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Rivers in the Desert

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  79 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
Rivers in the Desert tells a mythlike American story of how one man, through vision, daring, and engineering genius, invented the Los Angeles of the future, only to fall tragically from grace due to an unforeseen disaster. The man was William Mulholland; his creation, the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the tremendous 235 mile waterway that transformed an arid and sparsely populated ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published June 1st 1994 by Harper Perennial (first published 1993)
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Kerry
Jul 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting history about William Mulholland, the quest for water for Los Angeles, the aqueduct, the water wars, and the tragic St Francis Dam. I do not live in California but still found the story captivating and fascinating.
Andee
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book should be required reading for every Californian. It was outstanding. The only thing I didn't care for, was that the author tried to make Mulholland sound like this great man who had a huge, warm heart. Nothing is further from the truth. He was a vile excuse for a human being, a ruthless business man, and wickedly evil in his visions. He literally wanted to demolish and dam up Yosemite National Park, which is glossed over in this book as though he weren't deadly serious.

The book does
...more
Katie Meisel
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was a really interesting look at the development of Los Angeles, through the lens of William Mulholland's struggle to provide water to the city. I spent 269 pages wondering why they settled in Los Angeles in the first place if there's no water, but okay. The end is reminiscent of Hamilton - every other founding father's story gets told, but rarely Mulholland's due to what was ultimately an accident of fate. Interesting read, especially for anyone familiar with the Los Angeles area, bec ...more
Elizabeth
Jun 01, 2017 rated it liked it
As a native of Los Angeles, I enjoyed reading Davis's story about the city's history with water, William Mulholland, and how LA has grown as a result. While not the most captivating of books, I still enjoyed learning more about the aqueduct and Mulholland's impact on the city. It also provided some relevant perspective, given the city's (and state's) current drought and considerations for our city's future.
Andromeda M31
Jul 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Growing up in Los Angeles, the name Mulholland always had mythic connotations. Besides the obvious Mulholland Drive, the name is synonymous with the breaking of the St Francis Dam and the washing away of an entire town. In my mind, I always pictured Mulholland as a thin and dainty scientist adorned with glasses, fussing with an abacus.

Margaret Leslie Davis paints a very different picture.

William Mulholland was in truth a rough and weathered man, an ex-sailor and Irish Immigrant who, instead of
...more
Todd Stockslager
Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Interesting history of Los Angeles "water wars" in the early 20th century, casting William Mulholland as the flawed but heroic inventor of modern LA. His long tenure as the head engineer for the LA water department included the successful design and construction of a 290-mile aqueduct system from Owen Valley to LA, which unfortunately culminated in the collapse of one of the dams in the system, which killed 500 people and led to Mulholland's official blame.

Fast-moving and timely history, given t
...more
Pam
Feb 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating read, especially for anyone who lives or has lived in California. You'll recognize the names of the players, and find out the tactics used to acquire huge tracts of land both in the San Fernando and Owens Valleys, and construct the controversial (still) California Aquaduct along the Eastern Sierras to bring water to Los Angeles. Let's just say they weren't always up front in their dealings.
Gwen
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A well-written and interesting history of William Mulholland's quest to bring water to Los Angeles, involving an equal mix of engineering, politics, and pioneering spirit. More technical information about the Saint Francis dam collapse would have been appreciated, but then again, I am an engineer. All in all, a captivating story.
Patricia
Oct 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Good documentation on the building of the Los Angeles Aquaduct, told by following the life of William Mulholland. Because there is a certain plot, it reads like a thriller. The immenseness of the project to bring water to Los Angeles and the immenseness of the changes Los Angeles undergoes hereby becomes very clear in the book.
Shek
Apr 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The real life Chinatown. Fascinated less by Jake Gittes' misadventures than the complicated history of LA's water supply? Read this. Good, but in the final assessment, comes off as a little soft on the guy whose dam collapsed and killed 600 people.
Kevin
Jul 07, 2013 rated it did not like it
The history of how Los Angeles gained its water supply deserves better than this elementary-level work. Mulholland can do no wrong while those who disagree with him are described as "moaning," "hissing," "whining," etc. Disappointing.
Elizabeth Joyce
Nov 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is the book that made me fall in love with non-fiction.
Demetria
Oct 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
How William Mulholland came to power and brought water to SoCal, a feat only matched by Robert Moses!
Chinstrapmcdouchebag
ooh dirty whoring robber barons. You liked breaking bad you'll like this
Rebecca
Feb 21, 2008 rated it it was ok
history of l.a. water supply.
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