Holiday Gift Guide: 21 Essential San Francisco Books to Give and Get

From classic San Franciscan novels, like Tales of the City, to cookbooks from some of the nation’s top restaurants, these are 21 essential books San Franciscans should have on their wishlists this holiday season.

Tales of the City, Armistead Maupin signed edition by Easton Press

1. Tales of the City

Tales of the City is a must-read for San Francisco residents, and this beautiful leather bound edition from Easton Press will look beautiful on any bibliophile’s bookshelf. Originally serialized in the San Francisco Chronicle, Armistead Maupin’s novel follows the residents of 28 Barbary Lane in San Francisco and Mary Ann Singleton, a young woman visiting San Francisco from Ohio who impulsively decides to stay. Set in the late 1970s, the book is one of the first published to deal with the AIDS epidemic.
Leatherbound Signed Limited Edition: $117, Easton Press

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The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, Folio Society edition.

2. The Man in the High Castle

If you’re familiar with Amazon Prime’s The Man in the High Castle, you know the plot of this 1962 classic. Philip K. Dick, author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (aka: Blade Runner), imagines an alternate America in which the Axis Powers have won the Second World War. Much of the book is set in San Francisco, which is under a militaristic Japanese dictatorship.
Limited Clothbound Edition: $57.95, Folio Society

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This is San Francisco A Children's Classic by Miroslav Sasek

3. This is San Francisco

Illustrator Miroslav Sasek’s This is San Francisco is part of his classic This Is children’s travel series. The dazzling midcentury illustrations perfectly capture the cosmopolitan flavor and landscape of San Francisco as it was seen in the 1960s, pre-Manhattanization.
Hardcover Edition: $12.56, Amazon 

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Cool Gray City of Love 49 Views of San Francisco by Gary Kamiya

4. Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco

Gary Kamiya’s runaway San Francisco Chronicle bestseller is a literary mixtape of the City’s history. Organized in 49 short chapters corresponding to a neighborhood or specific location, the book uniquely guides readers throughout San Francisco’s history, from the prehistoric formation of the Farallon Islands to the hardships of African-American shipbuilders during WWII, and beyond.
Paperback Edition: $14.54, Amazon

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San Francisco Portrait of a City 1940-1960 Fred Lyon

5. San Francisco, Portrait of a City: 1940-1960

Truth be told, if Fred Lyon were in the #SFGuide community, he’d be one of our featured photographers. Now 92, this legendary photographer, whos works have been featured in Life and Vogue, has published this stunning collection of dramatic black and white photographs of San Francisco and the people who built it into what it is today. A coffee table essential for the modern San Francisco home.
Hardcover: $30.30, Amazon

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Street Art San Francisco: Mission Muralismo (Abrams)

7. Street Art San Francisco: Mission Muralismo

This collection of over 600 photographs of The Mission’s street murals and graffiti spans three decades, and captures the vibes of a changing neighborhood. A must-own for any street art aficionado or resident of The Mission.
Hardcover: $31.99, Amazon

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San Francisco's Queen of Vice: The Strange Career of Abortionist Inez Brown Burns by Lisa Riggin

8. San Francisco’s Queen of Vice: The Strange Career of Abortionist Inez Brown Burns

San Francisco’s Queen of Vice is introduced with a quote by journalist Warren Hinckle: “When Frisco was the abortion capital of the United States… Inez Burns was the undisputed queen of the abortionists.” This biography chronicling the rise and fall of San Francisco’s famed abortionist is for true local history buffs. Burns, a highly-skilled, high-priced, and corrupt abortionist oversaw some 150,000 abortions throughout her career until her trial and conviction.
Hardcover: $20.72, Amazon

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Sourdough a Novel by Robin Sloan

9. Sourdough: A Novel

From the author of another San Francisco must-read, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, comes Sourdough, the story of Lois, an isolated software engineer, who orders dinner from the same hole-in-the-wall cafe every night. How very SF. When the brothers who own the cafe run into visa issues and are forced to shut down, Lois inherits their sourdough starter. Soon, Lois begins baking her own sourdough bread and is thrown into a brave new culinary world where food and tech collide.
Hardcover: $15.60, Amazon
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Tartine All Day: Modern Recipes for the Home Cook by Elisabeth Prueitt

10. Tartine All Day: Modern Recipes for the Home Cook

Pair your gift of Sourdough: A Novel with Elisabeth Prueitt’s latest cookbook to your Tartine-obsessed friend. In this cookbook the Tartine Bakery and Tartine Manufactory cofounder shares 200 recipes for healthy, delicious, and enticing everyday home cooking that won’t wear down the chef.
Hardcover: $27.19, Amazon

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frank lloyd wright san francisco

11. Frank Lloyd Wright and San Francisco

In this retrospective book, Paul Turner explores Frank Lloyd Wright’s body of work in the San Francisco Bay Area. Spanning roughly thirty projects, only a third of which were built, the book explores bridges, tech campuses, homes, mortuaries, and more.
Hardcover: $42.49, Amazon

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Alice memoir of a barbary coast prostitute
Alice memoir of a barbary coast prostitute

12. Alice: Memoirs of a Barbary Coast Prostitute

Originally published as a serial in the San Francisco Bulletin in 1913 by a ghostwriter, Alice is the true-story memoir of “Alice Smith”, a Barbary Coast prostitute. The publication was one of the first to frankly discuss the underworld — abortion, police corruption, and the unwritten law of the brothel —, and criticized society which had failed so many women, including herself. The Bulletin received four thousand letters in response to the serial, and led to one of the United States’ first sex worker rights protests. This 2016 edition is the first time it has been made publicly available since its original run 104 years ago.
Paperback: $15.49, Amazon

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The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature

13. The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature

Part history, part biography, The Bohemians is set in post-Gold Rush, pre-Civil War San Francisco, a suddenly complex urban society and global seaport home to immigrants from five continents. It follows the lives of the Bohemian writers — Mark Twain, Bret Harte, Charles Warren Stoddard, and Ina Coolbrith — and reveals how they gave birth to modern in America during a brief moment on the Barbary Coast.
Paperback: $16.44, Amazon

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14. Growing Up in San Francisco’s Western Neighborhoods: Boomer Memories from Kezar Stadium to Zim’s Hamburgers

Escape the constantly changing landscape of San Francisco with this nostalgic trip down memory lane with SF native Frank Dunnigan. Dunnigan will guide you through the San Francisco of yesteryear: a romantic pre-Manhattanized, pre-Salesforce Tower version of our beloved City by the Bay.
Paperback: $15.71, Amazon

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world film locations san francisco

15. World Film Locations: San Francisco

From iconic films like Hitchock’s Vertigo and Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, to lesser-known films like Medicine for Melancholy and The Parrots of Telegraph Hill, the SF edition of World Film Locations is a guide to the City’s most cinematic locations. A necessary gift for the film buff in your life.
Paperback: $21.78, Amazon

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state bird provisions

16. State Bird Provisions: A Cookbook

State Bird Provisions chefs Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski have finally released a cookbook from their perpetually impossible to get into and Michelin-starred restaurant. The perfect gift for a friend who still has yet to get a table at the acclaimed San Francisco restaurant.
Hardcover: $25.47, Amazon

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Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen

17. Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen

Nopalito’s head chef, Gonzalo Guzman, shares his inspirations and teaches the fundamental techniques of regional Mexican cooking in this book of 100 recipes from the local institution.
Hardcover: $20.40, Amazon

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Burma Superstar: Addictive Recipes from the Crossroads of Southeast Asia

18. Burma Superstar: Addictive Recipes from the Crossroads of Southeast Asia

Desmond Tan, the owner of destination restaurant Burma Superstar, teamed up with local food writer, Kate Leahy, to deliver 90 savory and spiced Burmese recipes from his 25-year-old restaurant. Streamlined for home cooks of all levels, and without the need of hard-to-find ingredients. You may want to pick up a copy for yourself.
Hardcover: $20.39, Amazon

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Cherry Bombe Cookbook

19. Cherry Bombe: The Cookbook

From Cherry Bombe magazine and Radio Cherry Bombe comes Cherry Bombe: The Cookbook, a collection of over 100 recipes from the world’s top female chefs, bakers, food stylists, pastry chefs, and creatives, including San Francisco’s Elisabeth Prueitt, pastry chef and cofounder of Tartine and Tartine Manufactory, and Angela Dimayuga, executive chef of Mission Chinese Food’s NYC location.
Hardcover: $23.79, Amazon

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Drinking The Devil's Acre: A Love Letter from San Francisco and Her Cocktails

20. Drinking The Devil’s Acre: A Love Letter from San Francisco and Her Cocktails

Part cocktail recipe book, part history book, Duggan McDonnell’s Drinking the Devil’s Acre discusses the role San Francisco played in the history of cocktails, and recipes from the Barbary Coast.
Hardcover: $6.79, Amazon

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21. The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee: Growing, Roasting, and Drinking, with Recipes

Blue Bottle is one of the Bay Area’s most beloved coffee roasters, known across the nation for its complex and flavorful coffees. Craft of Coffee explains how a cup of their coffee goes from farm to cup, and includes 40 inventive recipes incorporating coffee.
Hardcover: $18.32, Amazon

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