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Chicago: A Biography

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  140 ratings  ·  19 reviews

Chicago has been called by many names. Nelson Algren declared it a “City on the Make.” Carl Sandburg dubbed it the “City of Big Shoulders.” Upton Sinclair christened it “The Jungle,” while New Yorkers, naturally, pronounced it “the Second City.”

At last there is a book for all of us, whatever we choose to call Chicago. In this magisterial biography, historian Dominic Pacyg

Paperback, 462 pages
Published October 1st 2009 by University Of Chicago Press
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This was a required read for a college course I took years ago; I wanted to re-read most of it so I could enjoy it this time (especially from the perspective of now living in Chicago for over 20 years) now that I've grown to appreciate the change, rich culture, architecture, and character it has to offer.
David Eppenstein
Definitely a thoughtful and informative scholarly work worth reading. While it may not appeal to the casual reader hoping for something that takes full advantage of Chicago's more than colorful history it is a resource that anybody needing to understand this city should employ. The book thoroughly traces the various forces that shaped the growth and evolution of Chicago. While the book is not quite as readable as Donald Miller's "City of the Century" or as entertaining as Emmett Dedmond's "Fabul ...more
Nicole Sunderlin
I thought it was a great Biography of the best city in America!
John Harder
Chicago, A Biography meets my criterion for both history books and books about Jayne Mansfield – if you are going to bring up interesting points I want to see pictures of them. So rest assured that Mr. Paeyga had dug through the archives and finely illustrates the volume from when the Indians first paddled up the Chicago River and began taking Polaroids well into the recent era.

Paeyga stresses that Chicago is not so much a city, but a polyglot of ethnic enclaves, that somehow works. It is a dir
Feb 05, 2015 catechism marked it as on-hiatus
Pausing, though I'll probably come back to this. My problem is that I want a fairly broad history of Chicago from (roughly) 1900-1930. Not a history of what Al Capone was doing, or a list of who was throwing baseball games, or a biography of famous brothel owners, or a book about that time a blimp blew up over a bank, or whatever else was going on. I mean, I want those things, but -- there was a lot of stuff! I would like someone else to connect the dots for me. This book is like... the layer be ...more
A good addition to my short shelf of books on Chicago history and architecture. Pacyga maintains a chronological structure to his book, but highlights certain themes within each chapter.

Consistent with his subtitle, he tells Chicago's story through the lives of its people, from bit players like Elmer Ellsworth, the first Union officer to die in the Civil War (pp. 51-52), to leading men like Richard J. Daley, who receives a very sympathetic portrayal from Pacyga. Where else but in Chicago could t
Keith Jamieson
Poorly written and organized, and excessively slow (only the last two or three chapters focus on contemporary-ish Chicago: the majority of the book fixates on the nineteenth century). Redeemed somewhat by an abundance of interesting tidbits about the city, and some nice photographs. Generally, I think that this is a fairly poor treatment of an incredibly interesting city, with average results.
going from the great cover art and the recommendation of a friend, i thought this would be a good read. i was wrong. now, there was nothing wrong with the facts of the book. nothing idiotic was going on, except for a real lack of proofreading (sooo many errors, maybe just bc i was reading the ebook edition). the author’s style of writing was just so much more stiff than what i like to read and to take two things i love (history and chicago) and make them boring for me made me not want to go on r ...more
Mr. Pacyga is a gem. If you ever have the opportunity to take his History of Chicago class at Columbia College, please do. He is amazingly well informed and incredibly knowledgeable about anything and everything Chicago. Even though Pacgya and I dont see eye to eye on the Cubs vs Sox issue (though we both reside on the South Side and had this discussion a myriad of times) he is the most outstanding professor I have ever had in my life and wish he taught more subjects at Columbia.

His book covers
Tim Lapetino
This is a deep, wide and phenomenal history of the city of Chicago. From the first trading posts and settlers moving up the Mighty Mississippi to the lakefront lands that would become a city, to the politics and racial issues that make up a world-class city, Pacyga does a great job in covering a lot of ground. I've lived a large chunk of my life in this city, but it was great to read about the foundations, personalities and stories behind many of the events that shaped our Second City. Never pan ...more
This book had a lot of great info and is definitely worth reading, but after reading "Family Properties" I was disappointed that Dominic wrote such lousy footnotes - barely worth looking at, instead of adding insight to what he was discussing. This book gave me the impression it was a teaser for his history students at Columbia College so they would go out and explore the many interesting topics he brings up, on their own - perhaps for assignments in his class. I wanted way more than I got here! ...more
Matthew Green
This is a good, readable history of Chicago. I thought I knew a fair amount of the city's history beforehand, but I learned quite a bit from reading this book.
Although I didn't grow up in Chicago, I'm very fond of the city, having visited it many times throughout the years (in fact, I'm going back this August). I'll readily admit I was woefully ignorant of much of the city's basic history before, but no longer! The author is clearly quite passionate about his subject; the writing itself is clear and engaging, and although many pages were devoted to the activities of this or that manufacturer, I never found myself bored. A very informative read, throug ...more
Parts of this book were way more interesting than others, but I loved it overall. I feel like I know so much more about my city now, and it pointed me in the direction of things I want more information about. Chicago is a really amazing place.
A bit boring in places, but quite good on Chicago's history as center ring for America's industrial conflict in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Readable and informative, kind of wish there was more about wrigley and the sears tower, but I know a lot about chicago now.
Very good! A great 1 volume introduction, hits most of the high points. Must read if you are new to Chicago.
Jan 04, 2011 Sarah marked it as to-read
Shelves: nonfiction, chicago
Plucked from the Newberry Library's Best of 2010 list:
Harry Dykeman
Great overview history of Chicago.
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Dominic A. Pacyga, PhD, is Professor of History in the Department of Humanities, History, and Social Sciences at Columbia College Chicago.

Dr. Pacyga received his PhD in History from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1981. He has authored, or coauthored, five books concerning Chicago's history, including Chicago: A Biography (2009); Polish Immigrants and Industrial Chicago (1991); Chicago: C
More about Dominic A. Pacyga...
Polish Immigrants and Industrial Chicago: Workers on the South Side, 1880-1922 Chicago, City of Neighborhoods: Histories and Tours Slaughterhouse: Chicago's Union Stock Yard and the World It Made Chicago's Southeast Side (Images of America: Illinois) Chicago: A Historical Guide to the Neighborhoods

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“There seems to be a different Chicago around every street corner, behind every bar, and within every apartment, two-flat, cottage, or bungalow. City of immigrants or city of heartless plutocrats, say what you will, Chicago almost defies interpretation. In many ways Chicago is like a snake that sheds its skin every thirty years or so and puts on a new coat to conform to a new reality.” 2 likes
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