Ask ChicagoNow: What is the best book set in Chicago?

Ask ChicagoNow: What is the best book set in Chicago?

ChicagoNow is a group of bloggers from all sorts of different backgrounds. One thing that helps tie them all together? Chicago.

With so much collective experience with the city, we’ve decided to put that knowledge to use by posing some of the oldest and most popular questions about Chicago to the group.

What is the best book set in Chicago?

“Lunker Candy. (Okay, self-serving, but it IS set in Chicago … Northwest Side, Montrose Harbor, The Loop, Oak Park, Loyola Beach, Northwestern Universit and more …)” — Mark Andel, Hot Dog Diaries

“Anything by the great Scott Turow.” — Michelle Babicz, Planet Michelle

“The Divergent Series if we just pretend it ends after book two.” — Rachel Benn, Life Imitates Heart

“The Time Traveler’s Wife”. — Michelle Cahill, Mindful Chicago

“I too love House on Mango Street. As a pharmaceutical rep years ago, I called on Sandra Cisneros’ brother, Albert, a physician with a practice on Harlem Avenue. She was living in Paris and he spoke of her with such pride and love that I was envious; not of her fame but of her brother’s love for her. Devil in the White City was chilling. My grandparents told stories of the Colombian Exposition and that book conveyed the energy and essence of our city when it was new. But that sociopathic killer with his kindly emotional demeanor, moist eyes, and love of torture…in such a hopeful white space…some of those images remain with me years after I read the book. Life itself by Roger Ebert. I loved that book, and Chicago is a main character. He was so right: our lives are movies and vice versa. Miss him.” — Linda Clark-Borre, Chicago From The Inside Out

“Panther in the Hive”. — Lea Grover, Becoming SuperMommy

“The one I’m currently writing, obviously”. — Julie VonderHeide Hammerle, Hammervision

“The Devil in the White City.” — Joe Imperato, Health Care Mythologies

“Mike Royko’s Boss is a hell of a book, not sure if ‘set’ in Chicago is an accurate description, since it’s more or less narrative journalism from a specific perspective, but it’s more ABOUT Chicago than anything else can be, except farts, farts are pretty much ABOUT Chicago”. — Brian Kremen, ConFIdences

“Devil in the White City”. — Carole Lago, Inside the Wrapper

“I love ‘Horseplayers: Life at the Track’ by Ted McClelland. It’s a snapshot of the Chicago racetracks that have become my world…about ten years before I ever started hanging out at the track all that much. Some of the personalities remain, some have been relegated to history, but it’s all a fascinating slice of life.” — Nicolle Neulist, Picks & Ponderings

“The Division Street Princess by Elaine Soloway. I also loved Coffee Will Make You Black by April Sinclair and I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez. Something Wonderful Right Away by Jeffrey Sweet is an oral history of Second City’s early days with testimony from improv pioneers like Paul Sills, Del Close, Mike Nichols, Shelley Berman, Barbara Harris, Joan Rivers … it’s an extraordinary list of folks who appear. Another great book: Chicago Comedy: A Fairly Serious History by Margaret Hicks.” — Teme Ring, Comedians Defying Gravity

“The House On Mango Street!” — Sophie Sanchez, Cosmic Chicago

“The Jungle, Upton Sinclair”. — Bob Schneider, Politics Now

“The one I’m currently reading. Buttered Side Down by Edna Ferber is a collection of short stories set in Chicago during the first decade of the Twentieth Century. Most of the protagonists are young newcomers to Chicago who get menial clerk jobs and live in boarding houses with paper thin walls and water two floors down. I’m partial to the history of Chicago during these years because a) the Cubs were a baseball dynasty and 1908 was the nuttiest season on record, and b) I wrote a historical novel (Called Out) set during this period. But Ferber, whose life resembled her characters’ before she hit it big, makes you feel like you’re right there with these hopefuls who came to the big city to seek fame and fortune, and even love. There’s humor throughout including the author intruding with her often hilarious opinion on just about anything, including the nature of writing fiction.” — Floyd Sullivan, Waiting4Cubs

“Devil in the White City”. — H. Van Howe, Pizza For Breakfast

“‘Devil in the White City.’ By Eric Larsen. One of the best books I’ve ever read about Chicago. The murder component is terrifying. This gets my vote.” — Laura Vasilion, Talking to the World

If you have a question about Chicago that you want answered, email it to Think you have the answer to the above question? Let us know in the comments below.

Lead image via Chicago Tribune

Filed under: Ask ChicagoNow

Leave a comment