By Christian Thorsberg
The Chicago summer. She asks not for permission. She asks not for forgiveness. She arrives fashionably late, kicks up her feet, and dismissively yawns in triple digits on autumn’s expectant move-in day. She’ll go when she’s ready.
She curates nostalgia. She pairs bare feet with pavement and popsicles with lips. She paints tears on cheeks, courses radio waves through wavy air, rolls up sleeves and rolls down windows. She’s scared. She’s sacred. She’s bleeding. She’s beaming. She gives and she takes.
She’s different to everyone, for anyone. With some. Against others. Inhaling night and exhaling sun, sending sailboats across blue and bullets through air and wind through work. And family into town. And family out. And pleasure and pain and gain and loss throughout.
She reads while she breathes. She likes a good book.
The following list also available on our page at Bookshop.org, where you can purchase the books and support us and other literary organizations and independent bookstores.
Painted Cities by Alexai Galavez-Budziszewski
Fittingly reflective of the Pilsen neighborhood, this collection of short stories interweaves a cacophony of fluorescent personalities, shadowed nostalgia, miraculous magic, and the magic of the mundane, into an orchestra of truth. Nothing before has been more Pilsen, more Chicago.
1919 by Eve Ewing
With even the earliest memories of the 1919 “Red Summer” turning a century old, acclaimed poet Eve Ewing refuses to let the horrors and injustice of the Chicago Race Riots reside in the past. This incredible collection of poetry is duality defined ― peace and terror, fragility and strength, straightforward critique and lyrical reflection. Its beauty is astonishing, its importance is paramount.
The Coast of Chicago by Stuart Dybek
These are the stories of the fallen. Of the rising. Of the introspective and the crazed. Of our neighbors. Of you and I and life itself. Placing the complexity of the individual under a microscope, Dybek’s stories encapsulate what it means to be human in Chicago, painting a Chicago as iconic and true as its skyline.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
How are you supposed to grow up? What does it mean to love? To be? To be loved? Identity is forefront as the initially separate stories of Will Grayson and will grayson gradually intertwine, giving rise to moments of powerful revelation, rebellion, and self-discovery.
The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, edited by Kevin Coval, Quraysh Ali Lansana, and Nate Marshall
Words with movement, words with histories, words that are themselves music and truths and stories. Edited by poet legends Kevin Coval, Quraysh Ali Lansana, and Nate Marshall, this collection of ‘breakbeat’ style poems usher in and definitively carve out a vital, vibrant space in the genre of performative poetry.
Rust Belt Chicago: An Anthology, edited by Martha Bayne
Within this collection of poems and prose lies a collection of voices and lives and pasts and presents. As told by those who run through Chicago’s veins and beat with its heart, the lens of the industrial Rust Belt pops this book’s blue collar, oozing working-class adoration and experience.
Never a City So Real by Alex Kotlowitz
What is Chicago, but its people. And what are people, but their stories? Alex Kotlowitz combines his journalistic background with earnest curiosity in the individual, procuring palpable personality and perspectives galore.
We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby
From the “bitches gotta eat” blogger Samantha Irby comes a brutally honest, brutally hilarious collection of essays and reflections. Embracing the hand she was dealt while simultaneously slapping life’s demons across the face, Irby refuses to be anything but herself ― and her best self, at that.
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Never has a Chicago summer been so bone-chilling and cold. This nonfiction work accounting the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition details the summer’s architectural breakthroughs and cultural coalescence…and how H.H. Holmes spun these phenomena for his own dastardly intentions.
My Bloody Life: The Making of a Latin King by Reymundo Sanchez
Raw emotion and perilous recollection infuse this autobiography with gripping potency and authenticity. The account of a young man’s harrowing indoctrination and endeavors as a Latin King in Chicago, the pages communicate not just a story, but an escape from a notorious and shocking world that to some, like Sanchez, is quotidian.