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Secret San Francisco: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure    by Ruth Carlson order for
Secret San Francisco
by Ruth Carlson
Order:  USA  Can
Reedy Press, 2019 (2019)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In her Introduction to Secret San Francisco, Ruth Carlson tells us that 'More than twenty-five million people visit the city each year but most never get beyond Pier 29, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.' Her guidebook answers questions like 'Why are the streets of San Francisco paved with old gravestones? Who built a hidden labyrinth on a cliff at Land's End?'

The 200 chapter titles are intriguing. Here are a few that caught my eye - Hotel with a Heart, Phantom Fleet, Meow for the Masses, Stairways to Heaven, Back to the Future, Doggie Diner, Inside Alcatraz, Secret Garden and Stinky Saturdays. Chapters are brief. They're enhanced with excellent photos of their subjects and each includes a What/Where/Cost/Pro Tip summary box.

Reading through this fascinating volume has given me ideas for my next trip to San Francisco. I've been many times and had thought I'd seen most of what would interest me. Now I've discovered more possibilities - the Book Club of California, the Peephole Cinema, KitteaSF, Seadog Chapel, the Marrakech Magic Theater, and the Dashiell Hammett Tour ... though I might skip visiting San Francisco's sewer system.

There's more here than tourist tips though. Who knew that 'When she was just a teenager, Dr. Maya Angelou became the first African American female cable car conductor'; that 5,000 rent-to-own 'earthquake shacks' were built after the 1906 earthquake, and these tiny homes now 'sell for a minimum of a million dollars'; or that freed slave Mary Ellen Pleasant became one of the richest women in America?

Anyone who wants to get more from their time in the wonderful city of San Francisco (including residents) or simply to absorb quirky historical tidbits will appreciate Secret San Francisco: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

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