Best Local Nonfiction Writer | Best of Chicago 2010 | Civics | Chicago Reader

Best Local Nonfiction Writer 

John Conroy

There are so many right choices. From an old lion like Garry Wills (author of two of my favorite books ever, Nixon Agonistes and The Kennedy Imprisonment) to newcomer Martin Preib (whose 2010 collection The Wagon seems at first glance like essays about cop life but turns out to be more a philosophical reflection on the inner life of the city), there’s no shortage of great nonfiction writers in Chicago. But if there’s one book by a local that you have to read right now, it’s John Conroy’s undersung 2000 work Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People: The Dynamics of Torture.

Readers are probably most familiar with Conroy, a former Reader staff writer, from his years-long investigation into torture in the Chicago Police Department, reportage that is back in the spotlight again with former commander Jon Burge on trial. But Conroy expanded on his epic series—which eventually involved almost two decades of reporting—with a look at torture not just in Chicago but in Israel and Belfast as well. It deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as more recent work by Jane Mayer, Mark Danner, and Errol Morris, but because it predates Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo it hasn’t gotten near the attention it deserves, despite the plaudits it received at publication. Tragically, it’s become even more relevant since then.

Critics' Picks

Best Place for a New El Stop

On the Pink Line at Madison and Paulina continue

Best Place to Find Information About Your Local TIF District

Municipal Reference Collection at the Harold Washington Library Center continue

Best Diner for Politician Watching

160 N. LaSalle St. 312-357-2700
Petro’s Restaurant and Bakery continue

Best Place to Corner an Alderman Who’s Ducking Your Calls

Between the council chamber and the restrooms continue

Best T-shirt Spotted on an Adult Picking Up a Child From Kindergarten

"I May Not Be Mr. Right But I'll Fuck You Till He Shows Up." continue

Best Honorary Street

Honorary Sophie Madej Street continue

Best Local Blog

A tie beteen A Chicago Sojourn and One Story Up continue

Best Twitterer

Rick Bayless @Rick_Bayless continue
(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)