Chicago books to give as gifts

The families who trek downtown and brave the frigid wind to ice skate in Millennium Park.

The Bears fans who have "The Super Bowl Shuffle" music video bookmarked.

The food lovers who know deep dish pizza and Chicago-style popcorn are dishes second to none.

The everyday people trying to keep our politicians honest and transparent.

These are the obsessives for whom a book about Chicago can make a wonderful gift. But which title from 2013's roster to choose? Pair the intended recipient's hobbies or interests with a Windy City theme, and a good selection becomes a must read.

This piece first ran in Printers Row Journal, delivered to Printers Row members with the Sunday Chicago Tribune and by digital edition via email. Click here to learn about joining Printers Row.

History buffs will delight in "Chicago by Day and Night: The Pleasure Seeker's Guide to the Paris of America" edited by Paul Durica and Bill Savage (Northwestern University, $16.95 paperback). This small book repurposes a work of the same name handed out to visitors at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. It describes the city's tame offerings — museums, parks, architecture — and its seedier side — gambling, booze, women.

In a similar vein, Joseph Gustaitis' "Chicago's Greatest Year, 1893: The White City and the Birth of a Modern Metropolis" (Southern Illinois University, $29.95 paperback) looks at Chicago's cultural achievements that year apart from the exposition.

"Mayor 1%: Rahm Emanuel and the Rise of Chicago's 99%" by Kari Lydersen (Haymarket, $16 paperback) should keep political junkies satisfied until the next election cycle. Lydersen's book, published by Chicago-based Haymarket, describes Mayor Emanuel's ties to Wall Street and what Lydersen calls Emanuel's "private-sector approach" to government.

Tangentially related is Ezekiel J. Emanuel's "Brothers Emanuel" (Random House, $27), an account by the mayor's eldest brother of growing up in a modest home that produced three successful men: Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel, the mayor and the author, a bioethicist and oncologist.

In his review of "Monsters" by Rich Cohen (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26), the Tribune's Rick Kogan wrote: "Chicago is a football city." That sentiment is alive and well in this biography of the 1985 Super Bowl-winning Chicago Bears, which combines team and league history with stories from the players and Cohen's own memories.


"Ramblers" by Michael Lenehan (Agate Midway, $16 paperback) focuses on another sport, basketball; another year, 1963; and another team, the Loyola University Ramblers. The book tells the story of the history-making game, known as "the game of change," in which Loyola's interracial squad beat the all-white Mississippi State University team, forever changing basketball.

Art book enthusiasts will pore over "Stray Light" by David Hartt (Columbia College Chicago, $60) and "The Illustrated Press: Chicago" by Darryl Holliday and E.N. Rodriguez ( Hartt, a photographer, takes readers inside the famous Johnson Publishing Co. headquarters on Michigan Avenue, documenting the building's unique design and furniture, which retain its signature 1970s look. "The Illustrated Press: Chicago" records the city as it is today.

"The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie" by Paula Haney (Agate Midway, $29.95) and "Hot Doug's" by Doug Sohn with Kate DeVivo (Agate Midway, $24.95) make perfect gifts for foodies or home cooks. "The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie" is both a cookbook and a memoir of how Haney went from a pastry chef at Trio to the owner of a successful artisanal pie shop. Sohn's book chronicles the history of encased meats, tells the story of his store and includes anecdotes from Hot Doug fans.


Chicago is far from a city without problems, as the pages of the Tribune detail each day. "After Visiting Friends" by Michael Hainey (Scribner, $26) is a touching memoir of Hainey's decade-long attempt to clarify the fuzzy details surrounding his father's death. At once the story of a man hoping to find answers about a father he never really knew and an intelligently constructed thriller, the book puts the reader next to Hainey, following each lead as he attempts to reconstruct what happened.

Miles Harvey, a DePaul professor and journalist, was so shocked by the beating death of Chicago teenager Derrion Albert that he asked his students to interview the Chicago residents most affected by violence. The result was a play called "How Long Will I Cry? Voices of Youth Violence" (Big Shoulders, free paperback) and a book of the same name. The works tell the tragic stories of victims, perpetrators and everyday people trying to survive daily life in crime-ridden neighborhoods.

Firsthand accounts of life in Chicago pepper the pages of Neil Steinberg's "You Were Never in Chicago" (University of Chicago, $25), Samantha Irby's "Meaty" (Curbside Splendor, $15.95 paperback) and "Briefly Knocked Unconscious By a Low Flying Duck: Stories From 2nd Story" (Elephant Rock, $20 paperback).

Steinberg, a Sun-Times columnist, combines his reportage with a memoir of the more than three decades he has spent in the city. Irby's essay collection tells her story of growing up in Chicago and Evanston, but with significantly more four-letter words. A popular blogger known for her website, Bitches Gotta Eat, Irby's collection features her trademark food and dude stories but balances that with poignant essays about her parents.

"Briefly Knocked Unconscious" is a collection of essays from the storytelling collective 2nd Story. The book features true tales from Chicagoans.

Courtney Crowder covers the Chicago literary scene for Printers Row Journal.

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