Whether you’re new to the city or have been around since 1849, these are the San Francisco books you can’t miss.
San Francisco isn’t like other cities. It’s only 7-by-7 miles, making it America’s tiny urban treasure. Stocked with breathtaking vistas, sultry fog, and a boom-and-bust history, it has always been a haven for the wayward souls, dreamers, artists, entrepreneurs, runaways, queers. Whether you’re new in town looking for an introduction to these hilly landmarks, or an old-timer wanting to read up on the town you call home, here’s an introduction to some great, iconic books about or taking place in San Francisco.
McTeague by Frank Norris
Published in 1899, this is a novel about McTeague, a dentist who runs a shop on Polk Street. He falls in love with a girl while giving her a routine dental exam, and it’s essentially a tale of two men whose friendship is destroyed over a woman. A timeless trope for sure.
Recommended for: People who still want to read books that were published in 1899.
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
Detective Sam Spade of The Maltese Falcon has come to define the hard-boiled PI genre. Despite the fact that this book was published in 1930, the elusive atmosphere of San Francisco that skirts across the pages is the same one you’ll find today. A great page-turner studded with historic SF landmarks that mostly remain.
Recommended for: Anyone who likes a hard-boiled detective story. Noir folks.
Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
Tales of the City is the first novel in a series that first ran in the San Francisco Chronicle. That was back when newspapers did cool things like run serialized fiction, on a REGULAR BASIS. The tales revolve around Mary Ann Singleton, a prude out of Cleveland, and the rest of the residents of one address, 28 Barbary Lane. It’s the story of how the people and culture of San Francisco can change your life forever.
Recommended for: People who moved to San Francisco to escape their boring upbringings and to meet interesting people.