Best Books About San Francisco

There are a lot of books out there that are about or are based in San Francisco. There are classics like the Maltese Falcon or Jack Kerouac's The Road. But whether you’re coming to San Francisco for the first time or you’ve lived here for decades, these books will help you further understand the land around you. 

  • 01 of 10

    For a look into San Francisco of the 70s, pick up this series. Maupin was a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, where he wrote a fictional story of Mary Ann Singleton and the other tenants and landlord of 28 Barbary Lane. The column was written in real time, so Maupin often reacted to real-life events, including the AIDS epidemic. Now the series serves as a lovely ode to the San Francisco of yore.  

  • 02 of 10

     A sprawling non-fiction narrative of the culture shifts that came with and after the Summer of Love. And boy, if you thought it started and ended with hippies and drugs than you’re in for an awakening. While both factor into the seismic cultural shifts, you’ll be surprised to learn how slow progress was, how some movements backfired while some led to violent ends. It’s a great read to remind you that even in the most progressive places in the country, progress is still a slow and steady beast. 

  • 03 of 10

    Mixing personal experience with historical statistics and tidbits, Kamiya has penned one of the prettiest love letters to San Francisco. Part walking tour, part fly-on-the-wall taxi rides (Kamiya was a taxi driver in his younger years), the author’s first-person chapters insight wonder and awe at San Francisco’s sweeping vistas and quirky characters. The historical chapters offer insight into the Ferry Building, the 1906 quake, and San Francisco’s formative years. 

  • 04 of 10

    From the tiny photo store to his tragic assassination, Harvey Milk changed the face of San Francisco politics and gave rise to the gay rights movement. Shilts traces the origins of the movement through Milk’s murder and the subsequent aftermath.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

     You wouldn’t expect a nature adventure to take place in San Francisco city limits and well – it doesn’t. The Devil’s Teeth is a nickname that was given to the Farallon Islands, a rocky, ocean-batter outcrop 30 miles outside San Francisco. It’s a national wildlife refuge for birds, seals, and sharks – really, really big sharks. Casey spends a full season counting birds and tagging 20-foot-long Great White Sharks while spending the night in a haunted house.  

  • 06 of 10

     This graphic novel details the life of Minnie Goetze, a teenager coming of age in the tumultuous 60s with a pretty negligent single mother whose boyfriend aids our fair heroin in losing her virginity. It’s a rocking and rolling story, beautifully illustrated by Gloeckner’s comic styling.

  • 07 of 10

     Heads up before you dive into this honker – it’s got some pretty heavy subject matter. Eggers has created a memoir that details the deaths of both his parents in just a matter of months and consequently raising his younger brother. He finds some solace by moving to the Bay Area. Most of the story unravels from there. 

  • 08 of 10

     Pirates are terrorizing San Francisco in the 21 century. Just kidding, this is fiction. But it’s a fun, scary, bizarre roll through the San Francisco bay on a pirate ship with a few teenagers and an old man. And you’ll be surprised by the end. 

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

     Like many of the young people in San Francisco in the 70s, Bittner was a bit aimless until he found the parrots, that is. This is the story of his six-year-strong bond with the birds, who frequent the steep hills underneath Coit Tower. It’s a fun story and you can find the parrots across the city, but especially over in the North Beach neighborhood. 

  • 10 of 10

    This illustrated book gives insight into the San Francisco that tourists often don’t see. With quotes from Muni drivers, overheard quips from the San Francisco Public Library and other places around San Francisco. It’s a quick and easy read but makes a great gift for anyone who loves the city.