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?

The books I picked & why

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

By Erik Larson,

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

Why 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.


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

By Paul Durica, Bill Savage,

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

Why 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.


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

By Marian Shaw,

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

Why 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.


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

By Norman Bolotin,

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

Why 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.


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

By Stanley Appelbaum,

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

Why 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.


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