The Top Five Chicago-Authored Books Of 2012

By Maggie Hellwig in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 28, 2012 7:00PM

If you were to ask us what the best books of 2012 are, we might start throwing around the usual names like Don DeLillo, J.K. Rowling, or Junot Diaz. The only dreadful, we dare say inerasable, problem with these authors is that not one of them is from, nor lives in, Chicago.

Our city is rich in literary culture: it has been the home to writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Sandra Cisneros, Lorraine Hansberry, and the great Studs Terkel. With heritage like this, there is little reason to see why we can't continue to produce world-renowned talent. The year 2012 has shown us that there is an able batch of young writers growing within Chicago. Furthermore, there is a select and humble group of veterans that have chosen to settle here. Thus, we've decided to keep our "Best of 2012" literary picks local. Without further ado, Chicagoist presents the Top Five Chicago-Authored Books of 2012.

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5. Skagboys by Irvine Welsh

Welsh's prequel to the famous novel, Trainspotting, makes the cut on our list by the skin of its teeth. Don't get us wrong, Welsh is a fantastic author. Skagboys is just as gritty, brash, and woeful as its predecessor; however, it has failed to live up to the shocking reputation of Trainspotting. Skagboys may not outshine the rest of Welsh's library, but it does take a complete snapshot of a time in Edinburgh that no one else could have captured so effortlessly. The gang—Mark, Spud, Tommy, and Sick Boy—begin their slow decline into heroin addiction, spurred by the acute economic recession that resulted in a large AIDS epidemic. It is well-written, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, and a solid number five on our list.

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4. I Love Science! by Shanny Jean Maney

Number four was admittedly a shocker to us. Shanny Jean Maney—co-founder of The Encyclopedia Show, poet, and teacher—had her first book of poetry published in 2012, and it was one of the cheeriest highlights of our year. Why?—you may ask. Well, it's been quite some time since a goofy and fun-loving poet came along, making us laugh and also speaking to us with complete clarity. Maney isn't afraid to write semi-sentimental poetry about baking cookies, chicken limos, or insomnia—and she does a damn good job of it.

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3. Office Girl by Joe Meno

Meno has written Chicago's hipster book of the year without a hitch. As usual, he executes this book with elegance and finesse. The year is 1999, the characters are in their indecisive twenties, and their main mode of transportation is via bike. Jack and Odile's predicament (stuck in cubicles by day and running amuck by night) is not an unfamiliar one and could have even been far too cliché for us. Despite its likely premise, Office Girl is anything other than boring. For those who are in their twenties, caught in limbo, this little novel could very well be a favorite. For the rest of us, Meno has eloquently captured a moment in life that will cry of nostalgia and hum the sweet indie tune of our choosing.

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2. Hot Pink by Adam Levin

Leering close to the number one spot is Adam Levin's collection of whacky short stories. This Chicago resident and native has captured the originality, brilliance, and perversity of our city streets. The tone in itself is Chicagoan, complete with familiar accents and street names. The topics range from awkward coming-of-age angst to degenerate invention; from dastardly intentions to strange obsessions, always delivered with a harsh kick to the groin. Hot Pink is not the kind of book that is easy to put down, but (unlike most page-turners) Levin's stories are worthy of distinguished literary merit. The author is on to something new with his style, and we can hardly wait to see more work from him in the future.

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1. Building Stories by Chris Ware

At the top of our list is the ever-amazing cartoonist and writer Chris Ware, and his latest creation: Building Stories. Ware has been with us through his adventures of Jimmy Corrigan and Quimby the Mouse. He appeals to the simple artists, and to the humble underdogs of our society—quietly presenting everyday characters and their small-but-mighty accomplishments. At this point in his career, Ware is simply unable to hide behind his own curtain. Building Stories, a boxful of 14 different stories told through various pieces of artwork, displays the labor of a mature and genius cartoonist. While Chris Ware may claim to only pale in comparison to the late Charles Schulz, we're quite certain that Ware is actualizing a body of work that his idol would stand in awe of.

Other Honorable Mentions:

Featherproof Books & Drag City's The Minus Times Collected
Piano Rats by Franki Elliot
L-Vis Live! by Kevin Coval
May We Shed These Human Bodies by Amber Sparks
Queue Tips by Rob Christopher
Carry the One by Carol Anshaw
Chicago Stories by Michael Czyniejewski