10 books like Spectacle in the White City

By Stanley Appelbaum,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Spectacle in the White City. Shepherd is a community of 6,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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The Devil in the White City

By Erik Larson,

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

Larson takes us through two storylines. The first was of the 1893 World's Fair, explaining the politics, planning, personalities, and dynamics that made it so. The second story that parallels happened only blocks away is the story of one of the most notorious serial murderers, H.H. Holmes. This book teaches us about the time's atmosphere, mores, and norms. The wonder of the new technological era increased immigration and a mixture of all types of people in this new city. On the one hand, inspired things occurred, and concurrently, some of the most disturbing planning for homicides could only have happened at that place and time.

The Devil in the White City

By Erik Larson,

Why should I read it?

13 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…

Chicago by Day and Night

By Paul Durica, Bill Savage,

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

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.

Chicago by Day and Night

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…

World's Fair Notes

By Marian Shaw,

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

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.

World's Fair Notes

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

Chicago's Grand Midway

By Norman Bolotin,

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

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.

Chicago's Grand Midway

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…

Boss

By Mike Royko,

Book cover of Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago

Chicago is where I grew up watching the fascinating interplay between the so-called forces of law and order battle the criminal element. It wasn’t much of a battle unless the law-and-order guys and the crooks found themselves reaching for the same loot. Mike Royko’s book describes very well the interplay. On a personal note, I once worked for one of the Illinois governors who ran as a reform candidate. He ended up going to jail on a fraud scheme.

Boss

By Mike Royko,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Boss as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The best book ever written about an American city, by the best journalist of his time."- Jimmy Breslin

New edition of the classic story of the late Richard J. Daley, politician and self-promoter extraordinaire, from his inauspicious youth on Chicago's South Side through his rapid climb to the seat of power as mayor and boss of the Democratic Party machine. A bare-all account of Daley's cardinal sins as well as his milestone achievements, this scathing work by Chicago journalist Mike Royko brings to life the most powerful political figure of his time: his laissez-faire policy toward corruption, his unique brand…

The Story of Jane

By Laura Kaplan,

Book cover of The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs, I think it is imperative to remember what life was like before Roe v. Wade and what women did to survive and to live their lives on their own terms. Kaplan’s book tells the story of the Jane Collective in the words of the women who made Jane work, which makes for powerful reading. And, I think it is important to ask ourselves what about today’s post-Roe era is “like before” and what is very different. For example, pre-Roe, most state restrictions on abortion contained exceptions for rape and incest. Post-Roe, nearly all state abortion bans contain no exceptions for rape or incest. The Story of Jane also chronicles, in some ways, a freer time in which one’s every query and movement was not tracked by one’s phone. 

The Story of Jane

By Laura Kaplan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An extraordinary history by one of its members, this is the first account of Jane's evolution, the conflicts within the group, and the impact its work had both on the women it helped and the members themselves. This book stands as a compelling testament to a woman's most essential freedom--control over her own body--and to the power of women helping women.

First in Violence, Deepest in Dirt

By Jeffrey S. Adler,

Book cover of First in Violence, Deepest in Dirt: Homicide in Chicago, 1875-1920

Lynching is central to the late 19th century and thus the theme that I explore in my recommendations, but Shepherd.com covers this tragic subject elsewhere. Instead, for my last book, I offer Adler’s study that explains the persistently high and even increasing rates of violence and homicide in Chicago during an era when varied modern social controls—urban reform, the discipline of the factory floor, expanding education and the bureaucratic state—swept over that city as they did over America, too. According to older theories about social turbulence and murder, these should have declined. Instead, the opposite was true, though the forms that violence took did change. Perhaps it was Adler’s intention to leave frighteningly unanswered what it is about people generally, and Americans specifically, that the dark impulses they have run so deeply that they are impervious to social control.

First in Violence, Deepest in Dirt

By Jeffrey S. Adler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked First in Violence, Deepest in Dirt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Between 1875 and 1920, Chicago's homicide rate more than quadrupled, making it the most violent major urban center in the United States--or, in the words of Lincoln Steffens, "first in violence, deepest in dirt." In many ways, however, Chicago became more orderly as it grew. Hundreds of thousands of newcomers poured into the city, yet levels of disorder fell and rates of drunkenness, brawling, and accidental death dropped. But if Chicagoans became less volatile and less impulsive, they also became more homicidal.

Based on an analysis of nearly six thousand homicide cases, First in Violence, Deepest in Dirt examines the…


There Are No Children Here

By Alex Kotlowitz,

Book cover of There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America

Having lived in Chicago for more than a decade, this first-hand glimpse of two young boys growing up in the inner city changed my perspective and understanding of the realities of domestic urban poverty. A moving and powerful read, you can follow the journey after There are No Children Here in Kotlowitz’s follow-up story, An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago.

There Are No Children Here

By Alex Kotlowitz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked There Are No Children Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A moving and powerful account by an acclaimed journalist that "informs the heart. [This] meticulous portrait of two boys in a Chicago housing project shows how much heroism is required to survive, let alone escape" (The New York Times).

"Alex Kotlowitz  joins the ranks of the important few writers on the  subiect of urban poverty."—Chicago Tribune

The story of two remarkable boys struggling to survive in Chicago's  Henry Horner Homes, a public housing complex disfigured by crime and neglect.

A Power Stronger Than Itself

By George E. Lewis,

Book cover of A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music

Written by AACM composer George E. Lewis, A Power Stronger Than Itself is a collective autobiography of the organization. The book tells the story of the AACM from an insider’s perspective. The AACM began life as a fledgling non-profit on the South Side of Chicago, but its members had ambitions that were global in scope, and before long, the organization and its music were recognized around the world. The AACM’s history is truly remarkable, and A Power Stronger Than Itself is an indispensable resource for musicians and everyone else who appreciates the organization’s many contributions to contemporary culture.

A Power Stronger Than Itself

By George E. Lewis,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Power Stronger Than Itself as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Founded in 1965 and still active today, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) is an American institution with an international reputation. George E. Lewis, who joined the collective as a teenager in 1971, establishes the full importance and vitality of the AACM with this communal history, written with a symphonic sweep that draws on a cross-generational chorus of voices and a rich collection of rare images. Moving from Chicago to New York to Paris, and from founding member Steve McCall's kitchen table to Carnegie Hall, "A Power Stronger Than Itself" uncovers a vibrant, multicultural universe and brings…

Ghost Boys

By Jewell Parker Rhodes,

Book cover of Ghost Boys

Recommended to me by a student in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, Ghost Boys, is heartbreakingly narrated by 12-year-old Jerome as he observes his family’s grief after his death. This novel adeptly reveals the ways in which Jerome’s death is part of a pattern of historical and systemic violence against Black boys. Jerome’s own understanding of this is developed through the friendship he establishes with other ghost boys, including Emmet Till.

Jermaine’s descriptions of his Chicago neighbourhood are vivid. The poignant chapter, "Roam," where Jermaine discovers the dichotomy between his underserved neighbourhood and other parts of the city should remind us of the lasting impact on urban landscapes of decades of deliberate, racist policies, such as redlining. As Jermaine says, “Chicago is more beautiful than I ever thought.”

Ghost Boys

By Jewell Parker Rhodes,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Ghost Boys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A heartbreaking and powerful story about a black boy killed by a police officer, drawing connections through history, from award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes.

Only the living can make the world better. Live and make it better.

Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that's been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.

Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett…

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