Writers, whether born in Chicago or drawn to it, have been inspired to pick up their pens by everything from the muted beauty of the South Side to the grisly meat-packing district to the "raw-potato odor" of Lake Michigan, as Saul Bellow once wrote. If you're looking for a shot of literary inspiration, the city is full of it. From houses to hangouts, here's where to look.
Check out Hyde Park, Saul Bellow-style
A Chicago resident for more than 60 years, Bellow attended and later taught at the University of Chicago. A large section of Harper Memorial Library's north reading room is devoted to books by and about the author, with sprawl-worthy chairs and plenty of sunlight just begging you to curl up with a good book. Head to the Social Sciences Tea Room in the building next door; long before penning The Adventures of Augie March, Bellow would hang out here and discuss literature with friends. Despite the name, there's no tea to be had, so head to the nearby Divinity School Coffee Shop where, as the slogan goes, even God drinks coffee.
Grab a burger in Mike Royko's memory
A Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Trib, Chicago native Mike Royko was just one of the many journalists that made the Billy Goat Tavern into an unofficial watering hole for writers, including Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times writers Dave Condon, Bill Granger and Irv Kupcinet. Grab a table amidst the blown-up newspaper clippings adorning the walls and sink your teeth into one of the famous "cheezborgers." Even today you're likely to overhear snatches of writers talking as they nosh on burgers and beers. Walk off your meal with a stroll past Royko's old workplace, the Tribune Tower, located just across the street.
Wander Wicker Park while channeling Nelson Algren
Famous for both his realistic writing about Chicago, including Chicago, City on the Make, and his torrid, Chicago-based love affair with Simone de Beauvoir, Nelson Algren was a Chicago man through and through. If you want to channel some gritty Algren energy, head no further than the elaborate fountain named in his honor at the intersection of Ashland, Milwaukee and Division. Algren's old apartment is nearby, at 1958 W. Evergreen Ave., with a sign next to the first floor window letting you know you're in the right spot. If hitting a few landmarks leaves you parched, head north to Algren's favorite bar, Lottie's Pub.
Learn the history of Ernest Hemingway in Oak Park
The man that brought us The Old Man and the Sea was just a boy when he lived in Oak Park, but that hasn't stopped this area from memorializing all things Hemingway. Born in a second-floor bedroom with his father's help, Hemingway lived in the house until the age of six and you can tour Hemingway's birthplace to take in more nitty-gritty details of his childhood; get your fill of Hemingway artifacts and stories at the Ernest Hemingway Museum. If all that time indoors leaves you antsy, head to Scoville Park, at Lake Street and Oak Park Avenue, where little Ernie would go sledding with his sister when they were kids.
Retrace Carl Sandburg's love affair with the city
Carl Sandburg fell in love with Chicago's broad shoulders after moving from Milwaukee to a second-floor apartment on the North Side at 4046 N. Hermitage Ave., but you'll have to head south to scout out Sandburg's haunts. Many of his favorites are long gone, including the Dill Pickle Club, where Sandburg would play guitar, read poetry and hang out big shots like Sinclair Lewis and Robert Frost, and the former site of the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, where, in an upstairs room, Sandburg worked on his epic ode to Abe. Live kinda like Sandburg with a stop at the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop's current 357 W. Chicago Ave. location.