Annotated Bibliography

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Click on the image to buy it at Amazon.com   Information and Michael's annotated description of Chicago Books
The Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
Erik Larson. Vintage ed., February 2004.
If I could get everyone I’ve seen reading this engrossing little number on the EL train to take my Columbian Exposition Tour, I’d be a rich man. An historical novel that’s as gripping a read as you’ll ever find. Although the storyline about the killer veers into hooha-aciousness almost immediately, Daniel Burnham’s (and the literal army of architects, engineers, craftsmen, and laborers who contributed) struggle to actualize the monumental undertaking that was the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition is the stuff of heroic legend. During my research for Hollywood on Lake Michigan, 2d. edition, (now available for pre-order), I interviewed Hollywood producer Michael Shamberg, who optioned the rights and is developing a movie version of the book. Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) is working on the script, to be completed late 2009/early 2010.

Eastland: Legacy of the Titanic

Eastland: Legacy of the Titanic
George W. Hilton. Stanford University Press, October 1996.
If you want the lowdown on one of the worst maritime disasters in history, definitely check out this work. An excursion for Westinghouse employees and their families in 1915 turns tragic when the Eastland steamer suddenly capsizes in the Chicago River, drowning over 800 people. Hilton reveals how a law hastily passed after the sinking of the Titanic requiring ships to have enough lifeboats for every passenger (public outcry was intense after the story about how Leonardo DiCaprio drowned got around) caused an already top-heavy Eastland to be loaded down with extra boats, turning it into a death trap for those unfortunate souls. Also features a minute by minute account of the tragedy culled from the transcripts of the ensuing inquest. Don’t show this book to Gordon Lightfoot, or we’ll have another long-ass dirge on our hands.

The Encyclopedia of Chicago

The Encyclopedia of Chicago
Ed. James R. Grossman, Ann Durkin Keating, and Janice L. Reiff. University of Chicago Press, October 2004.
This big old tome was released to great fanfare and hype, much of which it lived up to, some of which it didn't. The major complaint about it (which we share) is that the entries are too short, but how can they not be with all the ground they are trying to cover? Still, it is an impressive work, a grand undertaking in the true Chicago tradition that succeeds much more often than it fails. There are little tangents and embellishments, like the map which shows all the various labor protests and marches during the period leading up to Haymarket, that are absolutely fabulous. It is now online, so it should only grow and improve as time passes.

Ethnic Chicago: A Multicultural Portrait

Ethnic Chicago: A Multicultural Portrait
Melvin G. Holli and Peter D'A. Jones. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 4th ed., May 1995
There are two different books with the title “Ethnic Chicago” and they each are valuable in their own way. This particular volume is very scholarly and intellectual, which is expected since it is a series of scholarly essays on the history and detailed experiences of several immigrant groups in Chicago (some of the essays are excerpts or preliminary findings from doctoral or master’s theses). I have a deep and abiding love of scholarship and “the stories behind the stories,” so this tome is one of my faves.

Graveyards of Chicago: The People, History, Art, and Lore of Cook County Cemeteries

Graveyards of Chicago: The People, History, Art, and Lore of Cook County Cemeteries
Matt Hucke and Ursula Bielski. Lake Claremont Press, 1st ed., November 1999.
This volume is an invaluable guide to the major cemeteries of the city and suburbs, nicely organized for easy location of various graveyards. Be warned, however, that Bielski's text sometimes prizes legend and story above fact. The photos within are supplemented by Matt Hucke’s excellent Website Graveyards.com, which was actually the inspiration for this book.

The Great Chicago Fire: In Eyewitness Accounts and 70 Contemporary Photographs and Illustrations

The Great Chicago Fire: In Eyewitness Accounts and 70 Contemporary Photographs and Illustrations
Ed. David Lowe. Dover Publications, March 1979.
A nice little study of the Great Fire of 1871, with (as the title suggests) lots of photos and illustrations. Definitely worth having, especially if you’re interested in knowing more about that epic inferno and don’t want to slog through anything academic.

Great Chicago Fires: Historic Blazes That Shaped a City

Great Chicago Fires: Historic Blazes That Shaped a City
David Cowan. Lake Claremont Press, 1st ed., July 2001.
The Great Fire of 1871 was but one of many tragic fires in the city’s history. Filled with pictures and first-hand accounts; the Stockyards Fire, the Iroquois Theater fire, and Our Lady of the Angels school conflagration are a few of the fatal blazes chronicled in this volume.

Hollywood on Lake Michigan: 100 Years of Chicago & the Movies

Hollywood on Lake Michigan: 100 Years of Chicago & the Movies
Arnie Bernstein and Holly Pluard (photographer). Lake Claremont Press, 1st ed., December 1998.
This is the book on Chicago’s cinematic history, from the very beginnings of the film industry (back when Chicago, for all intents and purposes, was Hollywood) up through the mid-1990’s. Jam-packed with cool stories and detailed listings of locations where many favorite Chicago-set movies were shot. My copy is festooned with about 50 flags where I’ve marked various paragraphs. Please buy and enjoy this book, then email Arnie and his publisher (Lake Claremont Press) and BEG them to put out an updated edition.

UPDATE 5/08: Me and my big mouth! After a few years of my persistent bothering about an update, Sharon Woodhouse, the owner of Lake Claremont Press, posed the question: "Well, how would YOU like to do it?" Although intimidating, the offer was too intriguing to turn down; I'll be working with Arnie B. to produce a revised and updated version. Watch for it in 2009!

UPDATE 6/09: Hollywood on Lake Michigan, 2d. edition, is all finished and is scheduled to be out in August 2009. Now available for pre-order on Amazon.com!

The Hoofs and Guns of the Storm: Chicago's Civil War Connections

The Hoofs and Guns of the Storm: Chicago's Civil War Connections
Arnie Bernstein. Lake Claremont Press, 1st ed., September 2003.
A thorough compendium of Chicago’s connection to and effect upon the Civil War. The city became one of the major engines of the Union war machine (from the meat packed in the stockyards to the munitions produced by its factories) which had a major impact both upon Chicago’s development and the course of the war itself.

Literary Chicago: A Book Lover's Tour of the Windy City

Literary Chicago: A Book Lover's Tour of the Windy City
Greg Holden. Lake Claremont Press, 1st ed., March 2001.
Chock full of local literary locations and includes various vehicle and walking tours related to Chicago’s literary past and present. Some of the locations are a stretch to call literary or even historic, but it’s still an interesting read.

Lords of the Levee : The Story of Bathhouse John and Hinky Dink

Lords of the Levee: The Story of Bathhouse John and Hinky Dink
Lloyd Wendt and Herman Kogan. Northwestern University Press, August 2005.
This biography/history of John “Bathhouse” Coughlin and Michael “Hinky Dink” Kenna (the two aldermen who ruled the notorious First Ward from the 1890’s well into the early 20th Century) is rich in detail and lore about both the subjects of the book and about the city itself during what was undoubtedly the most corrupt and licentious period in its history. Should be required reading for all those wags who cry about the “horrible corruption” of today’s City Hall and is definitely required reading for all fans of Chicago history.

Making the Second Ghetto : Race and Housing in Chicago 1940-1960

Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago 1940-1960
Arnold R. Hirsch. University Of Chicago Press, reprint ed., May 1998.
For anyone who ever drove down the Dan Ryan expressway past that ten mile or so stretch of forbidding, decrepit high-rise projects (before they were all torn down in recent years) and thought, “How the hell could this have happened? Who ever thought this would be a good idea?” This book explains how a combination of naive optimism and cynical calculating racism led to one of the greatest social blunders of modern America.

A Native's Guide to Chicago, Fourth Edition

A Native's Guide to Chicago
by Lake Claremont Press, 4th ed., November 2004.
This is a fantastic resource for all things Chicago! Sharon Woodhouse wrote the original volume of this guide ten years ago and its success spawned one of the city’s finest independent publishing houses, Lake Claremont Press. The new edition is overflowing with interesting and useful information, the kind you can only get from a native like Sharon, a lifelong Chicagoan who was raised along the shores of Lake Claremont on the city’s north side (an hilarious story that Sharon is often unjustly embarrassed to tell). The book is divided into various sections (such as Touring, Recreation, Entertainment, Food) and each section offers tons of useful info on its subject.

Near West Side Stories

Near West Side Stories: Struggles for Community in Chicago's Maxwell Street Neighborhood
Carolyn Eastwood. Lake Claremont Press, June, 2002.
This is a fascinating piece of work. Four oral histories of near west side residents; one black, one Jewish, one Mexican, and one Italian, who were all engaged in the bitter and ultimately futile struggle to maintain the Maxwell Street neighborhood in the face of encroachment by the city and various moneyed interests. It is filled with rich details about the life and times of each individual and their respective families and communities. Oral histories can often fail because either the interviewer was unable to draw out salient details from the subjects or the lives of the people chosen were just not very interesting, but Eastwood succeeds on both counts. The interviewees are complex, remarkable and articulate people who spent their lives deeply involved in the community and Eastwood gained their trust enough for them to share their stories to a level I’ve almost never found in an oral history. This book definitely deserved all the awards and plaudits it was given.

 

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Page last updated: 29 June 2009

 

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