Thomas Dyja’s comprehensive history, The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream (Penguin, $18), demonstrates that as went the Windy City, so went the nation. Every fascinating chapter uses anecdotes, data, and colorful characters to illustrate Chicago’s leading role in America’s progress from circa 1938 to 1960. It was the time when Mies van der Rohe’s revolutionary and rigorous designs shaped the Illinois Institute of Technology while Lazlo Miholy’s preached free-spirited inspiration at the Institute of Design. Studs Terkel walked the streets collecting amazing stories and songs for his broadcasts. Gwendolyn Brooks and Nelson Algren chronicled the struggles of the nation’s marginalized while Mike Nichols and Elaine May laid the groundwork for five decades of comic brilliance. Mahalia Jackson sang transcendent Gospel and Muddy Waters’s electric blues reminded listeners that hell ain’t so far below. But this is just a sample—Dyja’s rich cultural tapestry has much, much more.
Politics and Prose Bookstore 202-364-1919 Hours and Locations