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Illinois, reviewed


Below are links to my reviews and significant mentions of some Illinois books, arranged in alphabetical order by book title. These links also appear on their relevant topics pages. 

There is more here than I remembered.  I took reviewing seriously, but I had no larger scheme, choosing which books to review according to freelancer's criteria. Was a copy of it conveniently on my desk? Did I need a column topic for that week? Had I read the book in preparation for a different project? Did the topic happen to interest me?


The exigencies of the freelance life meant that I could not always review the books I  liked. Nor could I devote the time to reviewing that I would have liked, since reviewing pays even less than feature-writing.


And it's real work. You have to learn what's in a book, for one thing, and not all reviewers bother. The nicest compliment I ever got for reviewing came at an author's reception on the North Side of Chicago for the several authors of The Irish in Chicago (University of Illinois Press, 1987) after my review in the Reader was published. I apologized for not having been perfectly approving of some small point, which got me a forgiving pat on the arm from one of the authors who said, "At least you read the book." 

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Adlai Stevenson of Illinois by John Bartlow Martin. Doubleday, 1976

Adlai: The Springfield Years by Patricia Harris. Aurora Publishers, 1975

Always My Friend: A History of "The State Journal-Register" and Springfield, Illinois by Andy Van Meter. The Copley Press, 1981

An American Marriage: The Untold Story of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd by Michael Burlingame. Pegasus Books, 2021

American Years by Harold Sinclair. University of Illinois Press, 1988

The Big Store: Inside the Crisis and Revolution at Sears by Donald R. Katz. Viking, 1987 

The Big Store: Inside the Crisis and Revolution at Sears by Donald R. Katz. Viking, 1987 

The Black Man's President: Abraham Lincoln, African Americans, & the Pursuit of Racial Equality by Michael Burlingame, Pegasus Books, 2021


Building for the Centuries: Illinois, 1865 to 1898 by John H. Keiser. The Sesquicentennial History of Illinois, Vol. 4. University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1977

Carl Sandburg: His Life and Works by North Callahan. Pennsylvania State University Press, 1987

Chicago Death Trap: The Iroquois Theatre Fire of 1903 by Nat Brandt. Southern Illinois University Press, 2003

Chicago Sculpture by James L. Riedy. University of Illinois Press, 1979

Chicago's North Michigan Avenue: Planning and Development, 1900–1930 by John W. Stamper. University of Chicago Press, 1991


City of Discontent by Mark Harris. University of Illinois Press, 1993 [Reader]

City of Discontent by Mark Harris. University of Illinois Press, 1993 [Illinois Times]

Constructing Chicago by Daniel Bluestone. Yale University Press (New Haven, Conn.), 1991

Daley: Power and Presidential Politics by Richard Ciccone. McGraw-Hill/Contemporary, 1995 


Eight Months in Illinois: With Information to Immigrants by William Oliver; foreword by James E. Davis. Southern Illinois University Press, 2002

Fire on the Prairie: Harold Washington and the Politics of Race by Gary Rivlin. Henry Holt & Company, 1992 (revised 2012)

Fordson, Farmall, and Poppin' Johnny: A History of the Farm Tractor and Its Impact on America by Robert C. Williams. University of Illinois Press, 1987

Forever Open, Clear and Free: The Struggle for Chicago's Lakefront by Lois Wille. University of Chicago Press, 1991

A Guide to Chicago's Public Sculpture by Ira J. Bach and Mary Lackritz Gray. University of Chicago Press, 1983

A History of Illinois, from Its Commencement as a State in 1818 to 1847, etc. by Thomas Ford, introduction by Rodney O. Davis. University of Illinois Press, 1995.

The Historian's Lincoln: Pseudohistory, Psychohistory, and History, edited by Gabor S. Boritt. University of Illinois Press, 1988

An Illini Place: Building the University of Illinois Campus by Lex Tate and John Franch. University of Illinois Press, 2017

The Illinois by James Gray. University of Illinois Press, 1989

Illinois: A History by Richard Jensen. W. W. Norton & Co., 1978

Illinois: A History in Pictures by  Gerald A. Danzer. University of Illinois Press, 2011

Illinois Cemeteries: A Field Guide to Markers, Monuments, and Motifs by Hal Hassen and Dawn Cobb. University of Illinois Press, 2017


Illinois! Illinois!: An Annotated Bibliography of Fiction by Thomas L. Kilpatrick. Scarecrow Press, 1979


Illinois: Images of the Landscape by Willard Clay. Westcliffe Publishers Inc., 1988


Illinois in the War of 1812 by Gillum Ferguson. University of Illinois Press, 2012


Illinois: Photos of Gary Irving by Gary Irving. Graphic Arts Center Publishing Co., 1988

Illinois: Photos of Gary Irving by Gary Irving. Graphic Arts Center Publishing Co., 1988

In Lincoln's Shadow: The 1908 Race Riot in Springfield, Illinois by Roberta Senechal de la Roche. Southern Illinois University Press, 2008. See also The Sociogensis of a Race Riot.

The Irish in Chicago by Lawrence J. McCaffrey, Ellen Skerrett, Michael F. Funchion, and Charles Fanning. University of Illinois Press, 1987

John L. Lewis: A Biography by Melvyn Dobofsky and Warren Van Tine. Quadrangle Books, 1977

Journey to New Switzerland: Travel Account of the Koepfli and Suppiger Family to St. Louis on the Mississippi and the Founding of New Switzerland in the State of Illinois, edited by John C. Abbott. Southern Illinois University Press, 1986

Kingdom of Nauvoo: The Rise and Fall of a Religious Empire on the American Frontier by Benjamin E. Park. Liveright, 2020

Lake Springfield in Illinois: Public Works and Community Design in the Mid-Twentieth Century by Robert Mazrim and Curtis Mann.  America Through Time, 2021


Louis Sullivan and the Polemics of Modern Architecture: The Present Against the Past by David S. Andrew. University of Illinois Press, 1985

The Lost City: Discovering The Forgotten Virtues Of Community In The Chicago Of The 1950s by Alan Ehrenhalt. Basic Books, 1995

Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography by Jean H. Baker. W. W. Norton & Co., 1987

The Mayors: The Chicago Political Tradition, edited by Paul M. Green and Melvin G. Holli. Southern Illinois University Press, 1987

Midwest Maize: How Corn Shaped the Midwest Heartland by Cynthia Clampitt. University Illinois, 2015

The Natural Resources of Illinois: Introduction and Guide, compiled by R. Dan Neely and Carla G. Heister. Illinois Natural History Survey, Illinois Department of Natural resources, 1987

Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West by William Cronon. W. W. Norton & Company, 1991 [Chicago Enterprise]

Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West by William Cronon. W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1991 [Illinois Times]

The New Gatsbys: Fortunes and Misfortunes of Commodities Traders by Bob Tamarkin. William Morrow & Company, 1985

Parish Boundaries: The Catholic Encounter With Race in the Twentieth-Century Urban North by John T. McGreevey. University of Chicago Press, 1996 

A Place of Sense: Essays in Search of the Midwest, edited by Michael Martone. University of Iowa Press, 1988

The Poet and the Dream Girl: The Love Letters of Lilian Steichen and Carl Sandburg, edited by Margaret Sandburg. University of Illinois Press, 1987

Poor Relations: The Children of the State in Illinois, 1818–1990 by Joan Gittens. University of Illinois Press, 1994

Prairiescapes: Photographs by Larry Kanfer. University of Illinois Press, 1987

The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America, by Nicholas Lemann. Knopf, 1991 

Public Sculptor: Lorado Taft and the Beautification of Chicago by Timothy J. Garvey. University of Illinois Press, 1988

Public Sculptor: Lorado Taft and the Beautification of Chicago by Timothy J. Garvey, University of Illinois Press, 1988

Rainbow's End: Irish-Americans and the Dilemmas of Urban Machine Politics 1840–1985 by Steven Erie. University of California, 1988

The Sangamon by Edgar Lee Masters. University of Illinois Press, 1988

A Place of Sense: Essays in Search of the Midwest, edited by Michael Martone. University of Iowa Press, 1988

The Sky's the Limit: A Century of Chicago Skyscrapers, edited by Pauline A. Saliga, with contributions by Jane H. Clarke, Pauline A. Saliga, and John Zukowsky. Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1998

The Sociogenesis of a Race Riot: Springfield, Illinois in 1908 by Roberta Senechal. University of Illinois Press, 1990. See also In Lincoln's Shadow.

They Built Chicago: Entrepreneurs Who Shaped a Great City's Architecture by Miles L. Berger. Bonus Books, 1992

Tinder Box: The Iroquois Theatre Disaster 1903 by Anthony P. Hatch. Academy Chicago Publishers, 2003

To Sleep with the Angels: The Story of a Fire by David Cowan and John Kuenster. Ivan R. Dee Inc., 1996

The Unheavenly City: The Nature and Future of Our Urban Crisis by Edward C. Banfield. Little, Brown and Co., 1970


The Unheavenly City Revisited: A Revision of the Unheavenly City by Edward C. Banfield. Little, Brown and Co., 1974

Where the Sky Began: Land of the Tallgrass Prairie by John Madson. Houghton Mifflin, 1983

A Woman's Story of Pioneer Illinois by Christiana Holmes Tillson., Southern Illinois University, 1995


Women, Work, and Worship in Lincoln’s Country: The Dumville Family Letters, Anne Heinz and John Heinz, editors. University of Illinois Press, 2016


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John Hallwas

Essential for anyone interested in Illinois history and literature. Hallwas deservedly won the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois State Historical Society.

Lee Sandlin Author

One of Illinois’s best, and least-known, writers of his generation. Take note in particular of The Distancers and Road to Nowhere.

Chicago Architecture Center

See Home Page/Learn/

Resources for a marvelous building database, architecture dictionary, even a city planning graphic novel. Handsome, useful—every Illinois culture website should be so good.

The Encyclopedia of Chicago


The online version of The Encyclopedia of Chicago. Crammed with thousands of topic entries, biographical sketches, maps and images, it is a reference work unmatched in Illinois.

Illinois Great Places

The Illinois chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2018 selected 200 Great Places in Illinois that illustrate our  shared architectural culture across the entire period of human settlement in Illinois.

McLean County Museum

of History

A nationally accredited, award-winning project of the McLean County Historical Society whose holdings include more than 20,000 objects, more than 15,000 books on local history and genealogy, and boxes and boxes of historical papers and images.

Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, and Other Highlights of Lincoln, Illinois


Every Illinois town ought to have a chronicler like D. Leigh Henson, Ph.D. Not only Lincoln and the Mother road—the author’s curiosity ranges from cattle baron John Dean Gillett to novelist William Maxwell. An Illinois State Historical Society "Best Web Site of the Year."

Illinois Digital Archives


Created in 2000, the IDA is a repository for the digital collections of the Illinois State Library and other Illinois libraries and cultural institutions. The holdings include photographs, slides, and glass negatives, oral histories, newspapers, maps, and documents from manuscripts and letters to postcards,  posters, and videos.

The Illinois State Museum


The people's museum is a treasure house of science and the arts. A research institution of national reputation, the museum maintains four facilities across the state. Their collections in anthropology, fine and decorative arts, botany, zoology, geology, and  history are described here. A few museum publications can be obtained here.

Chronicling Illinois

“Chronicling Illinois” showcases some of the collections—mostly some 6,000 photographs—from the Illinois history holdings of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.


I will leave it to the authors of this interesting site to describe it. "Chicagology is a study of Chicago history with a focus on the period prior to the Second World War. The purpose of the site is to document common and not so common stories about the City of Chicago as they are discovered." 

Illinois Labor History Society

The Illinois Labor History Society seeks to encourage the preservation and study of labor history materials of the Illinois region, and to arouse public interest in the profound significance of the past to the present. Offers books reviews, podcasts, research guides, and the like. 

Illinois Migration History 1850-2017

The University of Washington’s America’s Great Migrations Project has compiled migration histories  (mostly from the published and unpublished work by UW Professor of History James Gregory) for several states, including Illinois. The site also includes maps and charts and essays about the Great Migration of African Americans to the north, in which Illinois figured importantly. 

History on the Fox

An interesting resource about the history of one of Illinois’s more interesting places, the Fox Valley of Kendall County. History on the Fox is the work of Roger Matile, an amateur historian of the best sort. Matile’s site is a couple of cuts above the typical buff’s blog. (An entry on the French attempt to cash in on the trade in bison pelts runs more than

2,000 words.)




Southern Illinois University Press 2017

A work of solid history, entertainingly told.

Michael Burlingame,

author of Abraham 

Lincoln: A Life 

One of the ten best books on Illinois history I have read in a decade.

Superior Achievement Award citation, ISHS Awards, 2018

A lively and engaging study . . .  an enthralling narrative.

James Edstrom

The Annals of Iowa

A book that merits the attention of all Illinois historians

as well as local historians generally.

John Hoffman

Journal of Illinois HIstory

A model for the kind of detailed and honest history other states and regions could use.

Harold Henderson 

Midwestern Microhistory

A fine example of a resurgence of Midwest historical scholarship.

Greg Hall

Journal of the Illinois

State Historical Society

Click  here 

to read about

the book 

Click  here 

to buy the book 


Southern Illinois University Press

SIU Press is one of the four major university publishing houses in Illinois. Its catalog offers much of local interest, including biographies of Illinois political figures, the history (human and natural) and folklore of southern Illinois, the Civil War and Lincoln, and quality reprints in the Shawnee Classics series.

University of

Illinois Press

The U of I Press was founded in 1918. A search of the online catalog  (Books/Browse by subject/Illinois) will reveal more than 150 Illinois titles, books on history mostly but also butteflies, nature , painting, poetry and fiction, and more.  Of particular note are its Prairie State Books,  quality new paperback editions of worthy titles about all parts of Illinois, augmented with scholarly introductions.

University of

Chicago Press

The U of C publishing operation is the oldest (1891) and largest university press in Illinois. Its reach is international, but it has not neglected its own neighborhood. Any good Illinois library will include dozens of titles about Chicago and Illinois from Fort Dearborn to

Vivian Maier.

Northern Illinois University Press

The newest (1965) and the smallest of the university presses with an interest in Illinois, Northern Illinois University Press gave us important titles such as the standard one-volume history of the state (Biles' Illinois:
A History of the Land and Its People) and contributions to the history of Chicago, Illinois transportation, and the Civil War. Now an imprint of Cornell University Press.


Reviews and significant mentions by James Krohe Jr. of more than 50 Illinois books, arranged in alphabetical order

by book title. 


Illinois Center for the Book

Run by the Illinois State Library, The Center promotes reading, writing and author programs meant to honor the state's rich literary heritage. An affiliate of the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book, the site offers award competitions, a directory of Illinois authors, literary landmarks, and reading programs.

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