The best books about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair

Who am I?

Jocelyn Green is the bestselling and award-winning author of eighteen books as of 2021. Her historical fiction has been acclaimed by Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, and the Historical Novel Society.


I wrote...

Shadows of the White City

By Jocelyn Green,

Book cover of Shadows of the White City

What is my book about?

The one thing Sylvie Townsend wants most is what she feared she was destined never to have--a family of her own. But taking in Polish immigrant Rose Dabrowski to raise and love quells those fears--until seventeen-year-old Rose goes missing at the World's Fair, and Sylvie's world unravels.

Brushed off by the authorities, Sylvie turns to her boarder, Kristof Bartok, for help. He is Rose's violin instructor and the concertmaster for the Columbian Exposition Orchestra, and his language skills are vital to helping Sylvie navigate the immigrant communities where their search leads.

From the glittering architecture of the fair to the dark houses of Chicago's poorest neighborhoods, they're taken on a search that points to Rose's long-lost family. Is Sylvie willing to let the girl go? And as Kristof and Sylvie grow closer, can she reconcile her craving for control with her yearning to belong?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

Jocelyn Green Why did I love this book?

Erik Larson tells the parallel stories of the men who built the World’s Fair in Chicago, the man who would assassinate Chicago’s mayor at the end of it, and the serial killer, H.H. Holmes, who killed women during it. It’s a nonfiction book that reads like a novel but has enough details to satisfy the most ardent history-lover.

By Erik Larson,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked The Devil in the White City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Chicago World Fair was the greatest fair in American history. This is the story of the men and women whose lives it irrevocably changed and of two men in particular- an architect and a serial killer. The architect is Daniel Burnham, a man of great integrity and depth. It was his vision of the fair that attracted the best minds and talents of the day. The killer is Henry H. Holmes. Intelligent as well as handsome and charming, Holmes opened a boarding house which he advertised as 'The World's Fair Hotel' Here in the neighbourhood where he was once…


Book cover of Chicago by Day and Night: The Pleasure Seeker's Guide to the Paris of America

Jocelyn Green Why did I love this book?

Originally published in 1892 as a guidebook for visitors to the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, this book has been reprinted with an introduction and endnotes from modern historians, but the bulk of the content is exactly what visitors read more than 100 years ago. The book is full of descriptions about Chicago itself as well as the highlights of the Fair.

By Paul Durica, Bill Savage,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Chicago by Day and Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Showcasing the first Ferris wheel, dazzling and unprecedented electrification, and exhibits from around the world, the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 was Chicago's chance to demonstrate that it had risen from the ashes of the Great Fire and was about to take its place as one of the world's great cities. Millions would flock to the fair, and many of them were looking for a good time before and after their visits to the Midway and the White City. But what was the bedazzled visitor to do in Chicago?

Chicago by Day and Night: The Pleasure Seeker's Guide to the…


Book cover of World's Fair Notes: A Woman Journalist Views Chicago's 1893 Columbian Exposition

Jocelyn Green Why did I love this book?

This collection of columns was written by a female reporter for a newspaper in Fargo, North Dakota. It’s fascinating to read what struck her as the most noteworthy as she described the World’s Fair for people who may never see it for themselves. Includes photographs.

By Marian Shaw,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked World's Fair Notes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Presents a series of contemporary articles describing the 1893 Chicago world's fair for the Fargo, N.D., Sunday Argus, and discusses the author's career and the role of women journalists


Book cover of Chicago's Grand Midway: A Walk around the World at the Columbian Exposition

Jocelyn Green Why did I love this book?

Since the Midway was not on the official fairgrounds, it isn’t always discussed in detail in books about the Columbian Exposition/World’s Fair. This book focuses solely on the Midway and includes the background on all the attractions from Mr. Ferris’s Wheel to Cairo Street to Old Vienna, along with photographs and a map.

By Norman Bolotin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Chicago's Grand Midway as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Created as a centerpiece for the Columbian Exposition of 1893, the Midway Plaisance was for one summer the world's most wondrous thoroughfare. A journey along its length immersed millions of spellbound visitors in a spectacle that merged exoticism with enlightenment and artistic crafts with dizzying technical achievement. Norman Bolotin, with Christine Laing, draws on his vast knowledge of the 1893 exposition to escort readers down the Midway. Step by step he takes you past forbidding Dahomeyans and dozens of belly dancers until, at last, you reach the colossal Ferris Wheel with cabins the size of street cars. The tour reveals…


Book cover of Spectacle in the White City: The Chicago 1893 World's Fair

Jocelyn Green Why did I love this book?

This gorgeous coffee table book jam-packed with full-size photographs from every angle of the Fair. There is enough text to explain what the reader is looking at, but the glory of this volume is the photography. The map at the front is one of the best I’ve found, as well.

By Stanley Appelbaum,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Spectacle in the White City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Over 27 million people visited the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. Countless more experienced the fair through the wondrous images of C. D. Arnold, the era's foremost architectural photographer. Through his luminous pictures, Arnold became the event's leading historian, publicist, and visual philosopher. This gallery of Arnold's photographs, painstakingly retouched to achieve a new radiance, presents a magnificent tribute to the "White City" of shining Beaux-Arts buildings.
In addition to its visual tour of the Exposition's extensive buildings and grounds, this lavish book also celebrates a city that treasures its architecture. The classical Greek and Roman design expressed…


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Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

By Christina Ward,

Book cover of Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

Christina Ward Author Of Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

New book alert!

Who am I?

For me, history is always about individuals; what they think and believe and how those ideas motivate their actions. By relegating our past to official histories or staid academic tellings we deprive ourselves of the humanity of our shared experiences. As a “popular historian” I use food to tell all the many ways we attempt to “be” American. History is for everyone, and my self-appointed mission is to bring more stories to readers! These recommendations are a few stand-out titles from the hundreds of books that inform my current work on how food and religion converge in America. You’ll have to wait for Holy Food to find out what I’ve discovered.

Christina's book list on the hidden history of America

What is my book about?

Does God have a recipe? Independent food historian Christina Ward’s highly anticipated Holy Food explores the influence of mainstream to fringe religious beliefs on modern American food culture.

Author Christina Ward unravels how religious beliefs intersect with politics, economics, and, of course, food to tell a different story of America. It's the story of true believers and charlatans, of idealists and visionaries, and of the everyday people who followed them—often at their peril.

Holy Food explains how faith pioneers used societal woes and cultural trends to create new pathways of belief and reveals the interconnectivity between sects and their leaders.

Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

By Christina Ward,

What is this book about?

Does God have a recipe?

"Holy Food is a titanic feat of research and a fascinating exploration of American faith and culinary rites. Christina Ward is the perfect guide – generous, wise, and ecumenical." — Adam Chandler, author of Drive-Thru Dreams

"Holy Food doesn't just trace the influence that preachers, gurus, and cult leaders have had on American cuisine. It offers a unique look at the ways spirituality—whether in the form of fringe cults or major religions—has shaped our culture. Christina Ward has gone spelunking into some very odd corners of American history to unearth this fascinating collection of stories…


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