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InfoGuides | Pepperdine Libraries

Malibu History: Books

An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Books from the Malibu Historical Collection

A full list of the books in the Malibu Historical Collection can be found here:

Randall, David K. The King and Queen of Malibu. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2016. 

A page-turning narrative history of how one family transformed Malibu into a global symbol of fame and fortune. Over a half-century, Malibu went from an untamed ranch in the middle of nowhere to a paradise seeded with movie stars. Behind its transformation is the love story of Frederick and May Rindge. He was a Harvard-trained confidant of presidents; she grew up on a hardscrabble Midwestern farm; and yet their unlikely bond would shape history. The Rindges settled in Los Angeles, quickly amassing a fortune and ushering the frontier city into its modern form. After Frederick's sudden death, May spent her life clashing with some of the most powerful men in the country to preserve Malibu as she saw fit. Her struggle culminated in a landmark Supreme Court decision that created the iconic Pacific Coast Highway. The story of Malibu spans from the embers of the Civil War to the glamour of early Hollywood, starring millionaires, movie stars, and rough-and-tumble settlers at a time when the frontier seemed truly limitless

Basten, Fred E. Santa Monica Bay: Paradise By the Sea. Santa Monica: Hennessey+Ingalls, 2001.

This pictorial history of Santa Monica, Venice, Marina del Rey, Ocean Park, Pacific Palisades, Topanga & Malibu includes an Introduction by Carolyn See and very helpful Index. The book begins with a historical overview of the Santa Monica Bay area from the early public auctions and sales of land in 1875. It contains short descriptions of each of the beach front communities with their own particular versions of a downtown and idiosyncratic styles of architecture. There are hundreds of sepia and black and white photographs of significant early landmarks in each community, like the wooden staircase to the sea, called “99 steps” as well as of large hotels and public attractions. A double portrait of Frederick Hastings Rindge and his wife, May, with a view of their home on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica confirms the importance of this family to the growth and development of the region. The survey ends with the 20th century, tracing the rise of the motion picture and TV industries, the dramatic and revolutionary changes in the architecture of public spaces and private homes, and the increasing popularity of the beach as holiday and weekend destination. 296 pgs.

Gamble, Lynn H. 2008. The Chumash World at European Contact : Power, Trade, and Feasting among Complex Hunter-Gatherers. Berkeley: University of California Press.

The author weaves together multiple sources of evidence to re-create the tapestry of California's Chumash society. Drawing from archaeology, historical documents, and ethnography, she describes daily life in the mainland towns, focusing on Chumash culture, household organization, politics, economy, and warfare.

Hall, Marian. Malibu: California’s Most Famous Seaside Community. Santa Monica: Angel City Press, 2005.

This book opens with reproductions of the materials circulated by Marblehead Land Company, established to promote investment opportunities from the original Rancho Malibu property, to buyers of land for homes and businesses. These documents make explicit the connection that F.H. Rindge saw between Mediterranean towns, where Europeans gathered to enjoy sea-bathing, and his dream for the future of his special piece of California, on the beachfront in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains. Enlarged lines from Happy Days in Southern California, F.H. Rindge’s lyrical meditation on his life on the Rancho, overlay the narrative of early occupation by Indians and Spanish colonists as well as magnificent double spread color photographs. There are many handsome black and white photographs of the two families associated with the Rancho in the late 1800’s: the Kellers and the Rindges are depicted with important California historical figures as well as with family members pursuing leisure activities on horseback and at informal gatherings. The individual sections, which focus chiefly on a popular spot or pursuit, juxtapose early and contemporary images and descriptions of the region—old motels along the shore replaced by modern Richard Meier beach residences.  A most useful feature of this book [with photographs taken from the air off the coast] is a bird’s eye view of the seaside residences and businesses from Las Flores to the pocket beaches along Malibu’s Pacific Coast Highway route.

Includes color photographs by Nick Rodionoff and others (credits appear in the back of the book) with color copies of original Rancho Malibu materials from Marblehead Land Company. 160 pgs.

Hemenez, Jane Sullivan. Malibu: A Good Way of LifeSanta Monica: Ocean Park Press, 2013.

The author settled into a beach cottage near Las Flores Canyon with her mother in 1948.  After decades of living and participating in local community activities, she writes about the changes in Malibu.  But first, she provides a unique picture of the “quiet simplicity” of organizing social life around the beach, where walking the shore and visiting with neighbors dominated their lives. Then, with her contribution to the establishment of Malibu Lagoon Museum, Adamson House and its artistic resources, a strong sense of historical respect and awareness emerges that blessed much of the early Malibu community she exemplifies. Her cheerful ability to appreciate the differences that time can cause—“its challenges and joys”—while still cherishing early memories makes this narrative sketch, vivid with character and companionship, into a believable explanation of the reasons why she has chosen to remain for 63 years.  Includes color illustrations, photographs, and drawings, some by Jane herself, others from Getty Images. 88 pgs.

Kewin, Robert. Surf Craft: Design and the Culture of Board Riding. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2014. 

The book, which originally functioned as a catalog for the Mingei International Museum exhibition of surfboards in 2014, contains one of the best short summaries of surfing history available. It also has a large number of glossy color photographs of significant surfboards that display many different styles and types from the earliest handmade boards of koa and cedar to the modern high-tech aerodynamic boards sculpted to meet the particular needs for riding a famous wave.  The author’s chronological survey juxtaposes personal stories of those who shaped the boards with descriptions of the boards themselves as these emerged to dominate a certain period in surfing history.  He distinguishes the Hawaiian alaia, which evolved in shape and size over time from the ocean surfing experience itself, and the hydrodynamic “planing hull” created by erstwhile Caltech scholar Bob Simmons, who died tragically before he could fully adapt his “profound mathematical insight” into the construction of a modern surfboard.  The rise of foam and fiberglass boards along with Hollywood movies that dramatized surf culture in the 1950’s created an unprecedented popular enthusiasm for this former sport of kings. Includes bibliography of web links.

O’Malley, Penelope Grenoble. Malibu Diary: Notes from an Urban Refugee. Las Vegas: University of Nevada Press, 2004.

This book was published as part of the Environmental Arts and Humanities Series from University of Nevada Press.

But since the author spent three years as the only full-time reporter for The Malibu Times, there is a journalist’s attention to the persistent conflict between facts and widely-held opinion about the region. Begun when Malibu was still part of the county of Los Angeles in 1986, the book is especially helpful in identifying the challenges of “slow growth” policy and environmentalism as a new city emerges in a landscape as potentially deadly as it is beautiful.  The chapters trace the course of public and private development including the pressure from local Native Americans to preserve their cultural resources, their sacred land, and the artifacts it contains; of consolidating a community full of traditionalists eager to escape modern regulatory encroachment into a coherent city structure; of the “false drama” of fires and floods which dominate the news and conversation. The effects of natural disaster (often the result of human error) and its aftermath on the splendor and serenity of the natural landscape along the Malibu coast is only a small part of the struggle, the enormous cost in tax dollars is another. It includes a thorough summary of the Kanan Dume Road closure,  the Trancas development battles, and weed abatement concerns in Solstice Canyon. The book documents the author’s personal and parallel narrative of looking for a place to call “home” where a balanced life can be achieved between unspoiled and unpleasant. The data pages on fires and floods included as an appendix provide key facts and cost assessments in a single list. 186 pgs. 

Rindge, Frederick Hastings. Happy Days in Southern California. Cambridge: Rindge Family, 1898.

This book, which includes an Introduction to the 3rd Edition and a short biography of author, Frederick Hastings Rindge, by his grandson, Ronald L. Rindge, is probably the most important personal record of life in Southern California before 1900. Rindge dedicated the volume to his family, and wrote out of an abundance of delight with the home he created for them on the 17,000 acres of Rancho Malibu, “the farm” as he called it. Beginning with a  pensive reminiscence about the Indians and the Spanish who occupied the territory originally, Rindge expresses the “glorious serenity” he finds in riding over his acres, exclaiming over natural beauties of landscape where the Santa Monica Mountains meet the Pacific Ocean. His imaginative excursion through the property on horseback, on foot, and in a wagon drawn by two bullocks along the low tide line, includes a serious description of the working ranch, an exploration of the mountains and canyons, and a survey of the beach with its shifting sands. 99 pgs.

Rindge, Frederick Hastings. Songs of California and Other Verses.  Malibu: Malibu Lagoon Museum, 2001.

This collection of songs and poems found among the papers of F.H. Rindge after his death in 1905 completes a portrait of this energetic and sensitive man, who loved the territory he owned and occupied like a father loves his child. His enthusiasm about birdsong, about the change of temperature and light at different seasons and in remote spots, about the animals he observed in his daily walks and rides, is a strong contrast to the shrewd business sense that made his dream possible.

Robinson, W.W. and Lawrence Clark Powell. The Malibu: Southern California’s Famous Rancho; its Romantic History and Present Charm. Los Angeles: The Ward Richie Press,1958.

A charming and excellent introduction to Malibu with drawings by Irene Robinson, the book is divided into two distinct pieces. In part I, Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit: An Historial Approach, author W.W. Robinson describes the geographical and historical importance of the region beginning with ancient man through the Chumash Indian period. Then, with the occupation of the territory by Jose Tapia in 1775, Robinson follows its subsequent development from open grazing land to working family farm. As the property of F.H. Rindge, who celebrated the unique location as an American equivalent of the popular Mediterranean coast, Rancho Malibu was an attractive ocean front destination. Finally, as reorganized by Marblehead Land Company into saleable lots, Malibu became a desirable area in which to settle. In Part II Personal Considerations: Essays, co-author Lawrence Clark Powell  complements the history of the area with a subjective meditation on the years he lived “at continent’s end” on the beach and a 45 minute commute from his offices at UCLA. This extraordinary and serious intellectual, for whom the undergraduate library at UCLA is named, loved the land and sea in Malibu. He explores with a fascinated sense of possibility the juxtaposition of nature’s beauty and brutal forces.  He lives through floods and fires, through development and growth, using the ever-changing seascape in Malibu as a way to maintain his spiritual and ethical balance. 86 pgs.  

Shulman, Julius and Juergen Nogai.  Malibu: A Century of Living By the Sea.  New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2004.

This lavishly illustrated book, organized by decade, contains many originals taken by the famous architectural photographer Julius Shulman (who cooperated in this project for Abrams) of more than two dozen houses in Malibu which reflect the evolution of domestic design and construction. Shulman’s iconic black and white photographs of the Clyne House are highlights of the section for 1940’s when “modernism” was first emerging in beach house architecture. A hundred years of homes, beginning with the residence built around 1893 for Frederick Hastings Rindge [in a collage of Queen Anne and Anglo Colonial Revival styles] and ending with a structure of steel and concrete blocks designed by Bart Prince for the Lever family, are pictured and described. Includes 307 illustrations, 199 in color. Many photographs by Julius Shulman, some in collaboration with Juergen Nogai. Introduction by David Wallace. Text by Richard Olsen. 255 pgs.

Stotsenberg, Dorothy D. My Fifty Years in Malibu. Malibu: Pepperdine University Press, 2005.

The author includes essays and newspaper articles of various lengths and from various years, many of which appeared in the Malibu Surfside News or the Evening Outlook beginning in 1949The chapters, collected together beginning with a focus on early Chumash Indian encampments in California and the Spanish land grant era, provide some interesting insight into history of Malibu. The author’s wish to highlight events and occasions for the periodical reader requires much repetition of pertinent facts in each story, which can be helpful in making comparisons between narratives. It is possible to get a fairly complete picture of the events as these unfold in one essay and are treated in retrospect in another. The author takes up topics which are not covered in other books about the area.  She describes the establishment of Decker School, a one room schoolhouse very like the one she attended in Iowa; follows the Japanese farmers whose agricultural commitment to fruits and flowers continue to dominate this coastal area; and explains the significance of May Rindge’s permission in 1926 to film “Across the Pacific ” on Rindge Beach, a Warner Brothers production.  149 pgs. With bibliography.

The California Casa.  New York:  Rizzoli, 2012.

With a foreword by M. Brian Tichenor, text by Douglas Woods, photographs by Melba Levick. This volume is a very comprehensive survey of Spanish Colonial architecture popular in Southern California during the 20th century: thick stucco walls and elaborate tiled surfaces, wrought iron grilles on doors and windows, fantasy towers and balconies, courtyards planted as interior gardens with abundant vines and succulents, bright intense color accents against a white-washed backdrop. Homes pictured in the book from communities all along the coast of California, some designed by well-known architects like George Washington Smith and Paul Williams and others in collaborations of skilled artisans, are dramatic and vibrant demonstrations of the adaptability of this architectural model to the climate and lifestyle of California.