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CBR’s Top 10 Posts of 2015

CBR_Logo2Dozens of book reviews, a bunch of features, previews of local literary events … it’s been another year of all-books-all-the-time here at Chicago Book Review. Earlier this week, we posted CBR’s Best Books 0f 2015, a great complement to another fabulous list we posted this month: Chicago’s Favorite Books of 2015, a collection of a dozen beloved titles as rated by local literati. Both of these lists, and a few others, quickly proved to be among our readers’ favorite posts of the year.NYE books—photo by Patrick Ryan

With that, we’re looking at CBR’s Top Posts of 2015, a mix of book reviews and features highlighting the local lit scene—authors, publishers, and organizations doing what they do to support and promote Chicago’s literary community.

That community is a strong one, and we’re grateful to the many authors, publishers, readers, and other literary types who help keep us going. We’re especially grateful to the reviewers who keep CBR active, reviewing dozens of books every year. Chicago Book Review is a labor of love, and we couldn’t do it without our reviewers—or without all the books we receive from local publishers and authors. Together we’re able to bring to readers reviews of books they might not otherwise discover—because Chicago Book Review reviews Chicago’s books.

ankerwyckeDuring the year, we’ve again been lucky enough to review books from a variety of local and regional publishers, from indie houses and imprints like Ankerwycke, Chicago Review Press, and Dream of Things to large academic houses such as University of Chicago Press, University of Illinois Press, and University of Wisconsin Press. (You can learn more about local and regional houses by exploring the list over there on the left of your screen.) We’ve highlighted organizations such as Chicago Book Expo and Midwestern Gothic. And we’ve reviewed some great books by local authors such as Mary Kubica, Erik Fassnacht, and Robert M. Marovich.

Middle_West_Logo_hiresWe’re grateful to our fans and friends, too, readers from Chicago and the Midwest, as well as across the United States. We also count among our followers readers from around the world—the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, as well as Colombia, France, Germany, India, and Italy, the way to Croatia, Georgia, Micronesia, Réunion, and Tunisia.

2016 promises to be another year full of great books from local and regional authors and publishers, and we plan to review as many as we can for readers near and far. In the meantime, we close 2015 with a look at the most popular posts of the year, a collection of reviews and features that will give you some great ideas for how to spend those bookstore gift cards you received over the holidays.

CBR’s TOP 10 POSTS OF 2015pieces of my mother 9781492615385

  1. CBR’s Best Books of 2015
  2. Chicago Book Review’s Summer 2015 Preview
  3. Brutally Beautiful
  4. Chicago’s Favorite Books of 2015
  5. CBR’s Fall 2015 Preview
  6. You Shall Uphold Him
  7. Preview: Chicago Book Expo—
    ‘Something for Every Literary Taste’
    Remedies cover
  8. Much More Than Half
  9. War Must Ensue
  10. Doorways to the Domestic Scene


nyeHappy New Year!
—and Happy Reading!



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CBR’s Top 10 Posts of 2014

CBR_Logo2AS WE CLOSE 2014, we’re looking back at where we’ve been. Earlier this week, we posted CBR’s Best Books of 2014, a round-up of our favorite fiction and nonfiction titles reviewed during the past twelve months. Today we’re looking at the Top 10 Posts of 2014, a mix of reviews and features highlighting authors and publishers from Chicago, from Illinois, and from the Midwest. Chicago Book Review reviews Chicago’s books, and we love that we’re able to stick to that mission thanks to the fact that authors and publishers in Chicago and the region are publishing so many faexploring chicago blues coverbulous books. We’ve reviewed dozens of books this year—and we hope to review even more next year and in the years after that.

Chicago Book Review continues to build a community of loyal readers. We attracted readers from nearly a hundred countries this year, mostly people from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, but also readers from far-away places like Australia, Brazil, Germany, and India, and even Bulgaria, Czech Republic, and Finland.

We’ve reviewed books from dozens of publishers, some local houses such as Agate Publishing, Curbside Splendor, Fifth Star Press, and Lake Claremont Press; some regional university presses such as Switchgrass Books/NIU Press, SIU Press, University of Chicago Press, University of Illinois Press, and Terrace Books, an imprint of University of Wisconsin Press; some national and international powerhouses like Atheneum/Simon & Shuster, Berkley chicagoscapes 9780252034992Books, Bloomsbury, St. Martin’s, and Viking; and some smaller indies like American Roots Press, MG Press (an imprint of Midwest Gothic), and TitleTown Publishing.

Whether fiction or nonfiction, CBR’s reviewers have been reading myriad titles from a variety of subjects and genres. We chatted with some interesting authors for Local Author Spotlights, and we’ve examined some growing segments of the publishing industry. In fact, one of the all-time most popular posts is one that focuses on children’s publishing in Chicagoland.

So take a look at these Top 10 Posts of 2014. Then poke around the site a little bit, browsing the fiction reviews, nonfiction reviews, and features we’ve posted during the year. Check out our Events page, too, which lists author readings, live lit events, and book signings at bookstores, libraries, community centers, and other great places in and around Chicago.

Orban WineriesWe want to thank all the authors and publishers who share their books with us so that we can help readers discover new titles, often titles that don’t necessarily garner reviews in other publications. We hope that readers will continue to turn to Chicago Book Review to find out about new books so they can #ReadLocal (and that they buy those books from local bookstores so that they can #ShopLocal, too). We also want to issue a big shout-out to all the reviewers who work with us, volunteering their time, energy, and insight in order to write thoughtful reviews. Chicago Book Review is truly a community of readers, writers, and publishers, all of us working together to make something magical.

So thanks to one and all for a great 2014, and all good wishes for good books and good reading during 2015.

CBR’s TOP 10 POSTS OF 2014

1. CBR’s Best Books of 2014titanic

2. Chicago Book Review’s Fall 2014 Preview

3. A ‘Titanic’ Achievement

4. A Very Good ‘Crisis’

5. A Melodious Memoir of Grit and Healing

6. A Happy Voyage

7. Chicago Publishers = Book Lovebutterfly stitching

8. CBR’s 2014 Holiday Reading Guide

9. Beauty and the ‘Butterfly’

10. A Novel Approach to Illinois Politics


Happy New Year!

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CBR_Logo2Here at Chicago Book Review, we love books. We love reading. But we really don’t like reading about all the shootings and murders that are plaguing this great city of ours. The causes are myriad, but so are the solutions.

There is no one, best way to alleviate the boredom, frustration, unemployment, and anger that push neighbors to shoot their own neighbors. Many great local organizations are working to provide safe havens, education, and other forms of support that will keep kids off the streets, that help keep families together, that provide shelter and food to those who need it. We like reading about organizations like that.

But, sometimes, reading isn’t enough. Sometimes action is called for.

And so today, I propose a new initiative: BOOKS, NOT BULLETS

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
—Frederick Douglas

Can books keep neighbors from shooting their neighbors? Maybe not. But can books help people learn to read? Can they help improve literacy rates? Can improved literacy rates help reduce unemployment? Will reduced unemployment help diminish the violence? Maybe.

Could books be part of a virtuous circle? Maybe.

Could providing books to those who can’t afford them or don’t have access to them help in some small way? Maybe.

Could an afternoon spent reading keep at-risk children off the streets, away from gangs and bullets and violence? Maybe.


“People don’t realize how a man’s whole life can be changed by one book.”
—Malcom X

With that, I encourage you, readers, to share your love of books and reading. You can do so through any number of organizations in and around Chicago, organizations that work hard to alleviate the violence, the suffering, the unemployment, and so many other ills that push neighbors to attack their neighbors.


“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope.”
—Kofi Anan

Is this a solution? Maybe not.

Is it a start? Maybe.

Donate books. Donate money. Donate time. Share your love of books and reading with a child, with a struggling reader.

Please consider one of these organizations. It’s a start. If one book could stop one bullet from taking one life, isn’t it worth it?


“There is no substitute for books in the life of a child.”
—Mary Ellen Chase

Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition
First Book-Chicago
Literacy Chicago
Literacy Works
Open Books
UIC Center for Literacy

Have a favorite literacy organization that isn’t listed here? Share it with us!

—Kelli Christiansen


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