Good book that's set in San Francisco?
March 21, 2008 1:17 PM   Subscribe

What's a good book that takes place in San Francisco?

I love San Francisco, and I'm just looking for a good book to read that's set in the city. Fiction or non-fiction - doesn't matter. I just finished reading Winter's Tale, which was a great book set in NYC, so I'm kind of looking for something similar, with lots of references to the layout and notable features of the city.

posted by Maia to Writing & Language (35 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers.
posted by HerArchitectLover at 1:22 PM on March 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Tales of the City et seq.?

Nina Kiriki Hoffmann has a number of books noticeably set in SF; I think eg A Fistful of Sky.
posted by hattifattener at 1:24 PM on March 21, 2008

Personally -

I've enjoyed Confessions of Max Tivoli, told from the perspective of a protagonist who ages backwards. It's set in San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century.

Also am fond of She Took My Arm As If She Loved Me by Herbert Gold. Same setting, non-historic, published during late 90s, but good details although emphasis is on the not-so-polished neighborhoods of S.F.

posted by skyper at 1:28 PM on March 21, 2008

I enjoyed Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job. I think some of his other books might use San Francisco as a prop, as well, although I don't recall making the association as strongly.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:40 PM on March 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

9Tail Fox by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 1:53 PM on March 21, 2008

The Maltese Falcon.
posted by thomas j wise at 2:01 PM on March 21, 2008

Seconding The Maltese Falcon
posted by jaimev at 2:07 PM on March 21, 2008

Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold. A fiction based on real-life stage magician Charles Carter, set in the '20s.
posted by dkippe at 2:08 PM on March 21, 2008

I was coming in to recommend Carter Beats the Devil and dkippe beat me to it. Faboo book, and very evocative of the San Francisco of the past.
posted by mostlymartha at 2:17 PM on March 21, 2008

Another vote for Tales of the City. It's a while since I read the books, but I remember them fondly.
posted by tomcooke at 2:17 PM on March 21, 2008

Also by Christopher Moore (and nearly as good), Blood Sucking Fiends and You Suck. Most of the rest of his books are California based also.
posted by santojulieta at 2:38 PM on March 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh the Glory of it All by Sean Wilsey.
posted by brain cloud at 2:41 PM on March 21, 2008

Kage Baker's "Children of the Company." The second half is set in San Francisco on the eve of the 1906 quake.
posted by zippy at 2:51 PM on March 21, 2008

Just read your post again: "lots of references to the layout and notable features of the city". From what I remember Tales of the City really delivers on this score.
posted by tomcooke at 2:52 PM on March 21, 2008

John Lescroart's books are set in San Francisco and are legal thrillers.
posted by essexjan at 3:05 PM on March 21, 2008

You Can't Win, by Jack Black

The Abortion, by Richard Brautigan

Valencia, by Michelle Tea
posted by gum at 3:14 PM on March 21, 2008

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan.
posted by crios at 3:29 PM on March 21, 2008

If you're interested in something that's a little bit weird, verging on science-fiction and verging on cyberpunk, but not really either, then I recommend John Shirley's City Come A-Walkin'. The story not only takes place in San Francisco, but the city of San Francisco is actually the main character in the story.
posted by kidbritish at 3:35 PM on March 21, 2008

posted by thebrokenmuse at 3:37 PM on March 21, 2008

In most works by Kerouac he gets to San Francisco at one point or another.
posted by nameless.k at 3:52 PM on March 21, 2008

In addition to The Maltese Falcon, mentioned above, several of Dashiell Hammett's other books and short stories take place in San Francisco. I just finished The Continental Op, which was amazing.
posted by saladin at 3:57 PM on March 21, 2008

The City, Not Long After by Pat Murphy.
posted by mogget at 3:57 PM on March 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Nthing Tales of the City.

I also liked Rupert Holmes' Swing: A Mystery. It's set during the 1940 Golden Gate International Exposition. The main character is a musician, and the book includes a disc of swing music pertinent to the novel.

Fun fact: Rupert Holmes is the guy who wrote the Escape (The Pina Colada Song). He also wrote the novel that the movie Where the Truth Lies was based on.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:01 PM on March 21, 2008

The Spellman books by Lisa Lutz take place in SF. They feature a family of PI's, so they run around the city a lot.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:30 PM on March 21, 2008

Kate Martinelli mysteries by Laurie King
posted by nax at 4:51 PM on March 21, 2008

I just finished reading Bones of the Barbary Coast by Daniel Hecht. It is set in San Fran - both present day and past. I enjoyed it.
posted by Sassyfras at 5:08 PM on March 21, 2008

Virtual Light by William Gibson takes place largely in a near-future San Francisco (the near-future of 2005, circa 1992). Includes the Bay Bridge turned into a shanty town and Golden Gate Park privatized as an amusement park.
posted by yellowlightman at 5:26 PM on March 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

4thing Tales of the City.
posted by dfan at 7:29 PM on March 21, 2008

Vikram Seth's novel in verse, The Golden Gate.
posted by jayder at 7:30 AM on March 22, 2008

Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Jack London's Martin Eden (plus many books set in the region).

Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club.

Alistair MacLean's The Golden Gate. (A fun thriller about terrorists taking over the Golden Gate Bridge. It'd make a good movie but The Rock came along and now it'd feel like a ripoff even though it's the other way around.)

San Francisco Noir anthology.

Michelle Richmond's The Year of Fog.

Lists of San Francisco novels and books set in San Francisco, More San Francisco Novels, and a couple more.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:21 AM on March 22, 2008

Seconding Heartbreaking Work...
posted by radioamy at 11:12 AM on March 22, 2008

Exceptional murder mystery author Laurie King sets both contemporary and historical novels in San Francisco.

Locked Rooms is her 8th Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes mystery, set in 1924 San Francisco. Wonderful book, can be read aloud but is best enjoyed as part of the series.

Kate Martinelli is a SFPD Detective and the protagonist of A Grave Talent. Great book and again, very reminiscent of SF and the Bay area.
posted by arnicae at 6:31 PM on March 23, 2008

In the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction category, try The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld
posted by mikepop at 5:36 AM on March 24, 2008

Nthing The Year of Fog and A Dirty Job. I read both of those in quick succession last summer and subsequently spent the remainder of the year longing to visit.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 5:01 PM on March 24, 2008

Seconding jayder's post. The Golden Gate is a unique and lovely read.
posted by laconic titan at 6:31 AM on March 25, 2008

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