Rock Me on the Water

By Ronald Brownstein. (Harper, 439 pages, $29.99.)

You might imagine that a book focused primarily on the pop-culture scene in 1974 Los Angeles might be limited in scope. But "Rock Me on the Water" has the opposite problem. Author Ronald Brownstein, a senior editor at the Atlantic, attempts to tackle music, film, TV and politics, only skimming the surface of each medium.

A lot of the narrative seems to depend on Brownstein's personal tastes and who would answer his calls. His choices are good news for fans of Jackson Browne's early work, "All in the Family" and "Shampoo." Other milestones from the period — Joni Mitchell's "Court and Spark," "Blazing Saddles" and "The Waltons" — get shorted.

Brownstein writes in a chatty tone perfect for younger readers who think of 1974 as the prehistoric age. But those hungry for a more substantial nostalgia trip would be better off focusing on books and films that don't try to serve so many masters. Norman Lear's autobiography, "Even This I Get to Experience"; "The Big Goodbye," Sam Wasson's in-depth look at the making of "Chinatown"; and Alison Ellwood's documentary "Laurel Canyon" are all good places to start.