SFCentric History: 9 of the Best Books on San Francisco History

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San Francisco is an old, iron safe filled with gold, glory, disaster, and secrets. SFCentric History is a column, by SF writer V. Alexandra de F. Szoenyi, that digs in the vaults of local history and shares the sensational people, places, and things that rocked San Francisco.

One of the best ways to learn about history is through written accounts. I have a growing collection of curated books on San Francisco, and they include random old photos, SF lists, and story upon story about the things that shaped The City. With so many books on a single topic, it can be difficult to find the real gems covering local history. Enriching our understanding of  San Francisco and helping to preserve the past, these following books are some of the best avenues for learning about San Francisco’s yesterday.

San Francisco Almanac, Gladys Hansen

Photo: Amazon

The San Francisco Almanac is probably my favorite and most referenced book on San Francisco. It contains about anything and everything you’d want to know about SF, including notable dates, symbols of the city, Ohlone history, songs about San Francisco, and notable people.


Cool Gray City of Love, Gary Kamiya

Photo: Amazon

49 chapters make up this collection of


Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, Rebecca Solnit

Photo: Rebecca Solnit

The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco-Monterey Bay Area, Malcolm Margolin and Michael Harney

Photo: Amazon


Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror, and Deliverance in the City of Love, David Talbot

Photo: Amazon

Imperial San Francisco, Grey Brechin

Photo: Amazon

The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld, Herbert Asbury

Photo: Amazon

We all have heard about the raucous Barbary Coast, but we don’t know a lot of the stories behind it.

The Great San Francisco Trivia & Fact Book, Janet Bailey

Photo: Amazon

This is another great book that I have in my personal library. It


The Magnificent Rogues of San Francisco: A Gallery of Fakers and Frauds, Rascals and Robber Barons, Scoundrels and Scalawags, Charles F. Adams

Photo: Amazon
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V. Alexandra de F. Szoenyi

V. Alexandra de F. Szoenyi

V. Alexandra de F. Szoenyi is one of those rare born-and-raised San Franciscans (unicorn status). She is the Style & Culture, SF Editor for Hip Latina, and writer for several publications on fashion, art, culture and all things San Francisco. Alex aims to educate everyone (including natives) on anything you could possibly want to learn about the best city in the world. Follow her at @SFCentric and @TheItFactorBrand.