We’re all evangelists for the places we choose to hang our hat. Some of us share local stories, sometimes embellishing them for friends, family and strangers via social media. The most talented storytellers often share excellent stories via books. Pete Mulvihill, co-owner of Green Apple Books in the Inner Richmond since 1947, casts an eye over some of the very best books about San Francisco. Read on and pick up your next interesting page turner.
This title will ring a bell with those familiar with McTeague’s Saloon. Subtitled “A Story of San Francisco,” this novel written on the eve of the 20th century has elements befitting 21st century life in San Francisco: a dentist, a winning lottery ticket, a Polk Street romance. Things spiral rapidly downward as jealousy, greed and degeneration take over. “It’s based on an actual crime that was sensationalized in San Francisco newspapers,” adds Mulvihill. A clear forerunner in the school of American naturalism and realism, Norris’ potential was cut short; he died in San Francisco at age 32.
“The Maltese Falcon”
This crime thriller set in and around the alleyways near Union Square often crops up at the top of best detective novel lists. Private detective Sam Spade went from ink print to cinema screen starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet in the 1941 version, considered a film noir classic. Today, at Hotel Union Square, a Royal manual typewriter sits upon a vintage Steelcase desk in the fifth floor Dashiell Hammett corner suite. John’s Grill on Ellis Street is known for its fleeting connection to the film. Get to the essence of 1920s San Francisco flavor in the pages of this bestseller about the objet d’art worth killing for.
“Tales of the City”
Meet Mary Ann Singleton in the first in the six-part series. As a visitor from the midwest, she’s taken with the city and decides to make it home. “The main character moves to San Francisco to meet interesting people and have experiences, which resonates with so many locals,” says Mulvihill. Begun as an installment in the San Francisco Chronicle, the portraits and personalities of 28 Barbary Lane define an era. San Francisco locations can be tracked on an interactive map on the author’s website. Fun fact: Armistead wrote the original dialogue for “Beach Blanket Babylon,” the longest-running musical revue in theatrical history.
“Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas”
In an affectionate, insightful and unique re-ordering of our thinking, Solnit shows us how to look at the city differently: using our imaginations and inclinations to search out personal meanings all over our special seven-by-seven miles. Mulvihill explains, “It’s a super interesting collective art project, an atlas, a collection of maps and essays unexpectedly overlaid with politics, religion, cultural and historical multi-layers.” Readers will open their eyes to a thematically reconfigured urban landscape.
“Cool Gray City of Love”
These 49 chapters comprising views and stories of San Francisco from Ohlone people to I.P.O. are called Kimaya’s lovesong to San Francisco by the Huffington Post. DeStefano, bookseller at Books Inc, describes it as “quirky, now and very successful,” in mentioning the book’s appeal to readers younger than its author, the founder of Salon.com. In walking every square block of the city, Kamiya refers to the search for the book’s elements as creating “the perfect San Francisco cocktail,” from the Farallon Islands to the Tenderloin. The San Francisco Chronicle says, “Kamiya’s relish is contagious.”
Laurie Jo Miller Farr loves walkable cities. A tourism industry professional and transplanted New Yorker by way of half-a-lifetime in London, she’s writing about the best of the bay and beyond for Yahoo, USA Today, eHow, and on Examiner.com.