Posted by: montclairlibrary | August 21, 2018

Oakland History Books

Oakland History Books, a list by the Friends of Montclair Library

Are you as excited as we are about Liam O’Donoghue discussing his “Long Lost Oakland” map at the library on August 28?

If this lecture has you curious about Oakland history, see below for 10 books to check out from OPL. Plus here are more ways to explore Oakland history:

1. Try one of the excellent walking tours hosted by the Oakland Heritage Alliance (which published The Story of a City) every summer – there are still a couple left this summer, including one about the African American Museum and Library (AAMLO) on August 25.

2. Visit the Oakland History Room at the Main Library.

3. Browse old photos of Oakland through the library’s link to Calisphere.

Books to check out:
Oakland, the Story of a City by Beth Bagwell (979.466 BAGWELL 2012) – This book, originally published in 1982 and updated in a second edition in 2012, is sort of the
grandaddy of Oakland history books. Covering roughly the period from Oakland’s founding to the mid-20th century, this book is a great place to start for an overview of the city’s origins and the forces that shaped it.

Oakland Hills by Erika Mailman (979.466 MAILMAN) – This well-illustrated book covers the broad history of the hills, from the native Huchiun people to the Peralta land grant, eccentric poet Joaquin Miller and the 1991 firestorm. See other titles in this series by Arcadia Publishing for details on other aspects and neighborhoods of Oakland, too.

Oakland by Annalee Allen (979.466 ALLEN) – Traces Oakland’s history through an examination of more than 200 postcards depicting some of Oakland’s best-known landmarks.

Oakland’s Neighborhoods compiled by Erika Mailman (979.466 OAKLAND’S) – Contains “brief histories of all the neighborhoods, maps to assist you in locating those ‘hoods, wonderful historic photographs and creative writing by residents about their neighborhoods.” (

Historic Photos of Oakland by Steven Lavoie (Oversize 979.466 LAVOIE) – A collection of photos showing Oakland’s changes over the year “and the ways in which Oakland has adapted to sustain itself as a charming and welcoming gateway to the Pacific” (Publisher). (Some of you may remember the author, OPL’s own Steven Lavoie, from his history lecture at the Montclair branch’s 80th birthday party, or his time as our interim branch manager.)

Legendary Locals of Oakland by Gene Anderson (979.466 ANDERSON) – Profiles of people – some well-known and some not – who have played a part in shaping the history of Oakland.

Blues City: A walk in Oakland by Ishmael Reed (979.466 REED) (not at Montclair) – Reed “takes us on a tour of Oakland, exploring its fascinating history, its beautiful hills and waterfronts and its odd cultural juxtapositions.” (Google Books)

East Bay Hills: A Brief History by Amelia Sue Marshall (979.465 MARSHALL) – In this history of our regional parks, readers can “Follow the trails of Saclan and Jalquin-Yrgin people…. Ride with the mounted rangers through the Flood of ’62. Break into a sealed railroad tunnel with a pack of junior high school boys. Learn how university professors, civil servants and wealthy businessmen planned for years to create a chain of parks twenty miles along the hilltops.” (Publisher)

The Key System: San Francisco and the Eastshore Empire by Walter Rice and Emiliano Echeverria (388.46 RICE) (not at Montclair) – A history of the Key System, the network of trains that once carried commuters around the East Bay.

A Cyclist’s Guide to Oakland History by Camille Olmsted (917.9466 OLMSTED) (not at Montclair) – This little gem of a book, published in 1976, features three bike tours (including maps) that cover Oakland’s history from the 1840s to the 1970s.

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