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Coast of Dreams Paperback – February 14, 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Vivid, precise, and astute. . . . Starr's cultural range has always been broad and his grasp sure. Most important, he's able to put tastes and ways of life in historical context.”–Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Kevin Starr is nothing short of the John Muir of our times. . . . [He] is utterly fascinated by California and how it has evolved.” –Los Angeles Times

“Starr brings his magnificent, multivolume series Americans and the California Dream, the product of a quarter-century of work up to the present. An unfailingly interesting, highly readable contribution to Starr's grand series.” –Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Extraordinary. . . . Sweeping, deeply personal and insightful”–Tucson Gazette

From the Inside Flap

In this extraordinary book, Kevin Starr-widely acknowledged as the premier historian of California, the scope of whose scholarship the "Atlantic Monthly has called "breathtaking"-probes the possible collapse of the California dream in the years 1990--2003. In a series of compelling chapters, "Coast of Dreams moves through a variety of topics that show the California of the last decade, when the state was sometimes stumbling, sometimes humbled, but, more often, flourishing with its usual panache.
From gang violence in Los Angeles to the spectacular rise-and equally spectacular fall-of Silicon Valley, from the Northridge earthquake to the recall of Governor Gray Davis, Starr ranges over myriad facts, anecdotes, news stories, personal impressions, and analyses to explore a time of unprecedented upheaval in California. "Coast of Dreams describes an exceptional diversity of people, cultures, and values; an economy that mirrors the economic state of the nation; a battlefield where industry and the necessities of infrastructure collide with the inherent demands of a unique and stunning natural environment. It explores California politics (including Arnold Schwarzenegger's election in the 2003 recall), the multifaceted business landscape, and controversial icons such as O. J. Simpson.
"Historians of the future," Starr writes, "will be able to see with more certainty whether or not the period 1990-2003 was not only the end of one California but the beginning of another"; in the meantime, he gives a picture of the place and time in a book at once sweeping and riveting in its details, deeply informed, engagingly personal, and altogether fascinating.

"From the Hardcover edition.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 804 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (February 14, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780679740728
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679740728
  • ASIN: 0679740724
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 2.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,140,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Derrick Peterman on May 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
I always approach books like this with some caution. A book on the history of California from 1990-2003 is a pretty expansive subject to cover with any reasonable depth, and too often, books like this can be dense and tedious to get through. Thankfully, this was rarely the case with Coast of Dreams, which I found to be very readable, and (gasp) at times quite entertaining.

Of course at over 600 pages, it is certainly a lot to digest. And Starr can certainly discuss virtually any subject about California with a lot of detail, and he does here. And it his enthusiasm and love for the state, warts and all, that really drives this book.

Starr is completely unafraid to expose the bad side of California. Some of the chapters on crime and gang warfare that were particularly acute in the early 90's were harrowing and difficult to read. Starr has a good grasp of the unique brand of California politics, that sometimes yields rather unusual and unique results, such as the power deregulation crisis and Schwarzeneggar becoming Governor.

On the other hand, Starr clearly enjoys writing about the unqiue elements that draws so many people to the state. Whether writing about the trendy areas of San Francisco or Los Angeles, or for the seemingly mundane opportunities that draw so many illegal immigrants, Starr shows the state has historically been for dreamers large and small. Whether California can continue to sustain all these dreams is an underlying theme of the book.

As someone who came to California from the Midwest, I found the considerable time invested reading Coast of Dreams was well worth the new found connection I have to the state of California.
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Format: Paperback
So this was California, in the years 1990 to 2004. Having lived in Los Angeles during that time, I could readily relate to much of what Starr wrote, especially when he talked about this city.

A long book, but you don't have to read it at one sitting. It's well suited to you leisurely reading chapter by chapter, at your own pace. Myriad aspects of California are covered. Though, as someone else remarked, Starr says little about California north of San Francisco. The book is about events in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and a little bit on San Diego and the Central Valley. The narrative style lends itself well to drawing in the reader in an engaging fashion. Which bodes well in future years, when others who then read it will have been born long after all these events. The contemporaneous account given by Starr should endure as a lasting contribution to the historical record.

For Los Angeles, the early 90s get considerable play. Especially with the 1992 race riot and the 94 Northridge quake. All overlaid on a statewide recession, exacerbated by overbuilding and aerospace shrinking after the end of the Cold War.

Naturally, Starr delves into the dot com saga. Centred on Silicon Valley, "dreaming dreams of endless wealth". Of course, you can find entire books devoted to this era. But the chapter in this book suffices well to convey the strange feeling in the air, and all that money! An envious reader could speculate as to whether it might all happen again.

If you do happen to like this book, consider checking out his earlier texts. He has written a slew of these on various aspects of California history. Most with the same fluid grace of the present book. An enjoyable way to learn more about California.
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Format: Paperback
Not so much a history as it is a social documentary on the events shaping California at the turn of the millennium. Kevin Starr represents a lot of different aspects of California culture and politics, how the two come together and how the two diverge, in a series of sections that more or less cover different issuesimpacting the state. The book starts out a little pell mell, but takes shape in the middle sections, especially when he gets to "Wedge Issues." Here, he talks about the various propositions that were put forward in the 90's that divided the state politically, including an attempt to literally divide the state into three states. However, what seems to prevail in this narrative is the positivism of Californians, their ability to adapt to a constantly shifting natural and social landscape. The immigration chapters explain the various contemporary patterns, the new alignments that have emerged, and how California has come to find itself more closely wed to Mexico both culturally and economically. Attempts at closing off the border have repeatedly failed, and Starr illustrates just how much immigration has helped the state, rather than hurt it, particularly in how San Diego and Tijuana have become virtually intertwined.

Hollywood takes a back seat role in this contemporary history, which surprised me, yet you always see it lurking beneath the surface, especially in his numerous references to films that most readers would be aware of. What he does focus on is how small business is the driving force in California, illustrating how Silicon and Napa Valleys rose from cottage industries into leading world conglomerates. He also talks about how California was able to retool itself following the closure of military bases and loss of defense contracts in the 90's.
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