Illinois Reading List

Paul Simon Public Policy Institute

2020

At Southern Illinois University, the folks at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute’s Renewing Illinois program prepared background materials for students to allow them to understand Illinois more deeply through books on history, politics, and literature. In 2020 they asked more than twenty-five prominent Illinoisans to respond to the question: If you were teaching an “Illinois 101” course to highly motivated undergraduates, what five books you would assign them to read?

 

Here are some of the replies.

RICHARD DURBIN, U.S. senator from Illinois

Frontier Illinois by James Davis, 1998.

 

Lovejoy: Martyr to Freedom by Paul Simon, 1964.

 

City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America by Donald Miller, 1996.

 

Bloody Williamson by Paul Angle, 1969.

 

Henry Horner and his Burden of Tragedy by Thomas B. Littlewood, 2007.

 

Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama, 1995.

 

Additional reading:

 

The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Beating the Curse by Tom Verducci, 2017.

JIM EDGAR, former Illinois governor

Horner of Illinois by Thomas Littlewood, 1969.

 

Bipartisan Coalition in Illinois by Thomas B. Littlewood, 1960.

 

Clout: Mayor Daley and His City” by Len O’Connor, 1975.

Bloody Williamson by Paul Angle, 1969.

 

Illinois History: A Reader by Mark Hubbard, 2018.

SHEILA SIMON, law professor-Southern Illinois University, former Illinois lieutenant governor

Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years by Carl Sandburg, 1939.

Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama, 1995.

Song of my Life by Harry Mark Petrakis, 2014.

Bloody Williamson by Paul Angle, 1969.

Gwendolyn Brooks. Anything.

GLENN POSHARD, Poshard Foundation, former Illinois congressman, former president of Southern Illinois University

Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years by Carl Sandburg, 1939.

Cornhuskers by Carl Sandburg, 1918.

 

Southern Illinois: A Photographer’s Love for the Countryside and its Beauty

by Ned Trovillion, 1995.

Staley: The Fight for a New American Labor Movement by Steven Ashby and C.J. Hawking, 2009.

American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard Daley -- His Battle for Chicago and the Nation by Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor, 2000.

Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, 1915.

The Little Theatre on the Square: Four Decades of a Small-Town Equity Theatre by Beth Conway Shervey, 2000.

PAULA WOLFF, policy adviser-Illinois Justice Project

Jane Addams, Spirit in Action by Louise Knight, 2010.

From Bullet to Ballot: The Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party and Racial Coalition Politics in Chicago by Jakobi Williams, 2013.

The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation by Natalie Moore, 2016.

Frances Willard: A Biography by Ruth Bordin, 1986.

Family Properties: How The Struggle Over Race and Real Estate Transformed Chicago and Urban America by Beryl Satter, 2009.

Creating the Land of Lincoln: The History and Constitutions of Illinois, 1778-1870 by Frank Cicero Jr., 2018.

JIM NOWLAN, political columnist, former state representative, former professor-University of Illinois

Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago by Mike Royko, 1971.

 

Illinois: A History of the Prairie State by Robert Howard, 1972.

Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West by William Cronon, 1991.

Trilogy of Desire: The Financier, The Titan, The Stoic by Theodore Dreiser, 1972.

 

Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and War Years by Carl Sandburg, 1939.

SAM WHEELER, Illinois state historian

Cahokia: Ancient America’s Great City on the Mississippi by Timothy R. Pauketat, 2009.

Creating the Land of Lincoln: The History and Constitutions of Illinois, 1778-1870 by Frank Cicero Jr., 2018.

City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America by Donald Miller, 1996.

Illinois: A History of the Land and its People by Roger Biles, 2005.

Finding a New Midwestern History,

edited by Jon K. Lauck, Gleaves Whitney, and Joseph Hogan, 2018.

 

Additional reading:

Kaskaskia: The Lost Capital of Illinois by David MacDonald and Raine Waters, 2019.

Frontier Illinois by James Davis, 1998.

 

Freedom’s Champion: Elijah Lovejoy by Paul Simon, 1994.

Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West by William Cronon, 1991.

Race Riot: Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919 by William M. Tuttle Jr., 1996.

The Illinois Governors: Mostly Good and Competent Men by Robert P. Howard, 1988.

Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance Barack Obama, 1995.

DAVID JOENS, director-Illinois State Archives

The Illinois Governors: Mostly Good and Competent Men by Robert Howard, 1988.

Creating the Land of Lincoln: The History and Constitutions of Illinois, 1778-1870 by Frank Cicero Jr., 2018.

Corn Kings & One-Horse Thieves: A Plain-Spoken History of Mid-Illinois by James Krohe Jr., 2017.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, 2003.

Illinois Vignettes by John H. Keiser, 1977.

Additional reading:

Bloody Williamson by Paul Angle, 1969.

Boss: Richard J. Daley of Illinois by Mike Royko, 1971.

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, 1906.

Illinois: A History of the Prairie State by Robert Howard, 1972.

The Illinois State Archives: 100 Most Valuable Documents online exhibit. https://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/archives/online_exhibits/100_documents/home.html

ROGER BILES, emeritus professor of history-Illinois State University, author of Illinois: A History of the Land and Its People

Twenty Years at Hull-House” by Jane Addams, 1910.

Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West by William Cronon, 1991.

 

The Social Order of a Frontier Community by Don Harrison Doyle, 1983.

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

Illinois: A History of the Land and Its People by Roger Biles, 2005.

FRANK CICERO, Jr., attorney-Kirkland and Ellis, author of Creating the Land of Lincoln: The History and Constitutions of Illinois, 1778-1870

Nathaniel Pope, 1784–1850: A Memoir, Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society by Paul Angle, 1936.

French Roots in the Illinois Country: The Mississippi Frontier in Colonial Times by Carl Ekberg, 1998.

Confronting Slavery: Edward Coles and the Rise of Anti-Slavery Politics in Nineteenth-Century America by Suzanne Cooper Guasco, 2013.

The Illinois and Michigan Canal: A Study in Economic History by James William Putnam, 1918.

Lincoln’s Preparation for Greatness: The Illinois Legislative Years by Paul Simon, 1971.

GREG SHAW, political science professor-Illinois Wesleyan University

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson, 2010.

Division Street: America by Studs Terkel, 1967.

There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America by Alex Kotlowitz, 1991.

The Dealmakers of Downstate Illinois: Paul Powel, Clyde L. Choate, and John H. Stelle by Robert Hartley, 2016.

Frontier Illinois by James E. Davis, 1998.

MIKE LAWRENCE, former director-Paul Simon Public Policy Institute

Dirksen: Portrait of a Public Man by Neil MacNeil, 1970.

 

Governor Richard Ogilvie: In the Interest of the State by Taylor Pensoneau, 1997.

The Dealmakers of Downstate Illinois: Paul Powel, Clyde L. Choate, and John H. Stelle by Robert Hartley, 2016.

Bloody Williamson by Paul Angle, 1969.

The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America by Ethan Michaeli, 2016.

Additional reading:

The Illinois Tax Increase of 1983: Summit and Resolution by Joan Parker, 1984.

Freedom’s Champion: Elijah Lovejoy by Paul Simon, 1994.

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

We Don’t Want Nobody Nobody Sent: An Oral History of the Daley Years by Milton L. Rakove, 1979.

BERNARD SCHOENBURG, political reporter and columnist, State Journal-Register

Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago” by Mike Royko, 1971.

Paul Powell of Illinois: A Lifelong Democrat by Robert E. Hartley, 1999.

Governor Richard Ogilvie: In the Interest of the State by Taylor Pensoneau, 1997.

Golden: How Rod Blagojevich Talked Himself out of the Governor’s Office and Into Prison by Jeff Coen and John Chase, 2012.

The Illinois Governors: Mostly Good and Competent Men by Robert Howard, 1988.

Additional reading:

Dan Walker: The Glory and the Tragedy by Taylor Pensoneau and Bob Ellis, 1993.

Len Small: Governors and Gangsters by Jim Ridings, 2009.

JOHN SHAW, director-Paul Simon Public Policy Institute

Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West by William Cronon, 1991.

 

The Heartland: An American History by Kristin L. Hoganson, 2019.

Seeking Bipartisanship: My Life in Politics by Ray LaHood with Frank H. Mackaman, 2015.

In the Fullness of Time: The Memoirs of Paul H. Douglas, 1972.

P.S.: The Autobiography of Paul Simon, 1994.

 

Additional reading:

One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, An Unlikely Coach, and A Magical Baseball Season by Chris Ballard, 2012.

Played in Peoria by Jerry Klein Sr., 1980.

Cleared for Takeoff: A Pilot’s Story of Challenges and Triumphs by William R. Norwood, 2014.

SITES

OF

INTEREST

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.

Chicagology

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. 

BOOKS

 OF INTEREST

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 important 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. 

Contact James Krohe Jr. at CornLatitudes@outlook.com

All material Copyright © by James Krohe Jr. unless otherwise indicated