The Gapers Block Book Club just wrapped up its first successful year this week with an entertaining discussion with author Wendy McClure about her memoir, I'm Not the New Me. Now, as we begin to plan what books to read in 2006, it might be helpful to review the new and notable books published this year about Chicago, or written by local writers.
This week — just in time to get a jump on holiday shopping — highlights just some of the non-fiction works published in 2005. The books include accounts of how railroads shaped the city, a study of our American justice system from the inside out, and explorations of the city's African American communities. From memoirs of living with chronic pain to encyclopedias of ordinary lives, this year's collection of books paints an eclectic portrait of life in the Windy City.
And next week look for a wrap-up of notable fiction from 2005:
Passionately Human, No Less Divine: Religion and Culture in Black Chicago, 1915-1952
by Wallace D. Best (Princeton University Press, 256 pages)
An examination of how blacks who moved to Chicago from the American South in the first half of the Twentieth Century transformed modern African American religion in the city.
American Gothic: A Life of America's Most Famous Painting
by Stephen Biel (W.W. Norton, 215 pages)
Grant Wood's iconic portrait of a farmer and his wife (or daughter) is one of the most reproduced and parodied American paintings — and it's hanging in the Art Institute of Chicago. American Gothic examines the life and popularity of this celebrity work of art.
Courtroom 302: A Year Behind the Scenes in an American Criminal Courthouse
by Steve Bogira (Knopf, 404 pages)
A captivating and critically acclaimed fist-hand look inside the human drama that takes place within a single courtroom in the Cook County Criminal Courthouse over the course of one year. Highly recommended.
Revealing Chicago: An Aerial Portrait
by Terry Evans (Abrams, 192 pages)
More than 120 spectacular aerial photographs of the Chicago region from photographer Terry Evans.
Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke
by Peter Guralnick (Little Brown, 748 pages)
This biography chronicles the life and career of singer Sam Cooke, who grew up in Chicago, and it is receiving critical praise.
Another Way Home: The Tangled Roots of Race in One Chicago Family
by Ronne Hartfield (University of Chicago Press, 178 pages)
A memoir of growing up in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood.
All in My Head: An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable, and Only Slightly Enlightening Headache
by Paula Kamen (Da Capo Lifelong Books, 256 pages)
Chicago writer Paula Kamen chronicles her ongoing struggle living with chronic pain in a memoir that is as funny as it is fascinating.
Chicagoland: City and Suburbs in the Railroad Age
by Ann Durkin Keating (University of Chicago Press, 262 pages)
Ann Durkin Keating is the coeditor of the excellent Encyclopedia of Chicago. In this new book she takes us back to the farms and towns of the 19th Century, connected to Chicago by the railroads, that make up the network called Chicagoland.
Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy
by Louise Knight (University of Chicago Press, 582 pages)
A critically acclaimed new biography of social reformer Jane Addams, exploring her early years from 1860 to 1899.
Yellow Black: The First Twenty Years of a Poet's Life
by Haki R. Madhubti (Third World Press, 253 pages)
The founder of Third World Press, one of the country's oldest independent black publishers, relates the early years of his life from Detroit to Chicago with a blend of poetry and prose.
I'm Not the New Me
by Wendy McClure (Riverhead Books, 320 pages)
A funny and bittersweet memoir about identity, weight loss, and finding the story in one's own life.
Chicago Architecture and Design (Rev. and Expanded ed.)
by Jay Pridmore (Abrams, 296 pages)
Although not strictly a new book, this new edition of Chicago Architecture and Design features more than 100 new photographs, plus a new chapter covering the last 20 years of architecture in Chicago, right up to Millennium Park.
Black Chicago's First Century: 1833-1900
by Christopher Robert Reed (University of Missouri Press, 582 pages)
Volume one of a new series explores the African American community in Chicago from the beginnings of the city through the end of the 19th century.
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life
by Amy Krause Rosenthal (Crown, 220 pages)
Rosenthal explores the trivia of her daily life in this unusual memoir, organized in A-Z entries.
Writers on the Air: Conversations about Books
by Donna Seaman (Paul Dry Books, 467 pages)
Donna Seaman is the editor of Booklist and host of the Chicago radio show, Open Books, on WLUW. This book is a collection of interviews from Open Books, with a variety of authors, many with their own Chicago connections. Writers featured include Sandra Cisneros, Margaret Atwood, Alex Kotlowitz, Stuart Dybek and many more.
Block by Block: Neighborhoods and Public Policy on Chicago's West Side
by Amanda I. Seligman (University of Chicago Press, 301 pages)
Seligman explores the racial transformations of Chicago neighborhoods on the West Side after World War II.
Chicago Dreaming: Midwesterners and the City, 1871-1919
by Timothy B. Spears (University of Chicago Press, 296 pages)
This book examines the reasons Midwesterners moved to Chicago and explores the cultural history of the city through writers such as Theodore Dreiser, Willa Cather and Richard Wright.
The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury
by Sam Weller (HarperCollins, 384 pages)
The first complete biography of author Ray Bradbury traces the life and career of this influential writer. The book is based on information collected from Bradbury's private papers, plus extensive interviews with Bradbury and others close to him.
Big Bill of Chicago
by Lloyd Wendt and Herman Kogan (Northwestern University Press, 370 pages)
Not a new book, but a classic returning to print thanks to the Northwestern University Press. This is the vibrant and entertaining biography of Chicago mayor William Hale "Big Bill" Thompson.
Lords of the Levee: The Story of Bathhouse John and Hinky Dink
by Lloyd Wendt and Herman Kogan (Nothwestern University Press, 385 pages)
Another classic Chicago history book returning to print. Lords of the Levee recounts the careers of two of Chicago's most notorious aldermen, "Bathhouse" John Coughlin and Michael "Hinky Dink" Kenna.
The Iron Horse and the Windy City: How Railroads Shaped Chicago
by David Young (Northern Illinois University Press, 280 pages)
This is the latest book from transportation expert David Young, who also wrote Chicago Transit: An Illustrated History.
Join the Gapers Block Book Club! Just sign up for the email list for news, announcements and more. Currently we are reading The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow. We will be meeting to discuss the book on Monday, January 9, 2006, at The Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln Ave. The meeting will begin at 7:30pm.