Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Neil Steinberg  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Fiction Non-Fiction

Audience: Adult;

Born: 1960 in Cleveland, Ohio

-- Neil Steinberg on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Neil Steinberg works for the Chicago Sun-Times and lives in the northern suburbs.

Biographical and Professional Information

Neal Steinberg began his journalism career with the Barrington Courier-Review, in Barrington, IL, and the Wheaton Daily Journal, in Wheaton, IL; In 1987 he became a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago, IL, and in 1995 began his career as a columnist with the Sun Times.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

A Complete and Utter Failure: A Celebration of Also-Rans, Runners-Up, Never-Weres & Total Flops
ISBN: 0385479700

Main Street Books. 1995

So you've got these fond hopes for blissful love, professional glory, fame, and fortune. But in the back of your mind there's that nagging fear. The man of your dreams will laugh in your face. Your hated office rival will come up with some whizbang marketing idea and get promoted, while you'll be asked to "help out with the phones." Steven Spielberg will buy the rights to your screenplay, spend $40 million producing it, and the critics will savage the film, mercilessly singling out your work for especially contemptuous, poisonous derision. But hey, everybody fails sometime. It's inevitable. So don't fear failure. Embrace it. In Complete And Utter Failure, Neil Steinberg joyfully explores the many fascinating facets of failure, from pointless failure (a brief history of several very dumb attempts to climb Mount Everest) to product failure (Reddi-Bacon, smokeless cigarettes, and Baby Jesus dolls) to institutionalized failure (the horrifying Dickensian spectacle of the National Spelling Bee, in which 8,999,999 children out of 9,000,000 fail in an excruciatingly public and humiliating fashion). This delightful book is filled with surprising and useless arcana--who really invented the telephone, what turned on Isaac Newton--guaranteed to help you annoy people at cocktail parties. Along the way Steinberg meditates on his own myriad miscues and disappointments, beginning with his failure to perform a magic trick in front of the neighborhood kids at age four (he blames Captain Kangaroo). Complete And Utter Failure is a wonderfully literate, witty book that issues a ringing message for our times: If at first you don't succeed, have a scotch and forget about it.

The Alphabet of Modern Annoyances
ISBN: 0385481713

Doubleday. 1996

The author of Complete and Utter Failure presents a hilarious look at twenty-six things that drive us all crazy, offering an alphabetical assortment of annoyances ranging from "A Is for Advertising" to "W Is for Workplace," and so on.

Don't Give Up the Ship: Finding My Father While Lost at Sea
ISBN: 034543675X

Ballantine Books. 2002

For as long as he could remember, Neil Steinberg had heard his father Bob talk obsessively about his season at sea in the mid-1950s as radio operator aboard the Empire State, the gleaming training ship of the New York State Maritime College. The rocky crossing from New York harbor to Bermuda, and then on to Spain, Greece, and France the run-ins with drunken shipmates the shock of death at sea–Neil knew it all by heart. Now, forty-five years later, Bob and Neil, father and son, are set to embark on that same voyage together aboard the Empire State II.

And Neil is scared as hell. Scared of shipwreck, disaster at sea, terror, humiliation, and his father. But scared, above all, of the prospect of a month at sea with a man he has never understood.

In Don’t Give Up the Ship, Neil Steinberg has written a courageous, gripping, and honest memoir of an unforgettable voyage–and an unbelievably fraught relationship. This is not a hugs-and-high-fives tale scripted by Hollywood. In fact, these two men have never spent three days together without an explosion. But underneath the bitterness and disappointment, there has always been something deeper, a bond neither could ever talk about or name. To Neil, facing down the demons of middle age, this trip is his best chance, maybe his only chance, to find the father he never knew and be the son he was never able to be.

A dual memoir about their lives together and apart, Don’t Give Up the Ship helps Neil to finally understand what his dad went through nearly half a century ago as a handsome nineteen year old kid living in the Bronx of the 1940s, in flight from his own oppressive father, in search of adventure, determined to see the world, fall in love, and make something of himself.

Steinberg is too truthful a writer for the easy epiphany or the pat reconciliation. But at the end, after the landing in Naples and the quick overland trip through Italy, father and son do arrive at an understanding that changes both their lives. Don’t Give Up the Ship is not only a ripping good story of men and the sea, it is also a brave, frank, and unflinchingly real exploration of the nature of family love and the possibility of adventure.

Hatless Jack
ISBN: 0452285232

Plume. 2004

A quirky social history of American fashion explains how President Kennedy's refusal to wear a hat helped contribute to the obsolescence of the hat as a vital component of American men's fashion, tracing the history of different hat styles as a statement of a man's social status to the 1960s when the male hat became obsolete. Original.

Drunkard: A Hard-Drinking Life
ISBN: 0452295432

Plume. 2009

"A compelling read, sad and wistful and breathtakingly forthright."—Chicago Magazine

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg loved his job, his wife, and his two young sons. But he also loved to drink. Drunkard is an unflinchingly honest account of one man's descent into alcoholism and his ambivalent struggle to embrace sobriety. Sentenced to an outpatient rehab program, Steinberg discovers that twenty-eight days of therapy cannot reverse the toll taken by decades of hard drinking. As Steinberg claws his way through recovery, grieves the loss of the drink, and tries to shore up his faltering marriage, he is confronted by the greatest test he has ever faced, and finds himself in the process. Steinberg's gripping memoir is a frank and often painfully funny account of the stark-yet-common realities of a disease that affects millions.

You Were Never in Chicago (Chicago Visions and Revisions)
ISBN: 0226772055

University of Chicago Press. 2012

In 1952 the New Yorker published a three-part essay by A. J. Liebling in which he dubbed Chicago the "Second City." From garbage collection to the skyline, nothing escaped Liebling's withering gaze. Among the outraged responses from Chicago residents was one that Liebling described as the apotheosis of such criticism: a postcard that read, simply, "You were never in Chicago."

Neil Steinberg has lived in and around Chicago for more than three decades—ever since he left his hometown of Berea, Ohio, to attend Northwestern—yet he remains fascinated by the dynamics captured in Liebling's anecdote. In You Were Never in Chicago Steinberg weaves the story of his own coming-of-age as a young outsider who made his way into the inner circles and upper levels of Chicago journalism with a nuanced portrait of the city that would surprise even lifelong residents.

Steinberg takes readers through Chicago's vanishing industrial past and explores the city from the quaint skybridge between the towers of the Wrigley Building, to the depths of the vast Deep Tunnel system below the streets. He deftly explains the city's complex web of political favoritism and carefully profiles the characters he meets along the way, from greats of jazz and journalism to small-business owners just getting by. Throughout, Steinberg never loses the curiosity and close observation of an outsider, while thoughtfully considering how this perspective has shaped the city, and what it really means to belong. Intimate and layered, You Were Never in Chicago will be a welcome addition to the bookshelves of all Chicagoans, be they born in the city or forever transplanted.

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