Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Tuesday, March 5

Gapers Block

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Shylo / October 19, 2004 11:38 AM

"Magical Thinking," by Augusten Burroughs.

Joseph J. Finn / October 19, 2004 11:42 AM

Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson. Comes out in the US in November, and it's a fantastic novel about three intertwining old murder cases and the PI hired ot investigate them. Fantastic and touching work.

Kirsten / October 19, 2004 11:59 AM

I'm on a Margaret Atwood kick right now, read Oryx and Crake, then Blind Assassin, and am working my way through Alias Grace. All fantastic.

Jeffrey / October 19, 2004 12:25 PM

"A is For American" by Jill Lepore examines the efforts of forebears as diverse as Daniel Webster, S. F. B. Morse and Sequoya to find / create linguistic commonalities for our nation.

"River Of Shadows" by Rebecca Solnit recounts Eadweard Muybridge's contributions to the ways we experience time and look at pictures.

Hmmm, both nineteenth century scenarios...

robin.. / October 19, 2004 12:25 PM

i just got my hands on, and devoured, the last two books in stephen king's "dark tower" series. i love me some roland.

on a less pop lit tip, i cannot stop talking about "the master and margarita," which i read many months ago and _loved so much_. best novel ever. highly recommended. for non-fiction, i would recommend thomas frank's "what's the matter with kansas." i'm from kansas, and he hits the mark.

Ramsin / October 19, 2004 12:26 PM

"The Great Unraveling" by Paul Krugman may or may not cause you to fall into deep spells of terrible paranoia about the current administration.

I finally got my hands on my own copy of "Rogues, Rebels, and Rubberstamps, A History of the Chicago City Council," by one-time rogue alderman Dick Simpson

steven / October 19, 2004 12:31 PM

finished devil in the white city about a month ago. fascinating to be brought back in time to one of the turning points of our little town.

salty / October 19, 2004 12:32 PM

"Ask the Pilot" by Patrick Smith.

Smith is an airline pilot and a columnist for, and he's sorta like a Dan Savage of airlines. Well, more like a Straight Dope.

salty / October 19, 2004 12:40 PM

Also, "America: The Book" by Jon Stewart.

Beyond all the (way too funny) charts and sidebars, it really does explain America's history and how the goverment (doesn't) work. Candy-coated history. Sweeeet. Will make you cry.

Michael / October 19, 2004 1:00 PM

I can't get enough of Chicago history. If you have yet to read The Devil In The White City, I highly recommend it -- it reads more like a good novel than non-fiction. Also, I just started reading When Corruption Was King,, which is about the rise and fall of the Chicago Outfit.

holden / October 19, 2004 1:05 PM

"Postville" by Samuel somethingerother. A true story, about a small town in Iowa, very Lutheran, very undiversified, very rural. A group of ultra-orthadox Jews move in and buy a vacant slaughterhouse and turn it into the largest Lubavicher kosher slaughterhouse in the world. The book documents all the ensuing friction and polarity between the two groups. A read that had a lot of points that hit home, being that I am a small town (non-Lutheran) Iowa boy that has recently moved to the big city.

jima / October 19, 2004 1:15 PM

The latest Lemony Snicket book. Gotta wait till next year for the next one, mutter mutter.

Thurston / October 19, 2004 1:29 PM

These two non-fiction books by Chicago authors are very good reading in my opinion.

"The Kimchi Matters" by U of C professor Marvin Zonis and others is a great book on globalization which highlights the importance of understanding local issues when making economic decisions. Highly recomended to those interested in economic policy and international business.

"Naked Economics" by Charles Wheelan (who currently works for Chicago 2020,a gorup trying to improve Chicagoland's transportation resources) offers an interesting refresher on the tenets of mircro- and macro-economics (really, no kiding). A quick read that will greatly enhance one's ability to evaluate what the pundits and politicians say about the state of our economy.

Needless to say, I'm an economics nerd. But these books really have wide appeal to current events buffs and the global-minded. Too many people rail against different economic models without really understanding them. Help end economic ignorance!

anne / October 19, 2004 1:31 PM

I just finished an ancient copy of Valley of the Dolls which a friend was throwing out. I have to say it was better than the movie. I'm just starting Louise Erdrich's novel The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse which is another of her beautiful novels about an Ojibiwe tribe in North Dakota.

Andy / October 19, 2004 1:34 PM

"The Book of Illusions," by Paul Auster. Really, you can't go wrong with anything Paul Auster (especially in the fall).

Tom / October 19, 2004 1:49 PM

Not sure where you fiction readers find the time, but the latest on The Paradox of Choice, which seeks to help explain exactly how truism "too much of a good thing" works.

My favorite part recently was regarding health care. It went something along the lines of "why is a doctor with 12 years of additional schooling asking me which medication or treatment plan I prefer? I am not qualified to make these decisions, which is exactly why I pay you to make them for me."

Not sure this is what Devo had in mind when they urged us to use our Freedom of Choice, but it's a good read.

Steve / October 19, 2004 2:07 PM

Best thing I've read in the last few months was probably Fortress of Solitude.

In genre fiction land, I just finished Hark! by Ed McBain yesterday -- solid stuff as always.

And now, I am eager to start Attack Poodles and Other Media Mutants by the lovely James Wolcott....

Nate / October 19, 2004 2:48 PM

Island by Aldous Huxley --- utopian advice for humanity's ills.

Alice / October 19, 2004 2:51 PM

Fiction: Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde. Although I recommend starting with the first in the series, The Eyre Affair. Funny, smart sci-fi detective stories with a literary twist.

Non-Fiction: Got a lot of stuff waiting to be read, but I'm sorry to say I haven't read any non-fiction yet this year that's really knocked my socks off.

Brian / October 19, 2004 3:47 PM

For those of you who like Chicago history, I'd recommend Lost City by Alan Ehrenhalt. It does a great job of describing three slices of Chicago life in the 50s.

As for me, I'm enjoying mystery short stories. The "Best Of..." Short Stories are great.

Suzanne / October 19, 2004 4:30 PM

Middlesex By Jeffery Eugenides was so absolutely freakin fantastic, I was sad when I finished.
Everything I've read since pales in comparison.

margot / October 19, 2004 4:56 PM

The Twilight Years: Paris in the 1930's

Great book, with a great sense of humor for a non-fiction. I'm obsessed with all things Parisian, and so The Crazy Years: Paris in the 1920's is on the docket next.

Erik / October 19, 2004 5:23 PM

I just read "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole and thought that it was great. The author has created some of the most colorful charactures and detailed situations that I have come across.

Jerry / October 19, 2004 8:30 PM

Stephen Bayley's General Knowledge, a collection of this British critic's writings from the past twenty or so years. He writes his opionions about everything - like an anglo Roland Barthes - but his essays almost always draw connections between artful design of industry's products with society and culture itself.

Texts ranging from the decline of British manufacturing to the enduring shape of Coca-Cola's classic bottle design; Italian specialist carmaking workshops to the horror of modern luxury appear in the collection. Bayley's perspective on the modern world and its artifacts is awesome.

"Design is not just the matter of doing dramatic magic-marker renderings to art-up a nasty product at the last moment. It is, more simply, a matter of thinking -- a matter of not holding the public in contempt."


robin / October 19, 2004 11:01 PM

McSweeney's Created in Darkness By Troubled Americans made me laugh til I teared up and I wish I could read Random Family (Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx) by Adrian LeBlanc for the first time again. It was disturbing and incredible.

Veronica / October 19, 2004 11:05 PM

I'm on Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro, who has a wonderful narrative voice. It's something I've been wanting to read for a while.

And I, too, have been reading the Lemony Snickets. I need to get cracking on books 8-11 so I can find out what VFD means!

Alex / October 20, 2004 6:06 AM

Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss, over and over and over again. It's my kid's favorite..

Joe / October 20, 2004 6:37 AM

"How to Lie With Statistics" - Darrell Huff and Irving Geis. Copyright, 1954.

Kind of outdated, because today you can just make up any numbers you want and 97.6% of the population will believe you. But if you need some more refined techniques to trick smart people, this is a good book.

betty / October 20, 2004 7:45 AM

The Basic Eight is the

Mike / October 20, 2004 8:58 AM

Fiction I'm reading right now: Gao Xingpian's Soul Mountain. He's the only Chinese man ever to win the Nobel Prize and therefore my mom has made me read him (she's a Nobel-nut, what can I say?). It's a semi-biographical story about a man who is told he has cancer, gives up on the rest of his life completely and then finds out 6 weeks later that it was a misdiagnosis. He then goes out to the middle of nowhere to find out what life should mean again. Pretty heavy sh-t.
Last non-fiction: George Lakoff Don't Think of an Elephant, the best book on political organizing and framing I've ever read.

steve_sleeve / October 20, 2004 9:48 AM

Fortress Of Solitude AND Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem. New favorite author.

Currently about two-thirds of the way through The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon.

jenny / October 20, 2004 9:51 AM

Just finished two that I liked a lot:

The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Klay
The Coast of Chicago

Oh! And
Slim's Table (vintage UofC)
and Gangs of Chicago

I'm on a Chicago up, Atoms in the Family by Laura Fermi, daughter of Enrico.

Andrew / October 20, 2004 11:28 AM

Alas, none, unless you count the AP Manual of Style. I barely have time to read the paper these days.

miss ellen / October 20, 2004 12:04 PM

ditto, andrew.

BUT, if you haven't read ramsin's new piece, please do. for the love of our country....

kara / October 20, 2004 12:19 PM

Crossing California, by Adam Langer is set in our own beloved West Rogers Park. Takes place in the late 70s/early 80s. Absolutely Wonderful. The characters make it. Small Fabulous Jews by Epstein also a wonderful collection of stories. If you are interested in Jewish life in Chicago, or if you are just interested in great writing, these books fit the bill.

Jim Larson / October 20, 2004 4:25 PM

The End of The Affair by Graham Greene
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of his birth I read one of the few novels I somehow missed. He was one of the best story tellers of the 20th century and created characters who stay with you forever.

Jim Larson / October 20, 2004 4:26 PM

The End of The Affair by Graham Greene
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of his birth I read one of the few novels I somehow missed. He was one of the best story tellers of the 20th century and created characters who stay with you forever.

Lyle from Lisle / October 20, 2004 10:37 PM

The (North) Korean thread of David Mitchell's CLOUD ATLAS. I will go back and read in sequence from the beginning, gathering all threads.

Gordon / October 20, 2004 10:55 PM

"In Our Image: America's Empire in the Phillipines" by Stanley Karnow.

Oh, and "The Adobe Illustrator CS Wow! Book" ...

Hissyfit / October 21, 2004 9:29 AM

I've almost finished Sarah Vowell's Partly Cloudy Patriot. It's great election-season reading. She's smart, funny, and a liberal who really loves her country. She manages to weave Buffy the Vampire Slayer into her essay on the last election (Gore "the Nerd" v. Bush "the Jock") and it's genius.

Pete / October 21, 2004 10:09 AM

Anthony Hatch's "Tinder Box: The Iroquois Theatre Disaster 1903" (very good) and Alex Kotlowitz's "Never a City So Real: A Walk in Chicago" (excellent).

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