John Warner's (The Biblioracle) book recommendations!

We loved hearing John Warner recommend books for us live on Zoom last week! 100 people attended, which means we hit capacity! To those of you who missed the event, you can rewatch the stream on youtube ( Here is a full list of his reccomendations!  

John Warner Recommendations

  1. Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet

  2. Bear Went Over the Mountain – William Kotzwinkle

  3. Tears of Autumn – Charles McCreery

  4. Mrs. Bridge – Evan S. Connell

  5. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia – Moshin Amid

  6. Seven Storey Mountain – Thomas Merton

  7. Geek Love – Kathleen Dunn

  8. Lost Book of Adana Moreau

  9. Such a Fun Age – Kiley Reid

  10. Oreo – Fran Ross

  11. Working – Studs Terkel

  12. Love – Toni Morrison

  13. Dopesick – Beth Macy

  14. Lamb – Christopher Moore

  15. Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

  16. How to Set a Fire and Why – Jesse Ball

  17. Chemistry – Weike Wang

  18. The Known World – Edward P. Jones

  19. Manual for Cleaning Women – Lucia Berlin

  20. Bad Blood – John Carreyou

  21. Thick – Tressie McMillan Cottom

  22. Skippy Dies – Paul Murray

  23. Possession – A.S. Byatt

  24. Intuitionist – Colson Whitehead

  25. Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall – Will Chancellor

  26. Case Histories – Kate Atkinson

Books to Help You Cry in the Pandemic

  1. Anything is Possible – Elizabeth Strout

  2. Explanation for Everything – Lauren Grodstein

  3. My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me – Jason Rosenthal

  4. Don’t Skip Out on Me – Wily Vlautin

  5. Father’s Story – Andre Dubus

  6. Telephone – Percival Everett

  7. All This Could Be Yours – Jami Attenberg


Books to Provide Diversions in the Pandemic

  1. Life among the Savages – Shirley Jackson

  2. Where’d You Go Bernadette – Maria Semple

  3. Fraud – David Rakoff

  4. Hyperbole and a Half – Allie Brosh

  5. Dog of the South – Charles Portis

Books by black authors other than James Baldwin, though all praise to the GOAT

A Different Drummer by William Melvin Kelley

Set in a mythical backwater Southern town, A Different Drummer is the extraordinary story of Tucker Caliban, a quiet, determined descendant of an African chief who for no apparent reason destroys his farm and heads for parts unknown--setting off a mass exodus of the state's entire Black population.

Negrophopbia by Darius James

Every racial stereotype is brought to life in this wry and raucous debut by James, a cutting-edge African American writer with an already established underground reputation. 

Solitudes Crowded with Loneliness by Bob Kaufman

Kaufman, one of fourteen children born in Louisiana to a German Jewish father and a Black Catholic mothers, ran away to sea when he was thirteen, circling the globe nine times in the next twenty years. In the 1950s, while working as a waiter at the Los Angeles Hilton, he met another erstwhile member of the Merchant Marine, Jack Kerouac, and soon thereafter both moved north to found, along with Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and others, the San Francisco literary "renaissance" of the time.

Triangulum by Masande Ntshanga

Triangulum is an ambitious, often philosophical and genre-bending novel that covers a period of over 40 years in South Africa's recent past and near future starting from the collapse of the apartheid homeland system in the early 1990s, to the economic corrosion of the 2010s, and on to the looming, large-scale ecological disasters of the 2040.

Bttm Fdrs by Ezra Claytan Daniels

Once a thriving working class neighborhood on Chicago’s south side, the “Bottomyards” is now the definition of urban blight. When an aspiring fashion designer named Darla and her image-obsessed friend, Cynthia, descend upon the neighborhood in search of cheap rent, they soon discover something far more seductive and sinister lurking behind the walls of their new home.


A Different Drummer Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385413909
Availability: Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Anchor - May 1st, 1990

Negrophobia: An Urban Parable Cover Image
By Darius James, Amy Abugo Ongiri (Introduction by), Darius James (Preface by)
Not available for on-line purchase
ISBN: 9781681373294
Availability: Backordered - Currently Unavailable
Published: NYRB Classics - February 19th, 2019

Solitudes Crowded with Loneliness Cover Image
Not available for on-line purchase
ISBN: 9780811200769
Availability: Backordered - Currently Unavailable
Published: New Directions -

Triangulum Cover Image
ISBN: 9781937512774
Availability: Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Two Dollar Radio - May 14th, 2019

BTTM FDRS Cover Image
Not available for on-line purchase
ISBN: 9781683962069
Availability: Backordered - Currently Unavailable
Published: Fantagraphics - June 25th, 2019

Poets Writing Prose

The main thing that draws me to a book is the quality of the prose. My favorite books are underlined and starred, so I can turn back to the best sentences. I crave lines that make you put down your book and pause, your mind bombarded with possibility. And no one is better at this than poets. So, in honor of National Poetry Month, I’ve selected some of my favorite poets... writing stuff other than poetry! Whether you’ve always wanted to get into poetry, or have always been intimidated by it, try out these novels, memoirs, and essay collections. Like what you’ve read? Chances are you’ll fall in love with their poetry collections too!

Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness by Jennifer Tseng – Some books are made for book lovers. Mayumi, a small-town librarian, loves the transcendent quality of books, and Tseng’s story of the narrator’s affair with a younger patron encapsulates this quality. Upon reading her prose, I’m transported to her secluded island and rich interior life. Beauty and pain are remarkably intertwined in this novel in a way only a poet could do!

What to read next: Red Flower, White Flower

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong – The imagery in this book has remained stuck in my head like a really good song. Written as a letter from son to immigrant mother, this book showcases how love destroys, heals, connects, and isolates us. Vuong’s writing is as personal as it is beautiful. Prepare to have passages hit you like a dry sob.

What to read next: Night Sky With Exit Wounds

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – If you were forced to read this book in high school, you owe it Sylvia to give it another try. This novel perfectly depicts the confusion of young adulthood and the entrapments of the mind. I was 16 years old when I first read this, and I still feel like I’m stuck in front of the fig tree with Esther, wondering when the last fruit will drop.

What to read next: Ariel

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood – A loud-mouthed, gun-carrying Catholic priest father, a midwestern coupon-cutting, platitude-bearing mother, and their daughter, the poet. Moving back into her parents’ rectory as an adult, Lockwood paints a riotous portrait of her family. These characters become as dear to you as the cast of your favorite sitcom. Her writing is playful and provocative. This memoir packs a punch, while keeping you laughing throughout.

What to read next: Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals

The Crying Book by Heather Christle – I’ve always championed that the quickest way to get to know someone is asking, When is the last time you cried? What starts out as an idea of mapping all the places Christle has cried, turns into a sweeping history of tears. The genre of this book is impossible to define, but that’s what makes it so absorbing. You’ll gently drift from philosophy to art to personal anecdote. This book washes over you.

What to read next: The Trees The Trees

They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib – Hanif is a rock star poet. Don’t think poets can be rock stars? Read They Can’t Kill Us. Abdurraqib has an unparalleled ability of contextualizing recent history, primarily through music. Sure, all millenials banged their heads to My Chemical Romance in the 00’s, but this book will have you relistening to the “Black Parade” and analyzing it as an anthem of societal grieving. I’m still taken aback by the insight in these essays.

What to read next: A Fortune for Your Disaster

- Clare

Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness Cover Image
ISBN: 9781609452698
Availability: Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Europa Editions - May 26th, 2015

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525562023
Availability: Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Press - June 4th, 2019

The Bell Jar Cover Image
ISBN: 9780060837020
Availability: Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial Modern Classics - August 2nd, 2005

Priestdaddy: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399573262
Availability: Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - May 1st, 2018

The Crying Book Cover Image
ISBN: 9781948226448
Availability: Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Catapult - November 5th, 2019

They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us Cover Image
By Hanif Abdurraqib, Eve L. Ewing (Foreword by)
ISBN: 9781937512651
Availability: Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Two Dollar Radio - November 7th, 2017

Sarah's List of Books that Give me Hope During Quarantine!

-Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown: This book is all about taking clues from nature to learn how to live and how to organize, and there's never been a better time to pause life-as-we-know-it and seek out the wisdom of the trees, flocks of animals, and oceans.

-A Paradise Built In Hell by Rebecca Solnit: This book examines the social impact and response of ordinary people during 5 major disasters around the world, coming to hopeful conclusions about what communities are capable of and showing us that people are prepared to help each other and show up when we need it. "Disaster sociology" is something I never anticipated being so grateful for.

-Mr Burns, A Post-Electric Play by Anne Washburn: With theaters closed across the world, what better time to pick up a play about a post-apocalyptic time when people long for the entertainment they can no longer access? Specifically, the characters in this play really miss The Simpsons, and go to extraordinary lengths to recreate TV episodes that remind them of their former normal lives. 

-White Noise by Don DeLillo: Is it an apocalyptic novel? Is it an absurd parody of modern life just close enough to reality to make your skin crawl? Surprise! Both. There was a deep creeping fear within me as I read this, but the end result was to make me recognize the parts of my life that I hardly noticed (going to the grocery store, taking photos of famous landmarks), and start to notice them.

-Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi: This is a cookbook. Everything in it has warm flavors, savory and deep and homestyle and everything I've been craving during this time. It's food that feels like it has been around for 10,000 years and will never go away. 


Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds Cover Image
ISBN: 9781849352604
Availability: Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: AK Press - April 18th, 2017

A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143118077
Availability: Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Books - August 31st, 2010

Mr. Burns and Other Plays Cover Image
ISBN: 9781559364812
Availability: Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Theatre Communications Group - March 14th, 2017

White Noise: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) Cover Image
By Don DeLillo, Richard Powers (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9780143105985
Availability: Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Classics - December 29th, 2009

Jerusalem: A Cookbook Cover Image
ISBN: 9781607743941
Availability: Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Ten Speed Press - October 16th, 2012

City Lit Books' Best of the Decade












City Lit Best of the Decade

Here’s a list of books that two or more of the City Lit booksellers nominated as their favorite of the decade:

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Between the World and Me by Ta’Nehisi Coates

Bobcat by Rebecca Lee

Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay

Citizen Illegal by Jose Olivarez

Comemadre by Roque Larraquy

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Eileen by Otessa Moshfegh

How Music Works by David Byrne

In the Distance by Hernan Diaz

Jillian by Halle Butler

Look by Solmaz Sharif

Motherhood by Sheila Heti

Outline by Rachel Cusk

Sabrina by Nick Drnaso

Tenth of December by George Saunders

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Nix by Nathan Hill

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib

Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez

This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

Transit by Rachel Cusk



Happy reading!

City Lit is 7!

Gratitude! Thank you to everyone who supported the crazy idea of opening an independent bookstore in 2012. Thanks to all of our new friends who continued to support the store during the first few years when I was drinking from the proverbial fire hose; when everything I did was being done for the first time. Thank you to so many customers, booksellers, authors, and book lovers who have built and contributed to the amazing City Lit community.

Joy! You have helped City Lit become a destination for open-minded people who thrive on discussing new ideas, meeting new people, learning from each other, and even singing and dancing!

Wondrous! Something amazing happens here every single day.

Excitement! So many new books and amazing events to look forward to!

Books We Read and Loved in 2018

Phew! The holidays are over and here at City Lit we are warming up by the store's fireplace and reflecting on 2018. First of all, we continue to be so grateful for all of the book readers that frequent the store and make it the place that it is! Then our minds inevitably wander over all the books we read in 2018 and we excitedly want to share our favorites. So, imagine each one of the books in this post being hugged then held out to you, because it's like that.

Audie's favorites: Disoriental by Negar Djavadi, Outline Trilogy by Rachel Cusk, The Idiot by Elif Batuman, Severance by Ling Ma, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

Allison's favorites: Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner, Outline by Rachel Cusk, The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat, You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero

Clare's favorites: The Idiot by Elif Batuman, Outline by Rachel Cusk, Notes from No Man's Land by Eula Biss, Motherhood by Sheila Heti, The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, In the Distance by Hernan Diaz, New People by Danzy Senna, Sabrina by Nick Dranso, Jillian by Halle Butler, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, Bobcat by Rebecca Lee

Chris' favorites: Satin Island by Tom McCarthy, Heroines by Kate Zambreno, End of Eddy by Eduard Louis, Epitaph of a Small Winner by Machado de Assis, Gate of the Sun by Elias Khonig, Confessions of Zeno by Italo Svevo, The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, Atonement by Ian McEwan

Cody's favorites: Cody is currently on a boat in the Caribbean and not with us huddled around the fire, so we'll update this later. 

Jordan's favorites: Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman, The Walk by Robert Walser, You & A Bike & A Road by Eleanor Davis, Order of the Day by Eric Vuillard, Anti-Gone by Connor Willumsen, In the Distance by Hernan Diaz, A Thousand Distant Radios by Woody Skinner, Motherhood by Sheila Heti, Comemadre by Roque Larraquy, Sabrina by Nick Dranso

Teresa's favorites: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai, Mem by Bethany C. Morrow, An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim, Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova, Washington Black by Esi Edugyan, Tangerine by Christine Mangan

Willie's favorites: Wild is the Wind by Carl Phillips, Stags Leap by Sharon Olds, Letters to Max by Sarah Ruhl and Max Ritro, The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt, Feeld by Jos Charles

Tell us about your favorite bookstore and win tickets to see "The Bookshop"!

England, 1959. Free-spirited widow Florence Green risks everything to open a bookshop in a conservative East Anglian coastal town. While bringing about a surprising cultural awakening through works by Ray Bradbury and Vladimir Nabokov, she earns the polite but ruthless opposition of a local grand dame and the support and affection of a reclusive book loving widower. As Florence's obstacles amass and bear suspicious signs of a local power struggle, she is forced to ask: is there a place for a bookshop in a town that may not want one?

Based on Penelope Fitzgerald's acclaimed novel and directed by Isabel Coixet, starring Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, and Bill Nighy, The Bookshop is an elegant yet incisive rendering of personal resolve, tested in the battle for the soul of a community. The novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and the film won Best Film, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay at the 32nd Goya Awards, so don’t miss your chance to see it!

…This is a film about books, about people who worship books and about people who never feel alone in a bookshop.

Or in a movie theatre.

I hope this is film for you, whoever you are, out there in the dark, craving for connection in the big screen. Craving for a world where underdogs like Florence Green are finally visible and powerful. Things will be so much better then… and so much easier. 
- Isabel Coixet, director/co-writer

To celebrate this movie and bookshops everywhere, we’re giving away two tickets to see the film at Landmark Century Centre Cinema (2828 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60657)! Share a post about your favorite bookstore, tag them, tag us (Facebook: @citylitbooks, Twitter: @citylit_books, Instagram: @citylitbooks), and use #BookshopsWorthFightingFor to be entered in our giveaway! Tell us why you love your local bookshop before Thursday, August 30th for your chance to see the movie when it begins screening in Chicago next weekend. To see the film trailer, click HERE! For more info about the film and the theater, click HERE! For questions about this promotion, email!


Join us for the next W.W.B. Book Club Meeting!

Hi! My name is Allison and I am the baby bookseller here at City Lit Books. I say “Baby bookseller” because I have been doing this for the shortest amount of time - not because I only sell books to the tiniest of the humans.

I come to the bookstore by way of the theatre world. Due to inconsistent schedules and moving around so much, I have never been a consistent book club member. I have attended readings, caught a book club here and there at my local bookstore, and discussed countless books with friends – but have never been a true book club member. With no fear of public speaking, I am thrilled to be able to not only be a consistent book club member but actually host my own - the W.W.B Book Club here at City Lit! W.W.B stands for Women Write Books. It is focused on celebrating female authors and their contributions to the literary world. We started out with the fiercely talented Rachel Cusk's Outline.

Outline is about a woman who travels to and around Athens, Greece. She is a guest teacher for a writing class. While she is in town, she takes the time to reconnect with old friends and make some new ones. I recently described Cusk's writing style as listening to your Grandparents tell a story. You aren’t necessarily sure where they are going with it, but you are so hooked – it doesn’t matter. She is a fantastic storyteller with a unique writing style.

We discussed her writing style for most of the book club meeting. We dug into how Cusk introduced the character to us – with no “actual” introduction. We learned about each character through the narrator’s eyes, voice, and through the conversation they were having with the narrator. It was if the narrator was telling us, in detail, about each event after it happened, instead of as it was happening.

Sheila Heti’s, How Should a Person Be? is up next. How Should a Person Be? is a journey through an artist’s mind as she tries to come to terms with that very question. Come hangout and chat with the W.W.B. book club on August 20th. This time around, we’ll be discussing Shelia the character versus Shelia the author, her friends and lovers, and why art can be so complicated.

How Should a Person Be?: A Novel from Life Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250032447
Availability: Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Picador - June 25th, 2013


Subscribe to RSS - blogs