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Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  2,177 ratings  ·  229 reviews
"The best book ever written about an American city, by the best journalist of his time."-- Jimmy Breslin

New edition of the classic story of the late Richard J. Daley, politician and self-promoter extraordinaire, from his inauspicious youth on Chicago's South Side through his rapid climb to the seat of power as mayor and boss of the Democratic Party machine. A bare-all
Paperback, 216 pages
Published October 1st 1988 by Plume Books (first published January 1st 1971)
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Average rating 4.19  · 
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 ·  2,177 ratings  ·  229 reviews

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Jan 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
Mike Royko must have had balls of steel to write this book in 1971, during the heyday of the Chicago Machine! Royko knew the city and all those running it, inside-out. The intimate political details of all who ran "The Machine" could not have been well received when this book debuted.

I still miss reading Mike Royko's columns in the Trib. He was one of the last great journalists who still did a damn good job! He certainly didn't pander to anyone, i.e. "Faux News, etc."

Unexpected takeaway: In
Mar 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: for-school
Wow. This book was fantastic. Like Nelson Algren, I think Boss should be essential reading for a life-long Chicagoan. I don't look at the city the same way. The buildings, the city's workings, even articles in the Chicago Tribune--it all looks different to me now. It's a good thing, although not necessarily for Chicago.
Jun 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
I got this book out of a stack from my mom. It was only after I started reading it, and was led to do some outside research that I discovered it's a classic of city journalism.

This hard hitting account of the reign of Mayor Richard J. Daley illuminated many things about the great city of Chicago. It put into perspective some of the things going on now, and made me look at our current mayor, Mayor Richard M. Daley, a little more skeptically. It also answered some questions I'd had for a long
Jason Smith
Sep 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Chicagoans, Richard M. Daley
This devastating account of the first Daley regime works as a kind of history of Chicago from the fifties through the sixties. I say that because Daley had a desire to have absolute control when possible and domineering influence when the previous proved difficult. Its not hard to see why Daley wanted the book banned and his wife was going around vandalizing copies in book stores.

This is a truly damning book if ever there was one. But at the heart of all the vitriol being piled on by Royko is
James Murtha
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Nearly fifty years since Mike Royko published this scathing, methodical documentary of the rise and rule of Chicagos Machine and its iron-fisted monarch, Richard J. Daley, the book reads like a cautionary tale at the six month anniversary of Donald J. Trumps reign in the White House.
Daley, born of working class Irish immigrants who escaped the potato famine, grew up quiet and hard-working, eschewed alcohol, married another devout catholic and remained faithful to her until his death. He spent
Sep 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Royko's writing style wears a bit thin at times (he was a columnist for the Sun-Times, and most of the book is written in that sort of punchy, jump-to-conclusions, one-sentence-paragraph style) but overall this is an excellent and accessible introduction to some of the ugly political legacies and relationships that continue to define Chicago's governance.

The book also provided me with some provocative questions about the relationships between political power, organized labor, and equity.
Keith Koeneman
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
What are the strengths and weaknesses of Boss as book? On the positive side, Royko knows how to write a beautiful sentence. He also knows Chicago, and captures Daley and the city at a key juncture in American urban history. Moreover, Rokyo is an honest writer, which gives his words an emotional power, a resonance that lingers somewhere deep in the reader. On the flip side, Rokyo may have been too close to his subject -- too deeply and emotionally engaged -- to place Daley in a broader historical ...more
Sep 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Mike Royko was one of Chicagos treasures. Even when I lived on the West Coast and had never been to Chicago (in the early 70s), I would go to DeLauers Super Newsstand in Oakland and buy at least one Chicago Tribune per week, just to read Royko. And for years, I had been meaning to read his highly critical biography of the first Daley of Chicagos prominent political machine (at the time of this writing, a THIRD Daley has thrown his hat into the ring to run for Chicago mayor). BOSS: Richard J. ...more
Mary Baker
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book hit me like a ton of bricks. My extended family hails from Canaryville and Bridgeport, and while I'm all too aware of the racism and resistance to change that persists in those neighborhoods, I have never read something that spelled out the distinct brand of prejudice that can be found there so eloquently. It all makes so much more sense now.

And Daley's Chicago makes so much more sense now! Royko paints a scathing portrait of Daley through his characteristic wit. The man comes across
Aug 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
fine fine book- a testament to the shit hole racsism and crooked cops and political machine of daley's chicago. facts no one brings up- lester maddox and bull conner were both at the '68 chicago convention.
Ben Gartland
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I study historical figures, I try and see them less in a black and white manner where they were either a genius or a POS. I couldn't do that with Mayor Daley.

I do concede that Mike Royko is a journalist, not a historian and that further research is probably needed to gain a more complete picture of Daley but it is clear to see that Daley's legacy is that of a maliciously inept mayor whose two decades in office have led to many of the problems Chicago sees today. Daley is not the first nor
Nov 02, 2008 rated it liked it
Royko is so amazing, every sentence is funny, informative and loaded with hidden meaning. I read this book maybe 20 years ago while I was still living in Chicago, when Royko was still alive, when Daley Sr. was still fresh in my memory; it was great then, but is even more interesting to me now that I live far outside the city limits, Royko is gone and Richie Jr. is in charge of the city.
Back then, reading Boss was a little like reading the newspaper; now it feels different, more like reading
J. Janell
Aug 11, 2011 rated it liked it
A fascinating look at the politics of Chicago and it's Boss from 1955 to 1976--Mayor Richard J Daley (as opposed to his son Richard M, who just finished 20 years as Chicago mayor). You get to see the inner workings of "The Machine" that was city politics, and how Daley controlled the Democratic party and the city. It is at times endearing, and at times scathing. It is worth the read for the insight it lends into voting/election practices and the civil rights movement alone. Written by a ...more
Nelson Rosario
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memory
Not being a native Chicagoan a lot of this book was a surprise to me. I knew a little about Mayor Daley once I moved here, and I am familiar with the city's history generally, but this book adds so much color to that sparse framework.

The book is written by a journalist and it many ways it reads like a juicy extended daily column. That makes sense given that Mike Royko, the author, was a daily columnist for thirty years. The story is larger than life just like the city it takes place in, and the
Erik Graff
Apr 02, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Royko fans
Recommended to Erik by: Einar Graff
Shelves: biography
I found this among Dad's books when I got home from college during the Christmas break and read it in a sitting. Neither definitive nor scholarly, it's still a mildly amusing tale of Daley, Chicago politics and his rise to power within it.

I only saw Richard J. Daley in the flesh once, at the annual downtown St. Patrick's Day parade sometime during high school when my friends and I had managed to obtain positions across the street from his reviewing stand. It was a cold, grey day. The parade was
Jul 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book made me quite nostalgic, not for the Daley administration, but for reading Mike Royko's daily columns in the Chicago newspapers. There is no figure on the Chicago journalism scene (such as it is) who comes close to his knowledge of the city and its political machinations. This book provides a quick primer on Chicago politics. There really is no way to understand the current political landscape in the city without understanding its antecedents.
Jeff Hlinka
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Solid 3.5. As someone born in the 90s, raised, and currently living in Chicago this was an interesting read. I always knew of Daley, but didn't know the story behind him & the machine. This was a dense read and took me nearly 5 months of casual reading to finish (though that can be blamed on me as I'm not super into politics). Would recommend to anyone interested in the story behind the Chicago Machine. Would like to hear how things went after - anyone have recos for the next Daley era?
Nick Black
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
one of the finest political books I've ever read -- an incisive takedown of Democrat Machine local politics, yet done in eight-hundred fewer pages than The Power Broker.
Dec 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
i finally finished this rowdy book that could be read in a single sitting at a noisy bar. what can i say? so little has changed. i am fascinated by what the current mayor thinks of his father and how he believes his regime differs. and I will never look the same way at "Venetian Night" again.
Mark Lenz
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
A detailed look at the Machine Daley operated while in office and a nice primer on some mid 1900s Chicago history. I also now know which streets were named after white male politicians. ...more
Jun 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Big blast from the past, dated but not dusty.
Lenny D
Feb 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I can't imagine a much better reading experience on the subject of American politics.

I wanted to learn more about the original Mayor Daley. The extent of my knowledge about the old man came from the shaded nostalgia of my lifelong-Chicagoan parents and the title of the book American Pharaoh, mixed with my own assumptions of the mythic power of the man who preceded and paved the way for my own Mayor Daley's iron-fisted reign. As an ancillary, I looked forward to finally reading something by Mike
Kevin Bernal
Apr 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago is a book written by Mike Royko following the story of a politician who ruled Chicago. The author who wrote this was a newspaper columnist who followed Daley closely and was capable of displaying his knowledge in the paper. This book follows Richard J. Daleys rise up the political ladder as he took control and made bold decisions to win over the people of Chicago. Daley was born in 1902 and lived in a Roman Catholic home. He lived in Bridgeport Chicago and was ...more
Jul 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book was excellent, of course. Mike Royko is one of the most brilliant writers that I've ever read. The book isn't a definitive history (It's lacking in details, statistics, and facts). Rather, it is a sort of narrative, detailing the history of The Machine in Chicago and of Richard Daley, who was its best personification. I can't decide whether this book makes me feel optimistic or pessimistic. On the one hand, this book makes me feel dreadfully depressed about humanity's collective ...more
Dec 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
The story of an egomaniacal authoritarian hell-bent on law and order who hates the press, lies whenever it serves him, and is obsessed with his own reputation and maintenance of control...the similarities to Trump are eerie and unexpected. This is a great history of post-war Chicago and its politics.
C. Scott
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great up-close look at machine politics during the heyday of the Richard J. Daley era in Chicago. Royko shows how the sausage was made in the Windy City. Royko's writing style is propulsive and entertaining. I learned a lot.
Michael Perkins
This is a well written piece of political history. Mayor Daley was a product of his time and place, but this portrait generated a feeling of fundamental aversion in me for him. He was a racist and anti-Semite and notorious for unleashing the Chicago police on Vietnam War protesters at the 1968 Democratic convention like so many SS Storm Troopers. It was out of control violence that was inflicted on everyone in their path, including newspaper reporters who were inside the building and residents ...more
Luke Otwell
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An excellent portrayal of an American city and how a mayor and their people use corruption of power to bend it to their will. A brilliant education in American politics told through the lens one of it's most interesting "modern" players. Who knew a mayor could obtain so much national influence. A must read for Chicagoans.
Greg Talbot
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
A hardboiled reporter with a rye sense of humor, Mike Royko looks at the rise of Chicagos five term mayor and leader of the big machine -Richard J Daley. From humble beginnings to national prominence during the 68 convention, Richard J. Daley was a force to be reckoned with. An iron grip on the city, a willing and able council, and a city that reflected his tough work ethic and questionable expediency in dealing with issues.

Speaking on Daleys word as his bond, Royko writes after they leave, he
Berneta Haynes
Oct 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I honestly cannot think of a book more incisive, damning, heartbreaking, and socially important than this book. I do not say that lightly. No other book I've ever read more graphically details the inner workings of American politics and political actors in a major American city. I would go so far as to suggest that Mike Royko's detailed account of former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley exemplifies the political reality of many, if not most, American cities regardless of size. Furthermore, the ...more
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Pulitzer prize columnist, Mike Royko was nationally known for his caustic sarcasm. Over his 30 year career he wrote for three leading Chicago newspapers, "The Daily News", "The Sun-Times", and "The Chicago Tribune", and was nationally syndicated.

The Polish-Ukranian son of a cab driver, Royko grew up on Chicago's southside and never left the city. At age 64, he died in Chicago of complications

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