I love exploring San Francisco through other people's worlds and experiences. From coming of age tales and classic SF adventures to thrillers, mysteries and short stories--they all offer up views of The City that take you out of your element. I've rounded up my 10 favorite SF books, and some mini-summaries to go with them. Some are novels, some are historic, some are short stories, but all are full of City love. They make great gifts, and are perfect for unplugging this holiday season!
1. Tales of The City by Armistead Maupin
Explore San Francisco through the eyes of a new arrival, a mysterious landlady, an old money former debutante, a gay man looking for true love, and a confused young woman. There's a mystery, many strange and wonderful relationships, humor, sadness and friendship. The other books in the series are also amazing, but you should really start here, at the beginning. Michael Mouse forever!
2. Cool Grey City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco by Gary Kamiya
The past and present meld together in this collection of short stories. Learn things you never knew, and get a new understanding and point of view on The City.
3. The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
Mental illness, conspiracy theories, secret societies and adventure come together in this short, but exciting read.
4. Season of the Witch by David Talbot
Do you know what happened to The Fillmore, The Western Addition or City Hall? Politics, corruption, and greed take center stage.
5. Going to See the Elephant by Rodes Fishburne
Nothing in San Francisco is what it seems, and fame is fleeting.
6. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
This is a classic coming of age novel that shaped the Beats and generations to come. Pick up a copy in City Lights, and take it next door to Vesuvios for the full experience. Order a Kerouac and grab one of the booths upstairs. Enjoy!
7. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
You're classic detective novel--but with a twist! There's plenty of old school SF scenes and locations.
8. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
The title says it all. Orphaned and now responsible for caring for his younger sibling, he struggles with providing food and shelter, appropriate bedtime stories, and being a 1990's SF hipster.
9. Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas by Rebecca Solnit
Maps and more. San Francisco is broken down into unique layers, and Solnit creates an atlas like none other.
10. See San Francisco: Through the Lens of SFGirlByBay by Victoria Smith
Not a novel, but still amazing. This collection of snapshots capture many neighborhoods in SF, as seen through the eyes of a local.