June Prime Picks: Diane Donovan Reviews Two California History Titles from Sunbelt Publications

Source: Donovan’s Bookshelf: June Prime Picks, June 2017

Max Kurillo’s California’s El Camino Real and Its Historic Bells [2nd Edition] (9781532318948, $22.95) is, surprisingly, the first book to cover the history and preservation of one of the state’s major transit routes. The “King’s Highway” extends some 2,000 miles and was long the major transportation artery in the state, but today it’s marked only with historic bells whose origins are rarely known by the many who still travel the remaining sections of this route.

From the roadway’s development and the evolution of these bell markers which were designed to celebrate its course to maps, vintage black and white photos, and information on the roadway’s evolution, this is a powerful history that should be in any California library. It thoroughly documents the road’s influences on different regions throughout the state and the methods by which it came to be celebrated and remembered.

Nicholas Clapp’s Bodie: Good Times & Bad (9781941384268, $22.95) enjoys fine photos by Will Furman as it brings the abandoned desert mining town to life and covers its history and the people who saw their hopes and dreams come alive, only to be buried in Bodie.

Bodie is unique among old frontier towns because it remains nearly complete in its physical buildings, even as it’s now empty of residents.

Gorgeous full-page color photos capture the town and its surroundings, while accompanying history documents the rise and fall of Bodie and considers its attraction and uniqueness to modern California history buffs who can visit it today as a rare relic indicative of the state’s tumultuous mining towns.