Annotated Bibliography

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Click on the image to buy it at   Information and Michael's annotated description of Chicago Books
AIA Guide to Chicago

AIA Guide to Chicago
Ed. Alice Sinkevitch. Harvest Books, 2nd ed., April 2003.
I can’t say enough about this book, particularly this new edition. I find myself curling up with this puppy like it’s a best-selling potboiler. OK, I'm a Chicago geek, but this is one indispensable piece of Chicago-ology. The dates, architects, and brief (and often lengthy) comments on almost every significant building (and house) in the entire city of Chicago, plus the architectural treasure trove that is Oak Park. Even has a nice capsule history of Chicago at the beginning by noted Chicago historian Perry Duis. If you want to learn about Chicago Architecture, this is the place.

Architecture in Detail: Chicago

Architecture in Detail: Chicago
Thomas J. O'Gorman. PRC Publishing, June 2003.
I love this little thing! It has lovely pictures and great descriptions of a selection of Chicago buildings, many of them too new or obscure to be covered by the major architectural guides. Not just showing long shots of the entire building, the photos also show close-up details of structural and decorative elements, something you'll know we are fond of if you've visited our photo gallery.

The Art Institute of Chicago: The Essential Guide

The Art Institute of Chicago: The Essential Guide
Teri J. Edelstein et al. Art Institute of Chicago Museum Shop, October 1993.
It would be impossible to publish a complete account of the “Artitute's” massive collection (unless it was a 20 volume set or something), but this is a very nice compilation of the museum’s major pieces, with beautiful photos and quality commentary.

Black Chicago : The Making of a Negro Ghetto, 1890-1920

Black Chicago: The Making of a Negro Ghetto, 1890-1920
Allan H. Spear. University of Chicago Press, April 1969.
A fabulous short history of the city’s early black community, it distills the most salient information from several longer texts (particularly Black Metropolis). A good starting point for those looking to delve into the black experience in Chicago.

Black Metropolis

Black Metropolis
St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton. University Of Chicago Press, rev. & enlarged ed., August 1993.
One of the best ethnographic/sociological texts of the 20th century, it also contains a brilliant and blistering forward by Native Son author Richard Wright which delves into his theory of the psychological underpinnings of racism (worth the money just for that). It contains a history of early black Chicago combined with painstakingly thorough and illuminating study of Chicago’s “Bronzeville” community in the 1940s.

Challenging Chicago: Coping With Everyday Life, 1837-1920

Challenging Chicago: Coping With Everyday Life, 1837-1920
Perry Duis. University of Illinois Press, September 1998.
This eclectic tome deals with early Chicago history from the perspective of the average citizen. Lots of fun facts and stories about getting by in the City with Big Shoulders.

Chicago: A Guide to Recent Architecture

Chicago: A Guide to Recent Architecture
Susanna Sirefman. Konemann, March 1997.
This little (literally) volume still fills an important gap in Chicago architecture guides, despite the fact that, at more than 10 years old, it’s a little long in the metaphorical tooth itself. The recent new editions of the AIA Guide, Pocket Guide to Chicago Architecture, and Chicago’s Famous Buildings have taken up some of the slack, but this book remains a handy guide to Chicago structures built between the mid-eighties and mid-nineties. There are some unique and inspired choices (such as the 1988 addition to the Chicago Historical Society and the Commonwealth Edison Substation next to The Hard Rock Café) and some risky ones (such as certain restaurants and retail stores which are no longer in business), but author Susanna Sirefman attempted to create a bold and sassy alternative to conventional architectural texts and succeeded rather well.

Chicago at the Turn of the Century in Photographs

Chicago at the Turn of the Century in Photographs: 122 Historic Views from the Collections of the Chicago Historical Society
Larry A. Viskochil. Dover Publications, April 1984.
The title pretty much explains it all. The Barnes-Crosby Company, which was one of the city’s largest photo engraving companies in the late 19th and early 20th Century, gifted the Chicago Historical Society with 300 negatives of buildings and street scenes from around the turn of the century. This book contains 122 gigantic prints from said collection, and they are tremendous. Commentary is sparse to nonexistent, but if you enjoy big old photos from Chicago’s past (and who doesn't?), this one is a must have.

Chicago City of Neighborhoods: Histories and Tours
Dominic A. Pacyga and Ellen Skerrett. Loyola Press, June 1986.
This is an amazing piece of work. Pacyga and Skerrett methodically go through every single darn neighborhood in this city and break down the info on who settled it, what Churches and institutions they built, where they went when they moved out, who replaced/displaced them, what those people built and did, where they went and who replaced/displaced them. Especially valuable if you are interested in the scores of Churches in the city and who built them and worshiped there over the decades. Plus, it has really cool little vehicle tours you can take yourself! Although much of the info therein is dated. I’d love to see an updated version, but it must have been such a huge project to do this book in the first place that I can understand why they’re not rushing to crank out a new edition. Plus, it just wouldn't read the same, as so many chapters would end, “Then a bunch of homogenous rich yuppie buttweasels moved in and forced all the _______s out.”

Chicago Day at the World's Columbian Exposition

Chicago Day at the World's Columbian Exposition: Illustrated With Candid Photographs
G. L. Dybwad and Joy V. Bliss. Book Stops Here, 1st ed., June 1997.
An in depth account of all the events and errata from “Chicago Day” at the Columbian Exposition. Almost all businesses in the city closed that day and over 750,000 people packed the grounds of the Exposition, leading to a slew of logistical problems and crowd issues. Not the most well organized book ever, but filled with interesting little details, stories, and pictures.

Chicago from the River

Chicago from the River
Joan V. Lindsay. Joan V. and Douglas Lindsay, March 1996.
This is actually a book version of the river tour of legendary Chicago tour guide Joan Lindsay. It is replete with lovely photos and captivating commentary.

Chicago : Growth of a Metropolis

Chicago: Growth of a Metropolis
Harold M. Mayer and Richard C. Wade. University of Chicago Press, May 1973.
I like this book more for its impressive collection of photos and illustrations than for the actual history therein (which contains some factual errors). But this was the very first Chicago history text I ever read, so it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Chicago In and Around the Loop

Chicago In and Around the Loop: Walking Tours of Architecture and History
Gerard R. Wolfe. McGraw-Hill Professional, 2d ed., January 2004.
I thought I was able to cram a lot of information into a tour, but Wolfe makes me look like Fluffy Von Noinfo. An unbelievable amount of facts, figures, history, lore, maps etc. etc. (about the only thing missing is recipes).

Chicago on foot: Walking tours of Chicago's architecture
Ira J. Bach, Susan Wolfson, and James Cornelius. Chicago Review Press, 5th ed., April 1994.
The fact that so much has changed in the last 11 years makes much of this book out-of-date, but it is still worthwhile (although you might want to just check it out of the library), especially since it describes several tours outside of the downtown area (unfortunately where even more has often changed). If/when they put out a 6th edition, I'll be all over it like white on rice.

Chicago Originals: A Cast of the City's Colorful Characters
by Kenen Heise and Ed Baumann. Bonus Books, October 1990.
Scads of snippets about Chicago’s kooky notables. Kenen Heise came and spoke to a Chicago Authors class which I took at DePaul University. I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up in someone else’s book on colorful Chicagoans someday (I mean that in a good way).

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Chicago Public Art Guide (Formerly Loop Sculpture Guide)
Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, 2004.
Pick up a copy of this handy guide at the Chicago Cultural Center Gift Shop/Bookstore, Millennium Park Visitor's Center, or Chicago Waterworks/Pumping Station. This revised and expanded edition describes most of the major pieces of Public Art in the downtown area, with very interesting and useful commentary.

The Chicago River: A Natural and Unnatural History

The Chicago River: A Natural and Unnatural History
by Libby Hill, Lake Claremont Press; 1st ed., August 2000.
This Chicago River book deals with the history of the river itself, from it’s formation in the glacial era, through the various canals and alterations, right up to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and the current state of affairs.

The Chicago River: An Illustrated History and Guide to the River and Its Waterways

The Chicago River: An Illustrated History and Guide to the River and Its Waterways
by David Solzman. Wild Onion Books, August 1998.
An example of two Chicago related books which have the same title, but are each worthwhile in their own way. Solzman’s book (although it does cover the history) focuses more on the current geography (and structures, parks, and buildings on) of the river, it’s branches and waterways (including Lake Michigan). It also has a series of tours of Chicago’s waterways you can take yourself and a listing of places where you can obtain Chicago waterway tours (even by canoe and kayak).

The Chicago School of Architecture : A History of Commercial and Public Building in the Chicago Area, 1875-1925

The Chicago School of Architecture: A History of Commercial and Public Building in the Chicago Area, 1875-1925
Carl W. Condit. University Of Chicago Press, November 1998.
The definitive text on that much loved and lauded school of architecture. If you know of a better one, please let me know. A little dense and verbose at times (but I should talk, eh?).

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Chicago Sketches: Urban Tales, Stories, and Legends from Chicago History
June Skinner Sawyers, Loyola Press, August 1996.
A series of short essays on various events and personalities from Chicago’s history. Rich in detail and narrative. Hard to believe she’s originally from Scotland.

The Chicago World's Fair of 1893 : A Photographic Record 

The Chicago World's Fair of 1893: A Photographic Record
Stanley Appelbaum (Editor), Dover Publications, June 1980).
I am in love with this book and its big, beautiful photographs mixed with interesting text about the Columbian Exposition. A great starting point for those interested in learning more about this pivotal event in American history. You'll have to start collecting antique books from the 1890’s off eBay (like we have) to find better photos.

Chicago's Famous Buildings

Chicago's Famous Buildings
Franz Schulze and Kevin Harrington. University of Chicago Press; 5th ed., November 2003.
Extensive listing of noteworthy buildings in the downtown area, plus the rest of the city and several suburbs. Unlike many architectural guides, which tend to take a somewhat neutral position on matters of aesthetics, Harrington and Schulze aren't afraid to get a little curmudgeonly (with hilariously clever and accurate results). One of my favorite phrases: “…the wildly popular excrescence of the Cheesecake Factory restaurant…” This is definitely a valuable guide for any fan of Chicago Architecture.

Chicago's Mansions, by John Graf

Chicago's Mansions
John Graf. Arcadia Publishing, December 2004.
It's amazing the people you meet on eBay...Chicago collector, historian, and author John Graf is graciously sharing some images with us and we figured we really ought to give his books a look! The cranky proletarian part of me was ready not to like this book, but I was quickly won over and captivated by this fascinating and lovingly chronicled volume. Containing page upon page of eclectic and beautiful structures interspersed with an array of interesting facts and stories, Chicago's Mansions illustrates Graf's contention that these structures are as much a part of the city's architectural legacy as its Skyscrapers and public buildings. Divided into sections featuring the Mansions of the South, North and West Sides, with a heartbreaking final chapter highlighting Chicago's Lost Mansions; this book would be of interest to all who posess a love of architecture and history.

Chicago's Monuments, Markers, and Memorials by John Graf

Chicago's Monuments, Markers, and Memorials
John Graf, Steve Skorpad. Arcadia Publishing, July 2002.
Anyone who has spent time in Chicago is aware of the plethora of statues, plaques and sculptures in the Downtown area, but there are literally hundreds of more obscure effigies, icons, and tablets strewn throughout Chicago's neighborhoods, and discovering one of them is always like participating in some sort of delightful scavenger hunt. This Graf volume (with photos by Steve Skoropad) meticulously and lovingly chronicles just about all of this legion of far-flung treasures, as well as covering the major monuments in the Downtown. John manages to come up with fascinating unfamiliar info about Chicago's more well documented statuary, and even includes many of the major monuments in the city's larger cemeteries (an entire universe unto itself). Unbelievably thorough (the only thing I can think of that isn't included is The Joyce Kilmer Triangle up in Rogers Park*), this "small but mighty" paperback is an absolute must-have for any aspiring tour guide, or any Chicagoan who's wondered what the story is on that weird statue in the little park down the street.

*Which may not even be an official city monument- it's a 30 square foot triangular traffic median which someone dedicated to the author of the poem 'Trees". Rather hilarious, actually, someday we'll pop up North and document it for your amusement.

Chicago's Parks, by John Graf

Chicago's Parks (Images of America) (Paperback)
by John Graf. Arcadia Publishing, August 2000.
A Photographic History- Another very nice offering from John Graf. It provides a nice capsule history of the genesis of the Chicago Park system, along with a couple hundred lovely vintage photos of Chicago's famous (and not so famous) parks. The stories behind many individual neighborhood parks are also chronicled accompanied with contemporary photos (again by Steve Skoropad) . Fascinating as a general Chicago history, not just for those interested in the 550 plus parks that make Chicago a "city in a garden."

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Nostalgic Views of Chicago (Images of America) (Paperback)
by John Graf. Arcadia Publishing, 2005.
This tiny tome was published in conjuction with Borders (who were obviously looking for something slight and inexpensive to push at their billion locations) and is a sort of "John Graf's Greatest Hits" compilation from the three preceding volumes. While definitely not for a serious bibliophile (or those who've read his other works), at a trifling ten dollars it would make a nice stocking stuffer, present for Aunt Edna, Secret Santa gift for someone at the office, or (as in our case) filling out the rest of a Borders gift card (thanks Gerald & Beth!). But you'll have to look in a bricks-and-mortar Borders to obtain it—it's not available online.

City of Big Shoulders: A History of Chicago

City of Big Shoulders: A History of Chicago
Robert G. Spinney. Northern Illinois University Press, June 2000.
This is a very, very nice Chicago history. Spinney condenses material from some very dry and complex sources into an eminently readable and riveting recounting of the city’s story. Scholarly and intellectual without being didactic and entertaining but not dumbed-down, this is one of my favorite general Chicago histories.

City of the Century

City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America
Donald L. Miller. Simon & Schuster; Reprint ed., April 1997.
The source text for the fabulous 4-part PBS American Experience special. It follows the inception and explosive growth of Chicago in the 1800’s, and how the city epitomized the nation’s spirit at the time.

A Cook's Guide to Chicago

A Cook's Guide to Chicago
Marilyn Pocius. Lake Claremont Press, 1st ed., June 2002.
The sections about where to find gourmet items, spices, meats, and produce are nice; but I really like the chapters on various ethnic markets (particularly the more exotic Indian, Pakistani, Korean and Southeast Asian cuisines). Pocius’ book provides an excellent resource on all the city’s major ethnic foods; what spices and ingredients they consist of, where you can find them, and some recipes for various dishes. This is just an invaluable guide to cooking in Chicago, it even lists cooking schools and places to get cooking supplies and equipment. I’ve also heard that Marilyn actually gives tours of the markets and restaurants of the Indian/Pakistani area on Devon Avenue and I would love to take one.


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