Credit: Andrea Bauer

We approached our 40th birthday as many do—with a mix of pride, nostalgia, and fear of death, topped off with way too much buttercream frosting and a few too many whiskeys. It goes without saying that the aftermath of such an outpouring would be complicated, endearing . . . and sticky.

Faced with the big 4-0, the real question—as pointed out by 40-year Reader veteran Michael Miner after examining decades of all-but-forgotten pages of Reader history—is a simple one: “What can be done?” We can search our legacy-heavy soul to recognize the milestones that led to this point. We can question how the past will help inform the future. We can, essentially, age.

Part of us intends to age with grace (which means tackling all the fitting reminiscences and painful admissions head-on). Another part of us wants to defy age entirely (either by going back in time or charting a whole new course). And still another part wants to smear our faces with cake and throw back another couple of rounds.

With the help of Miner—as well as Straight Dope mastermind Cecil Adams, celebrated cartoonist Chris Ware, investigative journalist John Conroy, renowned film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, longtime jazz critic Neil Tesser, and eight of the staffers who helped launch the Reader in the early 70s—we’ve illuminated our hazy history with the hope of demystifying, if only a little, our hazier future. But what we really need is another 40 years. We’ll have it all figured out by then. Mara Shalhoup

Michael Miner: Our Rock

Miner reflects on the Reader‘s 40 years of history—and his own

The conscience of Chicago journalism‘ has been in our pages since day one

Then & Now

A chefs’ family tree revisited

Jonathan Rosenbaum ruminates on

Neil Tesser returns to his 1973 interview with Von Freeman

Tom Boeker reminisces on being a reviled theatre critic

John Conroy’s ‘House of Screams’ launched a decade-long journalistic odyssey

Chris Ware

A year after he published Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, the Reader began printing Chris Ware’s comics, which ran from 2002-2006. Here, we’ve reproduced his most nerve-wracking Reader cartoon.

Straight Dope

Cecil Adams, the original myth-buster, examines the Reader‘s 40 years.

The First Issue

Read all 16 pages of the October 1, 1971, Reader

Revisiting the early days

Tom Rehwaldt: ‘nothing like the Village Voice

Bob Roth: ‘our investors were unemployed’

Robert McCamant: ‘neither fish nor fowl’

Nancy Banks: ‘I’d been replaced’

Mary Jo Madden: ‘you weren’t around in 1977’

Dave Jones: ‘It was easy to feel at home’

Mark Homstad: ‘I didn’t intend a controversy’

Tom Yoder: ‘The office was the apartment’

Digging for sonic gold

Sharp Darts rummages in the archive of Reader music criticism.

Reader at 40

The final chapter in our 40-week series in which we take a look at a specific year in Chicago history via the pages of the Reader.