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Great Books And Chicago: Novels About The City

October 9, 2007

Regular H&E readers know I like to talk about the great books idea—its history, present status, and future considerations. Of course I harbor no illusions about there being a Holy Grail of The Great Books. The times and people’s perceptions of those times play an important role in what books are considered the best.

And of course many, many books seem to have perennial importance: they make great books lists year after year. This adds an element of mystery to the history of the great books idea. This mystery feeds into a seemingly endless—and somewhat unanswerable—string of questions:

– What makes books perennially relevant?
– Are there transcendent ideas upon which the greatest books touch?
– Does a common human nature exist that grasps for those ideas?
– Are we culturally constructed to reach for “great ideas” perennially?
– Whether the sources of these book’s authority are nature or nurture, should we “canonize” of them?

With these questions in mind, I ran across this list of “Great Chicago Novels” in ChicagoMag.com (the online version of Chicago magazine). Apparently this list is, or will be, in the magazine’s November 2007 paper issue. Book #7 has a quote from my friend Bill Savage—which to discerning readers will likely reveal the choice book or its author.

What do you think of the list? Which books have you read? What’s missing? Should we make up our own Top 20 just to spite Chicago magazine? – TL

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