News » News Lead

Letters From Home

Books By Local Authors As Gifts For Friends, Or For Yourself


Robert M. Reed

Greetings From Cleveland Ohio: 1900-1960s

(hardcover, 258 pages, Schiffer Books, 2008, $29.99)

Part history, part collector's guide, and part tour book, this volume is primarily a look at historic postcards, showing the things that printers and promoters thought worthwhile to show off about their hometown during the city's heyday. In that sense it's a historic look at Cleveland's self-promotion. The subjects - famous buildings, monuments, roads and bridges - wouldn't be surprising, except that many of us have forgotten much of what downtown Cleveland has to offer, especially the details of its architecture and parks. There are artist renderings of bridges from when they were new, meant to show the city as a clean, modern place. There are cheery shots of Euclid Avenue and other famous places. Each postcard is marked with an approximate date and the price a collector might pay for it. - Michael Gill

James A. Toman

Vintage Cleveland: Photographs of Yesteryear

(softcover, 112 pages, Cleveland Landmarks Press, 2009, $17.50)

Vintage Cleveland shows scores of photos of the city from decades past, but it has a journalistic quality: It's not about promoting so much as documenting. Toman, the author or co-author of 18 books on the city, has added informative captions and essays describing what's going on in the photos or telling what has changed. There's a picture of the southwest corner of Public Square, lined with three- and four-story brick storefronts before the Terminal Tower was built. There's the waterfront, busy with lake freighters. There are pictures of streetcars dipping underground on Detroit Avenue at West 29th, where the road now seems enigmatically wide, before they cross the Detroit-Superior bridge on its subway level. And of course there are pictures of Euclid Avenue filled with more people than Playhouse Square ever attracts these days. The photos - most of which have not been previously published - are taken from CSU's Bruce Young Collection. If you're at all curious about the city or have any love for its landscape, this book will suck you in. - MGi

Janet Macoska

Jews Rock: A Celebration of Rock and Roll's Jewish Heritage

(hardcover, 128 pages, Artvision Exhibitions, 2008, $45)

Cleveland photographer Janet Macoska has been shooting concerts for almost 35 years. She has up-close pics of everyone from Paul McCartney and David Bowie to Devo and Madonna. For her first book, Macoska narrows her subject field to Jewish people who've picked up guitars and mics over the years. Jews Rock! A Celebration of Rock and Roll's Jewish Heritage features more than 125 pages of color and black-and-white photos from Macoska's archives. There's Billy Joel pounding the piano onstage! There's Neil Diamond in all his sequined glory! There's Gene Simmons and his tongue! Jews Rock! makes a worthy addition to the stack of local books on your coffee table, but it also serves as an eye-opening history lesson. Did you know that both Michael Bolton and Kenny G are Jewish? We didn't. And we bet there's lots of Jewish people hoping Macoska got it wrong. - Michael Gallucci

Macoska signs copies of Jews Rock Friday, November 28, 2-3:30 p.m. at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, 2929 Richmond Rd., Beachwood. For more, see

Doug Gelbert

Doggin' Cleveland: The 50 Best Places to Hike With Your Dog in Northeast Ohio

(paperback, 108 pages, Cruden Bay Books, 2008, $12.95)

Gelbert doesn't stick to the city or to publicly owned parks, but ventures far and wide to find places are worth driving to - in some cases, nearly an hour. Each entry gives some history of the park and description of the walks, and notes on dog friendliness, how many other hikers you're likely to see, whether Fido will be able to swim when you get there and how long it might take to hike the trail. - MGi

Harry Longfellow

A Fares of a Street Savvy Cabby: 75 True Stories

(softcover, 136 pages)

This is the second book by self-published author Thomas Jasany, who goes by the pen name Harry Longfellow and who claims a masters degree in education and a Ph.D. in street life. His gritty book of true stories has the winking attitude of a guy who has seen a lot of life's underbelly and is proud of the fact; he wants to show you the side of life which you haven't seen because you go to bed too early or don't go to the same parts of town he does. He quotes jaded song lyrics like scripture and, in introducing the cab-driving life, says things like, "All you need is a drivers' license and a death wish. If you're not ready to die then you're in the wrong line of work." Get past those affectations, though, and the book is packed with anonymous tabloid action, mostly couched in conversational exchanges between passenger and cabby. An entire chapter is devoted to drunks, but that's not nearly enough to flush the alcohol out of this system. By the end of the book, the cabby has helped innumerable riders find strippers, prostitutes, crack pipes and other necessities for the long night downtown. Street Savvy is available for $9.95 at Visible Voice Bookstore, 1023 Kenilworth Ave., Tremont, or for $14 by mail to Jasany, 8261 Memphis Ave., Apt. 8, Brooklyn, 44144. - MGi

Bill Livingston

Above and Beyond: Tim Mack, the Pole Vault, and the Quest for Olympic Gold

(hardcover, 161 pages, Kent State University Press, 2008, $26.95)

In Above and Beyond, Plain Dealer sports columnist Bill Livingston tells the story of an unremarkable high-school athlete who set his sights high, overcame a fear of heights and accomplished his goals. It's the story of St. Ignatius High School graduate and pole vaulter Tim Mack's quest for Olympic gold in Athens in 2004. Mack is one of 16 people ever to pole vault above 6 meters. Livingston delves into the weird and competitive subculture of people who have learned how to plant a springy pole in the ground and use it to launch themselves more than 19 feet in the air. - MGi

Derek Hess and Kent Smith

Please God Save Us

(100 pages, Strhess Press,, $25)

This book juxtaposes politically and religiously provocative images by Hess with sharp commentary from local politico Smith. The result is a thought-provoking, often hilarious, always biting picture book of the narrowly averted apocalypse. Smith's honed criticisms of religious warmongering and right-wing Machiavellian maneuvering set just the right tone for Hess' urgent, spasmodic renderings; it's hard to overlook the political underpinnings of a painting depicting a minister riding a red elephant through a field of tree stumps with a horizon full of smokestacks behind him. It's the perfect gift for the art fan in your life who'd just love a few minutes alone with W. in the octagon. With Obama on his way in, let's hope the book soon takes on the nostalgic aura of the McCarthy era. - Dan Harkins

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.