One Book, One Chicago: The Third Coast

The annual One Book, One Chicago program is nearing its conclusion. Launched in the fall of 2001, One Book, One Chicago is a city-wide book club. Since 2011, it has chosen an annual theme for Chicago’s readers to dive into together. The 2015-16 season’s theme is “Chicago: The City That Gives” which is being explored through the book The Third Coast by Thomas Dyja. Having never participated before, I wanted to explore what this educational event offers to the city.

One Book, One Chicago Harold Washington Library
The Harold Washington Library hosts many One Book, One Chicago events.

One Book, One Chicago is a City-Wide Discussion

The core of the Chicago Public Library’s One Book, One Chicago program is, of course, reading. When it debuted in 2001, the program described itself “as an opportunity to engage and enlighten our residents and to foster a sense of community through reading.” Initially, the library would choose two books each year for Chicagoans to read and discuss. The first was the universally-beloved To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Other selections included Night by Elie Wiesel, Go Tell it On the Mountain by James Baldwin, and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. In its first decade, each One Book, One Chicago selection was chosen for independent reasons and the programs events focused almost exclusively on reading.

Starting in 2013, the city of Chicago decided to change its approach. That’s when the book selection was pared back from two per year to just one. Each book chosen for the program now related to a yearly theme that would be explored through a variety of cultural outlets and institutions.

The first book in this new approach was The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. The book is a historical account of the Great Migration. The book was tied into the wider theme of migration, so One Book, One Chicago invited people to explore how and why migration had affected them personally as well as the city as a whole.

One Book, One Chicago mies iit chicago architectural walking tour
The architecture of Mies van der Rohe plays a big role in The Third Coast.

“The City that Gives” and The Third Coast by Thomas Dyja

As mentioned above, the theme for 2015-16 is “Chicago: The City that Gives.” The book selection is The Third Coast by Thomas Dyja, which is about Chicago at mid-century. Dyja sees that as a transitional moment for both Chicago and the United States. The Third Coast argues that in those decades, Chicago was at its zenith. It was much too big and powerful to still be a city on the make and not yet subject to the industrial and institutional rot that later led outsiders to proclaim “poor Chicago.” In that time, argues Dyja, Chicago gave an incredible amount of cultural and commercial contributions to the nation. It seemed like the sky may be the limit. The ties back to the question of ‘giving’ for us in 2016. Is Chicago still a cultural and industrial leader of the nation? Are we “the city that gives” the country its energy?

One Book, One Chicago Events

The answer to that question can be pursued at a wealth of public events over the next few weeks. A variety of the city’s cultural institutions host these events. Happily, they’re not just taking place downtown. One Book, One Chicago events, like the Art Institute’s Visible Histories series, are popping up at neighborhood libraries. That way every Chicagoan will have the chance to stop by. Personally, I have already pencilled The Loop Transformed: A Tale of 10 Buildings onto my calendar. The events run through April 26th.

As I mentioned, I have not yet participated in One Book, One Chicago, but I want to! Time is a bit short, but I’d like to read The Third Coast before the end of April. History, both generally and about our city in particular, is a life-long obsession of mine.

-Alex Bean, Office Manager and Tour Guide


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Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

“Our guide Ellen was exceptional and gifted with a great personal touch.”


Tour Guide

Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.

“Jen was a perfect storyteller and kept us spellbound for hours.”


Tour Guide

With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.


Tour Guide

Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.

“Marie was a bubbling fountain of information and contagious enthusiasm.”


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
“Sonny was extremely knowledgeable about all things Chi-town.”
Wade K


Content Manager and Tour Guide

Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

“Alex was fascinating to listen to. He clearly knows his history and it shows.”
Katie K

Amanda Scotese

Executive Director and Tour Guide

I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
“You can TELL Amanda is hyper-passionate about doing the research and getting the story that nobody’s heard before.”
Shelby F

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