You don’t have to be a history buff to love David Witter’s “Oldest Chicago.” You don’t even have to love Chicago, but surely you will after reading the author’s exultant but informative paean and guide to the city’s most enduring places.
By his own account, Witter, an occasional freelance writer for Newcity, began his romance with Chicago history as a child, playing cops and robbers in the shadow of where John Dillinger was killed–the Biograph Theater. This volume is filled with stories of many such familiar haunts, but there are also less-known places, like the Oldest Camera Store (Central Camera Company, 1899), Auto Repair and Body Shop (Erie-LaSalle Body Shop, 1934) and Tamale Shop (La Guadalupana, 1945).
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Chicago is easily one of the most bike-friendly cities in the United States, and those of us who bike recreationally or to commute are familiar with the excellent free maps from the City of Chicago, which have the best streets for travel highlighted and take the guesswork out of how to get around town. For ten to twenty bucks more, you can buy a detailed bike map of the surrounding burbs. So is it worth it to spend more money on a book that offers more or less the same information?
It depends on what kind of biker you are; and frankly, only the most novice of bikers, who are also the most averse to exploration and risk-taking, are going to get much out of Greg Borzo’s new guide to Chicago biking. The book is laid out with pre-planned rides broken down by area (city, South, North and Western suburbs), with forty-five rides and twenty-seven “kids’ rides.” Each route contains a basic map and a detailed list of what you’ll see, along with traffic information and tips about where to stop for food. The routes range from short kids’ rides to trips about thirty miles long, all set on loops that begin and end at the same place. Read the rest of this entry »
Tracey Cox (this is apparently her real name) is a sex expert for iVillage, regular guest on the “Today Show,” and author of half a dozen books on how to have a hot sex life. Her latest book focusing on sex positions offers a few new moves, a lot of old news, confusing organization, and awkwardly not-quite-pornographic photographs where most of us would prefer a how-to sketch. It’s sex-literature-lite at best.
The positions themselves range from “does she really think people don’t do this” (like half a dozen variations on rear entry or at least a dozen almost-missionary positions with differently placed feet and hands) to some inspiring acrobatic feats, but the way they’re broken down—into four sections titled “heartfelt,” “steamy,” “head games” and “show off” instead of similar positions or those that might be easy to transition between—are weirdly disjointed. Often the positions she calls “heartfelt” seem almost identical to “head games,” and it’s hard not to see this breakdown as the author trying to make old material fresh. Read the rest of this entry »
Call it the war next door: When the sesquicentennial of the 1861-1865 Civil War commences in 2011, for Illinoisans it will be all about Lincoln, but Missourians will flash back to their conflict of “10,000 nasty incidents” in a divided state represented in both the Union and Confederate Congresses.
Gregory Wolk’s guidebook offers a fresh gateway to a brutal, local war often overshadowed by narratives focusing on battles in the East. But during the war’s first year, 40 percent of the battles and engagements were fought in Missouri; and throughout the war there was desperate guerrilla fighting, which actually had begun along the Kansas border in 1854.
Cross the Mississippi anywhere, and this book will lead you to notable monuments, cemeteries and battlefields: follow the paths of U.S. Grant and of Confederate cavalry raids, of guerrillas Jesse James and “Bloody Bill” Anderson. Here are hundreds of destinations, dozens of battle narratives and engaging sidebars on fascinating, controversial personalities. Read the rest of this entry »