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216 × 138 mm
256 pages
110 illustrations, 80 in colour
14 May 2018
  • £14.95

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San Francisco Instant City, Promised Land Michael Johns

A local rock star once said, ‘San Francisco is 49 square miles surrounded by reality.’ Michael Johns's San Francisco: Instant City, Promised Land portrays the sensibilities of this small city with an outsized personality. 

No American city has such a broad sweep of staggering views – of the ocean, of a huge bay, of surrounding hills – or such a high opinion of its own worth. San Francisco has always been rich, too: the city’s great wealth underwrites the broadmindedness so vital to its charm. Despite its obvious sophistication, San Francisco retains a frontier quality that has always attracted seekers – of fortune, power, pleasure, refuge, rebellion. Yet the city is more than irreverent, independent and a bit outside the law: it’s also progressive, innovative and open to all kinds of people and ideas, making it an easy place to be different. Think of the Beats and the hippies, the LGBT community and the left-wingers, the rise of Burning Man and the creation of technologies that make today’s San Francisco the world’s ‘City of Apps’.  With its historical narrative, reflections on the city today and treasure trove of images, this book show that, if history is any guide, there is much more to come in San Francisco.

‘Michael Johns’ San Francisco: Instant City, Promised Land is a double winner. It’s a first-rate short history of the city from the Gold Rush to the second Tech Invasion, and it’s a smart, savvy, and refreshingly sane look at San Francisco today. Johns brings a rare combination of academic knowledge and journalistic engagement to his work. His nuanced observations make this book one of the best short takes on contemporary San Francisco.’ – Gary Kamiya, author of Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco and executive editor of San Francisco Magazine

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Michael Johns worked in San Francisco for a year as a bicycle messenger and fell in love with the city. Ten years later he began a professorship at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of The City of Mexico in the Age of Díaz (1997), Moment of Grace: The American City in the 1950s (2003) and The Education of a Radical: An American Revolutionary in Sandinista Nicaragua (2012). He lives in San Francisco.


1  Instant City
2  A Town with Style
3  Ruin, Resurrection, Resplendence
4  The Big Strike  
5  Baghdad-by-the-Bay  
6  Lefties, Gays and Hippies
7  City of Apps 

24th Street
The Tenderloin
Ride Tough or Go Home
Gandhi at the Farmers’ Market
Connecting the Homeless
Urban Retro
Street Litterature in Lower Nob Hill

Suggested Reading and Viewing
Photo Acknowledgments