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Greatest Chicago Book

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Two more writers weigh in on the Greatest Ever Chicago Book

Posted By on 04.16.15 at 04:00 PM

One of the great things about organizing the Greatest Ever Chicago Book tournament was seeing how excited people got about it. When we started asking writers we knew if they might be interested in being judges, we were overwhelmed by the response. In the end, we had way more potential judges than judging slots—a couple of writers volunteered to write their own judgments on the final round, just to take part in the conversation.

Kasia Bartoszynska is a scholar of comparative literature. Lisa Mrock is a writer for Chicago Literati and Chicago Innerview. Here they weigh in on The Warmth of Other Suns versus Working.

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Isabel Wilkerson is 'so grateful' for Greatest Chicago Book tourney victory

Posted By on 04.16.15 at 12:30 PM

Wilkerson
  • Joe Henson
  • Wilkerson
It came as a great surprise to learn that Isabel Wilkerson, who has received so much acclaim for both her journalism and for The Warmth of Other Suns, her history of the Great Migration—the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, appearances on dozens of best-book lists, and the honor of being the 2013 One Book, One Chicago selection—was not only thrilled to hear that Warmth had won the Reader's Greatest Ever Chicago Book tournament, but had been following the contest for several weeks.

"Against all odds," she wrote on her Facebook page last month, "The Warmth of Other Suns has barreled past classics in American literature to make it to the final round in a tournament to name the Best Chicago Book Ever Written." The post received nearly 1,500 likes.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Greatest Chicago Book Tournament: The final matchup

Posted By on 03.16.15 at 03:08 PM

Look around the city and you'll see all the familiar signs of impending spring: Peeps, Cadbury eggs, and boxes of matzo in the grocery store; children playing outside and grown men in shorts; a green river and rivers of green beer and Irish-people-for-a-day puking up and down Clark Street. Suddenly our city is a cheerful place again and we don't need books to remind ourselves how much we love it. All of which means our winter-long Greatest Chicago Book Tournament has served its purpose and is nearly at an end.

But there is one more round, the final and, arguably, the most important: the final matchup between Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns and Studs Terkel's Working. Which one will our panel of judges choose?

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Monday, March 9, 2015

Working vs. The House on Mango Street: Greatest Chicago Book Tournament, final four

Posted By on 03.09.15 at 07:00 AM

This winter, the Reader has set a humble goal for itself: to determine the Greatest Chicago Book Ever Written. We chose 16 books that reflected the wide range of books that have come out of Chicago and the wide range of people who live here and assembled them into an NCAA-style bracket. Then we recruited a crack team of writers, editors, booksellers, and scholars as well as a few Reader staffers to judge each bout. The results of each contest will be published every Monday, along with an essay by each judge explaining his or her choice. The Reader reader who best predicts the judges' rulings will win a trip to Mexico.

In this week's contest, Reader Agenda editor Brianna Wellen has to choose the book that will go up against The Warmth of Other Suns in the tournament final: Working by Studs Terkel or The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. To see the results of previous bouts, look here.


On the surface, Working and The House on Mango Street couldn't be more different. One is a 500-plus-page collection of interviews conducted by a middle-aged white man while the other is a barely-100-page reflection on growing up as a young Latina. But what they share is what defines a great Chicago book: a window into unique, everyday experiences on the streets of our fair city. While they're both great in their own way, the time has come to decide which one is a contender to be Chicago's greatest.

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Monday, March 2, 2015

The Warmth of Other Suns vs. Chicago: City on the Make: Greatest Chicago Book tournament, final four

Posted By on 03.02.15 at 07:30 AM

This winter, the Reader has set a humble goal for itself: to determine the Greatest Chicago Book Ever Written. We chose 16 books that reflected the wide range of books that have come out of Chicago and the wide range of people who live here and assembled them into an NCAA-style bracket. Then we recruited a crack team of writers, editors, booksellers, and scholars as well as a few Reader staffers to judge each bout. The results of each contest will be published every Monday, along with an essay by each judge explaining his or her choice. The Reader reader who best predicts the judges' rulings will win a trip to Mexico.

In this week's contest, the first bout in our final four, Reader digital content editor Tal Rosenberg faces a tough choice: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson vs. Chicago: City on the Make by Nelson Algren. To see the results of previous bouts, look here.


This tournament has featured a broad range of books, from YA to memoir to graphic novels that come in board-game boxes. And yet it's difficult to imagine two books more dissimilar than The Warmth of Other Suns and Chicago: City on the Make. There are some substantial differences between them, such as . . .

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Friday, February 27, 2015

And we have some winners—people!—in the Greatest Chicago Book Tournament

Posted By on 02.27.15 at 04:08 PM

We're still two rounds away from declaring the two ultimate winners of the Greatest Chicago Book tournament—the Greatest Book itself and the Reader reader who best predicted the judges' decisions and will get a trip to Mexico to celebrate his or her fine taste (or clairvoyance)—but we're pleased to announce that we have Reader reader winners of rounds one and two. More than 400 people entered the contest, but these two readers were able to successfully predict the judges' rulings in their rounds and survive an arduous selection process (a random drawing from the e-mail addresses of other readers who also made correct predictions) to win $50 gift certificates from Barbara's Bookstore.

The round one winner is Peter Strom. The round two winner is Staycie Flint.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

The Greatest Ever Chicago Book Tournament is down to the Final Four

Posted By on 02.23.15 at 07:30 AM

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  • Sue Kwong
It seems like it's been a really long time since November. It was still relatively warm them. There was no snow. Wearing sweaters was still a cheerful novelty. Back then, there were 16 contenders for the title of Greatest Ever Chicago Book. We can't honestly say that they were hopefuls because they were books, designed to inspire rather than to have feelings, but each one definitely had its fans and supporters.

And now, over the course of a dozen weekly bouts, during which time its gotten colder and snowier and more miserable outside, our judges have winnowed the list of contenders down to four. Two of the Final Four—The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson and Working by Studs Terkel—are quite thick, so the tournament went on hiatus to give our round three judges time to read.

They're still reading—the next bout will be next Monday, March 2—but that doesn't mean you can't start voting. (It'll probably be a more pleasant task than voting in tomorrow's Chicago municipal elections.)

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Monday, February 9, 2015

I Sailed With Magellan vs. The House on Mango Street: Greatest Chicago Book tournament, round two

Posted By on 02.09.15 at 07:00 AM

GreatestChicagoBookChart-teaser-week12.jpg
  • Sue Kwong
This winter, the Reader has set a humble goal for itself: to determine the Greatest Chicago Book Ever Written. We chose 16 books that reflected the wide range of books that have come out of Chicago and the wide range of people who live here and assembled them into an NCAA-style bracket. Then we recruited a crack team of writers, editors, booksellers, and scholars as well as a few Reader staffers to judge each bout. The results of each contest will be published every Monday, along with an essay by each judge explaining his or her choice. The Reader reader who best predicts the judges' rulings will win a trip to Mexico.

In this week's contest, the final bout of round two, Wendy McClure, author of The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie, I'm Not the New Me, and the Wanderville series for kids; columnist for Bust; and editor at Albert Whitman and Company has to decide between Stuart Dybek's I Sailed With Magellan and Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street. To see the results of previous bouts, look here.


I confess I was sort of glad that Augie March didn't make it to this round. It waited ominously on my desk, all 586 pages of it. I'd always meant to read it; surely I could be proactive by reading a page or two or 200 before the first-round judging, just in case? Somehow, over the holidays, I could not. So I felt relief—and some guilt too—when Julia Thiel went with I Sailed With Magellan instead. I had a milder pang of guilt relief when Andrea Battleground picked The House on Mango Street, a book I already knew, over the one I hadn't read, The Book of My Lives.

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Monday, February 2, 2015

The Time Traveler's Wife vs. Working: Greatest Chicago Book Tournament, round two

Posted By on 02.02.15 at 07:30 AM

GreatestChicagoBookChart-teaser-week11.jpg
  • Sue Kwong
This winter, the Reader has set a humble goal for itself: to determine the Greatest Chicago Book Ever Written. We chose 16 books that reflected the wide range of books that have come out of Chicago and the wide range of people who live here and assembled them into an NCAA-style bracket. Then we recruited a crack team of writers, editors, booksellers, and scholars as well as a few Reader staffers to judge each bout. The results of each contest will be published every Monday, along with an essay by each judge explaining his or her choice. The Reader reader who best predicts the judges' rulings will win a trip to Mexico.

In this week's contest, the third bout in round two, Peggy Shinner, Northwestern professor and author of the essay collection You Feel So Mortal, adjudicates between Audrey Niffenegger's sci-fi romance The Time Traveler's Wife and Studs Terkel's oral history Working. To see the results of previous bouts, look here.


Let's start with my prejudices.

My task is to adjudicate between Studs Terkel's Working and Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife, oral histories up against a novel. I came in with opinions, received, rash, possibly unfounded. Studs Terkel is an edifice, a monument, so surely Working would be the same. The tome was yet unopened, but already in the lead. And I eschewed The Time Traveler's Wife when it first came out in 2003 because I wasn't a sci-fi fan, except for a brief and long-ago dalliance with Ursula LeGuin; furthermore the novel was wildly popular, which tapped into a certain innate snobbiness on my part and made it suspect. You'll note that initially I conflated Working and Terkel while, for me at least, The Time Traveler's Wife had no coattails.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Chicago: City on the Make vs. Boss: Greatest Chicago Book Tournament, round two

Posted By on 01.26.15 at 07:30 AM

GreatestChicagoBookChart-teaser-week10.jpg
  • Sue Kwong
This winter, the Reader has set a humble goal for itself: to determine the Greatest Chicago Book Ever Written. We chose 16 books that reflected the wide range of books that have come out of Chicago and the wide range of people who live here and assembled them into an NCAA-style bracket. Then we recruited a crack team of writers, editors, booksellers, and scholars as well as a few Reader staffers to judge each bout. The results of each contest will be published every Monday, along with an essay by each judge explaining his or her choice. The Reader reader who best predicts the judges' rulings will win a trip to Mexico.

In this week's contest, the second bout in round two, reviewer, bookseller, and former Reader managing editor Jerome Ludwig has the unenviable task of deciding whether Mike Royko's Boss or Nelson Algren's Chicago: City on the Make will be bounced from the tournament. To see the results of previous bouts, look here.


Royko versus Algren.

This is a tough bracket.

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