These 10 must-read books set in Illinois will transport you to the Prairie State, the Land of Lincoln, from rural farmlands to the bustling streets of Chicago, the Windy City. If you haven’t already, then place these books that take place in Illinois on your to-be-read list.
1. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
“A most untraditional love story, this is the celebrated tale of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who inadvertently travels through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare’s passionate affair endures across a sea of time and captures them in an impossibly romantic trap that tests the strength of fate and basks in the bonds of love.”
2. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
“Told in a series of vignettes – sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous – it is the story of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become. Few other books in our time have touched so many readers.”
3. Native Son by Richard Wright
“Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Richard Wright’s powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America.”
4. Divergent by Veronica Roth
“In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue – Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is – she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.”
5. Emily Winter Mystery Series by David M. Hamlin
Meet Emily Winter, one of the first female reporters in 1970s Chicago. She’s tough as nails. Just as smart as her male colleagues. And determined to uncover the next big story—and solve the next murder in the Windy City. Wife. Feminist. Friend. Trailblazer. The books in the Emily Winter Mystery Series include Winter in Chicago, Winter Gets Hot, and Killer Cocktail.
6. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
“The summer of ’28 was a vintage season for a growing boy. A summer of green apple trees, mowed lawns, and new sneakers. Of half-burnt firecrackers, of gathering dandelions, of Grandma’s belly-busting dinner. It was a summer of sorrows and marvels and gold-fuzzed bees. A magical, timeless summer in the life of a twelve-year-old boy named Douglas Spaulding—remembered forever by the incomparable Ray Bradbury.”
7. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
“In Ordinary People, Judith Guest’s remarkable first novel, the Jarrets are a typical American family. Calvin is a determined, successful provider and Beth an organized, efficient wife. They had two sons, Conrad and Buck, but now they have one. In this memorable, moving novel, Judith Guest takes the reader into their lives to share their misunderstandings, pain, and ultimate healing. Ordinary People is an extraordinary novel about an “ordinary” family divided by pain, yet bound by their struggle to heal.”
8. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
“The Devil in the White City draws the reader into the enchantment of the Guilded Age, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. Erik Larson’s gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair that obsessed them both.”
9. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
“An ardent activist, champion of political reform, novelist, and progressive journalist, Upton Sinclair is perhaps best known today for The Jungle — his devastating exposé of the meat-packing industry. A protest novel he privately published in 1906, the book was a shocking revelation of intolerable labor practices and unsanitary working conditions in the Chicago stockyards. It quickly became a bestseller, arousing public sentiment and resulting in such federal legislation as the Pure Food and Drug Act.”
10. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
“Dissatisfied with life in her rural Wisconsin home, 18-year-old Caroline “Sister Carrie” Meeber takes the train to Chicago, where her older sister Minnie, and Minnie’s husband, Sven Hanson, have agreed to take her in. On the train, Carrie meets Charles Drouet, a traveling salesman, who is attracted to her because of her simple beauty and unspoiled manner. They exchange contact information, but upon discovering the “steady round of toil” and somber atmosphere at her sister’s flat, she writes to Drouet and discourages him from calling on her there.”
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