Roger Ebert reminds us by Tweet today that this is the 111th birthday of the novelist John Steinbeck. That brings to mind, for me, two books that deserve a shout out in these times.
The first, of course, is Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath," which reminds us that great canyons of opportunity have always separated the haves from the have-nots. Although, as Roger points out, the children and grandchildren of those desperate Oakies in Steinbeck's book went on to do quite well for themselves in California. Once the dust settled, so to speak. Maybe it's time for a sequel.
The second book is Donald L. Miller's "City of the Century: The Epic Making of Chicago and the Making of America." It first was published in 1996, but I never got around to reading it until just now. It makes Chicago's early history, up to the Columbian Exposition, comes alive in a way that I've never encountered before. Usually that stuff -- Marquette and Joliet and some dude named Kinzie -- bores me half to death. To live in a city fully and deeply, it helps to know where it came from and why. Miller fills us in.