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Under the Radar

My Kind of Town

by Kaite Mediatore Stover on December 5, 2017

Kaite is currently reading Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A. by Danielle Allen and listening to Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, narrated by Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, George Saunders, and 163 other voices.


Chicago was more than ready for the merriment that thousands of librarians brought to the American Library Association’s 2017 Annual Conference. Keep the spirit of Chicago alive this summer with some of these books, films, podcasts, and cultural touchstones.

Genre authors love to use Chicago as a backdrop for rapid-pace thrillers, contemporary romances, and wise-guy crime fiction. If you haven’t read Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City (2003), don’t step o the “L” until you do. And you may miss your stop anyway. This riveting serial killer true crime story set against the glittering façade of the 1893 World’s Fair would keep any commuter hanging on until the last page.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips has made Chicago the setting for her linked series of romance novels featuring characters connected to the fictional Chicago Stars football team. If you only read one of these witty romantic comedies, then pick up Match Me If You Can (2005). Professional matchmaker Annabelle tries to marry off billionaire sports agent Heath. We can all guess how it ends, but enjoy the quirky ride from one of the romance genre’s most decorated authors.

For more darkly comic fun, follow Mark Bergman and John “Doonie” Dunegan, two Chicago homicide detectives in Some Dead Genius (2014) by Lenny Kleinfeld. They may not know art, but they know what they don’t like: a seven-year string of talented up-and-coming artist corpses strewn all over the city.

Visit the Windy City leafing through two seminal works from two of Chicago’s favorite literary daughters, Gwendolyn Brooks and Sandra Cisneros. Brooks held the post of Poet Laureate of Illinois from 1968 until her death. Sure, you know “We Real Cool,” but how about Brooks’s only novel, Maud Martha (1953), a small book about a girl with a big imagination. Cisneros’s signature work, The House on Mango Street (1984), offers hope for a better life through the wisely observant eyes of budding writer Esperanza and the life stories of her Chicago neighbors.

Need to relive Chicago in all its Second City glory? No one has more fun in Chicago than John Hughes’s merry band of truants in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). And no one takes Chicago more seriously than Spike Lee in his update of Aristophanes’s Lysistrata, Chi-Raq (2015). Brush up your “Cell Block Tango” and credit the inspiration to the award-winning Chicago (2002).

On your next visit to Chicago, cue up the “A Lot You Got to Holler” podcast from Newcity Design. Then gaze down on the rooftops of some of Chicago’s most iconic buildings with the voices of architects, artists, and designers providing thoughtful commentary on the history and development of the skyline.

Or drop into the Magic Tavern’s podcast. hosted by Arnie, who fell through a portal into the land of Foon. He interviews wizards, monsters, and adventurers. You may see Harry Dresden having a pint here when he’s not working one of his own cases.

Librarians love museums. If you missed your chance in June, plan to visit the Gerber/Hart Library and Archives, the Midwest’s largest LGBTQ circulating library, next time. Or seek out the Oriental Institute and Research Archives; stop at the Leather Archives and Museum it’s a stunning room. And librarians who are hellbent for leather better make a pit stop at the Leather Archives and Museum.


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