Favorite San Francisco Books

Favorite San Francisco Books

  • Jack Ryder
  • 01/10/23

According to Goodreads, I have 1223 books in my personal library. I have read 686 of those, and am currently working through an additional 15. I finished Dream Golf: The Making of Bandon Dunes by Stephen Goodwin just today and thoroughly enjoyed the history. Though Bandon Dunes is in Oregon, it's a favorite among San Francisco golfers. It's also one of the best courses in the world. Of the books I've finished reading, my top three categories are history (318), biography (192), and architecture/design (107). 

I am passionate about San Francisco’s architectural heritage, and as mentioned in an earlier blog post, have spent ten years researching, photographing, and writing a book on the subject entitled, Stately San Francisco. 

Because of my involvement in so many local organizations, including my months-long project to catalog the private library of the St. Andrew’s Society of San Francisco where I served on the Board of Trustees and as Club Historian, as well as lectured and published articles entitled: 1) Bay Area Architect, T. Paterson Ross  2) The Scottish Country House  3) Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan, and 4) Scottish Influence on Bay Area Civic Institutions; I have a certain amount of credibility as a local historian.

I am also fortunate to have close personal relationships with at least seven of the authors mentioned below, including the former Historian for The Presidio Trust, Randy Delehanty, who now lives in New Orleans.

I regularly share book recommendations and decided it would make a compelling topic for a blog post. In addition to my list of books, if you haven’t visited the Mechanics’ Institute Library at 57 Post Street, I highly recommend it. 

The following is a list of my favorite books from my library, on San Francisco by category.  


Architecture & Design

Artistic Homes of California, 1887-1890, Britton & Rey, Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley, 1888

Bruce, Curt and Thomas Aidala. The Great Houses of San Francisco. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1981

Corbett, Michael R. The Claus Spreckels Building, San Francisco. Adolph Rosekrans, Woodside, 2013

Delehanty, Randolph. In the Victorian Style. Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1997

Jeffers, Jay and Alisa Carroll. Collected Cool: The Art of Bold, Stylish Interiors. Rizzoli, New York, 2014

Jeffers, Jay and Vicky Lowry. Be Bold: Bespoke Modern Interiors. Gibbs Smith, Utah, 2018

Longstreth, Richard. On the Edge of the World: Four Architects in San Francisco at the Turn of the Century. University of California Press, Berkeley, 1983

McGrew, Patrick. The Historic Houses of Presidio Terrace. Patrick McGrew, 1995

Olmsted, Roger and T.H. Watkins. Here Today: San Francisco’s Architectural Heritage. Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1968

Pecora, Joseph B. The Storied Houses of Alamo Square. Norfolk Press, San Francisco, 2014

Saeks, Diane Dorrans. San Francisco Interiors. Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1995

Saeks, Diane Dorrans. Ann Getty Interior Style. Rizzoli, New York, 2012

Skurman, Andrew. Contemporary Classical: The Architecture of Andrew Skurman. Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2012

Tucker, Suzanne. Rooms to Remember: The Classic Interiors of Suzanne Tucker. Monacelli Press, New York, 2009

Tucker, Suzanne. Interiors: The Romance of Design. Monacelli Press, New York, 2013

Tucker, Suzanne. Extraordinary Interiors. Monacelli Press, New York, 2022



Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1930

Maupin, Armistead. Tales of the City. Harper & Row, New York, 1978

Maupin, Armistead. More Tales of the City. Harper & Row, New York, 1980

Maupin, Armistead. Further Tales of the City. Harper & Row, New York, 1982

Maupin, Armistead. Babycakes. Harper & Row, New York, 1984

Maupin, Armistead. Significant Others. Harper & Row, New York, 1987

Maupin, Armistead. Sure of You. Harper & Row, New York, 1989

Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. F. Putnam & Sons, New York, 1989

Tan, Amy. The Hundred Secret Senses. F. Putnam & Sons, New York, 1996



Cohen, Katherine Powell. San Francisco’s Nob Hill. Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, 2010

Dillon, Richard. North Beach: The Italian Heart of San Francisco. Random House, 1985

Dinkelspiel, Frances. Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California. St. Martin’s Griffin, New York, 2010

Haas, James W. The San Francisco Civic Center, A History of the Design, Controversies, and Realization of a City Beautiful Masterpiece.  University of Nevada Press, 2019

Lewis, Oscar. The Big Four: The Story of Huntington, Stanford, Hopkins, and Crocker, and the Building of the Central Pacific. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1963

Lewis, Oscar and Carroll D. Hall. Bonanza Inn: America’s First Luxury Hotel. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1939

Lewis, Oscar. Silver Kings: The Lives and Times of Mackay, Fair, Flood, and O’Brien, Lords of the Nevada Comstock Lode. Ballantine Books, New York, 1947

Reynolds, Thomas R. and Barbara Kate Repa. Our Town: Best of the New Fillmore. Norfolk Press, San Francisco, 2018

Schall, Rebecca. Historic Photos of The Presidio. Turner Publishing, Nashville, 2008

Scharlach, Bernice. Big Alma: San Francisco’s Alma Spreckels. Scottwall Associates, San Francisco, 1990

Talbot, David. Season of the Witch. Free Press, New York, 2012

Welch, James. Richard Purvis, Organist of Grace. James Welch, Palo Alto, 2013


Museums and Special Exhibitions

Burgard, Timothy Anglin and Daniel Cornell. Masterworks of American Painting at the de Young. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2005

Chapman, Martin. Cartier and America. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, DelMonico Books - Prestel, New York, 2009

Simpson, Marc. The Rockefeller Collection of American Art at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, New York, 1994

Wels, Susan. California Academy of Sciences: Architecture in Harmony with Nature. Chronicle Books, 2008



Bittner, Mark. The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. Harmony Books, New York, 2004

Meyer, Amy and Randolph Delehanty. New Guardians for the Golden Gate: How America Got a Great National Park. University of California Press, Berkeley, 2006

Pollock, Christopher. San Francisco's Golden Gate Park: A Thousand and Seventeen Acres of Stories.  Norfolk Press, San Francisco, 2020