Mayor talks books

Summer reading program starts Monday with Fallon bet on the line

By Leonor Vivanco, @lvivanco


9:59 PM CDT, June 8, 2014


Monday marks the first day of registration for the city's summer reading program, which made late-night TV last week when Mayor Emanuel bet "The Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon that if Chicago's children read 2.4 million books this summer, Fallon will have to tape an episode of his show in Chicago.

RedEye caught up with the mayor to chat about the annual Rahm's Readers Summer Learning Challenge and what books he likes to read -- sorry, he's not into the "Game of Thrones" series. The mayor said he picks books based on reviews and recommendations and tries to finish a book every three weeks.

Here are edited excerpts from a phone interview.

What types of books do you generally like to read?

I love U.S. history, European history, specifically World War II and World War I. I did a lot of reading this year on World War I because of the anniversary. ... I'll pick a moment in time, or a person, or a battle and then try to read a lot about it.

Do you ever read books about yourself like "Brothers Emanuel" or "Mayor 1%"?

No, I never read my brother's book, and I've never read a book about President Clinton or President Obama, stuff that I've been involved with, no.

Is it because you lived it?

Exactly. If I'm going to read something, I want to read about something I want to learn about.

How do you find the time to read?

I'm on a flight, I read. On the weekend, I'll sneak away for two hours and read. If that's something you're interested in, you make time. It's just one of those things.

When you were growing up, what incentive did you have to read as many books as possible?

I would not say incentive. I think it was facing the wrath from my -- my parents sat on us about reading. The whole idea of a reading list came from my parents. We used to have to do it, as I do with my kids. ... I'm a big believer in reading and using the summertime to do that. The incentive wasn't so much financial or anything like that. My parents were adamant about it, and it was non-negotiable. We did it, and it became a habit.


Emanuel’s favorite books:

“Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel

“Ecstatic Nation” by Brenda Wineapple

“My Promised Land” by Ari Shavit

“The Island at the Center of the World” by Russell Shorto

“The Wars of Reconstruction” by Douglas Egerton

“Chicago Skyscrapers” by Thomas Leslie

“Gettysburg” by Allen C. Guelzo

“The Guns at Last Light” by Rick Atkinson


Emanuel's favorite children's books

"Angelina Ballerina" series by Katharine Holabird

"Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr." by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier

"Charlotte's Web" by E.B. White

"The Trumpet of the Swan" by E.B. White

"The Librarian of Basra" by Jeanette Winter

"The Man Who Walked Between the Towers" by Mordicai Gerstein

"Matilda" by Roald Dahl

"Abe Lincoln Grows Up" by Carl Sandburg, illustrated by James Daugherty


Mayor Emanuel will kick off the annual Rahm's Readers Summer Learning Challenge during an 11:30 a.m. Monday event at the Chicago Public Library Douglass branch.