The Great Chicago Fire is the greatest conflagration of Chicago. It occurred on the 8th of October, 1871. The tragedy lasted for about three days and killed around 300 inhabitants. More than three square miles of Chicago were completely destroyed, while 100,000 citizens were left homeless. It is one of the greatest fires in the modern history of the modern world. Here are some of the best and most detailed books on the disaster that changed Chicago forever.


1871: Rivers On Fire, by Paul Buchheit

This book is hard to describe if you are trying to find the right genre for it. It could be described as a historical novel as well, but it is also a drama and a love story that will most likely bring in a few tears. It is about triumph and the power to move on after a drama that changes everything.

The book was released to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the fire. It was the most destructive fire recorded in the modern history, as well as one of the deadliest fires ever known. However, as the reader explores the hidden secrets of the fire, the book also tackles other things related to the USA.

The author discusses the treatment of minority groups in the USA, as well as the destruction of the surrounding environment. Then, the book analyzes the unknown workings of the human brain, as well as the exceptional profile of a country that can recover in no time.


I Survived The Great Chicago Fire, by Lauren Tarshis

The story follows Oscar Starling's story. He never wanted to leave his home city for Chicago, but he had to. Now, he is in the middle of a big city with an incredible vibe – he simply cannot find his place in this new, unknown and scary world. Things are about to get worse though.

As he tries to get used to his new home, Oscar finds himself in the middle of one of the world's greatest fires. No one really knows what is going on. No one can tell how it started. One thing is for sure though – Chicago is about to explode and become history.

Although there are dozens of firemen trying to tackle the fire down, the mission seems impossible. The fire aims to destroy everything around and Oscar is right there. Will Oscar manage to survive the Great Chicago Fire?


The Great Fire, by Jim Murphy

The Great Fire from 1871 represents one of the biggest disasters in the American history. It happened overnight. Chicago was one of the most attractive and vibrant cities in the USA. It took hours for an incredible fire to take it down – it became nothing but a smoldering land.

The damage was way above all expectations. Most people never imagined Chicago would recover from this tragedy. Jim Murphy begins this book with a few interesting facts about Chicago and its history – proper research based on real data and facts.

The event is recreated in small details and underlines some of the dramas people had to go through. The book also includes testimonies and stories from actual survivors of the fire, which makes it feel even more authentic. All in all, this is a thrilling story that will definitely amaze you with its depth.


The Great Chicago Fire, by Robert Cromie

Initially released in 1958, Robert Cromie's book is a classic that makes you feel like you were in the middle of the fire. The story brings in the narrative history of the fire that ruined Chicago – more than 73,000 miles of roads became history, as well as 17,500 buildings.

The book is written like a documentary – real facts and a good documentation. Moreover, it has over 150 different photos and illustrations to help the reader understand the size of the tragedy that affected one of the most heroic cities in the USA.

There is no fiction whatsoever. The book is not written like a novel, but it exposes some of the facts that were not really discussed back then. It is a comprehensive news report that will give you goosebumps, no doubts about it.


Chicago's Great Fire, by Carl S. Smith

It all happened in 1871 and a big part of Chicago was literally destroyed. It is one of the legendary urban fires and it occurred 34 years after Chicago became a city, in 1837. The fire started in Patrick and Catherine O'Leary's barn and as much of Chicago was made of wood, it expanded straight away.

The death toll was surprisingly low for such a disaster, but over 100,000 people were left on the streets. This book brings in some memories from the people who were actually around and survived the fire. The historian and author wrote the story around a few memorable individuals for a more authentic feeling.

The story is dramatic and provides access to the human nature in the most desperate times. Surprising for many, Chicago rose back up in no time. Other than that, the fire is viewed from more points of view – social, historical and political.


The Great Chicago Fire And The Myth Of Mrs. O'Leary's Cow, by Richard F. Bales

Over the history, the great fire that ruined Chicago in 1871 was attributed to some immigrants – Patrick and Catherine O'Leary. She was a milkmaid and her cow was said to be responsible for everything that happened. From some points of view, this is a local legend that has managed to survive overtime.

From other points of view, the story shows how powerful the upper class was – blaming all the bad things on the working poor. The fire has also destroyed many official documents, yet a few records were successfully saved. The author analyzed the neighborhood the O'Leary family lived in, trying to determine whether or not it could have been possible for the fire to start from their place.

The book also includes some official transcripts from local investigations. The official result? No one could determine the cause of the fire. However, based on testimonies, it looks like the police could have determined the actual cause. But then, the authorities were more concerned about their own reputation. The book is full of solid evidence and can certainly raise some question marks.


The Great Chicago Fire Of 1871, by Kay Melchisedech Olson

The incredible fire that ruined Chicago in 1871 changed the city forever. The inferno changed health and safety rules around the world, brought in new laws and modified the city's skyline in a very dramatic way. This novel aims to describe what happened during those three days in an appealing and dramatic novel.

There are a bunch of illustrations to help the reader get an idea about the size of the fire. The test is incredibly fast paced too – chances are you will not be able to put the book down until you finish it. It provides a unique and authentic experience – as if you were there, in the middle of the action.

The author leaves room for further research as well. The book is well researched and also links to further bibliography titles. It provides access to further sources, especially for young readers who want to find out more about what happened. It is a comic book, but it will give you an authentic perspective.


Emmi In The City, by Salima Alikhan

This book is far from a historical release. It is not a news report or a research study. Instead, it is a story that happens to take place around one of the biggest disasters in the history – the Great Chicago Fire from 1871.

Emmi has been a Chicago resident for a couple of years, but she finds it hard to adapt to the fast paced lifestyle. She is a German immigrant and she is often teased by those around her. However, everyone's life is about to change in a moment.

When the massive fire breaks out in the fall of 1871, Emmi ends up in the same boat with her enemies. They must forget about their issues and battle flames and smoke together. Can they manage to survive the fire? Readers will discover the fire from a different perspective – with many real facts involved.


Mrs. O'Leary's Comet, by Mel Waskin

There is an urban legend out there – the fire was started by Mrs. O'Leary's cow. Then, there are a few books that indicate a mistake at a higher level, but authorities simply tried to save their reputation by failing to find a conclusion.

Then, there is Mel Waskin's book, which brings in a completely new theory – what is the fire was actually started by a comet? What if an astronomical issue is responsible for the fire that put Detroit down in less than three days?

The author brings in some interesting evidence about it. There are a few astronomical observations, as well as eyewitness reports from some survivors. Plus, there were a few companion fires in Michigan and Wisconsin.

In the end, these are some of the interesting Great Chicago Fire books out there. Whether you are after facts, theories, evidence or just a fast paced novel taking place during the fire, you do have a few good options to satisfy your curiosity.​