HISTORIC BARS OF CHICAGO
By Sean Parnell
Lake Claremont Press. $15.95.
This entertaining and informative guide profiles 100 of Chicago's most historic taverns (and the top 5 in the suburbs). Sean Parnell warns that some of the best bars - and presumably reader favorites - could not be included because of space restrictions. But there is still plenty to savor as Parnell recounts the stories and anecdotes behind the names, from the Abbey Pub to the Zebra Lounge. Each entry is accompanied by a piece of bar trivia, such as "What world-famous band used to frequent the Fireplace Inn in the 1970s after concerts?" (Rolling Stones.) He concludes with a list of recommended historic pub crawls, including a St. Patrick's Day Pub Crawl, a Literary Pub Crawl, a Halloween Pub Crawl, an Andersonville Pub Crawl, an Old Town Pub Crawl and even a Jefferson Park Pub Crawl.
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June Sawyers, Chicago Tribune
SIREN LAND: A Celebration of Life in Southern Italy
By Norman Douglas
Tauris Parke. $16.
This paperback offers what's best described as "deep travel" - that sense of place far richer than any fleeting tour can supply.
Norman Douglas was 43 when he published this book - his first - in 1911, about his physical and mental travels around the island of Capri and the Bay of Naples. This is an early 20th century classic from the golden age of travel writing: an era when travel writing meant bringing distant places close and not, as it often is today, finding something outlandish or extreme that hasn't yet been on YouTube.
Douglas muses on how Greek culture transformed a region planted with "vines and oranges and walnuts" and whose sea is "smooth as a sheet of sapphire" with phrasing that is lyrical and seems effortless. His ideas easily meld the mythic with the modern. "It is rather puzzling when one comes to think of it," he writes, "to conceive how the old Sirens passed their time on days of wintry storm. Modern ones would call for cigarettes, Grand Marnier, and a pack of cards, and bid the gale howl itself out."
Douglas makes you long for cards, cigarettes and Grand Marnier, even if you're the type of person who doesn't gamble, smoke or drink.
Nick Owchar, Los Angeles Times