The best books about Chicago

Who picked these books? Meet our 398 experts.

398 authors created a book list connected to Chicago, and here are their favorite Chicago books.
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What type of Chicago book?


Till We Meet Again

By Julie Muller,

Book cover of Till We Meet Again

Linda Matesa Author Of The Golden Bowl: A book to help children cope with grief

From the list on for grieving children to aid in recovery after loss.

Who am I?

I was not intentionally set out to write books for children, but I was inspired to do so after struggling to face the challenges brought on by my illness—multiple brain tumors and surgeries. Creating messages through stories for children facing such hardship as a life-threatening illness, at times even brought me the reason I needed to keep fighting for my health and for my life.

Linda's book list on for grieving children to aid in recovery after loss

Discover why each book is one of Linda's favorite books.

Why did Linda love this book?

I was very pleased to read that book. It comforts us to know that the people we lost are living through us, through our actions I share the author's view that the world we live in is not our home. Like the author, I think we're just passing through this world, which means we will all see each other again when the time comes.

By Julie Muller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Till We Meet Again as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Till We Meet Again is a story about death & grieving for children. This book provides comfort to families when they experience the loss of a loved one. The book is meant to help a grieving child remember and share their special memories with those around them, to help them grow to see how they can honor and cherish their loved ones through their own actions.
Much love and hope has been poured into this book to help young children deal with loss and provide hope that someday we will all meet again.

Once a King, Always a King

By Reymundo Sanchez,

Book cover of Once a King, Always a King: The Unmaking of a Latin King

Tim Pritchard Author Of Street Boys: 7 Kids. 1 Estate. No Way Out. The True Story of a Lost Childhood

From the list on how street gangs develop and why they fall apart.

Who am I?

I’m a filmmaker and writer who made a TV series about street gangs around the world with actor and presenter Ross Kemp. But it was one London street gang, the PDC, that particularly caught my attention. The newspaper reports were full of overblown headlines, terrifying statistics, and quotes from police forces. That’s when I decided to head down to the PDC’s “turf” in a small corner of south London because if you are going to try and tackle this crimewave it’s best to find out who is doing it and why. Right? I spoke to PDC gang members, their friends and families and the surprising truth behind the headlines is revealed in my book.

Tim's book list on how street gangs develop and why they fall apart

Discover why each book is one of Tim's favorite books.

Why did Tim love this book?

What became apparent as I was writing my book was just how difficult it is for young kids to get away from a life of crime on the streets. Once a King, Always a King helped me understand the challenge – it’s not just that bad habits get absorbed into a personality from a young age, or that adults don’t help kids escape from their criminality. The social care and justice system actively collude in trapping young gang members in a cycle of violence, abuse, and poverty. 

By Reymundo Sanchez,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Once a King, Always a King as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This riveting sequel to My Bloody Life traces Reymundo Sanchez's struggle to create a “normal” life outside the Latin Kings, one of the nation's most notorious street gangs, and to move beyond his past. Sanchez illustrates how the Latin King motto “once a king, always a king” rings true and details the difficulty and danger of leaving that life behind. Filled with heart-pounding scenes of his backslide into drugs, sex, and violence, Once a King, Always a King recounts how Sanchez wound up behind bars and provides an engrossing firsthand account of how the Latin Kings are run from inside…

The Vampire Files

By P. N. Elrod,

Book cover of The Vampire Files: Bloodlist

K.B. Thorne Author Of Bad Blood

From the list on if first person snark is your style.

Who am I?

I’ve adored reading a good snarky first-person story since I first read Bloodlist, so long as the snark doesn’t go too far and become total unlikeable jerk… It can be a fine line! I hope I stay on the right side of it, but having read it enough and written in it for years with my Blood Rights Series, I feel qualified to say I’m a…snark connoisseur. (If you ask my family, this is how my own internal/life narrator speaks! My mother says that my character Dakota is me if I “said everything aloud that I think in my head.” She’s probably right, and I’m okay with that.)

K.B.'s book list on if first person snark is your style

Discover why each book is one of K.B.'s favorite books.

Why did K.B. love this book?

This series of books by Elrod was one of my first introductions into not just vampire fiction but also this style of dryly-humorous narration. Up until my mid-to-late teens, I’d read a lot of high/epic fantasy, which is typically third person and more pragmatically written, but here I met a first-person narrator who was snarky as heck. I loved it. Not only that, but it’s a vampire P.I. story that plays in the land of noir in gangland Chicago during Prohibition. It was so engaging and fun that I devoured the series as fast as I could, and when anyone asks for my inspirations, it’s at the top of my list. Like it is here.

By P. N. Elrod,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A reissue of the book that began the popular series follows Jack Fleming, ace reporter and vampire--the result of an affair with a beautiful femme fatale--as he attempts to hunt down his own shadowy murderer. Reissue.

I Hate You, Fuller James

By Kelly Anne Blount,

Book cover of I Hate You, Fuller James

H.J. Nelson Author Of The Last She

From the list on reads according to your favorite Taylor Swift song.

Who am I?

I’m a Sci-Fi and Fantasy author who loves all things young adult! I always listen to Taylor Swift when I write, because I love how her songs are full of nostalgia, romance, humanity, and a lust for adventure—just like my books. If you couldn’t make it to the Era’s tour, no fear, check out some of these books below! 

H.J.'s book list on reads according to your favorite Taylor Swift song

Discover why each book is one of H.J.'s favorite books.

Why did H.J. love this book?

If your favorite song is “You Belong With Me” try I Hate You, Fuller James, by Kelley Anne Blount.

It’s very much the story of a nerdy awkward girl pining after the handsome jock, and is full of sweet moments. I love the similarities between it and 10 Things I Hate About You and the nods to other 90’s rom coms.

I’m a sucker for the enemies-to-lovers trope, and it was fun to watch a young female character fall in love but also learn to stand up for herself.

The Rosie Project

By Graeme Simsion,

Book cover of The Rosie Project

Claire LaZebnik Author Of Hidden Brilliance: Unlocking the Intelligence of Autism

From the list on cherishing and enjoying your neurodivergent child.

Who am I?

I always intended to be a fiction writer (and have written ten novels, both YA and adult) but my oldest child is autistic, which led to my meeting and then collaborating on several non-fiction books with Dr. Lynn Kern Koegel, who’s an expert in the autism field, currently at Stanford University. Finding myself writing non-fiction wasn’t the only way having an autistic child changed my life. When my son was first diagnosed, I didn’t know what that meant for his future, and I desperately wanted information—and even entertainmentthat made me feel inspired and hopeful. I needed to find my way toward feeling positive and not anxious, for both our sakes.

Claire's book list on cherishing and enjoying your neurodivergent child

Discover why each book is one of Claire's favorite books.

Why did Claire love this book?

I read this when it first came out, many years ago, and haven’t reread it recently, but I loved it enough at the time that it inspired a YA novel of my own.

In The Rosie Project, a smart man who appears to have some autistic characteristics sets out to find a life partner. He wants to do it with logic and rules but of course love defies these things. After reading it, I decided to write a book about a teenage girl wanting to find a partner for her autistic sister and, despite her good intentions, missing some clues about what her sister really wants and needs.

The Rosie Project is a romance with characters you care about, and who doesn’t want to read more well-done romances? Especially ones with characters who don’t fall into the same old depictions.

By Graeme Simsion,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Rosie Project as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The international bestselling romantic comedy “bursting with warmth, emotional depth, and…humor,” (Entertainment Weekly) featuring the oddly charming, socially challenged genetics professor, Don, as he seeks true love.

The art of love is never a science: Meet Don Tillman, a brilliant yet socially inept professor of genetics, who’s decided it’s time he found a wife. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which Don approaches all things, he designs the Wife Project to find his perfect partner: a sixteen-page, scientifically valid survey to filter out the drinkers, the smokers, the late arrivers.

Rosie Jarman possesses all these qualities. Don easily disqualifies her…

Once You Know This

By Emily Blejwas,

Book cover of Once You Know This

Lisa Lewis Tyre Author Of Hope in the Holler

From the list on to help kids build empathy for those in need.

Who am I?

I am the author of two middle grade books, and I love writing about kids who may not have much materially but abound in heart and courage. I grew up in a small southern town and my childhood was just like that—low on income but full of love, hope, and friendship. I want kids to know that despite their circumstances there is hope for a better life. Like Wavie’s mom tells her in my book, Hope In The Holler, “You’ve got as much right to a good life as anybody. So go find it!”

Lisa's book list on to help kids build empathy for those in need

Discover why each book is one of Lisa's favorite books.

Why did Lisa love this book?

This beautiful book opens with the line, “Every day Mr. McInnis tells us to imagine our future.” Unfortunately, for Brittany, she can’t envision a future that holds anything good. Her mother is in an abusive and controlling relationship and her grandmother suffers from dementia. I love that this book shows a positive teacher, a mom who, despite her own bad choices, truly loves her children, and a family willing to go to bat for one another. Extra points for the intergenerational storyline of a grandmother who lives with the family.

By Emily Blejwas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Once You Know This as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A girl wishes for a better life for herself, her mom, and her baby brother and musters the courage to make it happen in this moving and emotionally satisfying story for readers of Kate DiCamillo and Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

“Once You Know This reminds me of a flower blooming in the crack of a sidewalk. It’s important, and it’s special. Just read it.”—Ali Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Thing About Jellyfish
Eleven-year-old Brittany knows there has to be a better world out there. Lately, though, it sure doesn’t feel like it. She and her best friend, Marisol,…


By Mike Royko,

Book cover of Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago

Ray Pace Author Of Disappearing Act: A Las Vegas Love Story, Sort of...

From the list on wise guys you’ll love.

Who am I?

I’ve worked both in politics and as an investigative reporter in print and broadcasting in Chicago, Miami, Key West, San Francisco, and Honolulu. I’ve had an up-close look at how the system doesn’t work and how the wise guys get their share. I find it easy to use fiction to get to the truth.

Ray's book list on wise guys you’ll love

Discover why each book is one of Ray's favorite books.

Why did Ray love this book?

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.

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…

A Power Stronger Than Itself

By George E. Lewis,

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

Paul Austerlitz Author Of Jazz Consciousness: Music, Race, and Humanity

From the list on scholarly reads on jazz.

Who am I?

As a scholar as well as performer of the African American creative improvised music usually called jazz, my attunement to this art form resonates with its historico-cultural matrix as much as with the sounds themselves.  These books distinguish themselves for being well-researched and rigorous.  They are the real deal, doing justice to the heart as well as the intellect of this  art form.  

Paul's book list on scholarly reads on jazz

Discover why each book is one of Paul's favorite books.

Why did Paul love this book?

This book is remarkable for Lewis’s unique profile, which combines status as a major contributor to, as well as a critic of, creative improvised African-American music. It tells of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Music (AACM), an organization focused on freely improvised music, which is unique for having wedded aesthetic innovation with the struggle for social justice.

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…

His Very Best

By Jonathan Alter,

Book cover of His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life

David Browne Author Of Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970

From the list on why the maligned Seventies were pretty awesome.

Who am I?

I’m a senior writer at Rolling Stone, where I cover a wide range of music-related topics. But as a child of the Seventies, I was shaped by the defining and enthralling pop culture of that era, from singer-songwriters, Southern rock, and disco records to Norman Lear sitcoms. In some of my work, I’ve chronicled the highs and lows of that era, perhaps as a way to answer a question that haunted me during my youth: Why did my older sisters and their friends keep telling me that the Sixties were the most incredible decade ever and the Seventies were awful? What did I miss? And how and where did it all go wrong?

David's book list on why the maligned Seventies were pretty awesome

Discover why each book is one of David's favorite books.

Why did David love this book?

Over 40 years after he left office, when he was replaced by Ronald Reagan, Carter remains an underrated and undervalued president. Alter doesn’t skimp on Carter’s shortcomings, from his sometimes rigid thinking to a nastiness that could be unleashed; the Iran-hostage debacle is also detailed in full. But using interviews with Carter and many of his associates and family members, he also makes the case, without being heavy-handed, that Carter was ahead of the curve on the ecology, voting rights, and other issues that remain frustratingly unfulfilled. 

By Jonathan Alter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked His Very Best as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From one of America's most-respected journalists and modern historians comes the first full-length biography of Jimmy Carter, the thirty-ninth president of the United States and Nobel Prize-winning humanitarian.

Jonathan Alter tells the epic story of an enigmatic man of faith and his improbable journey from barefoot boy to global icon. Alter paints an intimate and surprising portrait of the only president since Thomas Jefferson who can fairly be called a Renaissance Man, a complex figure-ridiculed and later revered-with a piercing intelligence, prickly intensity, and biting wit beneath the patented smile. Here is a moral exemplar for our times, a flawed…

Creative Dreaming

By Patricia Garfield,

Book cover of Creative Dreaming: Plan and Control Your Dreams to Develop Creativity Overcome Fears Solve Proble

Jenny Alexander Author Of Writing in the House of Dreams: Unlock The Power of Your Unconscious Mind

From the list on dreams for writers who want to boost creativity.

Who am I?

I came to writing after twenty years of working with dreams, so I already had lots of techniques for coming and going easily between the everyday world and the inner worlds of imagination, and I’m sure that’s why I’ve never suffered from any creative blocks or anxieties. In a career spanning 30 years, I have written about 150 books, both fiction and non-fiction, for children and adults, and scores of articles including a monthly column in Writing Magazine. I have taught creative workshops for major writing organisations such as The Society of Authors, The Arvon Foundation, and The Scattered Authors’ Society, and I offer a varied programme of courses independently throughout the year.

Jenny's book list on dreams for writers who want to boost creativity

Discover why each book is one of Jenny's favorite books.

Why did Jenny love this book?

This ground-breaking book, written in the 1970’s, is still essential reading for anyone wishing to explore dreams as a creative resource rather than interpret them in the traditional Western psychological way. I started recalling and recording dreams in therapy nearly fifty years ago and had reached the conclusion that trying to interpret them was confusing and potentially misleading. Then I chanced on this collection of studies of different dream traditions from other parts of the world. It changed everything. If you think of dreams in a purely psychological way, this book could give you whole new perspectives. 

By Patricia Garfield,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From Simon & Schuster, Creative Dreaming: Plan And Control Your Dreams to Develop Creativity, Overcome Fears, Solve Problems, and Create a Better Self is Patricia Garfield's definitive guide to dreaming.

Patricia Garfield presents techniques and information, drawn from many dreamers and widely varied cultures and times, that will enable you to plan your dreams ahead of time, influence them while they are occurring, and recall them and their lessons forever afterward.

Two Monogamous

By S R Graham,

Book cover of Two Monogamous

S.R. Graham Author Of Pretty Privilege

From the list on learning how to be a better romantic partner.

Who am I?

I am fascinated with romantic relationships and the way they work. I was in high school when I stumbled upon the romance novel Addicted by Zane. I remember reading about couples in her novels and being intrigued by the intimacy and sensuality between them. I loved reading about the ins and outs of the relationships between these characters. They helped me to gain some perspective about romantic relationships early on. I learned a lot through these characters, and I was able to use their experiences as a guide for myself. I began writing my own romance stories to explore relationships my way, and I fell in love with it. 

S.R.'s book list on learning how to be a better romantic partner

Discover why each book is one of S.R.'s favorite books.

Why did S.R. love this book?

Two Monogamous is the introduction to my first romantic suspense series the (Two Monogamous series).

It questions monogamy when Jarrah unknowingly falls in love with twin brothers, Dario and Dustin. One of the twins offers her romance, mental stimulation, and security, while the other offers her sensuality, adventure, and spontaneity. The two of them work together to be the perfect man for her.

This novel opened my mind to polyamory and made me question whether twins could share each other’s emotions, thus falling in love with the same person. I wrote this series to tackle issues that make relationships difficult. However, I demonstrate how creating a community can make relationships easier.

Check out the Two Monogamous series to explore poly relationships through a group of relatable characters.

By S R Graham,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Jarrah Harper, a newly divorced young woman, embarks on a journey to escape the pain from losing her ex-husband Quincy. She moves from the countryside of Atlanta to the big city of Chicago to work for her college friend Theresa Martine as editor in chief of Theresa's magazine, Her World Magazine. Along the way, she meets a handsome, charming, almost too good to be true man named Dustin, who opens her up to new, bold, and steamy adventures that makes her question the woman she is becoming. Dustin gives Jarrah a double dose of a perfect man and turns her…

This Heart of Mine

By Susan Elizabeth Phillips,

Book cover of This Heart of Mine

Amiee Smith Author Of Love Sounds

From the list on steamy romance to make you stay up all night.

Who am I?

I love the art of writing romance fiction. I’m a character-driven author. My stories are contemporary romance with steam, humor, and diversity. I run my business from my living room. When I'm not writing and telling people about my books, I run another online business. Read lots. Watch tons of series. Drink coffee and wine. Listen to music. Cook comforting vegetarian meals. Say prayers, meditate, and light candles. Text with my girlfriends. And try to squeeze in a walk and a shower. My sexy little stories are my attempt at keeping someone up all night. May you always feel loved, seen, and heard. The Smart Girl Mafia Series books 1-4 are currently available. 

Amiee's book list on steamy romance to make you stay up all night

Discover why each book is one of Amiee's favorite books.

Why did Amiee love this book?

A funny contemporary romance that I skipped worked because I stay up all night reading it. The heroine is a smart and quirky children’s book author and the hero is the hottest of a hot football star. They find themselves having to work at a summer camp after a potentially scandalous hookup. This is one of my favorite authors and a true master of happily-ever-after storytelling. 

By Susan Elizabeth Phillips,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked This Heart of Mine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Susan Elizabeth Phillips is the gold standard for women's fiction - an award-winning, bestselling phenomenon whose talent for blending laughs and tears with heartfelt, passionate, ingeniously conceived romance has made her one of America's most loved authors. The Phillips magic is vibrantly alive and on display in her long-awaited e-book debut.

Molly Somerville knows she has a reputation for trouble. She did give away her fifteen-million-dollar inheritance, but, hey, nobody's perfect.

Still, if anyone has an almost perfect life, it's Molly. While her Daphne the Bunny children's books could be selling better, she loves her cramped loft, her French poodle,…

Green Mars

By Kim Stanley Robinson,

Book cover of Green Mars

Clare O'Beara Author Of Dining Out Around The Solar System

From the list on people adapting to changing future worlds.

Who am I?

I’m proud to be Irish, from a long heritage of storytellers and poets. Science fiction grabbed me from the first Asimov books I found, and I see the genre as an exploration of possibilities. I volunteer at SF Cons, including Dublin’s Worldcon in 2019. My profession is tree surgery, with an early apprenticeship in demolition, all of which has brought me to interesting places. I also love horses and became a national standard showjumper. I’ve qualified in multimedia journalism and ecology. My novels explore the past, present, and future. I write crime, science fiction, romance, and YA stories, including the Irish Lockdown series about young people during the Pandemic.

Clare's book list on people adapting to changing future worlds

Discover why each book is one of Clare's favorite books.

Why did Clare love this book?

In this future, humanity needs to terraform Mars to provide a second home to a swelling population. The Mars Trilogy follows a group of scientists and astronauts, who gain extended lifetimes through a scientific breakthrough; this device enables us to follow the same characters through more than one normal active career span. 

My favourite book is Green Mars, because as a tree surgeon, I am fascinated by the methods shown of planting miniature trees and other plants, adapted from Nordic and mountainous shrubs. The people are experimenting with frontier lifestyles using available materials, and experimenting on adapting humans to the planet. Big business and inter-planetary politics keep raising their heads, as in any colonisation effort. And a few holdout scientists are saying that Mars is beautiful, precious, and unique, and we should study the red planet as it is, not terraform it.

By Kim Stanley Robinson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The first 100 scientists and engineers landed on Mars in 2027, their task to "terraform" the planet, creating an atmosphere, warming the environment, building human habitats, freeing the water trapped in underground aquifiers and seeding the new landscape. This book tells their story.

Book cover of The Spook Who Sat by the Door

Rashad Harrison Author Of Our Man in the Dark

From the list on thrillers and mysteries inhabited by history.

Who am I?

I read history to better understand myself, others, and the world around me; I write historical fiction to share what I have learned. At New York University, I was the Jacob K. Javits Fellow in fiction. In addition to Our Man in the Dark, I am the author of The Abduction of Smith and Smith, one of Huffington Post's 25 Necessary Books By Black Authors (2015), and Huffington Post's 50 Amazing Books By Black Authors from the Past Five Years (2019).

Rashad's book list on thrillers and mysteries inhabited by history

Discover why each book is one of Rashad's favorite books.

Why did Rashad love this book?

In the late ’60s, Dan Freeman, a Black token hire at the CIA shares spy-craft with Black revolutionaries. The book may claim to be a satire, but it demands to be taken seriously. The historical implications of the novel are obvious; there are plenty of exhilarating thrills, and the writing bops with a jazz-like cool. The mystery, however, is subterranean and internal. Freeman has perfected many masks to survive in America, to infiltrate the CIA, and to earn the respect of revolutionaries. The amazing thing is that there is so much suspense in discovering which identity will truly take hold.

By Sam Greenlee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Spook Who Sat by the Door as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A classic in the black literary tradition, The Spook Who Sat by the Door is both a comment on the civil rights problems in the United States in the late 1960s and a serious attempt to focus on the issue of black militancy.

Dan Freeman, the ""spook who sat by the door,"" is enlisted in the CIA's elitist espionage program. Upon mastering agency tactics, however, he drops out to train young Chicago blacks as ""Freedom Fighters"" in this explosive, award-winning novel.

As a story of one man's reaction to ruling-class hypocrisy, the book is autobiographical and personal. As a tale…

The Apocalypse Gene

By Suki Michelle, Carlyle Clark,

Book cover of The Apocalypse Gene

Audra Middleton Author Of Hitchhiker

From the list on weird and wonderful, indie, sci-fi and fantasy.

Who am I?

As a kindergarten teacher and a mother of three boys, I live at the intersection of weird and wonderful, so I expect nothing less from my library. Indie authors offer unique points of view, aren’t afraid to break the rules, and are motivated by their passion for the craft of writing. I'm drawn to those writers who let the voices in their heads lead the way, creating characters you become invested in from page one. I love writing around my characters, because once I have them developed, the books tend to write themselves. Some of my best storylines are ones where my characters took over and led me in weird and wonderful directions.

Audra's book list on weird and wonderful, indie, sci-fi and fantasy

Discover why each book is one of Audra's favorite books.

Why did Audra love this book?

I’ll be honest with you, this one is a brain-bender, and I love that about it. I may not have been able to wrap my brain around all of the unique twists and turns in this story, but the characters are so well-developed, the description is so vivid, and the action scenes are so well-crafted, it really didn’t matter. Set in the middle of a dystopian cancer plague, the eerie biblical and sci-fi elements make this one a real page-turner.

By Suki Michelle, Carlyle Clark,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Global pandemic is raging. Olivya Wright-Ono's once loving home has been converted to a hospice for the dying.  Her ability to see auras forces her to witness, with agonizing detail, the vibrant colors of life consumed by malignancy.  The beautiful and troubled, Mikah, is an elite Empath in the ancient Kindred clan, led by the brooding, ever-morphing, monster named Prime. Mikah has learned a terrible truth . . . the plague is linked to Kindred origins.  When Olivya sees evidence of disease creeping into her mother's aura, she has no one to turn to but Mikah. Can he unearth the…

The Chicago Food Encyclopedia

By Carol Haddix (editor), Bruce Kraig (editor), Colleen Taylor Sen (editor)

Book cover of The Chicago Food Encyclopedia

Amelia Levin Author Of The Chicago Chef's Table: Extraordinary Recipes from the Windy City

From the list on the magic of Chicago cuisine and food lore.

Who am I?

I’m a longtime food writer, magazine editor, cookbook author, and certified chef (through Kendall College, also in Chicago of course!). I was born in Chicago, raised in the Northern suburbs, and came back right after graduating from the University of Michigan in the early 2000s. For two decades, I lived in various parts of the city and wrote about the food scene for local and national outlets. The first edition of The Chicago Chef’s Table came out in 2012. Even though I moved to the suburbs a few years ago with my growing family, we still get down to the city often to enjoy the hottest new spots. My love for Chicago will never subside!

Amelia's book list on the magic of Chicago cuisine and food lore

Discover why each book is one of Amelia's favorite books.

Why did Amelia love this book?

Carol Haddix served as the former editor of the Chicago Tribune’s food section and is a personal friend and colleague of mine; we are both part of Les Dames d’Escoffier Chicago, an international society for women in food service with chapters around the world. This literal tome is a homage to all things Chicago and food. It’s a bookshelf must-have if you live in the area, have lived here or want to live here! 

By Carol Haddix (editor), Bruce Kraig (editor), Colleen Taylor Sen (editor)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Chicago Food Encyclopedia is a far-ranging portrait of an American culinary paradise. Hundreds of entries deliver all of the visionary restauranteurs, Michelin superstars, beloved haunts, and food companies of today and yesterday. More than 100 sumptuous images include thirty full-color photographs that transport readers to dining rooms and food stands across the city. Throughout, a roster of writers, scholars, and industry experts pays tribute to an expansive--and still expanding--food history that not only helped build Chicago but fed a growing nation. Pizza. Alinea. Wrigley Spearmint. Soul food. Rick Bayless. Hot Dogs. Koreatown. Everest. All served up A-Z, and all…

So Big

By Edna Ferber,

Book cover of So Big

Eileen Brill Author Of A Letter in the Wall

From the list on female protagonists who challenge norms.

Who am I?

Change is essential for growth. My degree is in economics and I started out in the corporate world until I had my second child, after which I became a painter and, eventually, a sign language interpreter. My mother was an inspiration to me, believing that learning and adapting are essential to knowing oneself. She was true to her values, proud and independent, rarely caring if others felt differently. At the age of 45, she earned her Bachelor’s degree and began a 30-year career in social work. Because of her influence on me, I tend to gravitate toward protagonists who are headstrong and evolve into self-sufficient, fulfilled individuals.

Eileen's book list on female protagonists who challenge norms

Discover why each book is one of Eileen's favorite books.

Why did Eileen love this book?

Novels really are timeless and this one, written almost 100 years ago, gives a portrait of feminism before it was a term. The protagonist Selena has a strong work ethic and doesn’t fear the implications of being a widowed mother of a young son and needing to run a small farm on her own. I loved that she relishes the challenge of her responsibility and thinks outside the box to find a niche market, becoming successful by not succumbing to the expectations of others. She doesn’t feel tamped down by her farming community’s judgments of what she can and cannot accomplish. Reading, and enjoying, a novel published in 1924 reminded me that oldies are quite often the besties.

By Edna Ferber,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Inspired by the life events of Antje Paarlberg, So Big is an award-winning drama that depicts the life of Selina Peake de Jong. Raised in a strict farming community, Selina decides to be a schoolteacher. Good-hearted and kind, she attempts to inspire her students to work for their dreams, no matter how nontraditional they seem. By encouraging artistic expression, Selina changes the lives of her students. When she marries a farmer named Pervus, the two welcome a baby boy into their family, naming their child Dirk. However, after the family suffers a tragic loss, Selina is forced to quit her…

A Rock Can Be...

By Laura Purdie Salas, Violeta Dabija (illustrator),

Book cover of A Rock Can Be...

Pat Zietlow Miller Author Of What Can You Do with a Rock?

From the list on picture books about rocks.

Who am I?

I’m a lifelong reader of picture books who now writes my own. I hope my books inspire kids to hope, love, dream, and wonder – and to see how they fit into the world around them.

Pat's book list on picture books about rocks

Discover why each book is one of Pat's favorite books.

Why did Pat love this book?

This book tells readers all kinds of things rocks can be using rhyme and whimsy. For example: “A rock can be a … tall mountain. Park fountain.” “Hopscotch marker. Fire sparker.” This book will spark imagination and conversation about all the other things rocks could be. There’s scientific rock information in the back, along with a glossary and recommended rock books.

By Laura Purdie Salas, Violeta Dabija (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Rock Can Be... as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A rock is a rock, part of cliff, road or sea. But now can you guess what else it can be?

A rock can be a…dinosaur bone, stepping-stone, hopscotch marker, fire sparker. Find out about the many roles a rock can play in this poetic exploration of rocks around the world.

Laura Purdie Salas's lyrical, rhyming text and Violeta Dabija's glowing illustrations make simple yet profound observations about seemingly ordinary objects and encourage readers to suggest "what else it can be!" Using metaphors for a leaf (tree topper / rain stopper), a rock (hopscotch marker / fire sparker), and water…

Creative Illustration

By Andrew Loomis (illustrator),

Book cover of Creative Illustration

James Gurney Author Of Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter

From the list on color and painting.

Who am I?

My name is James Gurney and I've been a professional illustrator for National Geographic and Scientific American for over 40 years. Although I went to art school, everything I know about drawing and painting comes from studying art instruction books, and from sketching directly from nature. I'm best known for writing and illustrating the New York Times bestselling Dinotopia book series, published in 32 countries and 18 languages. I designed 15 dinosaur stamps for USPS and a set of five dinosaur stamps for Australia Post. My originals have been shown in over 35 solo museum exhibitions. My book Color and Light has sold over 200k copies and was Amazon's #1 bestselling book on painting for over a year.

James' book list on color and painting

Discover why each book is one of James' favorite books.

Why did James love this book?

Long out of print and expensive, this classic of illustration techniques has been republished. Although it was first published over 70 years ago, the sections on color and painting will prove useful for any artist, whether they work for concept art, galleries, or illustration. Loomis was a top magazine illustrator and devoted his later years to writing encouraging and practical guides that covered all the key topics.

By Andrew Loomis (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Creative Illustration" is considered Loomis' magnum opus, which is aimed primarily at the professional-level illustrator. It's divided into seven sections: Line, Tone, Color, Telling the Story, Creating Ideas, Fields of Illustration, and Experimenting and Studies. The book is filled with instructions, tips, insider experiences, and incredible illustrations.

It's Owl Good

By Renee Treml,

Book cover of It's Owl Good: The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea 1

Chrissie Krebs Author Of Bizard the Bear Wizard

From the list on graphic reads for young reluctant readers.

Who am I?

As a child, I was obsessed with comics, whether it was Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes, or the Far Side, I would devour every one I could get my hands on. I discovered the joy of observing two storylines – the one the writing was telling me and one that the pictures were telling me. As I became a teacher, I realized the importance of pictures and stories working together to keep students engaged. The resurgence of graphic novels has now been a focus for me in my pedagogy practices as well as my pathway as an author-illustrator. 

Chrissie's book list on graphic reads for young reluctant readers

Discover why each book is one of Chrissie's favorite books.

Why did Chrissie love this book?

This gorgeous early reader/comic series is full of illustrations to assist young readers with their comprehension of storyline.

There are themes of friendship and kindness as well as learning through discovery and mistakes is a wonderful message for young readers that are finding the journey of literacy comprehension a little trying. Also, the puns in the books are awfully good. 

By Renee Treml,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked It's Owl Good as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Come with Ollie and Bea on a HARE-raising adventure with a HOPPY ending!

Ollie is an owl who wears glasses. And Bea is a bunny with very big feet. They don't know it yet, but they are about to be best friends. Can they help each other to find their OTTER-LY awesome inner superhero?

Join Ollie and Bea in this charming, funny, cute story about the joys of making friends and having fun. The perfect book for young readers who love to laugh.