The best books about Chicago 📚

Browse the best books on Chicago as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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

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

By Paul Durica, Bill Savage

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.

From the list:

The best books about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair

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

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

By Marian Shaw

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.

From the list:

The best books about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair

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

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

By Norman Bolotin

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.

From the list:

The best books about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair

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

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

By Stanley Appelbaum

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.

From the list:

The best books about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair

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Book cover of Victorian Cakes: A Reminiscence With Recipes

Victorian Cakes: A Reminiscence With Recipes

By Caroline B. King

Why this book?

This delightful memoir/cookbook of a girl and her sisters growing up near Chicago in the late 1800s gives us a glimpse of what kinds of things a middle-class family ate--there were trendy foods back then, just like we have now!

What’s it like? Just imagine if you took all your favorite 19th-century children's books, mashed them all together, and edited out everything except talking about cake. Oh and maybe keep in a few things about fancy outfits and picnics.

From the list:

The best books on food and cooking in Victorian America

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Book cover of Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West

Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West

By William Cronon

Why this book?

Cronon, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, explains how Chicago grew up in a symbiotic relationship with the surrounding rural states. He argues that environmental historians have got to be as interested in cities as they are in the wilderness and that one of the central themes of American history is the transformation of things that grow (including animals and plants) into abstract commodities that can be bought and sold in bulk. No one has done more than Cronon to advance the intelligent study of environmental history and to create for it a sophisticated theoretical framework. This book is…

From the list:

The best books to understand American environmental history

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