Book Love

Looking Back at Chronicle Books in the ’60s and ’70s

It’s our 50th anniversary. Haven’t you heard?

We revisited the first book we ever published. We explored milestones from our history in infographic form. We even made a book bike.

And now, it’s time to dip back into our archives and dust off the top books of our past, decade by decade. First up, let’s take a trip to the 1960s-70s.


Our books from this era reveled in the San Francisco and California lifestyle—no surprise there, as Chronicle Books began as an offshoot of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Chuck Crandall’s They Chose to Be Different, 1972, featured 33 homes with unique architecture in California. From houses described as “Lively Design on a Shoestring Budget” to “A Hidden Jewel on Mount Tam,” the not-so-humble abodes were designed by architects like Edward Killingsworth and Donald E. Olsen.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Bay by Harold Gilliam, 1969, dove into environmentalism and the protection of the Bay.

And of course, we’d be remiss not to mention Hills of San Francisco, the book that started it all in 1967. For a deep dive into the book, head over here.


An early book that departs from local oddities is Cutting Up In The Kitchen by Merle Ellis, 1975. This seminal text is still praised by butchers and home cooks alike today, and demystifies any confusion one might face at the meat counter. It covers where meat cuts are coming from and how to cook them, as well as money-saving tips.

In the 1960s, the Junior League surveyed thousands of historic San Francisco buildings, many of which are featured in Here Today: San Francisco’s Architectural Heritage by Roger Olmsted, 1969. Buildings include the Conservatory of Flowers and the classic Painted Ladies.

William Hamilton’s Anti-Social Register, 1974, was one of our first humor books—this one in particular pokes fun at the Social Register, an elitist directory of the prominent American families. Hamilton himself was a member of the Social Register.

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You can begin to get a taste of what early Chronicle Books looked and felt like in the ’60s and ’70s—Californian curiosities mixed with books both useful and humorous, much like a newspaper. Covers were predominantly photo-forward, featuring large spreads paired with big and bold titles.

Stay tuned to see what we published in the 1980s. For more about our 50th anniversary, check out these posts and follow along with #ChronicleBooksTurns50.

Jenna Homen

Community Manager at Chronicle Books. When she's logged off, she can be found cooking, camping, or in a museum. You can follow her on Twitter at @jn_na.
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