More than once, a reader has asked me how best to start learning about the local history of Riverside and other nearby towns.
My answer is to begin reading some of the many books published by Arcadia Publishing Company.
The Arcadia books are picture books that show faces and buildings, but these paperback books contain much more than pictures. Each picture has a concise caption that explains the photo.
Newest of the Arcadia books is "Riverside Then and Now" by Press-Enterprise employee Glenn Edward Freeman. For anyone who has lived in Riverside for more than a few years, this book shows how buildings have changed and, in many cases, disappeared.
Steve Lech, president of the Riverside Historical Society, has written at least two of the books in the Arcadia series. They are "Riverside in Vintage Postcards" and "Resorts of Riverside County."
Kim Jarrell Johnson teamed with Lech to write "Riverside's Mission Inn." On her own, Johnson has written Arcadia books on Rubidoux and Jurupa.
Moreno Valley is the subject of an Arcadia book by Kenneth M. Holtzclaw and the Moreno Valley Historical Society.
"Corona" is a title by Mary Bryner Winn, and "Norco" by Marge Bitetti.
Neighborhoods as well as cities are the subject of books in the Arcadia series. "Lake Mathews and Gavilan Hills" was written by the team of Kathleen Dever and Judy Whitson. "Arlington" is explored in detail by Georgia Gordon Serel.
Notable companies also are the subject of books in the Arcadia series. Among them is "The Harris Company" by Aimee Rodriguez and Richard and Robin Hanks.
There are many other Arcadia books that explain and illustrate the history of nearby cities such as Colton, Apple Valley, Temecula and others.
Even the person who hated history courses in high school or college will enjoy the photos and capsule descriptions found in the books.
Arcadia books are available for purchase at local bookstores and at the Riverside Metropolitan Museum. The Riverside Public Library, downtown branch, has many books in this series available for checkout. The books are found in the local history section, in the basement of the downtown library.
Once the reader's appetite has been sharpened by one or more of the Arcadia books, I would recommend moving on to one of the larger histories such as "Through the Doorways of the Mission Inn" by Joan Hall, who has written seven books on Riverside and its history.
Lech has written a large volume, "Along the Old Roads" that explains the history of almost every town in Riverside County.
And, of course, there is the late Tom Patterson's fine work, "A Colony for California." This book tells the history of Riverside from Indian tribes down to the Riverside of recent years.
Be forewarned: History can be like a fungus. That is, it can grow on the reader. It can be addictive -- witness Hall and her seven books. And the several books written by Lech, all based on Riverside County.
Thanks go to Ruth McCormick for her suggesting this column.