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Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas (City Atlases)

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  852 Ratings  ·  115 Reviews
What makes a place? Infinite City, Rebecca Solnit’s brilliant reinvention of the traditional atlas, searches out the answer by examining the many layers of meaning in one place, the San Francisco Bay Area. Aided by artists, writers, cartographers, and twenty-two gorgeous color maps, each of which illuminates the city and its surroundings as experienced by different inhabit ...more
Hardcover, 157 pages
Published November 29th 2010 by University of California Press (first published October 30th 2010)
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Lee Foust
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
A historical/literary/spiritual/geographical/trivial/racial/ecological/artistic/zoological/industrial/culinary/personal/artistic/murderous/entomological atlas of my first and still dear cool gray city of love. A terrific idea--most salient feature is the originality of the concept, so good you can't imagine why no one thought of it before, why there aren't versions for every city you love--brought to a successful realization. Willfully a patchwork it's by nature uneven, bumpy, collaborative, uns ...more
Dec 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I just started this book and it is amazing. The maps alone merit five stars -- modern works of art that will melt your mind. Everyone who loves San Francisco, who loves the art of the book, will love this one.
Feb 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I finished this a long time ago, so long that it's comfortably on the bookshelf rather than on the "been there, done that" pile next to the bed. I've withheld commentary on it because I haven't been sure how to fairly rate it.

Truly, this is a book for trainspotters -- what I mean by this is that it speaks to a certain kind of person for whom maps are a hobby, or for whom San Francisco politics are a hobby. It presumes a certain California coastal, blue-tinged worldview. And for me, the target au
Kathleen Luschek
Mar 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Infinite City is a bizarre and intriguing look at the many dimensions of San Francisco. The book is composed of 22 different maps of the city, each dealing with different phenomena specific to the city on the Bay. These range from Map 6: "Monarchs and Queens: Butterfly Habitats and Queer Public Spaces", to Map 16: "Death and Beauty: All of 2008's Ninety-nine Murders, Some of 2009's Monterey Cypresses." Solnit's writing is clean, thought-provoking, and complex. Several contributing writers add th ...more
May 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: californiana
I had high expectations for this one. But, overall: brilliantly creative conceit; uneven, at times disappointing, writing. On the physical side of things, the beautiful maps constantly fell into the no-man's-land of the gutter (not good for an "atlas"); nice trim, paper, and design, though.
Lissa Notreallywolf
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book strikes me as too original to confine to any one of my shelves, although it will probably live next to her book about walking. It's odd shape will make moving both of them to another area of my library, consonant with the history of walking and remapping the Bay Area, particularly San Francisco. I lived there for well over twenty years and my own history of walking every street in San Francisco, aided by a AAA map makes for a different view of the place, but that is what Solnit encoura ...more
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I had looked at the maps before, but I finally took the time to read the essays - just delightful. She's very clever - I hear she'd doing similar ones for other cities.
Haines Borough Public Library
Oct 09, 2011 added it
Recommends it for: Lovers of Maps, San Francisco, & Cultural History
View in catalog here:

October 2011

Each one of us has maps inside of us. These maps make up our own personal atlas, and they include the daily routes we take, the many places (and people connected with those places) we've visited and loved, as well as the unique interests we seek out in the world in things like art museums, libraries, beaches, and mountains. In Infinite City, a wonderful reworking of the traditional atlas, Rebecca Solnit invites us to ponde
Jun 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: local-history
The book drew me in with its artwork and promise of new visions of the familiar. The art - the maps and other illustrations - are all lovely and well placed given the text either selected by or written by Ms. Solnit.
The work fails, at least for me, by attempting to infuse too much meaning, or too much feeling into an event/place. This was bluntly true with the essay on evictions in the Tenderloin and the "what happened to al the black folks" essays/maps.
The trouble is how Ms. Solnit accepts/sp
idiosyncratic maps of the bay area by master writer and thinker solnit A Book of Migrations: Some Passages in Ireland Wanderlust: A History of Walking River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West here she maps and essays things like coffee shops, murders, greenspaces, fillmore neighborhood, mission district, queers, butterflys, the old waterfront, food and superfund sites (silicon valley has the most, oops) . the maps themselves are quirky and more artistic than a "normal ...more
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
If you live in San Francisco and haven't seen this book, then you must certainly do your book shopping online. It has been everywhere for the past year – and rightly so. Combining maps and prose to show different perspectives on the Bay Area – it nicely maneuvers among the physical, historical, cultural, and contextual worlds. The atlas could easily be a museum exhibit.

The maps and stories juxtapose themes – such as shipyards and jazz/soul landmarks. While some of the combinations of stories an
Dec 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This was such a delightful read. The maps were gorgeous and well-themed, e.g. "Poison / Palate," a map of the toxic waste of the bay area with the culinary hot spots. I expected to like the maps, but having never read Solnit before I didn't expect the beauty of her prose. When reading her introduction, specifically her writing about maps, I was impressed by the transcendence of her writing and her understanding of what a map is and what a map can't be. I would have loved this book anyway, but wh ...more
Jun 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: california, history
I'd really like to give this book 3.5 stars. Goodreads feature request? My expectations were so high for this book (hey Rebecca Solnit), but some of the essays were a little too preachy and nostalgic for the "golden years" for me. The essay about the Mission was my favourite, and the last one about San Francisco treasures made me excited to go exploring. I just wish I'd felt that way more consistently through the book.
Apr 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-art
I just hate San Francisco too much as a place. I couldn't turn the corner to where I could disconnect myself from this fact. The book just seems to feed into the city's ego. I know "The City" aims to be a world class city on par with great cities everywhere, but really it just doesn't have the dimensions of a Los Angeles or even an Atlanta, so for me, I guess I just didn't need this book, just like I didn't need all those parking tickets in the Haight.
Aug 13, 2011 added it
Shelves: unfinished, yay-maps
This seems like a great book. But not for me at this time in my life.
I'm not able to read much, and I got this to look at pretty maps. There's not that many maps, and there's walls and walls of text. It looks like interesting text, but my brain can't handle it right now.

This would be a great gift for someone who loves San Francisco: the history, the diversity, the micro-cultures, atlases, and of course maps.
Martin Kohout
Jul 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
No doubt it helps being a native of San Francisco, but I loved this. A brilliantly imaginative way of thinking about the physical city. The real stars of the show here are the maps, which layer and juxtapose unexpected sets of data: butterfly habitats and queer landmarks, for example, or sites from early motion picture pioneer Eadweard Muybridge's life and locations of Hitchock's Vertigo, or toxic waste sites and gourmet food destinations. Very cool.
Jan 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: could-not-finish
Maybe it has been too long since I've tried to use a paper atlas, but this book's maps seemed disjointed, cluttered, even forced. The writing was all over the place, often hard to follow. I also found that the subjects covered were very interesting, but I felt the format was often inappropriate and left me unsatisfied, even confused and searching. Disappointing overall.
Maura Badji
Aug 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-re-read
Beguiling and unlike anything I've read. Loved it.
May 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I've read in a while, 6 stars if I could
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the loveliest books I have ever read. I wasn't looking for a tourist guide on San Francisco and I didn't want a work of fiction. I wanted to see San Francisco and it's rise and fall from power and culture through Maps. This is exactly what this book is about. It tells the story of San Francisco through the lens of 22 beautifully drawn maps and intricate prose to go with it. Even the way the book is bound, the cardboard-like cover, the interesting drawings and even the unusual perp ...more
Robbie Bruens
This is a book that's magic can be felt most powerfully as you look at its maps and paw through its pages. I spent years exploring it with my eyes and fondling its paper before I actually started to read it. The essays and ideas presented in Infinite City are potent dispatches from an askew and piquant perspective on history and geography that characterizes all of Solnit's work.

To read this book, to inhabit this atlas is to immeasurably enrich your understanding of San Francisco, California, th
Mar 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you like books about history & culture and you like San Francisco you'll love this book of essays about the history & culture of SF, with maps. It was published only 7 years ago but I feel like it would've had a different vibe if written now, when gentrification & Silicon Valley have so decisively won. The most interesting essay was by Adriana Camarena, who interviews Mission undocumented immigrants, criminals and gang members. If you've lived in the Mission (I lived on Camarena's ...more
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Rebecca Solnit corrals a bevy of contributors to craft a love letter to San Francisco through maps and essays. Consider the layers of history and culture. Take a moment to get lost...or find yourself. Imagine what might come next for this fair city.
Thomas Hunt
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
an interesting look at San Francisco with many different maps that represent the neighborhoods that are, and sometimes the neighborhoods that were. So much change. A very interesting read.
blue-collar mind
Jan 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: direct-action
I have 3 types of favorite writers. I read loads of others but I don't seek them out. These I do, checking their names on Powells Books online or eBay or dusty shelves regularly to see if I can find THAT book or just any more.

Here are the three, in no real order:
1. Their style of writing is pleasing to my eye, to my ear and to a calm, restorative thought process. They take an idea or a person and patiently, clearly show it with words and I learn. People say to me after I explain one of their ide
Susan Eubank
A wonderful visit to one of my former cities...

"My wanderings open my eyes to undiluted poverty in the Mission. Poverty is a calamity, a blight upon the land. That's 'the Struggle' that the Mission kids and gang kids talk about, and it's from that experience that their pride about their heritage arises. Their parents are the day laborers, and the migrants, and the second-class citizens. There is no border here. In this country, immigrants and their children pass through a trial by fire of assim
Curt Hopkins Hopkins
The fascinating history and great maps in this book are offset by an unhealthy dose of pretension and preciousness. It's worth reading, but just barely. Great maps include the previous shoreline and the lives of four centenarians. The too-many-yes-men element of the book is well represented by the "phrenology" map.
Oct 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-books
This was a really fascinating book! It first came to my attention when my younger sister started school at USF a few years ago, and she was required to get this book as part of a freshman seminar class. I finally got my hands on her copy.

Rebecca Solnit and her team of cartographers, writers, and artists present atlases that juxtapose two seemingly unrelated events, people, topics, situations, occurrences, etc. onto one map that presents the reader with an in-depth look at places, events, and peo
Elina Bravve
Jun 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the coolest book I have come across in a long time, well deserving of a detailed review. It's a collection of maps created by different artists and cartographers, focusing on different aspects of San Francisco history and lore.. It reads a bit like a travelogue, but more like an extended and diverse cultural commentary. It also contains some of the most interesting meditations on urbanism and the meaning of maps in our culture that I have come across.

One chapter highlights a map of cinem
Sep 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A wonderful companion to Los Angeles in Maps; I met the authors of both books at this year's LA Times Festival of Books. This book, like the city it describes, is much more fanciful than the Los Angeles volume. These maps were all custom-created for this book, so there's a wonderful unity of design here. The maps are confrontational in what they choose to depict. In "The Right Wing of the Dove," S.F is shown to be a central hub of the machinery of death and war. In another map, 500 "Ellis Act" e ...more
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Fans of Maps: infinite city 3 10 Sep 15, 2014 06:57PM  
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Rebecca Solnit is an American author who often writes on the environment, politics, place, and art. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications in print and online, including the Guardian newspaper and Harper's Magazine, where she is the first woman to regularly write the Easy Chair column founded in 1851. She is also a regular contributor to the political blog TomDispatch and to LitHub.

More about Rebecca Solnit...

Other Books in the Series

City Atlases (3 books)
  • Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas
  • Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas

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