90 books like Chicago's Grand Midway

By Norman Bolotin,

Here are 90 books that Chicago's Grand Midway fans have personally recommended if you like Chicago's Grand Midway. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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

Jake S. Friedman Author Of The Disney Revolt: The Great Labor War of Animation's Golden Age

From my list on American history that read like you’re binge-watching.

Who am I?

I'm an expert in animation history, having written three books on it, dozens of articles, and appeared on TV documentaries about it. I've also been a college professor for about 13 years, so I know what a story needs to maintain interest. These books have that. They're about different chunks of American history, some political, some artistic, all cultural. But they're also focused on the people who made the history, and showing how they got to where they were, and why they matter. These books let me walk in the shoes of subjects, and whisk me back to their time and place. If a book passes the empathy/time-machine test, it has won me over.

Jake's book list on American history that read like you’re binge-watching

Jake S. Friedman Why did Jake love this book?

I never leaned toward crime stories, but this true telling of America’s first serial killer, while simultaneously recounting one of the grandest expositions in American history, was too good to put down.

I was shocked by how quickly I devoured this book. It’s the closest you can get to time-traveling to 1890s Chicago. It’s the near-impossible feat of building the greatest World’s Fair of all, and also the gruesome story of a killer building a “murder house” and luring single women into it.

This is the book that inspired Martin Scorsese and Leonardo Dicaprio to almost make it a series on Hulu, just saying.

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 Author Of Shadows of the White City

From my list on 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.

Jocelyn's book list on the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair

Jocelyn Green Why did Jocelyn 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 Author Of Shadows of the White City

From my list on 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.

Jocelyn's book list on the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair

Jocelyn Green Why did Jocelyn 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 Spectacle in the White City: The Chicago 1893 World's Fair

Jocelyn Green Author Of Shadows of the White City

From my list on 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.

Jocelyn's book list on the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair

Jocelyn Green Why did Jocelyn 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…


Book cover of Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago from Red Summer to Black Power

Clarence Taylor Author Of Fight the Power: African Americans and the Long History of Police Brutality in New York City

From my list on race and policing.

Who am I?

I am Professor Emeritus of History at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.  I grew up in Brooklyn, New York during the turbulent decades of the 1950s and 1960s where there were numerous social protest movements against the War in Vietnam, school segregation, and police brutality.  My books explore the men and women who battled institutional racism.

Clarence's book list on race and policing

Clarence Taylor Why did Clarence love this book?

Balto explores how the Chicago police, from 1910 to the 1970s “built an intricate, powerful carceral machinery whose most constitutive feature was an extreme racial selectivity.” Black people are over-policed and under-protected. Balto focuses on policing and anti-blackness. Black Chicagoans’ complaints of torture and “aggressive prevention patrol” by the police went on for decades and was essentially ignored by those in power. Balto tells the story of a racially repressive police force. In two decades, from 1945 to 1965 the Chicago police grew more punitive as the department doubled in size. Black communities were targeted by the CPD, in large part, because black was equated with criminality.

By Simon Balto,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Occupied Territory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In July 1919, an explosive race riot forever changed Chicago. For years, black southerners had been leaving the South as part of the Great Migration. Their arrival in Chicago drew the ire and scorn of many local whites, including members of the city's political leadership and police department, who generally sympathized with white Chicagoans and viewed black migrants as a problem population. During Chicago's Red Summer riot, patterns of extraordinary brutality, negligence, and discriminatory policing emerged to shocking effect. Those patterns shifted in subsequent decades, but the overall realities of a racially discriminatory police system persisted.

In this history of…


Book cover of City Indian: Native American Activism in Chicago, 1893-1934

Coll Thrush Author Of Indigenous London: Native Travelers at the Heart of Empire

From my list on urban Indigenous lives.

Who am I?

I came to Indigenous history through the experience as a settler growing up at the edge of a reservation. I also love cities as “texts,” and the ways in which urban places never fully erase what came before. These two interests led me to urban Indigenous studies. Urban and Indigenous histories are often treated as though they are mutually exclusive, when in fact they are deeply entangled with each other: for example, the majority of Indigenous people in the United States live in urban areas. These works capture the rich history of migration, political organizing, and cultural production that has taken place in Indigenous cities.

Coll's book list on urban Indigenous lives

Coll Thrush Why did Coll love this book?

LaPier and Beck’s book is the perfect backstory to Van Alst’s.

Chicago, built on the lands of the Three Fires Council, has a long history as an Indigenous metropolis, from activism around the famous 1893 World’s Fair to the building of urban Indian organizations. The authors show how Indigenous people are everywhere in the archives. 

By Rosalyn R. LaPier, David R. M. Beck,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Robert G. Athearn Award from the Western History Association

In City Indian Rosalyn R. LaPier and David R. M. Beck tell the engaging story of American Indians who migrated to Chicago from across America to work and emerged as activists. From the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition to the 1934 Century of Progress Fair, American Indians in Chicago voiced their opinions about political, social, educational, and racial issues.
City Indian focuses on the privileged members of the American Indian community in Chicago: doctors, nurses, business owners, teachers, and entertainers. During the Progressive Era more than any other time in the city's…


Book cover of He Had It Coming: Four Murderous Women and the Reporter Who Immortalized Their Stories

Silvia Pettem Author Of In Search of the Blonde Tigress: The Untold Story of Eleanor Jarman

From my list on mysterious and intriguing women in history.

Who am I?

I've been writing for decades, as one genre evolved into another. Local Colorado history led to the identification of "Boulder Jane Doe," a murder victim. During that journey I learned a lot about criminal investigations and forensics. I devoured old movies (especially film noir), and I focused on social history including mysterious and intriguing women. Midwest Book Review (see author book links) credits In Search of the Blonde Tigress as "rescuing" Eleanor Jarman "from obscurity." So true! Despite Eleanor's notoriety as "the most dangerous woman alive," she actually was a very ordinary woman. I've now found my niche pulling mysterious and intriguing women out of the shadows.

Silvia's book list on mysterious and intriguing women in history

Silvia Pettem Why did Silvia love this book?

Using photo and newspaper archives from the Chicago Tribune, the authors of He Had It Coming tell the stories of four Chicago female murderers from the 1920s.

The documentation (both primary and secondary sources) and, especially, the newspaper's original high-quality historical photographs inspired me to dig deeply into similar archives when researching and writing my book.

By Kori Rumore, Marianne Mather,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked He Had It Coming as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Beulah Annan. Belva Gaertner. Kitty Malm. Sabella Nitti. These are the real women of Chicago.

You probably know Roxie and Velma, the good-time gals of the 1926 satirical play Chicago and its wildly successful musical and movie adaptations. You might not know that Roxie, Velma, and the rest of the colorful characters of the play were inspired by real prisoners held in "Murderess Row" in 1920s Chicago-or that the reporter who covered their trials for the Chicago Tribune went on to write the play Chicago.

Now, more than 90 years later, the Chicago Tribune has uncovered photographs and newspaper clippings…


Book cover of Building Stories

George Wylesol Author Of 2120

From my list on graphic novels that reinvent the book (literally).

Who am I?

I’m an artist who likes to write, but I’ve never been interested in classic superhero or pulp graphic novels. Early in my career, the word “comics” felt like an insult—it's not “real art,” right? Too childish! While that instinct was definitely wrong, I found a (small) world of experimental, abstract, genre-breaking graphic novels that combine art and writing in a wholly unique way. This is a list of some of my recent favorites that have inspired my drawing and writing practice, and will hopefully inspire you. 

George's book list on graphic novels that reinvent the book (literally)

George Wylesol Why did George love this book?

This is one of the first graphic novels to truly reinvent the medium, and is absolutely required reading for anyone who wants to experiment with visual storytelling. Instead of a traditionally bound book, you get an oversized box filled with pamphlets, booklets, newspapers, and more. The comics themselves read pretty straightforwardly, but it's the act of rifling through this giant box for the first time, not knowing exactly where it'll lead you, that's truly a unique reading experience. 

By Chris Ware,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Building Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Chris Ware's own words, 'Building Stories follows the inhabitants of a three-flat Chicago apartment house: a thirty-year-old woman who has yet to find someone with whom to spend the rest of her life; a couple who wonder if they can bear each other's company for another minute; and finally an elderly woman who never married and is the building's landlady...'

The scope, the ambition, the artistry and emotional heft of this project are beyond anything even Chris Ware has achieved before.


Book cover of Then We Came to the End

Jinwoo Chong Author Of Flux

From my list on to cure (or rather validate) your post-capitalist malaise.

Who am I?

In 2017, I was laid off from my first job out of college, an experience that I think more young people are going through as we move further into an uncertain economic future. That experience formed the basis of my novel, which was published earlier this year. Afterwards, I met a lot of people, most of whom I didn’t know, who told me they’d resonated with the feeling of malaise captured by those first few chapters: of working jobs that seem to be dead ends, wondering if you’ll be here, at this desk, twenty years from now. It’s something most everybody can relate to but doesn't appear in novels nearly as much as it should.

Jinwoo's book list on to cure (or rather validate) your post-capitalist malaise

Jinwoo Chong Why did Jinwoo love this book?

This may be the first book one thinks of when picturing The American Office Novel. It’s one of the older books on this list. It’s also the funniest, and strangest, and the truest.

Centered around a Chicago advertising agency struggling to preserve its relevancy amid the vastly changing media landscape of the 90s and employing one of the only uses of first-person plural that I think works in entirety, this book is a true gem, a marvel that tells a fairly straightforward story that practically vibrates with the amount of beautiful, carefully arranged detail throughout it. 

By Joshua Ferris,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Then We Came to the End as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

No one knows us quite the same way as the men and women who sit beside us in department meetings and crowd the office refrigerator with their labeled yogurts. Every office is a family of sorts, and the ad agency Joshua Ferris brilliantly depicts in his debut novel is family at its strangest and best, coping with a business downturn in the time-honored way: through gossip, pranks, and increasingly frequent coffee breaks. With a demon's eye for the details that make life worth noticing, Joshua Ferris tells a true and funny story about survival in life's strangest environment--the one we…


Book cover of The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther

Paul Bass Author Of Murder in the Model City: The Black Panthers, Yale, and the Redemption of a Killer

From my list on Black protest and government resistance.

Who am I?

Paul Bass is the co-author with Douglas W. Rae of Murder in the Model City: The Black Panthers, Yale, and the Redemption of A Killer. Paul has been a reporter and editor in New Haven, Conn., for over 40 years. He is the founder and editor of the online New Haven Independent.

Paul's book list on Black protest and government resistance

Paul Bass Why did Paul love this book?

The era of COINTELPRO and Black Power is filled with stories that can become muddier to tease out as more gets revealed. Not Fred Hampton’s story  —  this was clear-cut, brutal FBI and Chicago police overreach to silence dissent. Haas’s book offers a firsthand account by an attorney who helped dig out the facts, and preserved the poignancy of what it felt like to experience the events.

By Jeffrey Haas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Assassination of Fred Hampton as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Read the story behind the award-winning film Judas and the Black Messiah

On December 4, 1969, attorney Jeff Haas was in a police lockup in Chicago, interviewing Fred Hampton’s fiancée. Deborah Johnson described how the police pulled her from the room as Fred lay unconscious on their bed.

She heard one officer say, “He’s still alive.” She then heard two shots. A second officer said, “He’s good and dead now.” She looked at Jeff and asked, “What can you do?” The Assassination of Fred Hampton remains Haas’s personal account of how he and People’s Law Office partner Flint Taylor pursued…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Illinois, Chicago, and private investigators?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Illinois, Chicago, and private investigators.

Illinois Explore 81 books about Illinois
Chicago Explore 363 books about Chicago
Private Investigators Explore 277 books about private investigators