Who would like to go California this week? I know I would. Like really. 2020 has caused us to cancel a trip to Southern California and then re-cancel that same trip we had put off hopefully for the fall. One day we will make it there again! But in the meantime we can feed our wanderlust and desire for the landscape of never ending sunshine with some great books.

Today I’m sharing 3 great books set in California by 3 authors I absolutely adore. These 3 books are all literary fiction, character driven novels (but that doesn’t mean they aren’t interesting!). And while these books have a home base setting of California, they also take you around the country and the world. So get ready for a great trip via books!

And bonus: these books all feature artists–musicians, writers, and dancers!

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

The Ensemble is really all about found family — a string quartet making a name for themselves in the classical music world. This is a character driven book, examining these four friends as they make their way in the world and prepare for a major music competition. This book travels from San Francisco to Canada to New York to Los Angeles, and has perhaps one of the most memorable settings of a book I’ve read in one scene — the old abandoned Los Angeles Zoo.

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

Astonish Me is all about ballet, and, for lack of a better word, the book is astonishing. It follows Joan, a retired ballerina who has gone from the big stage to a quieter life in Southern California. When her son falls in love with ballet though (and is super great at it), she has to go back into the world of her past career. Spanning from 1973 to 2002, this book will take you from Southern California (including a scene at Disneyland! which honestly I never thought I would read in a literary fiction novel and I absolutely loved), to New York and Paris.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Commonwealth is the story of two families breaking apart and coming together, all set in motion by an orange juice debacle at a christening party in Southern California. Franny and her sister suddenly have new step-siblings and are moved to Virginia, another big setting for the book. But the Southern California sun and the life they could have had there looms over all of their growing up years. This book is absolutely beautiful — there’s a reason why Patchett is the queen of novels.

I hope you find a great read out these 3 California books! Honestly they all go together super well, so if you like one of these the others should be a good fit too. They are great book friends (like really, I’m pretty sure Gabel and Shipstead are good friend in real life, so that’s fun).

Do you have any California books you love? I’d love to know!

Want more sunshine-y book recommendations? Check out these 3 Great Books Set at The Beach!

3 Great Books Set in California