Today marks a couple of birthdays: my twin’s and mine (I’m not noting our ages!) as well as the launch of Chicago Book Review.
At a time when the impending death of books is of near-constant conversation among those of us in publishing, as well as among readers and bibliophiles, it may seem strange to launch a site dedicated to reviewing books. But the simple truth is that books aren’t at all on life support. In the United States alone, more than 325,000 new titles were published in 2012—hardly indicative of an industry in its death throes.
“Books,” of course, means something different these days than it did just a few years ago. A book isn’t necessarily a $24.95 288-page 6×9 hardcover in a three-piece case printed on 20# paper with beveled edges, headbands and footbands, and a 16-page photo insert. More and more people are reading their books on eReaders. Which is fine. But I love my books. I love the feel of them. I love not breaking the spine. I love how they look and smell. I love how paper and words and design all come together in a perfect little package that gives me hours and hours of reading pleasure. But if people want to read their books on handheld electronic devices, that’s perfectly fine with me.
Whichever way we prefer to read, we need to find good books. And that isn’t always easy. Discoverability is a challenge, even for the top New York publishers. Most of us hear about only the most popular titles, the ones destined to become bestsellers. But it’s often those little books, the ones that don’t get all the attention, that are the true gems.
Those books often come from smaller, independent publishers. And Chicago is home to a lot of publishers that are both small and independent. In fact, Chicago is home to more than 125 publishers, from tiny micro presses that issue one or two titles a year to large independent houses that publish hundreds of titles across a variety of genres.
For whatever reason, though, Chicago’s publishing efforts often go unnoticed. That sticks in my craw (wherever that is). And so … Chicago Book Review.
Chicago Book Review is dedicated to reviewing books published here, written by authors based here, sold by agents whose headquarters are here, written about the city and the suburbs. The Chicago connection is key, and we will make a point of reviewing the great books that come out of this great city on the lake.
We launch today with reviews of 10 books, shared with us from publishers in and around the city: Agate Publishing (based in Evanston), Allium Press (based in Forest Park), Columbia College of Chicago, Lake Claremont Press, Sourcebooks (based in Naperville), and University of Chicago Press. As the months roll on, we will review more books from more publishers, all with some kind of connection to Chicago and the Midwest (you can read more in the “About” section of the site).
Please celebrate with me as we take a look at some of the books that are coming out of Chicago. Maybe a glass of champagne and a piece of cake are in order—both of which go great with a good book!