Peter Richardson, "American Prophet: The Life and Work of Carey McWilliams" (U California Press, 2019)

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Historian Kevin Starr described Carey McWilliams as "the finest nonfiction writer on California—ever" and "the state's most astute political observer." But as Peter Richardson argues in American Prophet: The Life and Work of Carey McWilliams (University of California Press, 2019), McWilliams was also one of the nation's most versatile and productive public intellectuals of his time. Richardson's absorbing and elegant biography traces McWilliams's extraordinary life and career. Drawing from a wide range of sources, it explores his childhood on a Colorado cattle ranch, his early literary journalism in Los Angeles, his remarkable legal and political activism, his stint in state government, the explosion of first-rate books between 1939 and 1950, and his editorial leadership at The Nation. Along the way, it also documents McWilliams's influence on a wide range of key figures, including Cesar Chavez, Hunter S. Thompson, Mike Davis, screenwriter Robert Towne, playwright Luis Valdez, and historian Patricia Limerick.

Barbara Berglund Sokolov is a historian of the American West. She is also the convener of the Joy of History Book Club, an online history seminar open to anyone.

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