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Books for L.A. Nerds: Saints of California

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There's a lot of Santa this and Santa that in these parts. No, we're not talking about the upcoming Christmas holiday, but Santa (or San) as in Santa Monica (the city), Santa Catalina (the island) and San Vicente (the street).

A relatively new book, Saints of California: A Guide to Places and Their Patrons, helps orient us a little better--well, in terms of California's namesakes, history and European exploration--to where we live and visit.

Many names were based on the day of its naming. The Santa Monica Mountains, for example, was probably named on May 4th, 1770 during Spanish army Captain Gaspar de Portola's expedition up the coast. That date is Monica's feast day in the old calendar. The name was applied when the city formed in 1875.

But not all places were named so mechanically. Saint Nicholas, as in San Nicolas Island off the coast of San Pedro (oddly, though, within Ventura County), is not only known as Santa Claus, but also as the patron saint of sailors.

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Saints of California is not exactly a page-by-page thriller--nor is it complete and admittedly so--but is a good reference book for any California nerd lover's collection.