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The Great Chicago Reading List

One thing to look forward to this summer: excellent books with local hooks

Books
Photo: istock

 

‘Between Everything and Nothing: The Journey of Seidu Mohammed and Razak Iyal and the Quest for Asylum’ by Joe Meno
Photos: Courtesy of Publishers

Between Everything and Nothing: The Journey of Seidu Mohammed and Razak Iyal and the Quest for Asylum

By Joe Meno
June 2

The Columbia College professor interweaves the biographies of two Ghanaian men who fled their home country separately, traveled the globe seeking asylum, then serendipitously met in Minneapolis before crossing into Canada while evading ICE. Meno brings his skills as a novelist to bear on this account of contemporary migration, alternating between journalism and flights of creative nonfiction.

 

‘The Heart of a Woman: The Life and Music of Florence B. Price’ by Rae Linda Brown

The Heart of a Woman: The Life and Music of Florence B. Price

By Rae Linda Brown
June 22

This biography of the first major black female composer took more than 35 years to research and write; Brown, a musicology professor at the University of California, Irvine, hadn’t finished the manuscript when she died in 2017 at 63, but she left detailed notes that guided the final version. It’s a fascinating study of an overlooked Chicagoan, the first African American woman to have a musical composition played by a major orchestra, and the early stages of black feminism.

 

‘Pew’ by Catherine Lacey

Pew

By Catherine Lacey
July 21

Few works of fiction this year have been as hyped as the Wicker Park–based writer’s third novel, named one of the most anticipated books of 2020 by BuzzFeed and Vulture. Pew’s dystopian fable concerns how a mysterious, silent being of unknown age, gender, and creed affects the residents of an unnamed Southern town. If you’re into ambiguous, smartly written horror films like Midsommar or The Witch, you’ll dig this.

 

‘Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir’ by Natasha Trethewey

Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir

By Natasha Trethewey
July 28

The Northwestern professor won a Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2007 and has twice been the U.S. poet laureate. Her celebrated linguistic talent is evident in this account of her mother’s murder at the hands of her second husband and the tense years leading up to it. But what’s most remarkable here is Trethewey’s storytelling abilities as she forges a gripping narrative of a woman coming to terms with her trauma.

 

‘The Living Dead’ by George A. Romero and Daniel Kraus

The Living Dead

By George A. Romero and Daniel Kraus
August 4

The last time Kraus, who lives in Evanston, teamed up with a filmmaker, the end result was an Academy Award for best picture. He conceived of the idea for The Shape of Water and wrote the book with Guillermo del Toro, who simultaneously worked on the screenplay. For his next act, Kraus finishes a zombie novel by Romero — director of Night of the Living Dead and the guy who created the horror genre’s modern-day look, who died in 2017.

 

‘Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey’ by Kathleen Rooney

Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey

By Kathleen Rooney
August 11

Plenty of works of historical fiction have been published about World War I, but how many have been told from the perspective of a pigeon? The new novel by the celebrated writer, a DePaul professor, can now lay claim to being the first. You’ll be amazed at the depths of character Rooney plumbs from a literal bird’s-eye view, and by how she entwines the voices of a messenger pigeon and a witty, disconsolate veteran to craft a story based on true events.

 

‘Finna’ by Nate Marshall

Finna

By Nate Marshall
August 11

The latest poetry collection from the West Pullman native (who now teaches at Colorado College) showcases the black vernacular, best expressed in the title poem: “my hope is like my language is like my people: it’s Black / & it’s brown & it’s alive.” Marshall explores a range of subjects — from his fourth-grade spelling bee to his love of hip-hop — but they are all informed by his experiences growing up on the South Side.

 

‘Reaganland: America’s Right Turn, 1976–1980’ by Rick Perlstein

Reaganland: America’s Right Turn, 1976–1980

By Rick Perlstein
August 18

If you don’t think a chronicle of the rise of conservatism in American politics can be just as entertaining and illuminating as A Song of Ice and Fire, think again. Perlstein, a local historian, wraps up his acerbic, thoroughly researched, and energetic series on the conservative movement with this tome covering the four years just before Ronald Reagan began his tenure at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

You can find these books at independent booksellers across the city, including but not limited to: The Book Cellar, Bookies, City Lit Books, Madison Street Books, Sandmeyer’s Bookstore, Semicolon, Seminary Co-op and 57th Street Books, Unabridged, Volumes, and Women & Children First.

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