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Lit City: In S.F., It Doesn’t Have to Get Cold Outside to Curl Up With a Good (Local) Book 

Tuesday, Nov 25 2014

If they read the national news about San Francisco, your relatives back East probably think you moved to an overpriced playground full of Google-Glassed nerds, each and every one of us permanently tethered to Twitter, pausing only to grab an Uber driven by a guy in a startup shirt.

Okay, so there's a grain of truth in the worst stereotypes about the city. But one thing the past few years of screechy headlines can't quite blot out is the rich literary history of this place. From Jack London to the Lit Crawl, Lawrence Ferlinghetti to Michelle Tea, this is a book lover's town, and — despite the gloomy forecast for so many brick-and-mortar booksellers staring down Amazon — many of our favorite literary havens are actually doing quite well: Earlier this year, Green Apple Books did the unthinkable and opened a second location.

With that in mind, here are a few recent, highly giftable titles from local authors — for the folks on your shopping list who still prefer reading glasses to the Google variety.

A Deadly Wandering by Matt Richtel (William Morrow, 416 pgs)

New York Times reporter Matt Richtel has carved out a niche covering technology, and the way it affects our lives, in a distinctly human, relatable way. In this exhaustively reported book, the S.F.-dwelling writer weaves that expertise into a compelling narrative following a "texting while driving" car crash that killed two rocket scientists in 2006, one of the first such cases to be tried in court. As we watch our protagonist — the college student behind the wheel — grapple with the meaning of the accident, Richtel intersperses his tale with the latest findings on how tech use is fundamentally changing our brains. Maybe a good choice if you have a friend who just can't put down that phone?

The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness by Rebecca Solnit (Trinity University Press, 344 pgs)

If you've read anything in the last five years about the gentrification of San Francisco, you've probably read Rebecca Solnit. Her lyrical style and skill for placing current events cohesively into historical context are unparalleled in these parts, and while her decrying of evictions and S.F.'s changing culture may garner the most clicks online, it's when she goes long that her distinctive voice really emerges and you realize you're in the hands of a master storyteller. This essay collection zigzags around the world as Solnit takes on climate change, art, history, literature, natural disasters, and more.

King Dork Approximately by Frank Portman (Delacorte Press, 384 pgs)

Got an angsty young adult in your midst? Or, er, a Mr. T Experience fan of any age? This book, a sequel to Portman's rollicking 2006 journey into the head of a precocious teenage boy, will not disappoint. MTX was one of Bay Area's best-loved punk bands throughout the '90s, and while contemporaries like Green Day and NOFX have gone on to corporate mainstream success, "Dr." Portman seems content with being a punk godfather on the one hand and a charmingly weird YA author on the other. We're okay with that too.


by Lee Bruno (Cameron + Company, 192 pgs)

Here's one for the history buffs: a beautifully designed coffee-table book featuring photographs of San Francisco during the 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exposition, including Charlie Chaplin, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Helen Keller, Teddy Roosevelt, and others alongside breathtaking panoramic shots of the city. The author, Lee Bruno, is the great-grandson of Reuben Hale, the man responsible for the fair that, 100 years ago, put the rough-and-tumble boomtown of San Francisco on the world map. For the civic-minded, this one's City Hall-approved, complete with a foreword by Mayor Ed Lee.

Pen and Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them by Isaac Fitzgerald and Wendy McNaughton (Bloomsbury, 144 pgs)

Sometimes a tattoo is a heartfelt memorial to a late parent or love lost ... and sometimes it's just a bear riding a skateboard, eating pizza, and drinking a beer. All kinds are welcome and celebrated in this whimsically illustrated ode to S.F.'s favorite form of body art, written by Buzzfeed books editor (and former Rumpus editor) Isaac Fitzgerald, with the city's unofficial illustrator laureate, Wendy McNaughton, bringing intricate ink to life on the page.


About The Author

Emma Silvers

Emma Silvers is SF Weekly's former Music Editor.


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