7 great summer books with Chicago ties – Consumer News

on Jul1

29 June 2017 | 10:30 am

With long stretches of time to read beside the lake or pool, or cool evenings on a screened porch, summer is when I ease into a long biography or thick nonfiction. I spend so much time with books, they end up spotted with sunscreen, a dead bug or two, a wine splat, an avocado smear from lunch. My current list is dark—a sign of the times?—but each title is worth a read and has a tie to Chicago or the Midwest.

Afterlife, by Marcus Sakey

I’m not a fan of dystopian fiction—it scares me!—but I fell hard for this one. Menaced by a serial killer, Chicago is on high alert. On the murderer’s trail are the city’s FBI director and her ace field operative. Both are killed, but they live on in an “echo” of Chicago populated by the dead. These professionals are a smart, sexy pair newly faced with wickedly powerful gods. Will they survive their afterlife? A mind-bending page turner.

A Book of American Martyrs, by Joyce Carol Oates

In the Midwest, two men press on to their deaths. One is a right-to-life activist set on eliminating abortion providers. The other is a doctor who provides abortions for women in underserved areas. Both are certain of their calling. Oates is a master storyteller, putting us at the murder scene, in prison, at the botched death penalty procedure. These men leave families behind, and much of this book is their heartbreaking story. An important piece of fiction.

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan

An intake tank, a lighthouse and a sailboat dot the cover of Egan’s marvelous work of nonfiction, which tells the story of humanity’s interference with the natural workings of the world’s largest unfrozen freshwater system. When shipping channels opened the Great Lakes, predators hopped a ride, disrupting the ecosystem. When scientists manage to control one invader, another surfaces. Think it’s good that Lake Michigan is so clear these days? Think again.

Exit Strategy, by Steve Hamilton

Nick Mason is the assassin you can’t help but love: He leaves little or no collateral damage, and family is top of mind, even if he’s lost day-to-day life with them because of his work. He’s a hard-ass softy. In the second part of a series, Mason is indebted to a Chicago crime lord who orders hits from prison. It features violent twists and turns and an ending I didn’t see coming. Deftly set in Chicago’s downtown, neighborhoods and suburbs.

The Full English, by Bull Garlington

Memoirs about family travel should not be allowed. Unless they’re written by Garlington, a Chicagoan whose truisms made me stop and think and whose humor made me laugh out loud. Garlington, his attorney wife, their teen children and his properly Southern mother embark on a tour of the United Kingdom. At the time, Garlington was a very fat man: indigestion, outrage, discomfort, deep sleep, discovery, wonder, kindness ensue. I’d follow him anywhere.

The Radium Girls, by Kate Moore

Oh, to be the young women of the 1920s, earning a top wage, providing for family, buying the latest fashions. These were “radium girls,” employed to hand-paint the numbers on timepieces so they’d glow in the dark. (One such plant was in Ottawa, Ill.) The glow came from radium. To paint precisely, the girls were instructed to wet the brush with their tongues. This true-life tale details their gruesome disfigurement and deaths and the industrial poisoning cases they brought, and won.

Ugly Prey, by Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi

Italian immigrant Sabella Nitti was the first woman sentenced to death in Illinois, in 1923, at a time when few women were convicted. Only men served on juries; beauty, style and pregnancy set women free. Nitti was accused of murdering her husband, though evidence pointed to one of her sons. Columnists mocked her looks and lack of sophistication; her lawyer bungled the case. Within weeks, a team of Italian-American lawyers in Chicago successfully appealed her case to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Plus, here’s a shoutout to Richard Cahan and Michael Williams for curating a striking collection, “Chicago Classic Photographs.” And to entrepreneur Jenny Patinkin for her smart and funny guide to makeup, “Lazy Perfection.”



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