Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Tales of the City (Tales of the City, #1)” as Want to Read:
Tales of the City (Tales of the City, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Tales of the City (Tales of the City #1)

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  29,631 Ratings  ·  2,049 Reviews

For almost four decades Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City has blazed its own trail through popular culture—from a groundbreaking newspaper serial to a classic novel, to a television event that entranced millions around the world. The first of nine novels about the denizens of the mythic apartment house at 28 Barbary Lane, Tales is both a sparkling comedy of manners and

Kindle Edition, 386 pages
Published June 7th 2011 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 1978)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Tales of the City, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Brian Hopps
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Jun 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What did I do between finishing this novel and writing its review? I ordered "More Tales of the City" and "Further Tales of the City" on ebay-- I'm THAT invested/confident that they'll match this one!

It is uproarious and uber-funny! It stars the cute Mary Ann Singleton (think a more modern Holly Golightly--but less of a prostitute) and a vibrant array of costars. It is concise, like "Vile Bodies" and perhaps in that same realm of Evelyn Waugh-type social-satire. And what else? Authentic pluses i
Jul 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers who like a good story and/or queer literature
Shelves: favorites
Tales of the City is not great literature. That's not what Maupin's aiming for. In what is the first and best book in a six-part series constructed from a serial column in the San Francisco Chronicle, Tales of the City is smart, guilty entertainment at its best. It's a soap opera. But like, say, Six Feet Under, Tales of the City purports to be little more than a creative and intelligent soap opera. Taken as such, it is a delight. Vivid characters. A setting -- San Francisco -- that Maupin gives ...more
da AL
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-literary
my favorite of Maupin's books - a time capsule to San Fran 1976...
Feb 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Obviously a re-read! Having recently read the latest in the series, Mary Ann in Autumn, I wanted to re-read the entire series. Unfortunately, I am so familiar with the first three books, which were also made into TV adaptations, that I know the stories and most of the dialogue off by heart, so I can't get the same, mind-blowing enjoyment that I did on my first reading. (Although that is one of the pleasures of reading, for instance, Michael Tolliver Lives, where past events are mentioned and you ...more
Glenn Sumi
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: guardian-1000
I guess I was destined to “discover” Armistead Maupin in 2017. Although, to be fair, he’s hardly a secret – he’s been writing for four decades and has generations of loyal readers.

Back in the spring, I gave a favourable review to the documentary The Untold Tales Of Armistead Maupin.

A few months after that, the galleys to Maupin’s memoir, Logical Family, arrived on my desk. I’d already read his stand-alone (and excellent) novel Maybe The Moon, but it seemed to me that in order to appreciate the
Mar 04, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I think I am either too old or too young to fully appreciate this book. If I were older, I might appreciate the groundbreaking nature of its matter-of-fact approach to a variety of characters of different sexuality and gender at a time when social mores were drastically changing. And if I were younger, I might be totally enchanted by all the entertaining drama, good and bad and self-absorbed, that comes with being young, single and in your twenties in a big city.

But I wasn't able to really conn
Jan 18, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I know I am going to be in the minority here, but this is the most overrated novel I have read in a very long time. In fact, I did not even keep it after reading, but rather donated it to charity.
I had heard many good things about this text for years, and finally picked it up. Based on reviews, and what I had heard I was expecting a book in the vein of Dickens, with characters that leapt off the pages and spoke to the human condition. Only one character, in my view, lived up to that expectation.
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Speedy and stagy, the tales breeze by in a kaleidoscopic blur: Maupin interweaves disparate narrative threads with such ease that you hardly register how elaborate the plot actually is, until you've finished it.

3,5 stars rounded up to 4 stars.

I think about...some things...

1) Could I have liked it more if I had read it shortly after the release date. The answer is SURE. OF COURSE. NO DOUBTS.

2) Could I have liked it more if I hadn't' read
Boystown series
? Probably yes. BEFORE reading Tales of the City I was sure that Jake Biondi has discovered a totally new genre. Only Armistead Maupin published his Tales around 35 years earlier than Jake Biondi his Boystown series.(San Francisco vs. Chicago, calm n
mark monday
Mar 06, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queertime
i really don't get what all the fuss is about. this is some kind of modern classic? the writing is so pedestrian, it's like i fell into a deep sleep and somehow continued reading.

B-O-R-I-N-G ... P-R-O-S-E

still, an extra star because of the surprisingly intricate narrative.

and that said, i think the miniseries was far more distinctive and interesting.
Jan 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fluffly libertines and fans of chapter blitzwort
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: my gbff
Fluffy hetero/homo romantic nonsense set in San Fran in a time period which I am not really clear on but it might be the end of the 1970s. I think Nixon gets a mention. Or maybe it was Carter. Anyway it's not the summer of love and that's what is important as most of the characters in the book seem to spend a lot of time bemoaning the passing of '67 and wondering what will become of them now that all the free love has gone away or at least become more illusive. People are still producing their o ...more
David Gallagher
Jun 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Can't think of anyone I wouldn't recommend it to
Recommended to David by: My lovely Richard
I didn't actually read this book, but it was rather read to me, and the person who did the reading truly brought it to life - I don't think I would have loved this book so much if I had read it on my own.

I've always loved books with complicated, multi-layered, engaging characters and this one definitely offers that. Their philosophy on life radically different from the next person - they laugh and love and hurt, and their stories intertwine unexpectedly and excitedly beneath the San Francisco sk
Michael Thomson
Jun 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So glad I picked this book up! Such an easy but enjoyable read and the characters are brilliant! Can't wait to start the second in the series.
Armin Hennig
Gut 30 Jahre lang habe ich das Merkheft von 2001 verschlungen, gefühlte 10 Jahre die Werbung für Maupins Stadtgeschichten, allerdings waren die Bücher immer irgendwie zu teuer.
Insofern griff ich bedenkenlos zu, als mir gegen Ende der D-Mark-Ära Schluss mit Lustig in aus einer Ramschkiste entgegen lächelte. Der letzte Teil, mit dem ich seinerzeit nicht viel anfangen konnte und in die Kiste mit den guten Vorsätzen verschob.
Beim Umräumen fiel er mir unlängst wieder in die Hände und angesichts der A
I had originally marked this as a re-read. I know I owned this book at one time; the cover with Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis was immediately recognizable and I remember purchasing it after the brouhaha about the adaptation airing on PBS in the early 90's (Jesus don't want gays on his teevee set.) But nothing in here jogged even a faint memory bell so I'm thinking now I never actually read this, I just bought the book in protest. I’m such a poser.

Anyway, NOW I’ve read it.

The first entry in Ma
May 30, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
One of the most overrated authors of all time. Not surprisingly the fact that this series of amateurish daytime soap-opera novellas were adapted for TV meant it was one of those rare instances in which the TV adaptation was actually better than the books. Okay, to be fair, I only read the first book. I slogged through the whole thing, and i absolutely hated it. But, this much i know. The reader could not possibly relate to the San Francisco backdrop unless he had actually spent quite a bit of ti ...more
Apr 22, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’d never heard of this book until it started showing up on a lot of author lists of their top 10 favorite books of all time. It’s been described as a gay classic and authentic to San Francisco in the 1970’s. Since this story was first published in the newspaper as a serial in the 1970’s, it has gone on to be a miniseries that garnered several award nominations. Even reading the book today, it remains a whimsical delight that clearly set the stage for many such spin offs in the future. The begin ...more
Claire (Book Blog Bird)
Tales of the City is the first in a series by Armstead Maupin. It’s set in the mid seventies in San Francisco and follows an intertwined group of characters, some of whom rent apartments in a building on Barbary Lane, and others who are affiliated with an advertising agency.

I enjoyed this book a lot and I think what makes it so special are the characters. The author uses his words really sparingly but you get a true sense of who all these people are. Although Mary-Anne is supposed to be the mai
Nov 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A friend at work told me about this book. He said it was a trip to read. It was a trip to read but I really liked it. Looking forward to reading the sequel.
Feb 03, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, I haven't hated characters this much since the last thing I saw by Nicole Holofcener. During my trip to San Francisco, I kept thinking, "If I see any of the characters, I will kick them in the nuts."
I'm missing a lot because I didn't read this in 1978, when having half the characters be gay was revolutionary. Maupin was a pioneer of his day, but it's no fun to read about pioneers of the internal worlds of sexuality, drug use, purpose, and social awareness. External pioneers like Lewis and
Ije the Devourer of Books
This is a fascinating story which rambles through the lives of a group of people living in San Francisco. There is nothing special about these people. They are all completely different: male, female, gay, straight, old, young, etc (no racial diversity though) Each person in the story is connected in some way to another person either through work, friendship, neighbours or fleeting acquaintances.

The story has a way of speaking about these different lives through short snippets or glimpses into t
Jan 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really fun and enjoyable read, and a real breath of fresh air from the (mostly) very serious literature I have been reading recently.
It took me a little while to get used to the multiple characters at first, but after a while I was beginning to recognise their speech and the situations they would be getting themselves into. By the end of the book, it felt like a lot of them were old friends, and I loved that aspect of the book.
At times, just due to the clubs and bars that were frequen
Nicole Gervasio
Aug 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's pretty silly, shameless, and sometimes downright gaudy, but I love it. The Tales of the City series might be one of the closest texts my community has to a biblical/historical record: those characters can still be found in San Francisco, so reading about them makes me nostalgic all the time. The fact that somebody was writing all of this from the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s HIV/AIDS epidemic in the city is mind-blowing; as you read the books, you get the sense that you're witnessing ...more
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Down in little ol San Francisco, in the eclectic suburb of Russian Hill, lives a well-weathered, three-story structure made of brown shingles. It houses the landlady Mrs Madrigal, the sassy Mona, bravado talking Brian, romantic Michael and it's newest member all the way from Cleveland - Mary-Ann. And thus begins the stories of those at 28 Barbary Lane.

This novel was so intriguing that I couldn't wait to pick it up inbetween my breaks. I feel like I've just been given the lowdown on the biggest g
Sep 11, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: bay area-philes
this was a pretty easy read. it was a fine tale of intertwining lives of motley characters living in san francisco in the's dated but it's meant to be. it feels like a game of 'spot the landmark', and makes me miss living in san francisco, though it's just been a few weeks since i left. the stories were not overlty compelling or even incredibly interesting since the edginess of the text has probably softened immeasurably over the years. also, the end feels a bit rushed and almost absurd ...more
Mel Bossa
Feb 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Memorable characters and crazy good dialogue. Loved Mona. Really enjoyed Michael. But my favorite character had to be Brian! I'll be reading more of these tales in the months to come.

In his remarkable feminist, humanist, ground breaking tale, Maupin really truly captured both a city, its corky, horny, funny, and caring people, as well as an era long gone now.

Made me wish I was there with them. Don't we all wish we could go to sleep under Mrs. Madrigal's roof?

Aug 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, gay
Back in 1994 I first heard of 28 Barbary Lane due to the PBS mini series. Still in the closet and living with the folks it wasn't something I would feel comfortable watching. But still it peaked my interest.

A few years later while dog sitting for my brother in Boston I went into a quaint little book store that is no longer and found the hardcover '28 Barbary Lane' containing the first three 'Tales' books and bought it. Later on, back in Boston for another dog sitting weekend that quaint book sto
"Il tipico fan dei "Racconti di San Francisco" è semplicemente una persona felice di essere se stessa -comunque essa sia- e di lasciare che gli altri si esprimano altrettanto liberamente". Armistead Maupin

Per chi ha amato la prosa folle, eccentrica e libera di John Kennedy Toole, per chi vuole camminare nella San Francisco degli anni '70, per chi vuole rilassarsi, per chi ama i dialoghi brillanti e i sentimenti non confezionati. Leggetelo e spassatevela!
Apr 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-read
Still 5 stars again for the reread. This was a real trip down memory lane. I can’t remember when this was published but I adored the whole series. I’ve never been to San Francisco but this series makes me want to go. I absolutely adored the TV series made of this starring Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney. The wonderful Anna Madrigal and Barbary Lane! I got this as a special kindle deal but I’m going to have to reread the series now! Recommended.
Nov 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
These novels (eight in all as of 12/17/2011) are among my favorites. The characters and I have aged together - we share a common experience (as we have lived at the same time, no doubt). So, to me, these aren't simply characters in a book, but old friends both dear and cherished. Each new book is a welcomed reunion. The stories are always chock full of emotion; they are funny, charming, melancholy, melodramtic and often feature a mystery (of sorts). I find these tales life affirming.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Armistead Maupin ...: Tales of the City 1 1 Oct 03, 2017 11:25AM  
Penn State Queer ...: Tales of the City Discussion 1 3 Feb 28, 2017 11:05AM  
Armistead Maupin ...: Tales of the City 1 12 Oct 27, 2014 06:08PM  
  • The Front Runner (Harlan's Story, #1)
  • Like People in History
  • Dancer from the Dance
  • Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story
  • The Swimming-Pool Library
  • The Lost Language of Cranes
  • The Beautiful Room Is Empty
  • The City and the Pillar
  • The Charioteer
  • The Lord Won't Mind (Peter & Charlie Trilogy)
  • Blue Heaven
  • Christopher and His Kind
  • Nightswimmer
  • The Naked Civil Servant
  • The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk
  • The Best Little Boy in the World
  • The World of Normal Boys
  • Comfort and Joy
Armistead Maupin was born in Washington, D.C., in 1944 but grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. A graduate of the University of North Carolina, he served as a naval officer in the Mediterranean and with the River Patrol Force in Vietnam.

Maupin worked as a reporter for a newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina, before being assigned to the San Francisco bureau of the Associated Press in 1971. In 19
More about Armistead Maupin

Other books in the series

Tales of the City (9 books)
  • More Tales of the City (Tales of the City, #2)
  • Further Tales of the City (Tales of the City, #3)
  • Babycakes (Tales of the City, #4)
  • Significant Others (Tales of the City, #5)
  • Sure of You (Tales of the City, #6)
  • Michael Tolliver Lives (Tales of the City, #7)
  • Mary Ann in Autumn (Tales of the City, #8)
  • The Days of Anna Madrigal (Tales of the City, #9)

Fiction Deals

  • Mercy Among the Children
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Take Me with You
    $4.49 $1.99
  • The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty
    $7.49 $1.99
  • The Traveler's Gift: Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Little Giant of Aberdeen County
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Her Sister's Shoes (Sweeney Sisters #1)
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Rock Harbor Collection: Without a Trace, Beyond a Doubt, Into the Deep, Cry in the Night, and Silent Night (Rock Harbor #1-5)
    $5.99 $1.99
  • A Thousand Tomorrows (Cody Gunner, #1)
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Shoeless Joe
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Death in Venice
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Blonde
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Ever After (Lost Love, #2)
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Rescue
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Lords of Discipline
    $17.99 $1.99
  • The Sheltering Sky
    $10.99 $1.99
  • Gena/Finn
    $13.99 $1.99
  • A Charles Martin Collection: When Crickets Cry, Chasing Fireflies, and Wrapped in Rain
    $14.99 $3.99
  • Remember Tuesday Morning (9/11, #3)
    $8.99 $1.99
  • The Scavenger's Daughters (Tales of the Scavenger's Daughters #1)
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Under the Udala Trees
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Streets Have No King
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Passion
    $11.00 $1.99
  • The Language of Hoofbeats
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Not Perfect: A Novel
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Seekers (Kent Family Chronicles, #3)
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Don Quixote
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Essex Serpent
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Storycatcher
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Domestic Violets
    $9.24 $1.99
  • The Devil Wears Prada
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Half a Heart
    $4.99 $2.49
  • The Keeper of Secrets: A Novel
    $9.24 $1.99
  • A Garden of Earthly Delights (Wonderland Quartet, #1)
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Golden Notebook
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Life of Christ
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Good Mother
    $5.74 $1.99
  • The Palest Ink (Tales of the Scavenger's Daughters Prequel)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Go: A Coming of Age Novel
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Child in Time
    $8.99 $2.99
  • Lowcountry Stranger (Sweeney Sisters Series Book 2)
    $2.99 $0.99
  • The Man in 3B
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Save Me
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Better Nate Than Ever (Better Nate Than Ever #1)
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Time Bomb
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Heat and Light: A Novel
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Reunion
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Stay Up With Me
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Loser
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.
    $9.99 $3.99
  • The Map and the Territory
    $8.99 $2.99
  • You Know Me Well
    $7.09 $2.99
  • Skeletons at the Feast
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Even Now (Lost Love, #1)
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Sackett's Land: The Sacketts (Sacketts, #1)
    $5.99 $2.99
  • This Bright Beauty
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Intervention (An Intervention Novel)
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Star Sand
    $3.99 $0.99
  • Secrets of Nanreath Hall
    $11.74 $1.99
  • The Sugar Queen
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Birth House
    $9.49 $1.99
  • Open City
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Out of Sorts
    $5.99 $0.99
  • The Hearts of Men: A Novel
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Revolutionary Road
    $13.99 $1.99
  • The Blessings
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Choke
    $14.99 $2.99
  • Bachelor Girl
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Wednesday Sisters
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Allie and Bea
    $4.99 $1.99
  • After the War Is Over: A Novel
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Shanghai Girls (Shanghai Girls #1)
    $12.99 $2.99
  • What Belongs to You
    $9.99 $3.99
  • The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The History of Bees: A Novel
    $13.99 $1.99
  • The Love Goddess' Cooking School
    $10.99 $2.99
  • All the Summer Girls
    $8.74 $1.99
  • The Girl From the Train
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Bitter Winds (Tales of the Scavenger's Daughters, #3)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Fear of Flying
    $19.99 $1.99
  • The Grass Is Singing
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Misremembered Man (Tailorstown #1)
    $4.49 $1.99
  • The Uncertain Season
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Odyssey
    $9.99 $1.99
  • And After the Fire
    $11.49 $1.99
  • The House of Impossible Beauties
    $12.99 $2.99
  • A Virtuous Woman (Oprah's Book Club)
    $15.95 $1.99
  • Unsaid
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Wake Up
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Post Office
    $11.24 $1.99
  • For Every Season: Book Three in the Amish Vines and Orchards Series
    $11.99 $2.99
  • One Night in Winter: A Novel (P.S.)
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Those Who Save Us
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Tangled Vines (Tales of the Scavenger's Daughters Book 2)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Lake House
    $11.99 $2.99
  • No One Can Pronounce My Name
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Hate List
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Husbands and Other Sharp Objects
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Hidden
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Mystery Walk
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Galway Bay
    $11.99 $3.99
“Nobody's happy. What's happy? Happiness is over when the lights come on."
The older woman poured herself a glass of sangria. "Screw that," she said quietly.
"Screw that. Wash your mouth out. Who taught you that half-assed existential drivel?”
“Mona knocked at the wrong time.
“Uh…yeah…wait a minute, Mona -- ”
Mona shouted through the door. “Room service, gentlemen. Just pull the covers up.”
Michael grinned at Jon. “My roommate. Brace yourself.”
Seconds later, Mona burst through the doorway with a tray of coffee and croissants.
“Hi! I’m Nancy Drew! You must be the Hardy Boys!”
More quotes…