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Golden Gate: The Life and Times of America's Greatest Bridge‎

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  240 ratings  ·  61 reviews
The Golden Gate Bridge links the urbanity of San Francisco with the wild headlands of Marin County, as if to suggest the paradox of California and America itself-the place that Fitzgerald saw as the last spot commensurate with the human capacity for wonder. The bridge, completed in 1937, also announced to the world America's engineering prowess and full assumption of its d ...more
Hardcover, 216 pages
Published July 15th 2010 by Bloomsbury Press (first published July 6th 2010)
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3.42  · 
Rating details
 ·  240 ratings  ·  61 reviews

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Jul 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
I was lucky to receive this book in a Goodread's book giveaway:) It's a subject that both my husband (a civil engineer) and I are interested in. We both found it to be a good comprehensive starting-point for anyone interested in the bridge's construction and its over-all role in the development of SF and Bay area. Interesting back story without being too wordy, though it did occasionally have the tendency to become a little poetic, but that was okay. I enjoyed the pictures that the author includ ...more
Lisa Vegan
Jun 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who love the Golden Gate Bridge or want to learn more about it
I won this book from the Goodreads First Reads giveaway program, and I am very grateful that I did. My to-read list is so long that I will read only a fraction of the books on it, and winning this ensured that I read it, and I’m glad that I did.

I live a five minutes drive away from the Golden Gate Bridge, within hiking distance from it. I used to walk across it regularly; I occasionally drive across it, and at times in the past regularly did so. I’ve known 4 people who jumped off of it, 3 who di
Oct 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in reading about human greatness
Shelves: california, freebox
I first "experienced" the Bridge when I was three days old, being taken home from the hospital (those were different times). Since then, I have walked across it, ridden across it, flown over it, and sailed under it. For ten years, I had a view of the south tower from my kitchen windows; for the past five years, I see the north tower whenever I am walking down to Polk Street to buy bread. I have seen it from every angle, in every degree of fog-laden obscurity. I have never managed to be indiffere ...more
May 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Today was the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge and there was a day long celebration to commemorate the event at the bridge and along Chrissy Field and the Marina Green. It was awesome, music, lectures, displays, vintage car and boat shows and the bridge itself. It ended with the most spectacular fireworks show I have ever seen. So now you know why I read this book. So what did I learn.....that I am not the only one in awe of this magnificent structure. Kevin Starr is too. The book coul ...more
Feb 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fun-nonfiction
A fun, short, easy-to-read history of the Golden Gate Bridge. The writing gets more than a little flowery in spots- it is a paean to the Bridge as much as it is a history book - but it flows quickly and entertainingly. This is less of a deep involved history a la McCullough's The Great Bridge and more something to breeze on through - sort of a Golden Gate Bridge 101 rather than an upper-division exploration. It touches on the aspects of the Bridge you'd expect - its background and construction - ...more
Paul Dinger
May 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is an exhausting and very compelling account of the building of the Golden Gate with all of its local and state politics. It is also the portrait of several very vain individuals involved in its building. Kevin Starr is turning into the chronicler of all things California with these books which leave no stones unturned. This is so good that I won't hold his friendship with our state's worst governor Arnold Schwarzenegger against him.
John McDonald
Mar 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Kevin Starr first came to my attention in 2009 when my son entered school in Santa Barbara, and I became enamored of the history of the founding of California by Spanish missionaries led by St. Junipero Serra, particularly, his founding of the Mission Santa Barbara. It seemed that everywhere I looked for information involving the history of California to understand the quest for Alta California in what is now the U.S. State of California, Dr. Starr's name appeared.

A few weeks ago, Kevin Starr di
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I purchased this read on a recent trip to California where I renewed my admiration for such a beautiful structure. The book is a review of the Golden Gate Bridge from the European discovery of the strait, through planning and construction, to the seismic upgrades of the 21st Century. I find bridge architecture interesting and love the San Francisco Bay area, so this book was a perfect fit.
A good quick overview of the history of the bridge, one I'd happily recommend to others who are new to the Bay Area. It is hard not to compare it to the David McCullough book, The Great Bridge, about the Brooklyn Bridge, though the author's intent is clearly not the same.
A nice overview of the design and building of the Golden Gate Bridge. Starr's writing added a lot of depth to the book and really brought the politics and economics of this iconic structure to live
Tim Robinson
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: engineering
A waffulous volume. History, art, business and politics, but far too little engineering.
Jan 24, 2018 rated it liked it
I thought it was solid. I liked reading about the fight to get the bridge built and the people involved in designing the bridge.
Phillip Gonzales
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
An interesting look at the history of building the iconic bridge.
David Lynch
Aug 30, 2010 rated it liked it
After watching Ken Burns fascinating documentary about the Brooklyn Bridge on PBS, I jumped at the chance to review Golden Gate by Ken Starr. The author, a history professor, and published historian included many facts unknown to me such as how the bridge got its name. It's named after the Golden Horn of the Bosporus in Turkey. You will find scattered through out the book many instances of factual information that can surprise you pleasantly. But something is whispered in my ear that asks the qu ...more
Dave Courtney
Jan 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Kevin starr has written fairly extensively on the history of California, and here he focuses in on the political and architectural history of the golden gate bridge.

The book, as it stands, is more of an introductory piece rather than an extensive undertaking. Where he spends most of his time is on the political back story and the engineering details. Littered among this though is his traditional passion for the material, both from an artistic and human point of interst. This helps balance the m
Aug 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
At times this book reads like a fictional novel as it is such a fascinating and engrossing read. Probably the most complete up-to-date book on the history of the Golden Gate. It covers the early history when the native peoples resided in the area through present day. After reading this book I found it amazing that the bridge was not only completed but the project started at all. Kevin Starr added the minute details of the construction, which I've never considered, and gives more appreciation for ...more
Jul 27, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in learning about bridges and the San Francisco Bay area.
Shelves: non-fiction
Informative as well as poetic. Kevin Starr opens his account with a history of bridges (starting as early as Greece), paying special attention to their cultural and symbolic significance to mankind. Starr documents the history of the Bay area's settlement by the Spaniards and describes the strait before the bridge ever came into being. As a child of the late 20th century, it was interesting for me to picture the land before the bridge's existence, first as a colonial settlement and then a modern ...more
Sep 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
My godfather Terry, gave me my first Kevin Starr book a few years back, and I was "hooked on the feeling." Starr has a deep and accessible grasp of CA history, and this foray into the Golden Gate Bridge is no less engaging (albeit more brief) than the "Dreams" series which preceded it.

Golden Gate, is nicely laid out in a variety different perspective approaches to the bridge. My favorite among them being the "Vision", "Politics", "Suicide" and "Art" sections, which all contained many anecdotes I
Jul 16, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, giveaway
I won an advanced copy of this book from Goodreads. Thanks Goodreads!

Although I don't normally enjoy historical books, the subject of this book was interesting to me as a native of Northern California. The book is easy to read and is laid out mostly chronologically, which each chapter touching on a different aspect of the bridge (politics, design, construction, etc). The author adds enough detail to make it interesting.

Reading this book, I learned quite a bit about the bridge I had grown up seei
Sep 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Kevin Starr does an excellent job in framing this great American icon into a wonderful interdisciplinary context.. His descriptions, both detailed and poetic, serve to clearly convey a wonderful understanding and an appreciation of the development of this engineering wonder. I found his categorical (Vision, Politics, Money, Design, etc.) organization through his Table of Contents to be very useful in my understanding of the various aspects of the bridges history. The color photos were also very ...more
Jana at
I won this is a Goodreads first read.

July 26th, 2010 - It's here in the mail and it says "Advanced Reader Copy" on the cover! I feel so special!! :P

September 6, 2010 - This book is very interesting! I enjoyed reading about the history and the artistic qualities of this bridge. Because I got an ARC, which did not include the 8-page color insert, I don't think I can really critique the pictures of lack thereof. I did see a few small B&W pictures, but they were not very good quality.
Christopher Lonero
Sep 08, 2011 rated it liked it
The author paints a grand perspective picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. This book is very easy to read and does not go into over abundance of detail on the inner workings of the bridge's design or construction. The book provides great conversational facts that I never new about the bridge. (Alcatraz comes from Spanish meaning Pelican; Treasure Island was man built; Bay Bridge was built at the same time period; ect.) It also goes into the sad reality of the numerous suicides which have resulted ...more
Nov 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
A particularly bombastic Kevin Starr read. I guess he does a good job of providing context for the construction of the Golden Gate bridge, and I did learn a few things about the technology and politics involved in this massive undertaking. It's amazing to consider that this bridge got built during the Depression. Don't think it could happen during the current one. There just isn't enough vision any more to pull it off. As a former BayArean, I found it both amusing and credible that the Spanish s ...more
Catherine Siemann
Jul 26, 2010 rated it liked it
I got this book from the Goodreads Giveaways program.

Although I've spent very little time in San Francisco, it's one of those places that I've felt a real affinity towards. And since I'm interested in urban history and planning, in architecture and engineering and environmental impacts, this brief history interested me very much. From conception to execution to the present day, Starr gives us the history of the iconic structure. My primary quibble is that, because the cast of characters is so la
Marcin Wichary
Mar 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Did you know that the iconic International Orange colour of the Golden Gate Bridge as kind of an accident? Which engineering improvements might have prevented the bridge’s collapse in 1987? And which one of the two San Francisco bridges actually carried rail public transport for a number of years after its opening?

This is a quick, lively book chock-full of fascinating tidbits about the history of Bay Area’s famous landmark. The small number of included photos borders on criminal, though (what we
Jan 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A pretty fascinating historical account of the bridge, broken up in a unique way. Eleven chapters, all one-word titles: bridge, icon, site, vision, politics, money, design, construction, city, suicide, art. They jump around chronologically, since each chapter weaves in and out with the others. I could have done without the last two chapters: they allow for a more complete account, but I felt like the information could have been included elsewhere in the book. But the first nine chapters are a gr ...more
Sep 18, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: san-francisco
Kevin Starr is a great historian (his more serious California history books are terrific), and this book has a lot of great stories about the Golden Gate Bridge. Unfortunately, it also has a lot of filler to make it "book length." (In the future, books like this will be about 1/2 the length and sold purely as ebooks.) I recommend it, if you’re interested in the bridge and have time to wade through some fairly purple and extraneous prose. If you’re just looking for any one particular book about t ...more
Elizabeth F
Feb 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a first-class history of the Golden Gate Bridge. Starr goes into every aspect of the planning and building of the bridge, from the local politics which envisioned and impeded it, coalitions of powerful people that was necessary to move the project, the engineering, the actual construction and the mighty challenges that the narrows presented, as well as its place in the cultural iconography of San Francisco, California and indeed the US.

I recommend it highly. Lots of footnotes and a fine
An extremely tedious read. I thought I would like it, or at least find it informative, and it was, to an extent. But something about the author's style just made the book drag on and on.

He goes through the history of the bridge, from design to construction, as well as the forces it took to get it built. The book also touches upon its role in media and its use as a place for suicide.

If you're at all interested in the bridge, I'd recommend it. But for some reason I found it to be a tough read and
Jul 30, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I had pretty high hopes for this book. And it is a wonderful overview of the social, political and economic conditions of the time. But for a book that also discusses the artistic contributions of the bridge, it is almost completely devoid of photographs. Indeed, there isn't even a picture of the classic view if the bridge. And for the detailed discussion of some of the construction challenges, there are essentially no photographs of those challenges.

The author clearly is an enjoyable and talen
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Kevin Starr was an American historian, best-known for his multi-volume series on the history of California, collectively called "America and the California Dream".