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Meanwhile in San Francisco: The City in its Own Words
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Meanwhile in San Francisco: The City in its Own Words

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  509 Ratings  ·  75 Reviews
Take a stroll through the City by the Bay with renowned artist Wendy MacNaughton in this collection of illustrated documentaries. With her beloved city as a backdrop, a sketchbook in hand, and a natural sense of curiosity, MacNaughton spent months getting to know people in their own neighborhoods, drawing them and recording their words. Her street-smart graphic journalism ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published March 18th 2014 by Chronicle Books (first published February 18th 2014)
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Lisa Vegan
Fog is my favorite weather. On the page opposite the title page, there are simply 16 paint marks with the caption "sample of sf skies" and 1 is blue, 1 is pink, 1 is black, and 13 are varying shades of gray. Ha! It’s my favorite page in the book, but much of it is good. I really like the art in this art heavy book, and the segments and people of San Francisco covered are interesting. Great idea!
Julie Ehlers
Meanwhile in San Francisco was maddening and ultimately disappointing. Illustrator Wendy MacNaughton took to the streets of SF, interviewing and sketching various residents of the city, and the results are reproduced here. The stories the people have to tell are mostly quite interesting, but the art leaves a lot to be desired. Most notably, the vast majority of the people are sketched against a plain white backdrop—the distinctive cityscape is almost completely lost, and along with it the true s ...more
Elizabeth A
Feb 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016, art, graphix, non-fiction
I love books like this and wish there was one for every city. The thing about travel guides is that while they are chockful of information, they are often rather antiseptic as well, and they have to be I guess. In this delightful book, the author captures a sample of the people and neighborhoods of San Francisco, using gorgeous pen and watercolor illustrations, and snippets of dreams. Do not expect an all encompassing guide to the city, but if you are in the mood for a whimsical travelogue, give ...more

Well, I love San Francisco so there is that. I think though that whether you have lived in San Francisco your whole life or just like visiting there is something to enjoy in this book. And those illustrations. Perfection.

Jun 19, 2014 rated it liked it
This book wasn't anything like what I expected. Having been born in San Francisco and lived there again for a couple of years in my 20s, I was excited when I first was aware of this book and I ordered it right away. I'll give you it's cute. And different. And has some interesting facts in it. The drawings are OK. It gives one food for thought. But, I was disappointed. I wasn't "amazed" like I feel when I'm in SF and when I think about the times when I lived there. Maybe I'll read it again and se ...more
Jan 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Intriguing drawing style and I like how so much can be shown in just a few lines. Unfortunately, I found her writing rather hard to read, especially as it moved even further into the scribble-range. But I don't know that much about San Francisco, so I probably missed out something there.

Did love the library section, of course! Although, that many floors looks rather intimidating.
May 03, 2015 added it
Shelves: not-novels
Gosh this book was so perfect!!! I loved all the illustrations and just the story overall. San Francisco always has a place in my heart, and I loved the way this book showed snip bits of the city.
Jul 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Not only does Wendy MacNaughton capture the city beautifully with her artwork, she does so also through the voice of the city itself. Filled with stories told by San Franciscans of various walks of life, MacNaughton's book is a treasure for natives and tourists alike. Unlike a Lonely Planet or a Fodor's, MacNaughton doesn't just list the neighborhoods and what you can find in them. She treats each neighborhood as a character, filled with hopes and dreams, a past and a future. One comes away from ...more
Apr 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: san-francisco
Simply brilliant. i have lived in San Francisco for 31 years and no one has ever come as close to capturing the city as Wendy MacNaughton in this book. Maybe it's the combination of her fantastic drawings / paintings (pen and ink with watercolour) with her spot-on writing. But in a city of a endless choices, she knew exactly what to focus on to capture its kidnapped soul. The distribution of pages (more important => more pages) was just right.
And who, but a real San Franciscan, perhaps the ci
May 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a fun graphic sketchbook about the different neighborhoods and people in SF. It felt realistic and natural and I liked that she went with unique places (6th and Market) and spent less time on the better known parts of town. Her drawing style is very rough shaky sketch but it works for these kinds of real people/real life drawings. Quick read, fun to look through.
Michael J Rogan
Apr 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Excellent illustrations and unique perspective into my fave city provide a view into authentic SF experiences. The included poster and many of the sketches within are suitable for framing. A work of art!
May 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
MacNaughton is probably one of my favourite illustrators and San Francisco is easily one of my favourite cities, so this book was a total treat.
Helen Driver
Jul 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Made me want to be back there right now!
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Chronicle Books fans
Recommended to Relyn by: Jocelynn K. Glei
I discovered podcasts last summer and have spent at least three hundred hours listening since then. One of my newer discoveries is the podcast Hurry Slowly hosted by Jocelyn K. Glei. On one episode she interviewed Wendy MacNaughton who spoke, among other things, about listening well. I was impressed with her and curious about her work, so I requested my library borrow this book for me. God bless our library system - this book arrived in southwest Missouri from the Denver Public Library. For free ...more
Sara Lim
Dec 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: drawings
I am rating it 4 stars instead of 5 stars because I felt that the whole book was centralised on the people too much. I get her idea that she wants the city to be told using the people. The book would be better if she balance between human stories and actually landmarks of San Francisco. The title sells me about San Francisco and I expected more reference to it during the human stories. Some human stories included are not necessary exclusive to San Francisco.
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Bought this in San Francisco as a way to think about San Francisco while I’m in it. I love this city. MacNaughton does a great job of capturing little snapshots of the City and stretching them out for old and new lovers of the City (or people just getting acquainted) to understand little snippets. I love her artwork and storytelling!
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved the illustrations in this book and the compilation of a diverse community to reflect the nature and character of San Francisco. It's lovely. I also enjoyed reading it in my local library while reading about the social outreach and social worker in the SF library.
Read our conversation about the book at
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic! A great visual description of the city and it's multifacetdness.
Cat Fithian
Oct 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting glimpses into real life in SF. Little sound bites, almost poetry.
Dec 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Amazing! I’m buying this! Learned a lot. Simple and sweet.
Apr 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: travel, graphic-books
Being a San Francisco Bay Area native, I found this book to be a neat Sociological look at a city I know. I don't think it makes a great travel guide for someone looking to travel to San Francisco and learn about fun things to do. But if you want to know itsy bitsy glimpses of small areas of the city, then it may be a fun and quick read. Overall, I wish the book had more. I know that research, writing, and illustrating takes A LOT of effort and work, but in some way I felt cheated out of substan ...more
Jul 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was hesitant to read this book at first because I've never had the chance to go to San Francisco and felt like it would probably be best appreciated (or understood) by a townie, or at least a tourist - but that was not the case at all! If you pass this book by for that reason, you will be missing out. This is a book about a community. You can probably see aspects of your own community, and maybe yourself, in some of theses pages - even if you're not from San Francisco. The art is wonderfully d ...more
Oct 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous book about San Francisco. Wendy MacNaughton's sketch stories focus on the people who live in San much so, that things around those people start to disappear. Check out page 71 where arrows and text indicate the missing computers. Count the chairs and MUNI seats...they are mostly white space. (Consider this in contrast to the equally compelling work of Paul Madonna's All Over Coffee. There we see the stunning buildings and read the voices of the people...but never see the ...more
Vignettes of places and individuals are charming (dogs walked in bunches by professional walkers) and true (the crowds of people that congregate in the library where hand soap functions as bath soap, laundry detergent and shampoo). Not a tourists' view of the city, but a portrait of a moment in time across neighborhoods. Some pages features loose drawings and chicken scratch commentary; others feature fine watercolor portraits of great personality boasting smiles that are knowing and bright. A l ...more
Apr 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
Wistful, honest, charming. I LOVED MacNaughton's expressive pen and watercolor portraits of individual San Franciscans. The rest of the drawings were a bit more scribbly and loose, but impactful nonetheless.

Having moved out of the city after 3 years there this book makes me feel nostalgic. I will say that I don't think non-San Franciscans would "get" this book quite as much. It's an insider kind of work, of a certain moment in the city's history captured in amber. MacNaughton seems keenly aware
I liked the concept of this book, where the artist talked to different people in different parts of San Francisco to give a flavor of different aspects of the city (i.e. the library, public transit, different neighborhoods), but I think it could have had more content. The text was also sloppy and difficult to decipher. I read a similar style book earlier this year called Hello, NY by Julia Rothschild, but the illustrations were more finished and it had a personal element to it, rather than objec ...more
Mar 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novels
A beautiful portrait of one of the world's great cities. MacNaughton's text captures the stories and perspectives of people from all around the city (leading to the subtitle, "the City in its own words"). The book moves around the city, neighborhood by neighborhood, and the text is accompanied by beautiful pen-and-ink and watercolor vignettes of city scenes and individuals. If you like this book, I'd also highly recommend Paul Madonna's "All Over Coffee."
Apr 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
What a special book! Captures the everyday-ness of SF through line drawings and snippets of observations and conversations. I absolutely LOVED the "San Francisco Library Main Branch in its own words" piece. Made me proud to be a librarian all over again--but thankful to no no longer be working in an urban environment. Why? The guard says it best: "One thing I've stopped saying here is "Now I've seen it all." X
Rebecca Rosenberg
Apr 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I bought this book because it looked fun, and what I'd seen of MacNaughton's work before I'd always liked. It seemed like the kind of book a person who lives in San Francisco and loves it (me) should have.

I wasn't quite prepared for how moving I found it, especially the last page. It does feel like sometimes those of us who live in the Outer Sunset share a secret, or at least understand something other people don't.
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Wendy MacNaughton is an illustrator and a graphic journalist based in San Francisco. Her documentary series Meanwhile tells the stories of communities through drawings and the subject's own words, and is being published as an anthology by Chronicle Books in 2014. She's illustrated two other forthcoming books: Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology, by Caroline Paul and Wen ...more
More about Wendy MacNaughton

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