A Little Carmageddon Reading

Californians, particularly those in Los Angeles, have all sorts of plans for this weekend, better known as Carmageddon Weekend for the 53-hour closing of the 405 Freeway.

(I personally prefer the Spanish-language TV name for this event: El Apocalipsis Vial).

But many people will stay at home -- all because California needs to widen a freeway to keep up with its growth.

Growth has long been one of the great pleasures -- and pains -- of living in this state.

Which is why there is no better weekend than this one to kick back and read the best book ever written about our state: California: The Great Exception.

It was written by the journalist and lawyer Carey McWilliams and published in 1949.

But it is still in print, 62 years later, and much of the book reads as it had just been written yesterday.

McWilliams' only errors were in underestimating just how fast California would one day grow -- and eventually get. And it's a fun, easy read.

When I teach a college course on California, McWilliams' book is the only bit of the assigned reading that all the students actually read.

A little tease: the book begins with a traffic jam, in the city of Coloma, at the time of California's centennial celebration.

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