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San Francisco Novels

Michael Tolliver Lives* Michael Tolliver Lives: A Novel by Ambrose Bierce
4 Star  Armistead Maupin and his popular Tales of the City series evolved from a mid-1970s column in the San Francisco Chronicle and, over the next decade, attracted a loyal following. All the books in The series are good.

The Bad Side of San Francisco* The Bad Side of San Francisco5 Stars
by Darrin Atkins
San Franicsco writer Darrin Atkins has written over 30 books, best known as a crime writer, this book set in San Francisco is another 5-star offering. Fast paced read and fun, too.

NAMELESS DAME: Murder on the Russian River by Bart Schneider
Booklist says: "Schneider’s vision of a world where everyone, high and low, criminal and otherwise, is susceptible to the clarion call of poetry is somewhere between parody and utopia, but either way, it’s utterly delightful."
Published: Soft Skull Press, (Feb 2012)

* Always Coming Home (California Fiction)
by Ursula K. Le Guin
4 1/2 Star Always Coming Home is a major work of the imagination from one of America's most respected writers. More than five years in creation, it is a novel unlike any other. A rich and complex interweaving of story and fable, poem, artwork and music, it totally immerses the reader in the culture of the Kesh, a peaceful people of the far future who inhabit a place called the Valley on the Northern
Pacific Coast.

The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan * The Bonesetter's Daughterby Amy Tan 4 Stars
In Memories that rise like wisps of ghosts, LuLing Young searches for the name of her mother, the daughter of the Famous Bonesetter from the Mouth of the Mountain. Set in contemporary San Francisco and in a Chinese village where Peking Man is being unearthed, The Bonesetter's Daughter is an excavation of the human split: the past, its deepest wounds, its most profound hopes.

Bone: A Novel by Fae Myenne Ng* Bone: A novel by Fae Myenne Ng 4 Stars
In 1993 San Francisco born, Fae Myenne Ng, a Cantonese-speaking daughter of Chinese immigrants, she grew up in San Francisco’s Chinatown; her father was a merchant seaman, and her mother, a seamstress. Ms. Ng takes us beyond the curtain of the tourists’ Chinatown
* Bright Web in the Darkness (California Fiction)  (California Fiction)
 by Alexander Saxton
 Set in the San Francisco Bay area during World War II,  Bright Web in the Darkness is a novel that illuminates the  role of women workers during the war and the efforts of  African Americans to achieve regular standing as union  members.
The City Not Long After* The City, Not Long After5 Stars by Pat Murphy
A post-apocalyptic tale of San Francisco. After a plague wipes out most of the population of the US, San Francisco is taken over by artists. They are remaking the city with their art (and a little bit of magic from
the ghosts who haunt the city streets). When they are invaded by an army from Sacramento, they fight
back using art.
When not writing science fiction, Pat Murphy writes for the Exploratorium, San Francisco's museum of science, art, and human perception. She lives in San Francisco.
China Boy by Gus Lee* China Boy by Gus Lee 5 Stars
Warm, funny, and deeply moving, Gus Lee's semi-autobiographical account of growing up in a conflict-ridden family, unable to fully embrace either American or Chinese culture, is an enthralling story of family relationships, the perils of boyhood, and the difficulty of being Chinese in 1950's San Francisco.

City Limits* City Limits by James Toland
5 Stars  City Limits is a collection of eight versatile short stories about the diverse people living in and coming from San Francisco's Mission District. These people are living on the meanest streets of America's most beautiful city. For some, lives are filled with promise; others face only a dead end.

Chinese Playground: A Memoir* Chinese Playground : A Memoir by Bill Lee  
An unsentimental recollection of childhood and coming of age in the back alleys and bustling streets of San Francisco's Chinatown. An expose into the underworld of an urban Chinatown, this book traces author Bill Lee's maturation from innocent child in a troubled family to a street punk, gang member, and college graduate struggling to break free of his involvement in escalating violence. In a dark journey spanning forty years, Lee fights an ongoing battle againstrelentless childhood demons and nightmares, ultimately coming  to terms with his past and peace with himself.

The Confessions of Max Tivoli* The Confessions of Max Tivoli: A Novel 4 stars by Andrew Sean Greer
Set against the historical backdrop of San Francisco at the turn of the twentieth century," The Confessions of Max Tivoli "is a beautiful and daring feat of the imagination, questioning the very nature of love, time,
and what it means to be human.
A dirty Job:a novel* A Dirty Job: A Novel 4 1/2 Stars 
by Christopher Moore
"To keep a straight face while reading this  book, one would have to be dead already and in the finalstages of rigor mortis." ..Rocky Mountain News

* The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts 
by Maxine Hong Kingston. 4 stars A Chinese American woman tells of the Chinese myths, family stories and events of her California childhood that have shaped her identity.

Daughter of Fortune* Daughter of Fortune: A Novel by Isabel Allende  4 stars  An ambitious romance
laden with drama and sensuality. The story begins in mid-19th century Valparaiso, Chile and tells the tale of a young woman who
follows her lover to California during the
Gold Rush of 1849. This is storytelling at its most seductive, a brash historical adventure.

Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach* Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach ~ 4 star  Utopian novel that embodies the Bay Area's environmentalist and feminist leanings back in  the '70's and originally published 1975 Making a comeback now See Writer of 1970s 'Ecotopia' Makes a Comeback in the Green Era

* Earth Abides by George R. Stewart ~ 4 stars  
  originally published in 1949 This post-apocalyptic classic set  in San Francisco. was re-published in 1986.

The Story of a Marriage* The Story of a Marriage: A Novel by Andrew Sean Greer
“Andrew Sean Greer, one of the most talented young writers of our time, has written a beautiful and
moving tale of war, sacrifice, race, and motherhood.  But ultimately, as with The Confessions of Max Tivoli, this is a book about love, and it is a marvel to watch Greer probe the mysteries of love to such devastating effect.”  —Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns
Andrew Sean Greer is the bestselling author of The Confessions of Max Tivoli (FSG, 2004), the story collection How It Was for Me, and the novel The Path of Minor Planets.
He lives in San Francisco, California.
* Free Enterprise: A Novel of Mary Ellen Pleasant
4 1/2 Stars In 1858, two black women meet at a restaurant and begin to plot a revolution. Mary Ellen Pleasant owns a string of hotels in San Francisco that secretly double as havens for runaway slaves. Her comrade, Annie, is a young Jamaican who has given up her life of privilege to fight for the abolitionist cause. Together they join John Brown's doomed enterprise and barely escape with their lives.

Fifth Sacred Thing* The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk 5 Stars
An epic tale of freedom and slavery, love and war, and the potential futures of humankind tells of a twenty-first century California clan caught between two clashing worlds, one
based on tolerance, the other on repression.
The setting for this wonderful book is San Francisco in the future and what a beautiful vision it is.

* Going to See the Elephant by Rodes Fishburne 4 stars Hilarious, unpredictable, and set in present day San Francisco describes the debut novel by Rhodes Fishburne who has
been praised by Tom Wolfe and compared to Tom Robbins.
More information plus a few sample chapters to read online.

Lost Gold of San Francisco* The Lost Gold of San Francisco by Michael Castleman
5 Stars San Francisco Noe Valley resident Michael Castleman presents his his first fictional noval after 30 years as a medical journalist, health crusader, and sex guru and it is a winner.
The Lost Gold of San Francisco is an action-packed tale full of local color, true-to-life characters, and historical detail, spanning the 83 years between the devastating 1906 earthquake and the "pretty big" one that jolted the World Series in 1989. The "lost gold" refers to a shipment of $20 gold pieces, which disappeared from the San Francisco Mint in the days following the Great Quake. But the murders take place
in contemporary San Francisco--well, almost contemporary: the pre-dot-com days of the late '80s. Castleman's protagonist is a hard-nosed reporter, working for a daily newspaper much like the Chron/Ex.

Man Behind the Miracle* The Man Behind the Miracle: The Story of Alfred Boeddeker, O.F.M. by Madeline Hartmann
4 1/2 Stars
This is a true story and an amazing one. It is the Miracle of Jones Street in San Francisco. St. Anthony's Dining Room and Foundation is truly a miracle. Father Alfred Boeddeker, O.F.M. was able to do wonders with the help of a great variety of people, poor as well as very well off, and from diverse religious backgrounds. The common appeal was human decency and dignity. He saw, as did St. Francis, that all of us are one family and we need to care for each other. The book is full of little miracle stories of how this program came to be. It is a must read for anyone who loves Saint Francis and San Francisco

1906: A Novel* 1906 : A Novel by James Dalessandro  4 1/2 Stars
Every disaster has a backstory, none more thrilling than this one. Set during the great San Francisco earthquake and fire, this page-turning tale of political corruption, vendettas, romance, rescue -- and murder -- is based on recently uncovered facts that forever change our understanding of what really happened. Told
by a feisty young reporter, Annalisa Passarelli, the novel paints a vivid picture of the Victorian-era city, from the mansions of Nob Hill to the underbelly of the Barbary Coast to the arrival of tenor Enrico Caruso and the Metropolitan Opera. Central to the story is the ongoing battle -- fought even as the city burns -- that pits incompetent and unscrupulous politicians against a coalition of honest police officers, newspaper editors, citizens, and a lone federal prosecutor.

The Measure of a Lady* The Measure of a Lady: A Novel by Deeanne Gist 4 Stars
A fine mid-nineteenth century historical romance and vivid look at San Francisco just prior to the gold rush

* Man with the Heart in the Highlands: And Other Stories (New Directions Classics)
by William Saroyan, Herb Caen 5 Stars
This Saroyan collection gathers together some of the stories he wrote while living in San Francisco.
They are all set in San Francisco. For a sense of place circa 1930s, this is a great book. also, the Herb Caen introduction makes it a piece of SF literature worth holding onto.

Privileges of Beauty
* The Privileges of Beauty  5 Stars by Eugene Drabent
Set in the San Francisco of the 1960s, this book revolves around a hippie-world where free-love is
proclaimed while deceit and art forgery flourish in the background until some casual errors throw a
searching light on CogentCollectors Gallery and all hell breaks loose. Out of Print

My California* My California: Journeys by Great Writers
by Michael Chabon, (Contributors: Aimee Liu, T. Jefferson Parker, Mary MacKey, Hector Tobar, Thomas Steinbeck, Edward Humes, Matt Warshaw, Firoozeh Dumas, Devorah Major 5 Stars
My California: Journeys by Great Writers is a collaboration between Angel City Press and
All publishing proceeds benefit the California Arts Council. Since its publication, more than $65,000 from sale of this book has been donated to literary programs in California schools. read about the various authors

Sinner's Paradise* Sinner's Paradise by Scott Lettieri
When Martin Fante walks into a lesbian bar in the seediest part of San Francisco desperately looking for his aloof yet alluring girlfriend, we know all is not well. But something much
deeper drives Martin, a secret that begins to surface as he cares for his dying mother. Martin's torment - for years buried beneath a string of sexual liaisons, an irreverent lifestyle, and his career as
a radio news reporter - can no longer be ignored.

Wild Wives* Wild Wives by Charles Willeford
5 Stars As Jake becomes more deeply involved with this glamorous and possibly crazy woman, he becomes entangled in a web of deceit, intrigue and multiple murders. Brilliant, sardonic, and full of surprises, Wild Wives is
one wild ride.
"Elegant, tough, and rhythmic as a championship boxing match." ...San Francisco Chronicle

* Words of My Roaring by Ernest J. Finney
(California Fiction) Set in a small town south of San Francisco(San Bruno)during World War II, this book is a compelling picture of the confusions, the dislocations, and the brutality of war as they affect the home front. 5 Stars


White Rabbit* White Rabbit: A Mystery by David Daniel
4 Stars San Francisco in 1969 is a time of peace and love, but a serial killer, dubbed the Death Tripper, is at large. Homicide Inspector John Sparrow teams up with underground rag writer Amy Cole to find the killer and end the bad trip

* Romancing San Francisco: [Sketches of life in the late 60s] by Dennis Lee Siluk 5 Stars
Those who might be interested in the late l960's movement,
it all started in San Francisco, and this book brings out sketches of the times.

Sister Noon* Sister Noon: a Novel by Karen Joy Fowler 4 Stars
Set in San Francisco in the Gilded Age, Sister
Noon is a period mystery. Lizzie Hayes is part of San Francisco's social elite. But Lizzie, so seemingly docile, hides within her a rebellious heart. All she needs is the spark that will liberate her from the ruling conventions. And that spark is Mary Ellen Pleasant. "You can be anything you want",she
tells Lizzie."You don't have to be the same person your
whole life".

* Sympathy for the Devil: The Emmanuel Baptist Murders of Old San Francisco by Virginia A. McConnell 4 1/2 Stars Virginia McConnell's well-researched and well written presentation of the Emmanuel Baptist Church murders that happened in San Francisco 1895

* The Vineyard (California Fiction) by Idwal Jones
Foreword by Robert Mondavi.Evocative of the seasons in the Napa Valley, this novel traces the fate of Alda Pendle, a viticulturist's daughter who becomes a viticulturist herself. Along the way, the reader imbibes much of the early history of California winemaking. M.F.K. Fisher called the book "as heartening as wine to read"

White JadeWhite Jade: A Novel
5 Stars
by Anna Podhaski (Nov. 17, 2010)
Anna Podhaski, born in San Francisco and raised in the Bay Area, was influenced at an early age by a family tie to Chinatown. She is an author and artist who has a keen interest in folklore and the art of storytelling. She currently makes her home in southern Oregon.

Villa Incognito* Villa Incognito by Tom Robbins
Imagine that there are American MIAs who chose to remain missing after the Vietnam War.
Imagine that there is a family in which four generations of strong, alluring women have shared a mysterious connection to an outlandish figure from Japanese folklore.
This is Tom Robbins’s eighth novel--a work as timeless as myth yet as topical as the latest international threat.


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