San Francisco Authors

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Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Founder of San Francisco's City Lights bookstore and California's first Poet Laureate, Lawrence Ferlinghetti is a San Francisco legend. His book of poems A Coney Island of the Mind, first published in 1974, is a modern classic that has been translated into nine languages and is known around the world. Born in 1919 in Yonkers, New York, Ferlinghetti moved to San Francisco in 1951, where he taught French, wrote art criticism and painted. It was in 1953 that he founded City Lights Bookstore (the first all-paperbound bookstore in the country), followed shortly by the publishing wing of City Lights, which went on to publish greats like Allen Ginsberg. His lengthy list of works and poetry compilations includes Coney Island of the Mind, Pictures of the Gone World, Poetry as Insurgent Art, Starting from San Francisco and Americus, Book 1.

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Jack Kerouac

One of the pioneers of the Beat Generation, Jack Kerouac is a highly regarded writer for his creative style and brazen topic choices. Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Robbins, Bob Dylan and Ken Kesey had all been said to derive inspiration from Kerouac's works. Though born in Massachusetts, he lived around New York and traveled extensively via spontaneous road trips with friends, prompting him to write what is largely considered his most famous work, On the Road. Known to spend a lot of time in San Francisco's North Beach area, San Francisco visitors today can wander through Jack Kerouac Alley, a one-way alley and common hangout spot for Kerouac in his days in San Francisco. Additional works by Kerouac include On the Road, The Dharma Bums, Mexico City Blues, The Subterraneans, Desolation Angels, Visions of Cody and Big Sur.

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Allen Ginsberg

A familiar face of the Beat Generation, Allen Ginsberg was an American poet known for both beautiful works and savage expressions of the world's gritty sides. Ginsberg is best known for his poem “Howl,” which caused quite a stir with its graphic language when released in the '50s and was temporarily banned for obscenity (the ban was eventually lifted in accordance with the First Amendment). Ginsberg is also well known for his openness about homosexuality, being unafraid to speak of his lovers in youth, his affair with William S. Burroughs or his relationship with his lifelong companion Peter Orlovski. Ginsberg was one of the founders of the Beatitude poetry magazine, and some of his most notable poems include “Howl,” “Sunflower Sutra,” “America,” “Wichita Vortex Sutra,” “Wales Visitation,” “Father Death Blues,” “Kaddish” and “White Shroud.” There are many collections of his works available.

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Daniel Handler

Perhaps best known as Lemony Snicket—the author who penned A Series of Unfortunate Events—Daniel Handler is an established writer catering to both the adult and kid-lit genres. This San Francisco native and current resident has also had his hand in music—becoming a successful accordion player—as well as in films, creating the screenplays for Rick and Kill the Poor. His literary works include Adverbs, The Basic Eight, Watch Your Mouth, How to Dress for Every Occasion by the Pope, and the entire A Series of Unfortunate Events collection (which includes 13 books to date, all authored under the pen name of Lemony Snicket).

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Dave Eggers

Though he was born in Boston and initially pursued college at the University of Illinois, it was the death of his parents and the obligation to help raise his eight-year-old brother that brought the infamously clever Dave Eggers to the San Francisco Bay Area and inspired him to write self-conscious, inventive memoir and instant American classic born of the Gen-X generation, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Eggers previous writing experience was as a Salon.com editor, the founder of Might magazine and the author of Smarter Feller, a comic strip for SF Weekly. He is also the founder of McSweeney's, an independent publishing house, and he is the co-founder of 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring group of San Francisco youth. Other works include Zeitoun, You Shall Only Know Our Velocity, How We Are Hungry, and The Wild Things.

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A.D. Winans

A San Francisco native and graduate of San Francisco State University, A.D. Winans is a beat poet and prose author best known for a his gritty and poetic perusal of the tempo of San Francisco's streets. A member of the American Academy of Poets, Winans' works have appeared in over 500 literary magazines and anthologies. Some of his books/poetry collections include Whispers from Hell, North Beach Revisited, 19 + 1: An Anthology of San Francisco Poetry, and The Holy Grail: Charles Bukowski & the Second Coming Revolution.

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Jim Toland

A Pulitzer Prize nominee, Jim Toland is a San Francisco journalist, an educator and a former editor and writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, not to mention a man whose bylines have been seen in everything from The New York Times to Sports Illustrated. Though he has taught journalism for San Francisco State University and scripted speeches for many notables in business and in politics, Toland is best known in the literary world for his works City Limits, Fire And Fog, and Once Were Wolves.

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Noah Levine

Now a local author, counselor and Buddhist teacher, Noah Levine was the kind of rebellious Bay Area youth that sought enlightenment through punk rock and drugs. But enough times in juvenile hall as a result had him seeking other methods; thus, he turned to meditation. Satisfaction began to brew in Levine after his first teachings, so he pursued this new pathway to enlightenment in any way he could, training with Jack Kornfield of the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, CA and graduating from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco with a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology. Ultimately, his hard-rock punk life combined with Buddhist teachings and led him to write Dharma Punx, a world-bridging memoir told with conversational ease. To date, his works include Dharma Punx and Against the Stream.

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Hunter S. Thompson

The radical, freewheeling American journalist Hunter S. Thompson is best known for creating “Gonzo journalism,” a style of journalism where the reporter immerses him or herself in the action and becomes one of the central figures of the story. When Thompson moved to San Francisco in the '60s to delve into the drug and hippie culture, he began writing about the Bay Area with Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. In the 20 years following that novel, he wrote extensively about the San Francisco counterculture (ranging from hippies to pornography) in articles for magazines around the country, some of which evolved into major motion pictures chronicling his involvement. His works include: Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga, The Rum Diary, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, Fear and Loathing in America: The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist, Gonzo, and The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time.

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Sonny Barger

Born in Oakland, California in 1938, Ralph Hubert “Sonny” Barger rose to notoriety as one of the founding members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. In addition to making national headlines for his affiliation with the known biker club, he brought much of San Francisco's underbelly to light with many of his novels on the motorcycle club, crime and drug scenes that pervaded the Bay Area. His fact and fiction-based works include: Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club, Freedom: Credos from the Road, Dead in 5 Heartbeats and 6 Chambers, 1 Bullet.

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Amy Tan

Known for works that explore mother-daughter relationships, Amy Tan is an American Bay Area novelist of Chinese descent most recently based in Sausalito, CA. She was born in the East Bay city of Oakland, educated in the South Bay at San Jose State University and subsequently at both UC Santa Cruz and UC Berkely, but her stellar novel The Joy Luck Club is set in San Francisco and intertwines the lives and generations of four immigrant families to San Francisco. Tan has appeared on PBS in a special encouraging children to write, and she is a member of the Rock Bottom Remainders, a rock band that forms and tours approximately once a year and that is made up of other authors, including Stephen King, Matt Groening and Dave Barry. Additional works by Tan include The Kitchen God's Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter's Daughter and Saving Fish From Drowning. She has also authored two children's books: The Moon Lady and Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat.

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