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Feature Thu Dec 11 2008

2008 Chicago Nonfiction in Review

This week we look at some of the notable nonfiction books published about our fair city in the past year. A sociology graduate student who infiltrates a Chicago gang, a local columnist discusses his journey to sobriety, the continuing fascination of Chicago's murderous history, a final book from Studs Terkel and a notable biography of our president-elect are just some of the subjects on this year's list. Along with last week's round-up of notable fiction, there is something for every reader on your holiday gift list. Plus, go one further and support local booksellers. Search for indie bookstores near you on Indiebound.

Alinea
By Grant Achatz (Ten Speed, 400 pages)
An inside look at Chicago's celebrated restaurant.

Rule 53: Capturing Hippies, Spies, Politicians, and Murderers in an American Courtroom
By Andy Austin (Lake Claremont Press, 413 pages)
Austin shares her memories from decades of covering some of Chicago's most well-known trials as a courtroom artist.

For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder That Shocked Chicago
By Simon Baatz (HarperCollins, 560 pages)
A new history of one of the most notorious murder cases in Chicago history.

Building the South Side: Urban Space and Civic Culture in Chicago, 1890-1919
By Robin F. Bachin (University of Chicago Press, 448 pages)
A scholarly work that explores the planning and development of Chicago's South Side at the turn of the twentieth century.

Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction
Edited by Sabrina Chapadjiev (Seven Stories Press, 240 pages)
In this collection of stories, essays, artwork and photography, female artists candidly express the ways they use their art to heal and survive violence and self-destructive thoughts and behavior. Editor Chapadjiev is a playwright and musician originally from the Chicago area.

Mapping Manifest Destiny: Chicago and the American West
Edited by Michael P. Conzen and Diane Dillon (Newberry Library, 120 pages)
Exhibition book of more than 60 full-color historic maps from the Newberry Library collection.

Ida: A Sword among Lions; Ida B. Wells and the Campaign against Lynching
By Paula J. Giddings (HarperCollins, 816 pages)
Well-reviewed biography of activist Ida B. Wells.

Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist
By Nancy Goldstein (University of Michigan Press, 264 pages)
Biography of a nearly forgotten pioneer in cartooning, who came to fame in Chicago.

The Chicagoan: A Lost Magazine of the Jazz Age
By Neil Harris and T. J. Edelstein (University of Chicago Press, 400 pages)
This critically acclaimed book resurrects Chicago's Jazz Age counterpart to the New Yorker.

From Lumber Hookers to the Hooligan Fleet: A Treasury of Chicago Maritime History
Edited by Rita L. Frese and David M. Young (Lake Claremont Press, 378 pages)
Members of the Chicago Maritime Society tell the fascinating history of Chicago's waterways.

For Members Only: A History and Guide to Chicago's Oldest Private Clubs
By Lisa Holton (Lake Claremont Press, 314 pages)
A history of some of Chicago's most exclusive social clubs.

Chicago Neighborhoods and Suburbs
Edited by Ann Durkin Keating (University of Chicago Press, 368 pages)
A guide to the city neighborhoods and communities around Chicago from their beginnings to the present day.

Remembrances of the Angels: A 50th Anniversary Retrospective on the Fire No One Can Forget
By John Kuenster (Ivan R. Dee, 224 pages)
A look back at the tragic fire at Our Lady of the Angels school 50 years later.

Battleground Chicago: The Police and the 1968 Democratic National Convention
By Frank Kusch (University of Chicago Press, 206 pages)
A new account of the protests and aftermath of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, written from the point of the view of the police.

My Fall from Grace: City Hall to Prison Walls
By James Laski (Authorhouse, 432 pages)
Former Chicago City Clerk James Laski, in his own words, including his description of life in prison after being convicted for his role in the hired trucks scandal.

Murder City: The Bloody History of Chicago in the Twenties
By Michael Lesy (W.W. Norton, 344 pages)
Lesy explores 17 murder cases from Chicago's Jazz Age.

Architecture by Birds and Insects: A Natural Art
By Peggy Macnamara and John Bates (University of Chicago Press, 148 pages)
A gorgeous collection of paintings of bird and insect nests by Peggy Macnamara, artist in residence at the Field Museum of Natural History.

The Third Coast: Sailors, Strippers, Fishermen, Folksingers, Long-Haired Ojibway Painters, and God-Save-the-Queen Monarchists of the Great Lakes
By Ted McClelland (Chicago Review, 352 pages)
Sprawling travel narrative of the people and places that populate our Great Lakes region.

Obama: From Promise to Power
By David Mendell (HarperCollins, 416 pages)
A well-reviewed biography of our president-elect by Chicago Tribune reporter David Mendell.

Michelle: A Biography
By Liza Mundy (Simon & Schuster, 224 pages)
Barack isn't the only one to receive the biographical treatment. Here is a biography of our next First Lady, Michelle Obama.

Change We Can Believe In: Barack Obama's Plan to Renew America's Promise
Foreword by Barack Obama (Crown, 288 pages)
This campaign book outlines Obama's campaign platforms on issues such as the economy, health care and energy independence.

Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City
By Mary Pattillo (University of Chicago Press, 400 pages)
Patillo examines the historic and current shifts in the North Kenwood-Oakland neighborhoods on Chicago's South Side.

Richard Wright: The Life and Times
By Hazel Rowley (University of Chicago Press, 638 pages)
A critically acclaimed biography of writer Richard Wright, whose best-known novel Native Son was our October 2008 Book Club selection.

Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way
By Brian D. Schultz (Teachers College Press, 173 pages)
A chronicle of what happens when Schultz's fifth grade class at the beleaguered Carr Community Academy in Chicago are empowered to try to solve the problem of replacing their rundown school building.

Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body
By Neil Shubin (Pantheon, 229 pages)
Field Museum provost and University of Chicago professor Neil Shubin provides an accessible account of our evolutionary history.

On the Job: Behind the Stars of the Chicago Police Department
By Daniel P. Smith (Lake Claremont Press, 212 pages)
Smith profiles some of Chicago's finest.

House Rules: A Memoir
By Rachel Sontag (HarperCollins, 261 pages)
Sontag shares her harrowing story of the extreme mental and emotional abuse she suffered from her father while growing up in the Chicago area.

Drunkard: A Hard-Drinking Life
By Neil Steinberg (Dutton, 288 pages)
Unflinching memoir of Steinberg's journey from alchohol addiction to sobriety.

P. S.: Further Thoughts from a Lifetime of Listening
By Studs Terkel (New Press, 240 pages)
Terkel's last book before his death is a hand-picked collection of (mostly) previously unpublished writings which he unearthed while writing his memoir Touch and Go.

Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets
By Sudhir Venkatesh (Penguin, 302 pages)
As a graduate student in sociology at the University of Chicago, Venkatesh infiltrated a notorious Chicago street gang. He relates his experiences in this critically acclaimed book.

The Wordy Shipmates
By Sarah Vowell (Penguin, 272 pages)
NPR contributor Sarah Vowell explores 17th century New England and the Puritans in her new book.

The Transparent City
By Michael Wolf (Aperture Foundation, 112 pages)
Stunning collection of photographs of Chicago's Loop skyscrapers.

spudart / February 18, 2009 3:59 PM

ooo nice list. I'm surprised you don't have them linking over to Amazon (and put a little affiliate cash in gapers' pocket).

Jim / February 26, 2009 9:07 AM

Nice list. But the inclusion of Sarah Vowell's book puzzles me. The book itself is not about Chicago and she has no obvious Chicago connection, other than graduating from the Art Institute (at least according to Wikipedia).

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