Literary Tourism

The Book Riot Guide to Chicago for Book Expo America

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Christy Childers

Staff Writer

Christy Childers is a writer obsessed with books, travel, British television, & superheroes. She has lived in Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago, & England, & is never happier than when she's visiting a new country or reading a new book. Blog: Postcards to Authors Twitter: ChildersChristy

After several years in New York, Book Expo America (BEA) is coming to Chicago, which means a horde of YOU lovely bookish people are about to descend upon the Windy City.

Book Riot loves Chicago (several of us live here) and of course we love books, so we thought we’d round up some of our favorite things to see and do and, of course, READ while you’re here.

So without further ado, I present the Book Riot Guide to the Windy City.

Things to See:

You’ll probably want to visit The Bean while you’re here, Chicago’s favorite photo op. You can tour Navy Pier (home of the Ferris Wheel scene in Divergent), or stroll down the Magnificent Mile (Am I the only one who still hears that phrase in Oprah’s voice?). If you’re into art I highly recommend a visit to The Art Institute, and if it’s sunny enough you could check out our beaches (like North Ave) and our many awesome parks (like Grant Park & Millennium). Buckingham Fountain will be switched on for summer a few days before BEA, so we’re in luck there.

If you’re cool with heights, you might like the Skydeck at the top of Sears Tower/Willis Tower, or you could get classy and go for drinks at the top of the John Hancock.

The Harold Washington Library is awesome and gigantic (and it’s right in the loop). We also have lots & lots of great bookstores! Here is just a tiny sampling for you to choose from: 7 Cozy Bookstores. If it’s nice out you could even try our Bookstore Bicycle Tour!

If you want more, check out: A Book Lover’s Guide to Chicago.

Things to Eat:

You’ve got to have pizza while you’re here: Giordano’s, Gino’s East, and Lou Malnati’s are a few of the top contenders. If you want the fancy stuff, Chicago Magazine recently named “the 38 greatest pizzas in the greatest pizza city on earth.”

We have a lot of opinions about pizza. We also have opinions about hotdogs: No self-respecting Chicagoan would put ketchup on a hotdog. Don’t ask me why – it’s just a thing. If you want to try a Chicago dog you can find them all over the city, from the stands at Wrigley or U.S. Cellular Field (Comiskey Park, as was) to Portillo’s in the loop.

The food options are really endless: I recommend Lou Mitchell’s for the best ever diner breakfast (across the street from Sears Tower), and cheeseburgers at the Billy Goat Tavern under Michigan Ave if you happen to be a fan of 70’s-era SNL. Apart from that, you can find just about anything you want to eat at any time in this city – from Lao Sze Chuan in Chinatown to Athena in Greektown & everything in between. Have fun exploring!

Things to Watch:

A lot of great movies (and some not-so-great ones) have been filmed here. Watch them in preparation for BEA and call it work: The Fugitive, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, While You Were Sleeping, Southside with You, The Lake House, Divergent, Batman Begins, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Barbershop, The Untouchables, Home Alone, Source Code, The Blues Brothers, High Fidelity, and a whole bunch more.

And we’ve got some great TV shows too – from the good old days of ER, which filmed all over the city, to current favorites like The Good Wife and Chicago Fire (as well as Chicago Fire‘s popular spin offs Chicago P.D. and Chicago Med.)

Things to Read:

Last but certainly not least, books about Chicago!

A photo posted by FlippinChi (@flippinchi) on

Starting with a couple of classics: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair which skewered the meatpacking industry, and Native Son, Richard Wright’s tale of life on the South Side.

We have Sandra Cisnero’s The House on Mango Street, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, John Grisham’s The Litigators, and Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City.

L. Frank Baum wrote in Chicago, although his books take place a little farther away, in both Kansas and, you know, OZ. Lucy Knisley is one of my favorite graphic novelists; she studied in the city and lives here now.

The Chicago Public Library’s current selection for One Book, One Chicago is The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream by Thomas Dyja.

You might also want to check out: 5 Modern Chicago Novels and Reading Chicago’s Racial History.

And a quick shout out to a few travel books: Top 10 Chicago is good if you just want the basics, and I used Lonely Planet Chicago a lot when I first moved to the city.

So there you go; our quick guide to the Windy City. Happy reading, eating, and exploring!