Best Books About Sacramento

November 26, 2012 5:00 AM

Sacramento and the surrounding region is rich with history, agriculture and cultural influences. From bustling cities to rural towns, and miles of farmland on all sides, our region has adapted and overcome whatever hardships it has faced – as have the people that have inhabited the valley for thousands of years. These books tell of the city’s evolution from a frontier settlement to the capital of the fifth largest economy in the world, the challenges early pioneers faced and the complex landscape that makes up the Sacramento Valley. They are perfect for historians, California history buffs or any individual looking to understand more about our dynamic and diverse region.

sacramento indomnitable city Best Books About Sacramento
“Sacramento: Indomitable City”
by Steven M. Avella

Sacramento is known as the Indomitable City because it has not just survived floods, fire and disease, but it has flourished into a dynamic and diverse city. Steven M. Avella’s book takes readers through the 160-year history of the city, from the early days of the Nisenan and Miwok tribes, through the Gold Rush and up to the turn of the 21st century. More than just a chronicle of events that shaped the city, this book is a rich story of survival and fortitude. Having grown up in Sacramento, Avella understands the rich history of Sacramento and presents an insightful account of how the city transformed from a frontier settlement into a bustling capital of one of the greatest economies in the world.

Related: Familiarize With Founders: Important Places To The People Who Built Sacramento

sacramento women Best Books About Sacramento
“Disaster & Triumph: Sacramento Women, Gold Rush Through The Civil War”
by Cheryl Ann Stapp

In its earliest days, Sacramento was dominated by men, as thousands flocked here hoping to get their piece of the Gold Rush. Unlike most historical accounts that focus on men, “Disaster & Triumph” shares the remarkable stories of the women who helped shape the formation of Sacramento. The author presents the experiences of women who displayed as much determination, spirit and will as their male counterparts. Women such as Jennie Wimmer, who was the first person to test gold’s authenticity at James Marshall’s camp; Donner Party survivor Dorothea Wolfinger Zins, who made the bricks that built Sacramento’s first hotels and shops; Lavinia Waterhouse, the mid-wife, water-cure practitioner and suffragette are a sampling of these powerful ladies. Well-researched and entertaining, this story of pioneer women is a must-read on early life in Sacramento.

sacramento then and now Best Books About Sacramento
“Sacramento: Then and Now”
by William Burg

Noted Sacramento historian William Burg presents this story of Sacramento’s transformation from boomtown to thriving metropolis. Using photographs from the Sacramento Archives and Museum Collection Center, “Sacramento: Then and Now” contrasts historic images with modern ones of the same locations throughout the city. Burg’s pictorial account focuses on neighborhoods and buildings within the city limits, local favorite restaurants such as Fox & Goose and Tower Cafe, as well as outlying places such as Mather and McClellan Air Force Bases. This is a unique presentation of the history of Sacramento from someone who understands and appreciates the dramatic changes the city has gone through.

after the goldrush Best Books About Sacramento
“After the Gold Rush: Tarnished Dreams in the Sacramento Valley”
by David Vaught

The discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill put Sacramento on the map and undoubtedly shaped the future of California. Fortunes were made, an industry was born and soon Sacramento was a thriving boomtown. But not every pioneer who came out west was fortunate enough to strike it rich – most miners failed to find gold. “After the Gold Rush” focuses on a group of pioneers who turned to farming as a means of obtaining the American Dream. Author David Vaught provides readers with a unique account of Sacramento’s agricultural industry and two generations of families who endured hardships, land disputes and the uncertainty that comes with forging ahead against all odds. This detailed and riveting story is a great read for anyone interested in understanding the unique complexities of early life in Sacramento.

walking the flatlands Best Books About Sacramento
“Walking the Flatlands: The Rural Landscape of the Lower Sacramento Valley”
by Mike Madison

The Sacramento Valley lies at the upper end of the California Central Valley, nestled by mountain ranges and fed by the Sacramento River and its tributaries. Here, urban centers are surrounded by lush grasslands, miles and miles of farms, ranches and orchards and rich wetlands full of wildlife. In “Walking the Flatlands,” Mike Madison presents the ecology of this rural landscape and the various forms of life – humans, fish and birds – that depend on it. More than just a photography book, Madison’s book is a haunting and deliberate account of the complexities of the valley, the richness of the landscape and the rugged spirit that defines life in the Sacramento Valley.

Related: Best Literary Landmarks In Sacramento

Karen Boruff is a freelance writer living in Sacramento. Her work can be found at

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