Joe M's Reviews > The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld

The Barbary Coast by Herbert Asbury
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really liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2015, san-francisco

This book is overflowing with ripping yarns and anecdotal history of the debaucheries and seedy underbelly of gold rush-era San Francisco, even if as some readers have pointed out, the narrative style (originally published in 1933) can feel a bit disjointed. Reading some of these stories and imagining what life was like in this vibrant and frequently violent time period makes you really appreciate the advances in public health, safety, and law enforcement that have been made! Interestingly too, many observations about the prohibitive cost of living, lavish and often reckless spending, and people flocking to the Bay Area to get rich quickly still ring true today. I also found myself constantly referencing streets and back alleys along the Embarcadero, Chinatown, and North Beach, and dropping pins on Google's street view just to see how much things have changed (did that Bubble Tea really used to be a brothel!?) I think it's safe to say I will probably never walk down Kearney or Pacific Street and look at them the same way again. Great reading and highly recommended for anyone living in or visiting San Francisco.

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Reading Progress

August 6, 2015 – Started Reading
August 6, 2015 – Shelved
August 12, 2015 – Shelved as: read-in-2015
August 12, 2015 – Finished Reading
January 5, 2018 – Shelved as: san-francisco

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