Eddie Torres, artistic director of Teatro Vista, read:

My Bloody Life: The Making of a Latin King by Reymundo Sanchez

A thrilling book. Set in Chicago and based on a true story, My Bloody Life chronicles the transformation of an individual’s rise and fall in the notorious Latin Kings street gang in Chicago. The book’s description of the Humboldt Park neighborhood in the 1970s is as I remembered it as a kid, when I would visit my family members on the north side. It also brings a sense of reality to the experience of that urban landscape and the Puerto Rican community that was affected by both the violence and gangs. The writing, although sometimes disturbing, is poetic and powerful.

Credit: Kristin Greer Love

Connie Noyes, visual artist, attended:

SummerDance

For a brief two months of summer, in the Spirit of Music Garden in Grant Park, SummerDance may be the center of culture-generated joy for me. Like a mini United Nations, citizens young and old from diverse sociocultural, religious, ethnic, and economic backgrounds join together to shake their collective booty or learn the basics of Hungarian folk or African dance, polka, tango, or salsa (to name just a few offerings). The evening begins with a lesson specific to the featured musical genre, after which you are free to DANCE. I have been a longtime student of African and Latin dance, but last year I was fascinated by a conversation with a woman I had there who had spent her entire life teaching and promoting polka.

Credit: Zol87

Jim Coudal, founder of Coudal Partners, took:

A bike ride through town

One of my favorite bike rides takes me past Mies van der Rohe’s sublime Crown Hall on the IIT campus, and then from there south along the Lake Shore path to Hyde Park and the University of Chicago. Both of those places are great destinations for the architecturally and historically minded cyclist, but it’s something in between that caught my attention recently. Heading toward the lake on 35th, just before the pedestrian bridge over the tracks, is a very tall monument to a very short man: Stephen A. Douglas (of the Lincoln/Douglas debates) stands gazing at Lake Michigan from the top of a 100-foot monument marking the site of his grave. It seems out of place, and despite its height it’s easy to miss, but to this day the “Little Giant” enjoys an amazing view of Lake Michigan in the city he loved.

PJ Powers, artistic director of TimeLine Theatre Company, read:

The Front Page: From Theater to Reality by George W. Hilton

I’ve been getting a crash course in Chicago history recently by working on our play The Front Page, which is set in the 1920s and about Chicago journalism and politics. One of the incredible resources I found during my research was this book, which is packed with great stories, anecdotes, and historical insights into the rough-and-tumble world of Chicago newspapers. Detailed annotations make you feel like you are getting to know the real personalities of that time and bring to life the locations—some long gone, but some you can still visit—that were a big part of city life back then. It also has some fascinating photographs from the archives of the Chicago History Museum and the Newberry Library. It is an amazing book for Chicago history (and theater) buffs and novices alike.

Credit: David B. Gleason

Phil Tadros, founder and creative director of Doejo, sailed on:

Tall Ship Adventures of Chicago’s Red Witch

I took my staff on a sail and tour of Chicago on the water as a team-building-type thing, and it was beautiful. We got on at Burnham Harbor and went north, got to look at the skyline, passed by Navy Pier, then headed back south. It’s built like a hundred-year-old boat—it’s a sailboat, but with an engine in it—and there was a pirate on board. The boat fits about 60 people, and you can bring booze. The captain let me steer the boat. We went on one of those days that was superfoggy; when we were first driving down to the dock, I was wondering if we would even see anything. But being out there, it wasn’t as bad as it was looking from the land toward the water. The fog added a lot to the day.