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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Press; Book Club (BCE/BOMC) edition (July 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159691534X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596915343
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #117,471 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The Golden Gate Bridge, connecting the city of San Francisco to adjacent Marin County, was completed in 1937, at the time the longest suspension bridge in the world. Starr, a former California state librarian who has written extensively on the state's history, follows the bridge construction from inception to completion. The driving force behind the project was Joseph Strauss, an engineer with a strong aesthetic strain and a gift for promotion, especially self-promotion. He faced considerable opposition to the project from powerful forces, including the military and local business interests. His relentless manipulative and persuasive skills prevailed, assisted by the attraction of a massive public-works project during the depths of the Great Depression. The final result was both a structural and artistic triumph that for many became as important an American symbol as the Statue of Liberty on the opposite coast. This is an informative and easily digestible chronicle. --Jay Freeman


“Gracefully written… Starr's volume, showing how he and others appreciate the bridge in its multiple roles in engineering, transport, and artistry, is a loving tribute.”—Commercial Dispatch


“Starr delights as much in the details of history and on-going maintenance as he does in the contours of the bridge itself.”—San Francisco Book Review


“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


“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


“An ecstatic meditation on the complicated drama of the Golden Gate Bridge and a chronicle of its history.”—Wall Street Journal


"A necessary salve for a once-golden state"—The New Republic


“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


“Starr has focused his impressive talents on a book-length study of a single entity—the Golden Gate Bridge. In so doing, he demonstrates both that the bridge is deserving of such lavish treatment and that he himself is well worthy of his glorious subject. Others have done it before, but not with the unique combination of poetry and practicality that enliven Golden Gate: The Life and Times of America's Greatest Bridge. Starr’s compact treatment (less than 200 pages) is part lyrical homage to an inspiring landmark and part encyclopedic account of the steps necessary to design, approve and construct one of the most ambitious public works projects ever undertaken.”—Contra Costa Times


“An informative and easily digestible chronicle.”—Booklist


“A fascinating read.”Failure magazine


“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


“With signature panache, Starr offers a history as streamlined and elegant as the great bridge itself.”—Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz and Ecology of Fear


“The loving and meticulous manner in which Kevin Starr has constructed this paean to one of the world's most admired architectural icons is everything that we have come to expect from the creator of the California Dream series, and more. This book is the ideal companion to the bridge, magisterial in authority, intimate in detail and affectionate in tone: an entirely befitting classic.”—Simon Winchester, author of The Man Who Loved China and The Professor and the Madman


“Kevin Starr has written a delightful and most readable recounting of the epic story of the Golden Gate Bridge, covering in a remarkably concise way its origins and creative financing, its design and construction, and its status of one of the world’s most iconic structures.”—Henry Petroski, Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and professor of History, Duke University, and author of Engineers of Dreams and The Essential Engineer


“When the great history of California is written … oh wait. It already was. By Kevin Starr, of course. In Golden Gate, Starr focuses all that erudition and wit on the perfect subject. Nobody does it better. Nobody could.”—Virginia Scharff, University of New Mexico, author of Twenty Thousand Roads: Women, Movement and the West and Taking the Wheel: Women and the Coming of the Motor Age


“We see [the Golden Gate Bridge] all the time, but how many of us know its rich history?”—San Francisco Chronicle

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Customer Reviews

The book is very easy to read, but full of details.
Sharleen Martin
There can't be but a handful of quotes from those who actually worked on the bridge and they all appear to have come from those other writers and historians.
Consumer Champ
It's a beautiful structure and Kevin Starr's beautiful prose does full justice to the bridge and its history.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Frederick S. Goethel VINE VOICE on July 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although this book is relatively short at about 200 pages, the author manages to cover the history of the Golden Gate, as well as the Golden Gate Bridge and the people involved in the creation of the bridge.

The author begins with the geologic creation of the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate itself and progresses through the hunt to find the bay and the opening to the sea that the Spanish had sought for so many decades. He then moves into a brief discussion of the city and the need for a bridge from the city to the Marin Headlands.

Once in the twentieth century, the author inter weaves the story of the need and desire for the bridge with the story of it's development, design, and the political fighting that occurred to keep any bridge from being built. It is amazing how many different groups had an interest in keeping a bridge from being built. From the design stage, the author details the actual construction and financing of the bridge and explores how it was built with private money in a time when all such projects were public works projects. As contrast, the author compares it with the Oakland-Bay Bridge which was under construction at about the same time with federal and state monies.

The author ends the book with a little of the sociology of the bridge, including the inspiration it provides for artists and the use of the bridge by people wanting to commit suicide.

If you are looking for the detailed history of the bridge, then you will be disappointed with this book. If, however, you are interested in more than just the nuts and bolts of the construction of the bridge, you will love this book. It is well written, concise and very enjoyable. In addition, there are about 8 pages of spectacular color photographs includ
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Valley1 on July 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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 talented writer, and sufficient photographs would have made this a much better book.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Consumer Champ on July 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I pre-ordered this book hoping Starr would capture some of the drama, some of the passion and the energy that went into the building of the Golden Gate bridge. Instead, what I got was something that more closely resembles a Masters Thesis or a Doctoral Dissertation. Based on the sources Starr cites at the end of the book, he did very little original research. Instead he appears to have taken hundreds or thousands of excerpts from the works of others, stacked them up in some order, and strung 'em together in some kind of narrative. It's very much a dry recitation of facts dating back to the discovery of the passage from the Pacific Ocean into what's now known as San Francisco Bay and not a very original work at that. There can't be but a handful of quotes from those who actually worked on the bridge and they all appear to have come from those other writers and historians. There are better books on this subject and thanks to Kevin Starr's bibliography I'll know where to look to find something better to read on the subject. Something far better.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael Lima VINE VOICE on October 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Kevin Starr's Golden Gate: The Life And Times Of America's Greatest Bridge (Golden Gate) is a competently constructed, perfunctory examination of the Golden Gate Bridge's history and cultural impact. Starr distills a number of sources to create an adequate overview of the bridge's engineering and construction, as well as the political machinations behind its creation. Starr also utilizes these sources to comment on the bridge's aesthetic nature, and its impact on the San Francisco Bay Area's lifestyle.

However, a history of the Golden Gate Bridge is ripe with drama. As just one example, to construct the bridge's south tower, workers had to cordon off a football field-sized section of the ocean, drain about 300 feet of water from the cordoned area until the bedrock was exposed, build the support tower in the temporarily drained area while the ocean raged just outside the barriers, and then flood the area once the support tower was finished. To a non-engineer like me, those actions seem almost super-human in their execution. I wanted to find out every detail of that amazing engineering feat. But, Starr depicts the entire event in just a couple of paragraphs. Other aspects of the bridge's history are similarly short-changed. Thus, what could be seared into the reader's mind by focusing on the drama inherent in the subject is instead rendered into a trivia point.

Starr clearly feels the drama that the Golden Gate Bridge engenders, as is evidenced by the numerous sections where he waxes poetically about the bridge. But, Starr's ability to convey that drama in his writing is, at best, limited. Because of that limitation, Golden Gate is simply adequate when it could, and should, be memorable.
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