Great Books about Chicago


To celebrate the launch of Granta 108: Chicago, Granta has asked independent bookstores throughout Chicago to provide a list of their five favourite Chicago-related books. will be showcasing one bookstore each week. Today’s featured bookstore is
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The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon: Hemon has so fully adopted Chicago that he captures not only the landmarks and place names, but the ghosts–and with them the essence of this city. We’re proud to share it with him.

The Chicagoan: A Lost Magazine of the Jazz Age by Neil Harris: The magazine issues collected in this book hearken back to a long ago, almost ancient time when Chicago was known for corruption and crime. The Chicagoan countered all that, and represented high culture with the graceful wit we still see in its longer-lived cousin The New Yorker. And it did so in gorgeous Art Deco style.

Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago by Mike Royko: For many, Richard J. Daley is the essence of Chicago politics, a sort of latter-day, Midwestern, Boss Tweed. In a city known for machine politics powerful enough to swing the state and sometimes the country, Daley’s son is the still-beating heart of that tradition.

Blueprint for Disaster: The Unraveling of Chicago Public Housing by D. Bradford Hunt: Fresh from the University of Chicago Press, Hunt’s new book is a stunning study of the administrative and practical disaster of project housing. Though this book owes a debt to Mary Patillo’s North Kenwood-focused Black on the Block, it is its own awe-inspiring tale of incompetence and failed ideals.

Division Street: America by Studs Terkel: Less a book about Chicago than about Chicagoans, Division Street is a voyeuristic and deeply personal look at a cross-section of the city’s inhabitants through Terkel’s characteristic oral histories. These are the stories and concerns of everyday people at the height of a time of great change, and perhaps the best work by one of Chicago’s best-known sons.

Celebrating Granta’s special Chicago issue at 57th Street Books

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