What are some good books about Chicago?
March 20, 2008 1:00 PM   Subscribe

What are some good books about Chicago?

Yes, I've read Devil in the White City, which was pretty good. Historical stuff, contemporary, fiction, non-fiction -- anything that is Chicago in essence. I'm not really looking for a guidebook, though if there's something similar to Palahniuk's Portland guide, Fugitives and Refugees, that'll work too. I'd be really excited to read a Chicago version of Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found.
posted by nitsuj to Writing & Language (24 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Mike Royko's columns, as collected in One More Time and For the Love of Mike, gave me the best feel for the city's history, politics, and people. I very, very highly recommend them.
posted by WCityMike at 1:21 PM on March 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


American Skin by Don De Grazia
posted by spec80 at 1:22 PM on March 20, 2008


Best answer: You might like Alex Kotlowitz's Never a City So Real, which I think is part of the same series as Palahniuk's book.

There Are No Children Here, also by Kotlowitz, is about growing up in Chicago public housing. It's heartbreaking, and maybe not exactly what you're looking for, but very much worth reading.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:23 PM on March 20, 2008


I liked Chasing California
posted by Rae Datter at 1:35 PM on March 20, 2008


How about Crossing California by Adam Langer, for the Correct title
posted by Rae Datter at 1:44 PM on March 20, 2008


Gapersblock bookclub does a mix of nonfiction Chicago books and books by Chicago authors, so might be looking at their list of previous selections. Just glancing at the list a few times I've gotten a few ideas of something to read about Chicago or from a Chicago author.
posted by ejaned8 at 1:52 PM on March 20, 2008


The work of Stuart Dybeck is worth a look.
posted by Toekneesan at 1:55 PM on March 20, 2008


The Encyclopedia of Chicago is pretty cool too, though a bit spendy. Still, I love just dipping in and getting lost in it.
posted by Toekneesan at 1:58 PM on March 20, 2008


Seconding the Royko. Boss was a more comprehensive look at Daley's machine than he could get done in his columns. His columns are funnier and less depressing, though.
posted by ignignokt at 2:06 PM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


American Pharoah is fantastic. I lived in Chicago, but just for a year, but I found this bio to be one of the best.
posted by waylaid at 2:08 PM on March 20, 2008


Best answer: The Encyclopedia of Chicago is also available online for free.

A few more suggestions:

The Pig and the Skyscraper by Marco d'Eramo

Boss by Mike Royko

The Lost City by Alan Ehrenhalt

1001 Afternoons in Chicago by Ben Hecht

The Adventures of Augie March (although only part of it is set in Chicago)

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

Native Son by Richard Wright
posted by j-dawg at 2:20 PM on March 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Nelson Algren - Chicago: City on the Make and Neon Wilderness

Studs Terkel - Division Street America
posted by mike_bling at 2:25 PM on March 20, 2008


Seconding Nelson Algren (my favorite chicago author by far) and Studs.

chicago's my Oz. here are the ones i've read.

they were all terrific in their own ways. i'd especially recommend Chicago Confidential--all lurid and retro. Don't Make No Waves, Don't Back No Losers gave me more insight into chicago politics than ever before.

This is Chicago: An Anthology is hard to get (out of print, i think), but if you can find it, a real gem. has stuff in it by Algren, Sandberg, Ferber, Wright, Hecht, Lardner... also the Leopold and Loeb story. (i found myself dropping my jaw a lot when i read This is Chicago--i was just so happy i owned the book.)

haven't read it yet, but Farrell's got the Studs Lonigan books.
posted by RedEmma at 2:58 PM on March 20, 2008


Chicago Confidential
posted by Dr.Pill at 3:08 PM on March 20, 2008


Eight Men Out
posted by tiburon at 3:24 PM on March 20, 2008


If you also happen to have any interest in radio history and/or labor history, WCFL: Chicago's Voice of Labor will be right up your alley. I also enjoyed Lizabeth Cohen's Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939, especially the sections on working-class popular culture.
posted by scody at 4:11 PM on March 20, 2008


I loved the Chicago settings of The Time Traveler's Wife. (In fact, I loved the book generally. But one thing I really liked about it was the Chicago settings.)
posted by kristi at 4:57 PM on March 20, 2008


Seconding American Pharoah.
posted by spasm at 6:27 PM on March 20, 2008


Now that I'm home and scanning my shelves, I'm a) embarrassed that I didn't include Division Street or City on the Make in my earlier answer, and b) wondering if I can cheat and add one more item that isn't really a book.

In her essay "Michigan and Wacker," Sarah Vowell posits that from that one corner in Chicago you can see the entirety of American History. Hear it here, or read it in Take the Cannoli.
posted by j-dawg at 7:27 PM on March 20, 2008


I felt so smart for intending to recommend royko's "boss" only to see the hivemind has once again robbed me of my illusions of grandeur.

so... thirding.
posted by krautland at 8:18 PM on March 20, 2008


Response by poster: Thanks for all the great answers. This will keep me busy for a while!
posted by nitsuj at 11:09 PM on March 20, 2008


Having grown up near Chicago, I really enjoyed Donald Miller's City of the Century. Miller chronicles Chicago's growth during the 19th century, and how it drove many changes throughout America. Material from his book was included in the PBS series The American Experience.
posted by bruceo at 2:15 AM on March 21, 2008


Here's a good list of mysteries based in Chicago.
posted by me3dia at 9:47 AM on March 21, 2008


James T Farrell's Studs Lonigan trilogy (Terkel's nickname comes from them); Willard Motley's Knock on Any Door; most of Valerie Taylor's lesbian pulps....
posted by brujita at 8:11 PM on March 21, 2008


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