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Best Books About San Francisco

Explore the allure of the Golden Gate City through literature. These books about San Francisco have been hailed by critics and appear repeatedly on respected reading lists, offering diverse perspectives of the city by the bay.

Recommendations from 13 articles, Elon Musk, Hillary Clinton, Olivia Wilde and 26 others.
100 books on the list
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The Golden Gate book cover
The Golden Gate
Vikram Seth - 1991-06-18 (first published in 1986)
Goodreads Rating
A poetic novel that explores love, relationships, and self-discovery. Follow John Brown, a successful yuppie in 1980s San Francisco, as he navigates through life after meeting Liz through a personal ad. Along the way, John meets a range of characters with their own ideas of "self-actualization." But when Liz falls for his best friend, John is left to continue on his journey of self-discovery. A highly regarded novel by a literary household name.
Recommended by
Donald Knuth
Tales of the City book cover
Tales of the City
A Novel (P.S.)
Armistead Maupin - 1989-01-01 (first published in 1978)
Goodreads Rating
This beloved series begins with a groundbreaking novel that takes readers on a journey through San Francisco. With memorable characters and a comedic tone, this book captures an era and a way of life that changed society forever. It's no wonder it inspired a Netflix series and is considered a PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick.
The Joy Luck Club book cover
The Joy Luck Club
A Novel
Amy Tan - 2006-09-21 (first published in 1989)
Goodreads Rating
A group of four Chinese immigrant women in 1940s San Francisco play mahjong and share stories of their pasts in "The Joy Luck Club." Their daughters, who lead modern American lives, initially dismiss their mothers' advice until they face their own inner crises and discover how much they've inherited from their mothers' pasts. Amy Tan's insightful and poignant examination of the complex relationship between mothers and daughters reveals secrets and intertwining ties that will keep readers engaged in this tale of intrigue and mystery.
Cool Gray City of Love book cover
Cool Gray City of Love
49 Views of San Francisco
Gary Kamiya - 2013-08-06
Goodreads Rating
Discover the hidden gems of San Francisco with this engaging book that takes readers on a walking tour of the city's 49 different sites. From the seedy alleys of Tenderloin to the breathtaking sea cliffs at Lands End, the author offers a natural and human history of the city. This love letter to San Francisco encompasses its past, including the Spanish missionary era, the gold rush, the Beats, the hippies, and the dot-com boom. Get ready to fall in love with the city by the bay all over again.
Valencia book cover
Michelle Tea - 2000-04-01
Goodreads Rating
"Valencia" is a riveting tale of one girl's quest for love and adventure in San Francisco's vibrant dyke scene. Experience a year in the life of Michelle Tea, as she navigates the drama-filled Mission District and encounters a cast of unforgettable characters: from knife-wielding Marta, to Iris, the beautiful boy-dyke, and Magdalena Squalor, the ex of Michelle's tormented poet-girlfriend. This fast-paced memoir illuminates the ups and downs of radical sex, heartbreak, and sisterhood in a world of girls.
Oh the Glory of It All book cover
Oh the Glory of It All
Sean Wilsey - 2006-04-25 (first published in 2005)
Goodreads Rating
This memoir takes readers on a journey filled with unnerving characters and extreme behaviors. The author recounts his childhood spent subservient to and rebelling against his wealthy, distant father, his society butterfly turned peace promoter mother, and his demon of a stepmother. The author's unflinching sentences keep his story moving quickly, making it a compelling and human read.
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore book cover
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
A Novel
Robin Sloan - 2012-10-02
Goodreads Rating
A mysterious 24-hour bookstore in San Francisco catches the eye of Clay Jannon, a former web-designer. But the absence of customers buying books is just the beginning of strange occurrences. Digging deeper with the help of his friends, Clay unravels the secrets hidden inside, leading to a thrilling adventure beyond the bookstore's walls.
Al Capone Does My Shirts book cover
Al Capone Does My Shirts
Gennifer Choldenko - 2006-04-20 (first published in 2004)
Goodreads Rating
A young boy and his family move to Alcatraz Island, where his dad works as an electrician for the prison. He joins a community of other kids whose parents work on the island and live surrounded by criminals. Life is anything but ordinary in this unique and unforgettable setting.
Infinite City book cover
Infinite City
A San Francisco Atlas
Rebecca Solnit - 2010-11-29
Goodreads Rating
Infinite City is a breathtaking reinvention of the traditional atlas, exploring the many layers of meaning in the San Francisco Bay Area. Rebecca Solnit's research, accompanied by 22 gorgeous color maps created by artists, writers, and cartographers, find seemingly unlimited landmarks and treasures, connecting Eadweard Muybridge's motion-picture technology to Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. Discover the cultural geographies of the Mission District, the culture wars of the Fillmore, and much more, inviting us to search out the layers of San Francisco that carry meaning for us, or to discover our own infinite city.
This is San Francisco [A Children's Classic] book cover
This is San Francisco [A Children's Classic]
Miroslav Sasek - 2003-05-30 (first published in 1962)
Goodreads Rating
Discover the enchanting world of San Francisco through the eyes of a rumbling cable car! From the crookedest street in the world to the Peking ducks in Chinatown, this children's classic immerses readers in the cosmopolitan flavor and breathtaking landscape of the City by the Bay. Illustrated by Miroslav Sasek, this timeless book captures San Francisco's vibrant spirit and is sure to dazzle both kids and adults.
San Francisco by Ashley Evanson
Color this Book by Abbi Jacobson
The Magnificent Rogues of San Francisco by Charles F. Adams
Larry Gets Lost in San Francisco by Michael Mullin
Historic San Francisco by Rand Richards
Kid's Guide to San Francisco by Eileen Ogintz
A Kid's Guide to San Francisco by Sara Day
The Cable Car and the Dragon by Herb Caen
Jack London by Jack London
McTeague by Frank Norris
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
Zodiac by RM Graysmith
San Francisco, Baby! by Ward Jenkins
China Boy by Gus Lee
China Dolls by Lisa See
The Circle by Dave Eggers
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
Season of the Witch by David Talbot
28 Barbary Lane by Armistead Maupin
Meanwhile in San Francisco by Wendy MacNaughton
San Francisco, Portrait of a City by Fred Lyon
Geek Silicon Valley by Ashlee Vance
Good Night San Francisco by Adam Gamble
Womens Murder Club 18 Books Collection Set by James Patterson by James Patterson
Moon 101 Great Hikes San Francisco Bay Area by Ann Marie Brown
Great Giants Stories Every Young Fan Should Know by Julie Jackson
San Francisco Then and Now by Eric J. Kos
Frommer's EasyGuide to San Francisco by Erika Lenkert
Why Is That Bridge Orange San Francisco for the Curious by Art Peterson
Fodor's San Francisco by Fodor'S Travel Guides
Chronicles of Old San Francisco by Gael Chandler
Kids' Travel Guide - San Francisco by Kelsey Fox
San Francisco by Leah Garchik
Lonely Planet Pocket San Francisco by Lonely Planet
Walking San Francisco by Kathleen Dodge Doherty
History of Alcatraz Island, 1853-2008 Images of America by Gregory L. Wellman
San Francisco, California by Patricia Kennedy
Victorian Buildings of San Francisco by Shirley Salzman
100 Things to Do in San Francisco Before You Die by Eve Batey
Painted Ladies Revisited by Elizabeth Pomada
111 Places in San Francisco That You Must Not Miss Updated and Revised by Floriana Petersen
How to love San Francisco by Johanna Lehmann
Into the Void Pacific by Andrew Shanken
Lonely Planet San Francisco by Lonely Planet
National Trust Guide / San Francisco by Peter Booth Wiley
Disrupted by Dan Lyons
Growing Up in San Francisco by Frank Dunnigan
Alcatraz by Michael Esslinger
The Barbary Coast by Herbert Asbury
Tales from the San Francisco Giants Dugout by Nick Peters
Gun, with Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem
Maids of Misfortune by M. Louisa Locke
No Comfort for the Lost by Nancy Herriman
Virgin Soul by Judy Juanita
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg
The Mayor of Castro Street by Randy Shilts
Humphrey the Lost Whale by Wendy Tokuda
Lost San Francisco by Dennis Evanosky
60 Hikes within 60 Miles by Jane Huber
See San Francisco by Victoria Smith
Urban Trails by Alexandra Kenin
Street Art San Francisco by Annice Jacoby
The Big 50 by Daniel Brown
100 Things Giants Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Bill Chastain
San Francisco by Matt Weber
The Adventures of Sasha by Ron Berman
Color San Francisco by Emma Kelly
Architectural Guidebook to San Francisco and the Bay Area by Susan Cerny
Cityscapes 2 by John King
MICHELIN Guide San Francisco 2019 by Michelin
Frank Lloyd Wright and San Francisco by Paul V. Turner
Best Easy Day Hikes San Francisco Peninsula by Tracy Salcedo
Cityscapes by John King
A Short History of San Francisco by Tom Cole
Nate the Great, San Francisco Detective by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
San Francisco Architecture by John M. Woodbridge
A Book of Walks by Bruce Bochy
1906 San Francisco Earthquake by Richard Hansen
Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia Martinez
The Global Silicon Valley Handbook by Michael Moe
Alcatraz-1259 by William G. Baker
San Francisco Noir by Nathaniel Rich
Alcatraz by Donald MacDonald
Play Around the Bay by SFMOTC - San Francisco Mothers of Twins Club
Crying of Lot 49, The by Thomas Pynchon
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick