Shelf Control #247: Cool Gray City of Love by Gary Kamiya

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

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Title: Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco
Author: Gary Kamiya
Published: 2013
Length: 400 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Cool, Gray City of Love brings together an exuberant combination of personal insight, deeply researched history, in-depth reporting, and lyrical prose to create an unparalleled portrait of San Francisco. Each of its 49 chapters explores a specific site or intersection in the city, from the mighty Golden Gate Bridge to the raunchy Tenderloin to the soaring sea cliffs at Land’s End.

This unique approach captures the exhilarating experience of walking through San Francisco’s sublime terrain, while at the same time tying that experience to a history as rollicking and unpredictable as the city herself. From her absurd beginnings as the most distant and moth-eaten outpost of the world’s most extensive empire, to her instantaneous fame during the Gold Rush, from her apocalyptic destruction by earthquake and fire to her perennial embrace of rebels, dreamers, hedonists and misfits of all stripes, the City by the Bay has always followed a trajectory as wildly independent as the untrammeled natural forces that created her.

This ambitious, eclectic, and beautifully written book draws on everything from on-the-ground reporting to obscure academic papers to the author’s 40-year life in San Francisco to create a rich and insightful portrait of a magical corner of the world. Complete with hand-drawn maps of the 49 locations, this handsome package will sit comfortably on the short shelf of enduring books about places, alongside E. B. White’s Here is New York, Jose Saramago’s Journey to Portugal, or Alfred Kazin’s A Walker in the City

How and when I got it:

I bought a copy last year.

Why I want to read it:

I came to San Francisco in my 20s, and while I love my adopted city, I always feel like there’s more for me to learn and explore. I’ve been familiar with this author for a while now, thanks to the weekly column he writes for the San Francisco Chronicle, Portals to the Past, in which he highlights different stories from SF’s history. They’re always surprising, sometimes very funny and/or weird, and never fail to entertain.

I first heard of this book a few years ago, and I finally decided to treat myself to a copy last year, but sadly, haven’t actually taken it off the shelf to read yet. I think this is one that could be read in small bites, maybe just a chapter here and there in between other books.

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


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