THE SOFA DEGREE IN CALIFORNIA POLITICS AND POLICY:
ONEVOTER.org NOTE: This was the final iteration of Scott Lay’s “Sofa Degree” book list.
Scott was a longtime Capitol watcher and commentator whose daily newsletter “The Nooner” was arguably the most read daily update in and around the California State Capitol. Scott’s insights into the legislative deal-making process and the personalities in the Capitol community made him a valuable resource. Scott died at age 48 in September 2021.
Which books would you read to get a university-quality education that would prepare you for a career in California politics or policy?
NOONER readers were asked, and this is what we came up with. The list is constantly evolving, as some are added and others are deleted. Feel free to weigh in.
- A Disorderly House: The Brown-Unruh Years in Sacramento (James R. Mills; 1987)
- A Rage for Justice: The Passion and Politics of Phillip Burton (John Jacobs; 1997)
- American Exodus: The Dust Bowl Migration and Okie Culture in California (James N. Gregory; 1991)
- Ask a Mexican (Gustavo Arrelano; 2008)
- Big Daddy: Jesse Unruh and the Art of Power Politics (Bill Boyarsky; 2007)
- Cadillac Desert (Marc Reisner; 1993)
- California: A History (Kevin Starr; 2007) (And, the whole series if you have time.)
- California Lawmaker: The Men and Women of the California State Legislature (Alex Vassar; 2021)
- California Rising: The Life and Times of Pat Brown (Ethan Rarick; 2006)
- City of Quartz (Mike Davis; 2018)
- Game Changers: Twelve Elections That Transformed California (Steve Swatt, Susie Swatt, Jeff Raimundo, and Rebecca LaVally; 2015)
- Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power (Lou Cannon; 2005)
- Justice For All: Earl Warren and the Nation He Made (Jim Newton; 2007)
- The Mayor of Castro Street (Randy Shilts; 2008)
- Ronnie and Jesse: A Political Odyssey (Lou Cannon; 1969)
- Right Out of California: The 1930s and the Big Business Roots of Modern Conservatism (Kathryn Olmsted; 2015)
- The Art of Lobbying: Building Trust and Selling Policy (Bertram J. Levine; 2008)
- The Browns of California: The Family Dynasty that Transformed a State and Shaped a Nation (Miriam Pawel; 2019)
- The King of California: J.G. Boswell and the Making of a Secret American Empire (Mark Arax; 2005)
- The People’s Machine: Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Rise of Blockbuster (Joe Mathews; 2006)
- The Secret Boss of California (Arthur Samish and Bob Thomas; 1971)
- The Third House: Lobbyists, Power, and Money in Sacramento (Jay Michael and Dan Walters; 2002)
- The Campaign of the Century: Upton Sinclair’s Race for Governor of California and the Birth of Media Politics (Greg Mitchell; 1992)
- Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California (Frances Dinkelspiel; 2010)
- Trailblazer: A Biography of Jerry Brown (Chuck McFadden; 2013)
- What Makes You Think We Read The Bills? (Senator H.L. Richardson (ret.); 1978)
- Why David Sometimes Wins: Leadership, Organization, and Strategy in the California Farm Worker Movement (Marshall Ganz; 2010) (Marshall Ganz; 2010)
- Willie Brown: A Biography (James Richardson; 1996)