongs on your must-read list.
39. The Subterraneans (1958) by Jack Kerouac. And here’s another one for the list, a complicated story of love among the beats. But be warned: Although the book is short, the writing is jumbled and you may be challenged to stick with it.
40. The High Window (1942) by Raymond Chandler. The author may be trying a little too hard to entertain in this, the third Philip Marlowe detective story. As a result, the narrative loses focus. If you’re serious about mystery stories, you may be disappointed.
To sum up: The Day of the Locust, If He Hollers Let Him Go and The Subterraneans qualify as must-reads. The Long Goodbye should be avoided. And the remaining books are good in one way or another and will appeal to many readers.