With its jagged hills, quirky characters, and distinctive landmarks, San Francisco is one of the world’s most iconic cities. According to a recent analysis of popular book settings, novelists play an important role in keeping the city in the spotlight—San Francisco is the fourth most popular place in the United States for fiction writers.
Here at Standard, we’re always happy to recommend a good book. We’ve compiled lists of books every San Franciscan should read and check out what San Franciscans are currently reading.
Now we bring you a list of some of the best novels and memoirs set in San Francisco — all of which would make great holiday gifts.
Chilean experience of the gold rush in California
Isabel Allende historical novel, Daughter of fortune, begins in Chile, where English-educated orphan Eliza Somers falls in love with writer Joaquín Andieta–who is determined to make more out of his life. When gold is discovered in Northern California, they travel there together. Somers meets a Chinese doctor named Tao Chin, who becomes her savior in a seedy city of single men.
Hard-boiled classic noir collection 1920s SF
Many people know Maltese FalconClassic movie starring Humphrey Bogart. But they may not realize that the movie is based on Dashiell Hammett’s 1930 novel of the same name. Hammett invented Detective Sam Spade and sent him crawling all over San Francisco – including the Stockton Tunnel, the Jones Grill and the Palace Hotel – in search of a bejeweled flying statue. The plot may leave you confused, but the vivid descriptions of the city are simply unforgettable.
A Memoir of the 1940s in San Francisco by a Literary Icon
I’ll never forget Maya Angelou’s portrayal of The Fillmore in San Francisco in her memoirs I know why the caged bird sings. Before the city flattened the neighborhood, destroying the heart of the “Harlem of the West,” it was home to a thriving Japanese community. Traveling through Angelo’s San Francisco with her—from Timothy Fluger’s George Washington High School to the streetcars she ran—reminds me of how much the city has changed and yet how much it has remained the same.
Queer Chinatown in the 1950s
Melinda Luce Last night at the Telegraph Club It follows the journey of Lily Ho, who begins to explore her sexuality at a lesbian bar in Chinatown with her friend Kathleen. A story of quirky love set against the authentic historical backdrop of 1950s San Francisco, this book is so perfect for the moment.
The psychedelic counterculture of the 1960s
Towards the end of his life, author Ken Kesey said he continued to enjoy small doses of LSD. But back when Tom Wolfe was dating Kesey Kool-Aid Electrophoresis TestThe countercultural icon and his band of Merry Pranksters were regularly downing what could more accurately be described as heroic doses of drugs. And that wasn’t all they were taking – not by much difference. This seminal work of new journalism is essential reading for anyone trying to get a feel for the San Francisco psychedelia of the late ’60s.
Escape from the 70s light
Originally serialized to the San Francisco Chronicle in the 1970s, Armistead Maupin’s City Tales The novels have become classics in their own right. Maupin’s spirited writing, fantastic characters, and fast-moving plot sweep you into a soap opera of lives crossed. If you want lighter entertainment, get the Netflix remake that reimagines the story in modern times.
The sea of atmosphere washed away in the 1980s
Vendela Vida We turn the tide Captures a windswept San Francisco swing on the edge of Seacliff. It’s not the only rough edge, as main character Ulape skates through the awkward transition between childhood and young adulthood. Brilliantly written with characters and settings that draw you in, Vida’s sixth novel is well worth sitting in a comfy armchair on a rainy San Francisco day.
Literary depiction of grief
As one of the founders of 826 Valencia, Dave Eggers is a local legend who constantly gives back to the literary community. He is also an author in his own right. his first appearance, A heartbreaking work of astounding genius (2000), part memoir, part fabrication – detailing Egger’s move to California with his 8-year-old brother after his mother and father died barely a month away. Reading about a newly orphaned young man being thrust into the role of a parent is utterly heartbreaking more than two decades later.
A North Shore book lover’s dream
When main character Clay is fired from his dead-end tech job, he runs an all-night bookstore assignment in North Beach as a last resort. While some of the novel’s tropes can feel a little jarring, Robin Sloan pulls off a literary thriller. Mr. Penumbra’s library 24 hours It makes you turn the pages thanks to its articulate characters and bright writing.
Centering original sounds
Tommy Orange’s first novel there there Offering a chorus of original voices, he deftly weaves the experiences of 12 “urban Indians” into a sharp-witted portrayal that explores what it means to endure a blood-soaked history. The novel’s riveting urgency–full of heart-rending phrases and tension that builds to a boil–propels you forward to a powerhouse climax in which all characters cross paths with devastating consequences.
California: Carceral State
California imprisons so many people (in a country with the most prisoners) that some writers have called it the “Golden Gulag.” Novel by Rachel Kushner Mars room It gives readers a fictional glimpse into this world, with characters and settings so real that you wonder if Kushner herself was ever imprisoned. This book stuck with me long after I read it and it forever changed how I saw the world.
Chanel Miller’s impact statement after she was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner instantly went viral on BuzzFeed, where she was known only as Emily Doe. with her notes, know my nameintroduces herself and shares the labyrinthine journey a sexual assault survivor goes through in society and the criminal justice system. All of that would be credible enough, but pair that with Chanel’s stunning writing (I’ll never forget that dive scene until the end of my days), and you’ve got absolute glamour.
dystopian science fiction
You may not recognize the Bay Area in Philip K. Dick’s dystopian sci-fi novel, Unexcused absence?, but there they were similar: “There was the suburbs of San Francisco, a short monorail express ride away; The inspiration for the cult classic movie Blade RunnerDick’s uplifting novel is a somber reminder of what the future could look like.