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California

A History
Narrated by: Jonathan Davis
Length: 13 hrs and 16 mins
4 out of 5 stars (169 ratings)

Regular price: $29.95

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Publisher's Summary

Acclaimed author, historian, and Guggenheim Fellow Kevin Starr is a professor at the University of Southern California. His extensive knowledge shines through this concise, yet comprehensive, depiction of the most fascinating aspects in California's history. From its colonial beginnings through Governor Schwarzenegger's administration, the Golden State has become a uniquely American phenomenon that has enchanted people with the possibility of a better life. In so doing, it has become a uniquely American phenomenon.
©2005 Kevin Starr (P)2005 Recorded Books, LLC

What members say

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Review

Excellent book for fan of history or simply for one trying to understand how modern California became so fascinating, complex and the current struggles all the more fascinating. An excellent audio book for anyone doing a 2 day drive along the length of CA or with a 5 hour flight to CA.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Philo
  • San Diego, CA, United States
  • 06-10-15

I'm finally fixing my patchy CA history

This is an amazing walk through time and space. California seemed to loll on the edge of nowhere culturally (at least by European perceptions, so this excludes a large body of native peoples with very rich lives, alongside its impossibly beautiful natural resources), and then it exploded through a series of convulsive changes into the modern world. There are probably as many views of this as viewers. My own bit of California has been a bit of all this: gorgeous and heartbreaking. This esteemed expert historian has mastered a huge mass of swirling details, and brought them into a coherent story here. This brings my California experience to a whole new level.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Interesting read, until it's not

I picked this book up to get a better idea of the history, people and places of importance to California's history. And while the author does a credible job of keeping a straight timeline from past to present, I would have wished he had gone into more detail about the people and personalities who helped shape those events. Moreover, it would have been nice for the author to break from the timeline every now and then to show how those people and events helped shape later day California. Overall, it isn't a bad use of time to listen to this book. And Jonathan Davis is a great narrator who does a better than average job with material that's a bit "meh" in places.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Informative and Fun

I live in California and wanted to learn more after a recent trip through the State. I was never good with history and was uncertain if I would like this. I enjoyed the story and the narration! A good job and a fun story. I was astounded at learning how California developed its character and was happy I had chose this author. If you are interested in the subject then this is a good one.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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More Facts than Story

I am happy to have finished this book. On one hand because it was not a riveting narrative and the sentence by sentence of facts and notable Californians was a little numbing. But also because I thorougly enjoyed this history and those not so riveting facts will stay with me forever.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Adequate But Superficial

This pleasant but superficial overview looks at California history from today’s perspective - it’s not a recounting of everything that happened, but of those things that “had to happen in order that California become what it is today.”

While useful as an organizing tool, this vantage point tends to give the book a triumphalist tone, where whatever negative events happened were necessary in order for California to fulfill it’s (American calitalist) destiny.

The book is strongest on issues like the development of the water infrastructure, where it recounts in detail how the North and South halves of the state grappled with this thorny issue. Chapters on the growth of San Francisco and Los Angeles, including a quick history of automobile traffic, are solid and entertaining.

Starr offers good coverage of early politics, including land-grabs and railroad scams. But he scants the role of the original Peoples of the regions - presumably because they were not strictly necessary to the destiny of the state.

Likewise, he gives a good, quick survey of architecture - but scarcely mentions that the raw materials were obtained virtually for free by decimating the redwood forests, with unforeseeable environmental impacts on today’s California.

Perhaps most offensive is his celebration of the Golden Gate Bridge as a masterpiece comparable to the Parthenon. Given that over 1000 people have committed suicide from the bridge, we’re left wondering what exactly constitutes a Californian masterpiece?

Three stars for Kevin Starr - with hopes that a more thorough and balanced history of the state is recorded soon.

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Reader Comments

This book is highly recommend to all the people of California. It is an amazing book that expertly tells the history of the amazing State of California. This book is highly recommend to adults and teachers that teach the history of California. The history of California in this book is interesting and a good source of learning material.

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Only Good up to 1900

It started off really good but half way through he stopped his comprehensive history of the state and meandered through details that were almost exclusively about LA and San Francisco thereby neglecting everything else. For example he spends almost five minutes going on about jazz musicians in San Francisco but gives the creation of water districts and irrigation like a paragraph at most.

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  • David
  • Halifax, NS, Canada
  • 04-19-18

Solid information

If you want a solid, listenable history of California that's neither too long nor too short, this is what you need. It covers the early history really well. Toward the end, it becomes more thematic than chronological and loses some narrative drive as a result, but it's still interesting.

The narrator is perfectly decent, and doesn't mangle the Spanish names too much.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

great insight

just a really terrible history of our golden state, factual just sad that history is repeating itself just in different words and phrases used in America today like tax cuts for the rich and larger prisons for our minorities

1 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Katherien Watt
  • 05-17-15

Excellent insight into the state of California

Really enjoyed this comprehensive view of California and the elements that made it what it is today. I purchased this audio book prior to my first visit to the state and found the detail fascinating and it enriched my experience of the trip my only disappointment is that it only goes up to 2005.