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Best Chicago History Books: The Ultimate List

Our list of some of the best Chicago History books & series in recent years. Get inspired by one or more of the following books.

1. History of Chicago: A Captivating Guide to the People and Events that Shaped the Windy City’s History (2018)

 Best Chicago History Books: The Ultimate ListFounded as a tiny, temporary settlement, Chicago became a crux of the American fur trade before growing into one of the powerhouses of the Industrial Revolution. From procuring drinking water to implementing racial equality, nothing has ever been simple for the people who have called Chicago home – and yet there is immense pride among Chicagoans for what they and their fellow people have achieved. The city has been home to some of America’s most influential people, be they talk show hosts or U.S. Presidents. Every star on the Chicago flag represents an achievement to be remembered; every building an era that has helped…
Author(s): Captivating History

2. Chicago: A Biography (2009)

 Best Chicago History Books: The Ultimate ListChicago has been called by many names. Nelson Algren declared it a “City on the Make.” Carl Sandburg dubbed it the “City of Big Shoulders.” Upton Sinclair christened it “The Jungle,” while New Yorkers, naturally, pronounced it “the Second City.”At last there is a book for all of us, whatever we choose to call Chicago. In this magisterial biography, historian Dominic Pacygatraces the storied past of his hometown, from the explorations of Joliet and Marquette in 1673 to the new wave of urban pioneers today. The city’s great industrialists, reformers, and…
Author(s): Dominic A. Pacyga

3. Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (1992)

 Best Chicago History Books: The Ultimate ListA Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and Winner of the Bancroft Prize. “No one has written a better book about a city…Nature’s Metropolis is elegant testimony to the proposition that economic, urban, environmental, and business history can be as graceful, powerful, and fascinating as a novel.” ―Kenneth T. Jackson, Boston GlobeIn this groundbreaking work, William Cronon gives us an environmental perspective on the history of nineteenth-century America. By exploring the ecological and economic changes that made Chicago America’s most dynamic city and the Great West its…
Author(s): William Cronon

4. A People’s History of Chicago (BreakBeat Poets) (2017)

 Best Chicago History Books: The Ultimate ListKnown variously as “‘the Windy City,”’ “‘the City of Big Shoulders,”’ or “‘Chi-Raq,”’ Chicago is one of the most widely celebrated, routinely demonized, and thoroughly contested cities in the world.Chicago is the city of Gwendolyn Brooks and Chief Keef, Al Capone and Richard Wright, Lucy Parsons and Nelson Algren, Harold Washington and Studs Terkel. It is the city of Fred Hampton, House Music, and the Haymarket Martyrs. Writing in the tradition of Howard Zinn, Kevin Coval’s A People’s History of Chicago celebrates the history of this…
Author(s): Kevin Coval, Chancellor Bennett

5. City of Big Shoulders: A History of Chicago (2000)

 Best Chicago History Books: The Ultimate ListThis compact yet comprehensive account of Chicago’s history links key events in the city’s development, from its marshy origins in the 1600s to today’s robust metropolis. Synthesizing a vast body of literature, Spinney presents Chicago in terms of the people whose lives made the city—not only the tycoons and the politicians but also the hundreds of thousands of immigrants from all over the world who have kept the city working. City of Big Shoulders sweeps across the colorful and dramatic panorama of Chicago’s explosive past. How did the pungent swamplands that the Native…
Author(s): Robert G. Spinney

6. City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America (1997)

 Best Chicago History Books: The Ultimate ListThe epic of Chicago is the story of the emergence of modern America. Here, witness Chicago’s growth from a desolate fur-trading post in the 1830s to one of the world’s most explosively alive cities by 1900.Donald Miller’s powerful narrative embraces it all: Chicago’s wild beginnings, its reckless growth, its natural calamities (especially the Great Fire of 1871), its raucous politics, its empire-building businessmen, its world-transforming architecture, its rich mix of cultures, its community of young writers and journalists, and its staggering engineering projects—which included the reversal of the Chicago River…
Author(s): Donald L. Miller

7. Chicago History: The Stranger Side (2014)

 Best Chicago History Books: The Ultimate ListFormer criminal investigator, author, and local historian Ray Johnson takes a new look at nine popular Chicago locations and their history, digging up strange new discoveries and connections. Who may have murdered sisters Barbara and Patricia Grimes in 1956? Who is the seventh body located under the 1893 Columbian Expo Cold Storage Fire Memorial at Oak Woods Cemetery…when there should only be six? Is there more of a link between H.H. Holmes and Chicago’s White City than previously thought, and could there also be another connection to England and other murders? What ties Chicago to the Titanic disaster…
Author(s): Raymond Johnson

8. The Chicago River: A Natural and Unnatural History (2019)

 Best Chicago History Books: The Ultimate ListIn this social and ecological account of the Chicago River, Libby Hill tells the story of how a sluggish waterway emptying into Lake Michigan became central to the creation of Chicago as a major metropolis and transportation hub.  This widely acclaimed volume weaves the perspectives of science, engineering, commerce, politics, economics, and the natural world into a chronicle of the river from its earliest geologic history through its repeated adaptations to the city that grew up around it. While explaining the river’s role in massive public works, such as drainage and straightening, designed to…
Author(s): LibHill

9. 100 Things Cubs Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die (100 Things…Fans Should Know) (2012)

 Best Chicago History Books: The Ultimate ListWith 135 years of Chicago Cubs history, this lively, detailed book explores the personalities, events, and facts every Cubs fan should know. More than a look at the century-long wait for another World Series win, the book contains crucial information for Cubs fans, such as important dates, player nicknames, memorable moments, and outstanding achievements by singular players. This guide to all things Cubs also includes a list of must-do Cubs-related activities, which include taking in Wrigley field, traveling to Arizona for spring training, and sipping beers at the best Cubs bars around the country. #6,549,371 in Books (See Top 100 in…
Author(s): Jimmy Greenfield

10. Chicago History for Kids: Triumphs and Tragedies of the Windy City Includes 21 Activities (For Kids series) (2007)

 Best Chicago History Books: The Ultimate ListFrom the Native Americans who lived in the Chicago area for thousands of years, to the first European explorers Marquette and Jolliet, to the 2005 Chicago White Sox World Series win, parents, teachers, and kids will love this comprehensive and exciting history of how Chicago became the third largest city in the U.S. Chicago’s spectacular and impressive history comes alive through activities such as building a model of the original Ferris Wheel, taking architectural walking tours of the first skyscrapers and Chicago’s oldest landmarks, and making a Chicago-style hotdog. Serving…
Author(s): Owen Hurd, Gary Johnson

11. The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream (2014)

 Best Chicago History Books: The Ultimate List Before air travel overtook trains, nearly every coast-to-coast journey included a stop in Chicago, and this flow of people and commodities made it the crucible for American culture and innovation. In luminous prose, Chicago native Thomas Dyja re-creates the story of the city in its postwar prime and explains its profound impact on modern America—from Chess Records to Playboy, McDonald’s to the University of Chicago. Populated with an incredible cast of characters, including Mahalia Jackson, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry, Sun Ra, Simone de Beauvoir, Nelson Algren, Gwendolyn Brooks, Studs Turkel, and…
Author(s): Thomas L. Dyja

12. Chicago Whispers: A History of LGBT Chicago before Stonewall (2012)

 Best Chicago History Books: The Ultimate ListChicago Whispers illuminates a colorful and vibrant record of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people who lived and loved in Chicago from the city’s beginnings in the 1670s as a fur-trading post to the end of the 1960s. Journalist St. Sukie de la Croix, drawing on years of archival research and personal interviews, reclaims Chicago’s LGBT past that had been forgotten, suppressed, or overlooked.    Included here are Jane Addams, the pioneer of American social work; blues legend Ma Rainey, who recorded “Sissy Blues” in Chicago in 1926; commercial artist J. C….
Author(s): de la Croix, St. Sukie, John D’Emilio

13. American Mafia: Chicago: True Stories Of Families Who Made Windy City History (2013)

 Best Chicago History Books: The Ultimate ListEveryone knows stories about the American Mafia and its varied forms of crime, from racketeering to stock manipulation to murder.  American Mafia: Chicago explores the Windy City, strolling through its neighborhoods and imagining scenes from the past—telling the stories of the men, women, and families and revealing the events behind the legends and the history of the families’ beginnings and founding members. Featuring the most fascinating stories from the early days, when loosely-organized, incredibly secretive gangs terrorized neighborhoods with names like Little Hell, through the mob’s headiest years,…
Author(s): William Griffith

14. Chicago Blues: The City & the Music (1981)

 Best Chicago History Books: The Ultimate ListChicago has always had a reputation as a “wide open town” with a high tolerance for gangsters, illegal liquor, and crooked politicians. It has also been the home for countless black musicians and the birthplace of a distinctly urban blues-more sophisticated, cynical, and street-smart than the anguished songs of the Mississippi delta–a music called the Chicago blues. This is the history of that music and the dozens of black artists who congregated on the South and Near West Sides. Muddy Waters, Big Bill Broonzy, Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, Tampa Red, Little Walter, Jimmy Reed, Otis Rush,…
Author(s): Mike Rowe

15. Mysterious Chicago: History at Its Coolest (2016)

 Best Chicago History Books: The Ultimate ListFrom Chicago historian Adam Selzer, expert on all of the Windy City’s quirks and oddities, comes a compelling heavily researched anthology of the stories behind its most fascinating unsolved mysteries.To create this unique volume, Selzer has collected forty unsolved mysteries from the 1800s to modern day. He has poured through all newspaper, magazine, and book references to them, and consulted expert historians. Topics covered include who really started the great Chicago fire, who was the first “automobile murderer,” and even if there…
Author(s): Adam Selzer

Best Chicago History Books: The Ultimate List

We highly recommend you to buy all paper or e-books in a legal way, for example, on Amazon. But sometimes it might be a need to dig deeper beyond the shiny book cover. Before making a purchase, you can visit resources like Genesis and download some chicago history books mentioned below at your own risk. Once again, we do not host any illegal or copyrighted files, but simply give our visitors a choice and hope they will make a wise decision.

The Feeling of History Islam, Romanticism, and Andalusia

Author(s): Charles Hirschkind
ID: 2914613, Publisher: The University of Chicago Press, Year: 2021, Size: 2 Mb, Format: pdf

A Cultural History

Author(s): Dustin A. Abnet
ID: 2502905, Publisher: University of Chicago Press, Year: 2020, Size: 3 Mb, Format: epub

Promiscuous Knowledge: Information, Image, and Other Truth Games in History

Author(s): Kenneth Cmiel; John Durham Peters
ID: 2615593, Publisher: University of Chicago Press, Year: 2020, Size: 7 Mb, Format: pdf

Please note that this booklist is not errorless. Some books are absolutely chart-busters according to Washington Post, others are composed by unknown authors. On top of that, you can always find additional tutorials and courses on Coursera, Udemy or edX, for example. Are there any other relevant links you could recommend? Drop a comment if you have any feedback on the list.

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