Never a City So Real: A Walk in Chicago
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Never a City So Real: A Walk in Chicago (Crown Journeys Series)

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3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  680 ratings  ·  96 reviews
The acclaimed author of There Are No Children Here takes us into the heart of Chicago by introducing us to some of the city’s most interesting, if not always celebrated, people.

Chicago is one of America’s most iconic, historic, and fascinating cities, as well as a major travel destination. For Alex Kotlowitz, an accidental Chicagoan, it is the perfect perch from which to p...more
Audiobook, 0 pages
Published March 31st 2004 by Random House Audio (first published January 1st 2004)
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Jan C
This was a great listen. From Manny's to Edna's to Betty Loren-Maltese ad the disaster that Cicero has always been. Luckily the Bud Billiken Parade went better in the year of this book than it did this year (there were killings, of course). And plaudits to his saluting Nelson Algren's great book, Chicago: City on the Make - a book I found sitting on my father's shelves a good number of years ago and loved at first sight.


Approaching the city from the South one day, after an architectural associa...more
Melisa Resch
kotlowitz illuminated many things about chicago history and politics, which i really appreciated, since it is all kinds of confusing for newcomers. and his profiles were funny and touching. however, the book felt uneven to me. or maybe unfocused? such a big subject. and even though his philosophy is that a city is the people in it, how do you choose among the many remarkable people in a city the size of chicago? i think this was the problem here. i found myself wondering why kotlowitz chose the...more
Kerry
This book is the anti-guide book to learning about Chicago. The neighborhoods and stories that the book discusses are the often overlooked, hidden tales. Despite having grown up near the city, I found it fascinating. The accounts are from people who had an impact on Chicago, its people and a few neighborhoods in various ways. The style of the book reveals intimate details that only a trustworthy author with a commitment to the Chicago and its people could garner. I am so glad that I could sit in...more
Kaylee
As far as city guides go, I can't say I'm that big into them. Most of the time, I'd rather just explore on my own, make my own mistakes, that sort of thing. I'd read another one in this series (Chuck Palahniuk's Portland) prior to reading this one. I know I shouldn't compare because the entire series is based on the idea that every author write about his own city in his own way, but...

Alex > Chuck.

That's it. Hands down winner. Kotlowitz wrote with much more passion, much more involvement in t...more
Happyreader
This book is so Chicago. Just like the city, it's fun, quirky, and diverse. The author clearly loves the grittier side of Chicago. The ritzier, Gold Coast/River North/Lincoln Park crowd is totally absent – which is fine. The father-in-law who improves a Gauguin by adding a cat and who fights for fair housing, the South Side painter who creates unofficial CHA murals of panthers, nudes, and Jesus, and the Vietnam vet who takes on Cicero corruption are so much more entertaining than any Lake Shore...more
Joan
I admit - I went into reading this book looking to have my love for Chicago re-affirmed. I was not disappointed. Kotlowitz chooses a diverse set of stories for this book that provides a "real" (hence the title) depiction of the history and current life of the city. I especially loved that he includes Albany Park as the last chapter which is two blocks from where I grew up. I recommend this for all those Chicagoans out there or anyone wanting to learn more about the city.
Ryan
Just an awesome little non-fiction read that weaves through some of the more forgotten lives and neighborhoods of Chicago. Tells the story of a number of diverse people who have helped to create the ever changing fabric of a truly great city. Required reading for anyone who lives in Chicago or has ever visited and likely not strayed far from Downtown or Lincoln Park/Lakeview.
Stefanie
I enjoy Kotlowitz's style of integrating background history into narrative. My only criticism of this book is that it is far too short to give a full sense of the city. He gives a disclaimer that it is of course not comprehensive, but I really don't see why he didn't add more vignettes. For someone who loves the city as he does, he certainly must have more tales to tell.
Christophe
This book wasn't great but I liked learning about other neighborhoods in Chicago that I never make it too. I'd like to take a tour of the Pullman area and I learned of a restaurant on the west side I'd like to try. Cicero also sounds like a crazy place. The book was pretty light and probably not as memorable as "There are no Children Here" but it's still worth reading.
Scott
I've lived in Chicago for a year now - I wouldn't have been ready to appreciate this book before now - but it's a wonderful set of stories about the political, racial, and economic realities of the city that are often hidden from clear view. A must-read for anyone who's moved to Chicago and finds themselves pondering its unique features.
Jennifer
This book reminded me of a Studs Terkel book (I consider that to be a huge compliment) - I enjoyed peeking into the lives of the Chicagoans profiled in the book and was especially happy to see the section about Manny's. Some people went to really nice restaurants after the Illinois Bar swearing in ceremony -- my parents took me to Manny's.
Tina
a great peek into parts of chicago that people don't usually see. at first i thought it was too short, but then realized that was part of the charm of it. i've always enjoyed kotlowitz's writing and this was no exception. i appreciate the way he is always working to give a voice to those that often would otherwise go unheard.
K.J. Kron
An interesting twist - take some not so well know people who have influence Chicago and tell their stories. It takes you to corners of of city an tourist wouldn't except to go. I read it before visiting Chicago. Although it didn't change what I came to see, it did give me a feel for the city and it's diversity.
Carly
Offers a look into some of the increasingly obscure areas of Chicago by recounting meetings with some of their most interesting (yet, common) residents.

Captures the working-man spirit of Chi and the melancholy that accompanies it's current disintegration.

Every Chicagoan ought to read this.
Theresa
I really liked this book. Kotlowitz tells the histories of various Chicago neighborhoods from the perspectives of some of their longtime residents. It's not preachy but illustrates that the city's history is more than just the Daleys and Marshall Field. Quick read too.
John
Well-chosen set of neighborhoods (including the suburb of Cicero) as a representation of life in Chicago. I'd say it would be a book better suited for folks at least somewhat familiar with the city (as I am), than those who've never been there looking for background.
Heather
Jun 17, 2008 Heather rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone, but especially Chicagoans.
This was another great book by Alex Kotlowitz. It is much more uplifting than There Are No Children Here, while still real and gritty. I loved all of the individual stories, especially when I could relate to a certain neighborhood or group. Awesome book!
Ross
Profiles and stories about Chicagoan and the city they call home This book really helped me bond to the city while I was living there. Part of the "A Walk in ____" series, I would recommend the series to friends based on the strength of this one.
Caroline
A quick read about a handful of Chicago neighborhoods and their residents. Kind of romanticizes the city too much. Some of my notions of the city were reinforced, but I was also surprised at times. The section on Cicero was probably the best.
Anne
I read this after completing a summer of working "in the field" with kids in the My Chicago program. It was a good snapshot into some key people in certain neighborhoods but I wanted more of a taste of the neighborhood itself.
Erin
Quick read about random people in Chicago. I really wanted to like it, but I was only interested in the little historical tidbits about different neighborhoods and areas of the city. I guess I just don't like random people.
Josephus FromPlacitas
It was disappointing that this was an abridged audio version, I only saw it on the box once I'd checked it out from the library. Kotlowitz was not a bad reader and I would have happily listened to the whole book.
Dwayne Ackley
If you've ever lived in Chicago you will love this book. Kotlowitz shows you the real Chicago (even walks down a block that Nicole and I lived for two years when he's talking about the day workers).
Carolyn
This book was a great snapshot of the city! I am a huge fan of Kotlowitz, so I was really excited to read this book. He did a great job of showing the city through the eyes of those who live here!
jenn
a chicago friend gave this to me before i moved to chicago...it was a great preview of the many adventures that were (and are) just waiting for me in the windy city. it's a great read...
Meg
I guess I'm not sure what I expected of this book, but it disappointed a bit. Still, it gave a nice look into the grittier interesting (non-yuppie north side) side of the city.
Kathy
Another great title in the Crown Journeys series. Less a "walk" than a drive to different Chicago neighborhoods, this book is largely organized around taverns and diners.
Kate
Apr 14, 2009 Kate rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Chicagoans
I've read quite a bit about Chicago, but I learned even more about the city in this brief collection of essays about interesting and mostly not-well-known Chicago characters.
Krista
I think anyone who loves Chicago will love this book. There is a chapter on Edna - from the Edna's on Kedzie and Madison. I would highly recommend it.
Wendy
The different stories in this book in no way hang together, and gave me only small glimpses into life in Chicago, but I enjoyed it enough to finish it.
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FROM HIS WEBSITE:
Between writing books on urban affairs and society, Alex Kotlowitz has contributed to "The New York Times Magazine", "The New Yorker" and public radio’s "This American Life". Over the past three years, he has produced three collections of personal narratives for Chicago Public Radio: "Stories of Home," "Love Stories" and "Stories of Money." Stories of Home was awarded a Peabody. H...more
More about Alex Kotlowitz...
There are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America The Other Side of the River: A Story of Two Towns, a Death, and America's Dilemma The Spelling Bee Division Street: America LaPorte, Indiana

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