July 2, 2007
I read a lot of books on San Francisco and California history. And though these posts are labeled “book reviews”, the only books you’ll ever see here are those that I’ve really enjoyed. In short, if you see it here, it’s a great book — I’ve no urge to write about the stinkers! And if you feel moved to seek out a copy for yourself, a click on the image of the book below leads to the website of the independent book seller nearest you. Read on…
The San Francisco Almanac is good. By which I mean “there’s a ridiculous amount of information here, and watch out — it may prove addictive”. This thing is so rich that I almost hesitate to expose it to the general public, in case it escalates your already debilitating obsession with San Francisciana!
Where has this been all my life?
But enough gushing. You probably already know author Gladys Hansen through the Virtual Museum of San Francisco, or through her work on the Great Register, the quest to identify the uncounted victims of the 1906 earthquake and fire.
The subtitle of the San Francisco Almanac is “Everything You Wanted to Know About Everyone’s Favorite City”, and that pretty much describes it. An almanac is, according to the dictionary, “a reference book of useful and interesting facts”, and this is nothing less than an attempt to cram every fact about San Francisco on record into a single small volume.
Crammed with facts
Examples: our famous hills are each identified by name. There are fourteen pages listing San Francisco songs. Ethnic populations are broken down, water sources are detailed, and weather patterns are discussed. An exhaustive chronology of the city starts with Magellan crossing the Pacific and lists details as obscure as “Birdbaths installed in Union Square” (October 2, 1939). Lists of mayors! Obsessive geography! Earthquakes! Recent events get closer looks — there’s an almost minute-by-minute account of events surrounding the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. World’s Fairs! Lists of films! Fire Department history! It’s practically all here… and these samples barely scratch the surface.
The Almanac is a vital addition to the library of anyone with even a passing interest in San Francisco…. and for most convenient access, install it in your favourite “reading room”, near the sink.