San Francisco Public Library

May/June Pick 2012

Golden Gate: The Life and Times of America's Greatest Bridge
by Kevin Starr
book cover

Kevin Starr will be discussing his book, Golden Gate, at the Main Library on Tuesday, June 19!

The Golden Gate Bridge is turning 75 years old in 2012 and SFPL is joining in the celebration by encouraging everyone to learn more about our favorite bridge. Kevin's Starr's Golden Gate is a brilliant and passionate telling of the history of the bridge itself, and a recounting of the rich and peculiar history of the California experience. The Golden Gate is a grand public work, a symbol and a very real bridge, a magnet for both postcard photographs and suicides. In this compact but comprehensive narrative, Starr unfolds the hidden-in-plain sight meaning of the Golden Gate, putting it in its place among classic works of art.

About The Author

author photoKevin Starr was born on September 3, 1940 in San Francisco, California. He received his BA Degree from the University of San Francisco and his MA Degree in 1965 and his PhD in American literature from Harvard University in 1969. He is a historian known for his series on the history of California entitled "America and the California Dream" and also served as City Librarian for SFPL in the early 70s He has been a professor at several universities including Berkeley and Stanford. He has written several works including Coast of Dreams and Golden Gate.


"Such a broad perspective is but one of the many pleasures to be had reading Kevin Starr’s engrossing new history, Golden Gate: The Life and Times of America's Greatest Bridge. He tells the rich story of the massive public works project in a tidy 200 pages. It makes for a wonderful and never sluggish overview—complete with fine reproductions of paintings and photographs—that nevertheless contains many enlightening details. A small wonder in its own right." -San Francisco Chronicle
"Kevin Starr seems particularly well equipped to write a biography of that famous orange bridge. The author of more than half a dozen histories of California, Mr. Starr has written frequently about the myths and metaphors that festoon the Golden State, and he seems to instinctively understand the place that the Golden Gate Bridge has come to occupy in the national imagination as a symbol of American enterprise and the gateway to the Pacific. Mr. Starr does an agile job of situating the tale within the larger context of San Francisco’s efforts to rebuild after the Great Earthquake of 1906 and the nation’s march from the Roaring Twenties into the slough of the Great Depression.” -Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
“Starr eloquently retraces this industrial achievement from planning and construction up to the present day with its $6-and-up tolls. He tells the story behind each of the bridge's masterminds -- the bankers, builders, egos and engineers -- and also devotes a whole chapter to a tragic side of the bridge's history as a frequent site of Bay area suicides.” -Washington Post
“Starr isn’t seduced by the romantic or melancholic image of the fog-shrouded structure so much as committed to celebrate—with great acumen and an oft-oratorial voice that unites broad yet vital references in a turn of phrase—its greatness. His book is as well-ordered and constructed as its subject, with cleanly presented chapters outlining the bridge's relationship to subjects such as politics, money, and design, saving the more ambiguous—yet also perhaps richest?—areas of suicide and art for last.” -San Francisco Bay Guardian
“Accurately illustrated, readable, and rewarding. Starr’s stellar book encompasses politics, finances, design, art, photography, film, construction, history, bibliography, and even suicide, which occurs about every other week. Highly recommended…an exciting history of a grand architectural landmark.” -Library Journal
“A jeweler’s assessment of the Brooklyn Bridge’s west coast rival … Starr neatly appraises the Golden Gate’s every facet, attempting to judge its qualities and to convey its essence, its singular ‘bridgeness.’ In design and execution, every bit as worthy of the bridge it celebrates.” -Kirkus Reviews

The Golden Gate Bridge – Kevin Starr in conversation with KGO’s John Rothmann

In 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge rose high above the Bay Area, linking the urbanity of San Francisco with the wild headlands of Marin County. Join Kevin Starr, one of America’s most celebrated historians, as he provides a lyrical account of the building of the Golden Gate Bridge. Listen Here.