Another Chicago book? Yes indeed, ‘A History Lover’s Guide’ covers the birth of the city to our cemeteries. | national news

CHICAGO – There are many books written about Chicago and why not?

It’s a consistently fascinating place, filled with living characters, interesting places and buildings, and dramatic, funny, or often bloody events that have and continue to provide enough material for hundreds of novels, non-fiction works and guides.

Many of these Chicago books are excellent, some modestly attractive and more than a few just plain ugly. The latter group includes ho-hum offerings focused on gangsters and other tourist clichés and/or presents a list of well-worn suspects: deep pizzas, blues bars, Navy Pier, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

One of the most recent is “A History Lover’s Guide to Chicago” (History Press) and it is one of the best, 200 thoughtful and entertaining pages.

It’s the work of Greg Borzo, a household name to all of you who read or buy books about where we live. He once told me that he believes much of our city’s history is “hiding in plain sight,” and he’s spent most of his career proving it.

A native of the Northwest Side, he earned a degree in cultural anthropology from Grinnell College in Iowa and later a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. He has worked and written for publications and institutions such as Modern Railroads magazine and the Field Museum. He was one of the authors of “The Windies’ City: Chicago’s Historical Hidden Treasures”, along with some of the favorite excursions of Chicago History Museum docents; “The Chicago ‘L'” and 2012’s “Where to Bike Chicago: Best Bike in City and Suburbs”, featuring over 70 rides (including 27 for kids) across Chicago and the suburbs. In 2017, he gave us “Chicago’s Fabulous Fountains” (Southern Illinois University Press), a spirited journey to more than 100 fountains that dot and flood the area.

In 2019, his “Lost Restaurants of Chicago” (History Press) arrived. It’s a marvel, like walking through a culinary graveyard. It recalls not only the names of once popular restaurants – many famous and some not charming – but also their significance. In the book, he writes that “restaurants nurture body and soul, and those we’ve lost can give us a taste of where we’ve been and who we are.”

About this latest book, he told me, “This is not a guide for tourists, not a book on where to find the best donuts in town. This is for people who love history and this city.

He was approached to write the book by History Press, for whom he has previously written and which publishes an ongoing series of “History Lover’s” guides who have previously visited places such as Dallas, Milwaukee, Kansas City and, oddly enough, Bar Harbor. , Maine.

“I agreed to do this book partly because I had the freedom to choose the subjects, what to include and what not to include,” says Borzo, noting that he also took almost all the beautiful photos. of the book. “It was a great opportunity and there were still a lot of places that ended up on the cutting room floor, so to speak.”

He had some slightly heated conversations with the folks at History Press. For example, they were initially skeptical of a chapter on libraries, but once the editors read what Borzo had written about book institutions such as Newberry and Blackstone, the city’s first secondary library built in 1902 and “inspired by the Erechtheion, a temple in Athens (with) original murals in a rotunda celebrating work, literature, art and science… (and) carved marble, paneling and walnut mosaic , tile and glass floors,” they wisely let go. Libraries make up one of the most compelling chapters of the 13 books, but there are delights to be found in the others, too.

The “Cemeteries” chapter might have raised the eyebrows of a History Press editor until they read the many glories at Graceland, Oak Woods, Rosehill and read that “many Chicago cemeteries and their headstones collapse… (marking) Chicago’s final resting places. saints and crooks.

A “Military Matters” chapter is filled with things that will probably surprise you, featuring sights such as the relatively obscure “colossal” Ulysses S. Grant Memorial (given it’s in Lincoln Park), which is part of the cityscape since 1891, and the harrowing “Above and Beyond,” an exhibit of 58,307 replica dog tags hanging inside the Harold Washington Library and on loan from the National Veterans Arts Museum.

Borzo arrives at my former professional home in “Monuments, Markers and Memorials” when he writes, “Incorporated into the base of the Tribune Tower are over 150 pieces of historic sites from around the world” and tells you how they got there. He also informs us that “When the Tribune sold its famous building to a developer in 2018, the first question everyone was asking was: what would happen to the precious fragments? They are staying put and the new owners would like to add to the collection.

These efforts will be interesting to watch, as will speculation about Borzo’s next book. The dedication of this book might provide a clue, as it touches on his relatively recent but all-consuming passion. He writes: “Dedicated to all my pickleball friends, too numerous to name here, but too good to be true. 0-0-Start!”

There are a surprising number of books on this subject, with titles such as “One Minute Pickleball”, “Finding Your Pickleball Love Language” and “13 Deadly Sins of Pickleball”.

I have not participated in this sport yet. But if Borzo ever decides to write a book about it, I’ll be among the first to read it.

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Angela C. Hale