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Postwar Suburbia Books

Kenneth Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (1987)

Jackson's book outlines the development of the American suburban ideal, from its inception at the end of the Industrial Revolution all the way to the 1980s. Jackson uses surprising and interesting stories to draw the reader in. This is a great read, and an excellent secondary resource with a variety of perspectives on suburban growth.

Dolores Hayden, Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth, 1820-2000 (2004)

Hayden writes a cultural critique of the American suburbs, using a contemporary framework to show that the suburbs are much more than the accidental byproduct of a housing demand. Hayden divides the growth of suburbia into distinct categories, and seamlessly blends together historical information with interesting facts and stories. Using some cultural critiques as well, Hayden crafts a strong but subtle argument, which says that Americans should understand the history of suburbia to understand the history—and the future—of the nation.

Mike Davis, City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (1990)

Davis's book is one of the earliest and most notable works to reveal how the social, political, and racial tensions in modern Los Angeles stem from a history of segregation in housing, controversy over urban development, and the rise of the Southern California suburb. His writing is at times confusing and his arguments are a bit one-sided, but Davis's research is groundbreaking and can aid a search for additional primary and secondary sources for a study of postwar Southern California.

Eric Avila, Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight: Fear and Fantasy in Suburban Los Angeles (2004)

Historian Eric Avila focuses on four cultural institutions that emerged in postwar Los Angeles: Disneyland, film noir, Dodger Stadium, and the elaborate freeway system, which by the late 1950s crisscrossed the region. Not only is this book a rich study of the links between postwar suburban development and the creation of race, class, and ethnic identities in Los Angeles, but it's also a fun read. You may be surprised how very little you actually know about Los Angeles and how it came to be the sprawling, iconic metropolis we know today!

Lizbeth Cohen, A Consumer's Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America (2004)

Lizbeth Cohen argues that postwar transformations can be better understood by viewing twentieth-century America as a "consumer's republic"—a national, and largely suburban, community in which members participate by purchasing. Cohen's book is one of the most interesting economic studies written about this period of American history.

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