The Bookshelf
Book recommendations from Chicago writers we love

by The Urbaness

What’s Chicago reading? We’ve tapped the city’s writers, thinkers, and dreamers to share their most beloved books—the well-worn tomes that have inspired, encouraged, and comforted them through the years.

We’re of the belief that you can tell a lot about a woman from a few peeks at her bookshelf. After all, hauling your books from one city apartment to the next is the ultimate sign of commitment. So, what are the reads that Chicago author Emily Belden won’t ever leave behind? Below, the writer behind Eightysixed—a tell-all memoir about Belden’s turbulent twenties—invites us in to browse her bookshelves.

As a writer, the only way to get better and grow is to learn from others. For as little time as I have while working on a deadline for my next manuscript, I am always reading at least two books of different genres concurrently. There is always something to learn about another author's style.

When I turn to my favorite books, I am looking for an escape. I want to feel like I am at coffee with the characters in the book, hearing about their crazy stories. Gone Girl is the best recent example of this. I felt like I was a fly on the wall in room with Nick and Amy Dunne (the lead characters) the whole time—not just on my couch in my house in my pajamas.

WHERE SHE’S READING: I'm a huge fan of the public libraries, which puts endless material at your fingertips. However, I am an avid supporter of buying books as well (#authorproblem). While places like Barnes & Noble are awesome to pick up the latest and greatest, there's something magical about independent book shops like Quimby's or After-Words. And once you've got a good one, a bench in the Viagra Triangle on a sunny day is surprisingly where it's at. Great people watching and gelato—how can you really beat that?


By David Scheff

In a past love life, I dated an addict who relapsed while we were together. I could not understand his "sickness" nor could I find any comfort or solace in the way it ripped my life apart. Reading this book about a father struggling with his son's meth addiction felt for the first time that I was not alone; that my situation—though horrible—was not unique. It was just one of those books that came into my life at just the right time, and for that I am thankful.

By Emily Bronte

What can I say? This is the original hot-mess of a love story, appropriately written by another "Emily" with the same initials as me. I remember being assigned to read this in the 10th grade and thinking, "Crap." It looked long and painful. It ended up being one of my absolute favorite books of all time and I hope English students will be required to read it for centuries to come.

By Gillian Flynn

Another female Chicago author who is absolutely killing it on the best-sellers list. I am so proud to call her a colleague of mine in that respect and I truly admire her ability to write a good mystery. Never in a million years could I come up with the incredible twists and turns she does, and I look forward to not only seeing the movie in 2015, but reading her other works (Sharp Objects and Dark Places) as well. She deserves all of the hype she is receiving. Go, Girl!

By Chip Kidd

In the name of full disclosure, I was forced to go see Chip speak when I was an advertising intern in Omaha, Nebraska 8 years ago. I had no idea who he was, but was shocked to find out he is one of the most highly regarded book jacket designers in the world. He's designed some of the most famous covers ever, including Jurassic Park. When I found out he was an author as well, I added his book to my Christmas list and read it in a day. It was just as humorous and witty as [the author himself] is in person. Chip, if you're listening: I'd give my left arm for you to design my next book cover.

We love Amazon as much as the next book nerd, but as Chicago devotees, we’ll always encourage you to support the little guys. Want to know where you can find these titles and more right in your own neighborhood? Check our recommendations for our favorite Chicago bookshops.
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