Booklists Staff Book Reviews

Columbus Reads

by Public Service Associate Owen

Our humble capital city of Columbus is one of the nicest places to live in the state, and perhaps even the country! If you’re optimistic enough, that is. Often scoffed at by those who don’t reside here and often underappreciated by those that do, I am here to sing the praises of our state capital and to highlight some of the books that provide insight into what makes Columbus a special place to live. From the Statehouse to the Chill, here are four books about Columbus!

The first one I’d like to present is titled The Columbus Anthology, edited by Amanda Page, which is a collection of essays, poems, and short stories written by a myriad of Columbus authors who have strived to fight against the notion that Columbus is a place that is lacking in culture and identity. From stories of vibrant immigrant experiences at Columbus Crew matches to a good old fashioned diner crawl to one – no, many – tributes to the legendary Buckeye Donuts, this anthology is a devastating blow to any who consider Columbus and its residents to be bland, opaque, or sans any meaningful identity. “Maybe we’re not having trouble designing a definitive identity,” writes Amanda Page in her introduction. “Maybe we are a city that is constantly considering what it will become.” It is a quintessential quilt of Columbus, woven from the literary fabric of the great city’s avid defenders. It is a work that I wholeheartedly recommend for anyone who doubts the vivacity of our fellow residents.

If you are interested in learning more about one of the city’s most famous landmarks, then I would recommend Ohio Statehouse: A Building Through the Ages by Cheryl J. Straker and Chris Matheney. As the seat of the Ohio government, the Statehouse welcomes over a quarter of a million visitors each year. If you are interested in the history of the Statehouse, then this book is definitely worth a look, as it contains historic photos of the Statehouse through the years as well as insights on what makes the Statehouse the center of Ohio’s government and society. I recommend it for those who are intrigued by this Columbus landmark and how it has evolved over the decades of its use.

For a more in-depth look into the history of Columbus’s development as a city, then Mansel G. Blackford’s Columbus, Ohio: Two Centuries of Business and Environmental Change might be of interest to you. Blackford, a historian and Professor of History at Ohio State University, examines how Columbus developed economically, spatially, and socially, as well as how the environment of the city was adversely affected by these developments. Water-use and land-use policies are examined as Blackford explains how urban planners of Columbus could start from scratch when designing the city’s land and water systems. The things we take for granted in Columbus, like the transportation infrastructure and access to clean drinking water, are elaborated and celebrated by Blackford as hallmarks of why Columbus remains a successful metropolis. If the history of Columbus’s development from a small village on the banks of the Scioto to Ohio’s thriving capital city in our modern age, then this book is definitely worth a pick up!

Finally, digging more into the sporting side of the city’s culture, is Craig Merz and David Paitson’s Chill Factor: How a Minor-League Hockey Team Changed a City Forever. It deliberates on the wild success story that was the Columbus Chill: a minor-league hockey team that played in the East Coast Hockey League that attracted a cult following among Columbus sports fans in the 1990s. Columbus, forever known (and rightfully so) as one of the premier destinations for exceptional college football in the entire nation, was a complete stranger to hockey until the Chill arrived. The artistry and savagery on ice displayed by the Chill enraptured the city, as Merz and Paitson explain, which all of a sudden had a new sport to flock to when the Buckeyes weren’t playing. Without the rapid rise and rabid fanbase of the Chill, Columbus would have never received an NHL expansion team in the form of the Blue Jackets, who are now ingrained as a staple of the Columbus sports team and a major league team, along with the Crew, that the city could finally call its own. Although the Chill lasted less than a decade in Columbus, they left an indelible mark on the sporting fabric of the city, which is now where a major league franchise calls home. If you wish to learn more about one of the most fascinating and important sports organizations the city has ever known, then look no further than Chill Factor.

  • The Columbus Anthology by Assorted Authors, edited by Amanda Page | print
  • Ohio Statehouse: A Building Through the Ages by Cheryl J. Straker and Chris Matheney | print
  • Columbus, Ohio: Two Centuries of Business and Environmental Change by Mansel G. Blackford | print
  • Chill Factor: How a Minor-League Hockey Team Changed a City Forever by David Paitson and Craig Merz | print / digital