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What 'Chicago Tonight' Is Reading This Summer

Daniel Hautzinger
Summer reading on the beach. Photo: rawpixel on Unsplash

The Great American Read returns to WTTW this fall. Explore the list, vote for your favorite book, and find more book-related features, quizzes, and interviews at

Need some new book recommendations for the summer? Discover some of the books the Chicago Tonight team is reading right now. 

Brandis Friedman, Correspondent

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

I picked up Pachinko by Min Jin Lee because of its Amazon description, good reviews, and because it was a National Book Award finalist. I love a good family saga. There are several threads, of redemption, love and loss, and family. But I especially appreciate that the story is told in a time and place far from our own. A Korean family struggles to build a life in Japan, facing discrimination and war – challenges that some of us can recognize today – as well as challenges that are entirely unfamiliar. And it turns out that it was just chosen for the Now Read This, the PBS NewsHour/New York Times book club!

Amanda Vinicky, Correspondent

The Wrong Way to Save Your Life by Megan Stielstra

If I ever look sleepy on air, there’s a 50/50 chance it’s because I was up all night finishing a book; if it’s a good one, I simply can’t stop until I’m done! That was recently the case with Megan Stielstra’s The Wrong Way to Save Your Life. Reading her essays felt less like reading and more like chatting with a friend about money, mistakes, and music. Come to think of it, by the end of the book, I felt like I knew Stielstra well enough that it’s as if she is a pal. (Wanna grab brunch at The Bongo Room, Meg?).  This collection of stories got me thinking about friendship, loss, growing up, and the value of empathy. Whether you agree or disagree with Stielstra’s strong-held views, she’ll get you riled up... and by the next page she’ll have you laughing. Especially cool? Stielstra’s a Chicagoan. I loved touring the city’s neighborhoods “with” her, particularly when she relives her youth living where I do now, in Wicker Park.  

Mary Field, Executive Producer

Asymmetry by Lisa HallidayI'm reading and would recommend Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday. It's in part a roman à clef about an affair a young editor has with a famous author (Philip Roth?) and in part a story about the detention of a young Iraqi economist at Heathrow Airport, and how asymmetries in human connections are more complicated than you might predict. (At least that's what I think so far, but I'm not finished. In any case it's wonderfully written and full of literary snippets, but don't worry, if you don't recognize them, she helps you out in the acknowledgements at the end.)

Nick Blumberg, Producer

I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown is a sharp, clear-eyed memoir of how the author has navigated her life as a Black woman in America and her career working in religious settings that are often short-sighted at best when it comes to race. It doesn’t pull any punches, and it’s also wickedly funny and very cleverly written. (I also got the chance to interview the author before she came to Chicago earlier this year, and she was a delight to talk with!)

Alexandra Silets, Producer

Robin by Dave Itzkoff

I’m reading the biography of Robin Williams, Robin, by Dave Itzkoff. It’s really engaging, making me laugh and cry.