What is the Cypress Lawn Book Club?

We entertain a wide-ranging selection of books with a general emphasis on Bay Area history and cemetery/funeral topics. Novels on the subject are on our radar. We also explore the lives and times of people resting at Cypress Lawn. There are many authors, famous personalities, and unique characters here to serve as reading inspiration, such as William Randolph Hearst, San Francisco Mayor Joe Alioto, Eddie Fisher, Steve Silver (creator of “Beach Blanket Babylon”), Gustave Niebaum (founder of Inglenook Winery), Charles Howard (owner of the racehorse Seabiscuit), James Flood, and prominent Hell’s Angels. Come and bring your recommendations.


When and Where to Meet

We convene on Thursdays at 11 a.m. at approximately six week intervals. There are no reservations for the events and you can attend even if you haven’t read the designated book. Help choose the next book.  Meet us in the Lobby at the main Cypress Lawn Building at 1370 El Camino Real, Colma. The sessions usually last about an hour. You can contact me personally for more information at [email protected] or 650.550.8812.


Scheduled Meetings (2015)

  • April 9th  – Antebellum & Civil War San Francisco
    by Monika Trobits (Member of the Club)
  • May 21st – Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel
    by Loren Rhoads (Member of the Club)
  • June 25th  – The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh, a satire of the Southern California funeral and cemetery industry, written in 1948, later to become a hit movie.
  • August 13th – California’s Daughter:  Gertrude Atherton & Her Times by Emily Wortis Leider. Gertrude Atherton is buried at Cypress Lawn. She was a critically acclaimed novelist, feminist, and journalist.
  •  September 26thSan Francisco is Burning: The Untold Story of the 1906 Earthquake and Fires by Dennis Smith.
  • October 22ndSeabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand. His owner, Charles Howard is buried at Cypress Lawn and we visited his mausoleum.
  • November 19thBig Alma by Bernice Scharlac. The biography of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, the moving force behind the San Francisco Legion of Honor Museum. We will visit the spectacular Spreckels mausoleum at Cypress Lawn.



  •  January 14 –  San Francisco’s Jewel City: The Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915 by Laura Ackley. This is the 100th year anniversary of this extravaganza, which came a mere nine years after the devastating 1906 earthquake.
  •  February 11 – San Francisco Fair Treasure Island 1939-1940 by Patricia F. Carpenter and Paul Totah
  •  March 10 – Lincoln Beachey: The Man Who Owned the Sky by Frank Marrero. The biography of the most daring and famous pioneer airplane pilot of the early twentieth century, who was tragically killed in a daredevil exhibition at the San Francisco Pan-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. His funeral was the largest in San Francisco at the time. He rests at Cypress Lawn and we will visit the site.
  • April 21 – The Magnificent Rogues of San Francisco by Charles Adams. Not a few of these characters are buried at Cypress Lawn. We will also visit their grave sites.
  • May 19The Chief: The Life & Times of William Randolph Heart – The Rise & Fall of the Real Citizen Kane by David Nasaw. The group will visit the Hearst Mausoleum at Cypress Lawn. It is one of the few with no name.
  • June 30: A special meeting at the Colma Historical Museum for a docent conducted tour! Join us at 11 am at 1500 Hillside Blvd.
  • July 28: A double-header: Alive in Necropolis by Doug Dorst, a novel set in Colma and featuring Cypress Lawn. The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld by Herbert Asbury.
  • September 8: The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature by Ben Tarnoff
  • October 13: Lucky Baldwin: The Story of an Unconventional Success by C.B. Glasscock. The authors calls Mr. Baldwin a “notorious libertine and womanizer.”
  • November 17: Nothing Seemed Impossible: William C. Ralston and Early San Francisco by David Lavender.
  • December 15: Firebelle Lillie: The Life & Times of Lillie Coit Hitchcock by Helen Holdredge. We will visit the Hitchcock Mausoleum at Cypress Lawn.


  • January 19:

Mary Ellen Pleasant (1817 – 1904) was a 19th Century female entrepreneur of partial African descent widely known as Mammy Pleasant, who used her fortune to further the abolitionist movement. She worked on the Underground Railroad across many states and then helped bring it to California during the Gold Rush Era. She was a friend and financial supporter of John Brown and well known in abolitionist circles. After the Civil War she took her battles to the courts in the 1860s, and won several civil rights victories, one of which was cited and upheld in the 1980’s and resulted in her being called “The Mother of Human Rights in California.”


 February 17:




March 19:

Boss Gardener: The Life and Times of John McLaren


John McLaren and Thomas Aikman




April 20:


The Barbary Plague: The Black Death in Victorian San Francisco


Marilyn Chase


May 18:



Jerry Flamm

A colorful look at San Francisco’s politics and culture from 1906 to circa 1950


June 15:



  The story of Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco


“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

– Ray Bradbury