March 2, 2016

Book Review: "Hidden History of Lincoln Park" by Patrick Butler

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Hidden History of Lincoln Park, by Patrick Butler

Hidden History of Lincoln Park
By Patrick Butler
The History Press
Reviewed by Jason Pettus

Whenever I'm in a bookstore, I'm always tempted by those giant sections filled with unending short titles on local history by a handful of small presses devoted to cranking out such cheap and fast paperbacks as quickly as they possibly can; but I almost always end up stopping myself, because I'm always afraid that they're going to turn out to be just exactly like what Patrick Butler's recent Hidden History of Lincoln Park ended up exactly being, just good enough to justify their existence but not exactly what you could call a well-organized, well-planned or well-written nonfiction book. Butler sounds like less of a historian here and more like just some dude who's lived in the neighborhood forever, is always sitting next to you at the local watering hole, and has an endless amount of small random anecdotes about the area to always dish up, but not in any particular order and with none of those stories having particularly anything to do with the story before or after it (exacerbated in the book version by there also regularly being photographs on certain pages that have nothing to do with anything being mentioned in the text next to it). And while that's great for a pub atmosphere, or as the Royko-like newspaper columnist Butler actually used to be when younger, it makes for a pretty frustrating local history guide; for an important part of one is to follow some kind of pattern, either chronologically or through a map or based on topic, so that we're gaining a bigger and grander understanding about that subject by the time we're done, not just a jumble of pre-prepared bar tales being told to us by the aging lonely guy on the corner stool. There's nothing particularly wrong with Hidden History of Lincoln Park, which is why it's getting a decent score; I'm just always left at the end of books like these wishing it had been better, that's all.

Out of 10: 8.0

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Filed by Jason Pettus at 7:00 AM, March 2, 2016. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Nonfiction | Reviews |