It’s the biggest issue we’ll print this year, and it always takes a considerable amount of work to plan.
In my experience, the “Best of Chicago” issue is not only widely read, but sometimes misunderstood. It has two distinct parts. There’s the portion determined by the public; in the fall, the Reader rolled out more than 300 “Best of” categories for frequent readers, intrepid Chicagoans, stans of local artists, and randos who clicked a Twitter link to vote on. The editorial staff has no say in this process whatsoever, though I have campaigned pretty hard to win the “best pizza” category, as a bit—I’ve even made it to the finals too. (I have since retired my campaign for “best pizza.”) But this portion of the “Best of Chicago” issue is entirely determined by you, or those of you who voted. If you’re perplexed or frustrated by something that’s on the winners list and you didn’t vote, please remember to vote when we launch the ballots for next year’s issue.
The Reader’s editorial department focuses on the other distinct “Best of Chicago” section: staff picks. I have a lot of fun brainstorming potential picks to write about, and I usually put together a spreadsheet with at least 40 or 50 ideas—far more than I could reasonably write for a single issue. I find there’s no shortage of fantastic phenomena in the city that’s great in a distinctive way, and I appreciate how the “Best of Chicago” issue gives me and my colleagues space to say why. Most of what I write about from week to week also qualifies as “the best”—I think so, anyway, otherwise why would I write about it? But it’s nice to make a concise argument for a local musician’s greatness in an issue dedicated to nothing but the best; on the off chance that someone may pick up a copy of the Reader for the first time because it says its the “Best of Chicago” issue, I have the opportunity to compel them to learn about something in the city they might’ve otherwise not heard or experienced.
Anyway, if you haven’t given the issue a read yet, I hope you enjoy what my colleagues and I wrote about. I won’t spoil our individual selections, except for one, just because I want to tell you I wrote about pickle pizza.