The 10 Best Books about Our City Every Columbus Resident Should Read
We spend a lot of time reading things. Whether a book, magazine, newspaper, kindle download, or online content (like Columbusight!).
Below, we’ve gathered together our 10 favorite books about Columbus.
They focus on all kinds of things – from history, to trivia, creative writing, neighborhood guides, coloring and activities, and more. It’s a great collection of diverse works from local authors and illustrators exemplifying all of the things we love best about our city.
How’d we rank them? After gathering lists from our contributors and friends (several current and former librarians included no less), we got together and argued, debated, weighted and discussed each of the most essential titles.
For convenience we’ve provided direct links to the Amazon.com page for each, but these books are definitely worth picking up anywhere you can find a copy – check them out from your local public library, borrow from a friend, find them at local bookstores, or keep your eye out while browsing yard sales and thrift stores.
Now, on to the countdown! …
Put together by three local history experts at the Columbus Landmarks Foundation, this one definitely earned a spot on our list. The best thing about Columbus Neighborhoods: A Guide is that it provides virtually everything you need to turn your everyday neighborhood walk into into a living-learning history tour.
The focus is on telling the rich and interesting stories hiding inside things we pass by everyday. Subdivided by neighborhood, and with photos and addresses provided to easily locate each building, it’s easy and fun to start using this guide to learn more about the neighborhoods you already know and love.
Sound interesting? Columbus Neighborhoods: A Guide is available on Amazon.com, click here for more details.
Chronicling the pivotal time period of Columbus history responsible for much of the city as we know it today, Columbus: 1910-1970 tells through a series of captivating photos the story of how a town of only 100-odd thousand residents grew up to become Ohio’s largest city.
20th century policies, everything from diversifying the local economy to aggressive annexation and growth, had a profound impact on shaping the position of 21st century Columbus. This book provides great background on many of the most relevant issues, and does so in an accessible, visual format that will keep you hooked from cover-to-cover.
Sound interesting? Columbus: 1910-1970 is available on Amazon.com, click here for more details.
This one is another photography book, but with a twist. Columbus and The Ohio State University – Then and Now takes its reader back in time by showing familiar present-day shots paired together with historic pictures taken from the exact same location. Spoiler alert: most things have changed (a lot!).
While many of the scenes in this book left us yearning for the past, it also helps to highlight the importance of local historic preservation movements, celebrate the city’s timeless icons, and leave one thinking deeply about what future change is yet to come.
Sound interesting? Columbus and The Ohio State University – Then and Now is available on Amazon.com, click here for more details.
Stretching from the 5,000 year old Pre-Columbian culture of the Mound Builders through the founding of our city and into the present day, the history of Columbus as a place is quite a bit longer and more detailed than you might have imagined.
In Columbus: The Story of a City, well-known local author Ed Lentz does a fantastic job of not only condensing this history into a manageable, easy-to-read volume, but also at tying everything together into an enthralling tale you won’t want to put down. Select images are paired with the accompanying text, making this an all-around excellent primer on how Columbus came to be.
Sound interesting? Columbus: The Story of a City is available on Amazon.com, click here for more details.
A lot of the books so far have been focused on history. #6 on our list is not an exception to that, but does offer another fun and unique twist to differentiate itself from others in the genre. A Haunted History of Columbus, Ohio playfully blends offbeat historical facts with eerie and notorious local urban legends to produce a captivating work that entertains as much as it informs.
Fair warning: you’ll probably find yourself retelling these stories to your friends and family when visiting in-person many of the well-known landmarks which are featured – from the Ohio Theater to OSU’s Thompson Library, Nellie Kampmann sheds light on the ghosts and ghouls which haunt Columbus.
Sound interesting? A Haunted History of Columbus, Ohio is available on Amazon.com, click here for more details.
If you’re a Columbus resident of a certain age, you likely have your own memories of, or are at least familiar with, the legendary Lazarus department store. A Central Ohio retail icon for more than 150 years, Lazarus still holds a powerful place in the hearts and minds of locals – even more than a decade after the closing of the Downtown store and merger of the brand into Macy’s.
In Look to Lazarus: The Big Store, three generations of a single family who both worked and shopped constantly at the iconic Downtown Lazarus share their own personal reflections and memories alongside an in-depth history, archival images, vintage advertisements, and more. This is the single-most comprehensive book you can find on this dearly-departed Columbus legend.
Sound interesting? Look to Lazarus: The Big Store is available on Amazon.com, click here for more details.
Another book devoted to a single, since-vanished Columbus icon of yore, book #4 on our list is all about the famous, fabulous Kahiki Supper Club. Way more than just a restaurant and tiki bar, the Kahiki was a phantasmagoric experience for every sense. It was elaborate, world-renowned, and beloved in the hearts and minds of Columbus residents during its nearly 40 year lifespan, and continues to be so revered to this day.
Kahiki Supper Club: A Polynesian Paradise in Columbus is unquestionably the definitive account of this local legend. Overflowing with detailed historical information, interesting trivia, personal recollections, and impossible-to-find-elsewhere full-color photos, it also features rarely-seen treasures like the original building plans and recipes from the restaurant you can recreate at home.
For anyone with fond memories looking to wax nostalgic, or newcomers wondering what all the fuss is really about anyway – this book is a must-have.
Sound interesting? Kahiki Supper Club: A Polynesian Paradise in Columbus is available on Amazon.com, click here for more details.
An entertaining collection of short stories by nearly two dozen of Columbus’ most talented contemporary writers, Columbus, Past, Present and Future is an imaginative and inventive take on the historical fiction genre.
Told chronologically, the book is a whirlwind tour of Columbus’ past and possible future by those who live in it during each time period. An original piece of local art is included to accompany each story, and the introduction is written by Mayor Coleman himself. Trust us, this book is that good.
Sound interesting? Columbus: Past, Present and Future is available on Amazon.com, click here for more details.
No less than 365 of the most-interesting and little-known vignettes from Columbus history are finally brought to light in our #2 book. With one for each day of the year, On This Day in Columbus, Ohio History is a veritable treasure trove of local trivia you’ll find yourself sharing with friends, family, and co-workers alike.
If you think you know Columbus, think again. On This Day is accurate, fascinating, and chock-full of valuable tidbits you won’t be able to find anywhere else. Keep it in your office, on your coffee table, at your bedside, or give it as a gift. This book doesn’t disappoint.
Sound interesting? On This Day in Columbus, Ohio History is available on Amazon.com, click here for more details.
There was a lot of debate and discussion about which book should be listed here as #1. Eventually though, the decision became clear. Don’t be fooled by the name, The Columbus Ohio Coloring and Activity Book is a fabulous thing to have for young and old alike. From what we kept hearing, it’s not uncommon to order one for the kids, and one for yourself!
Beautiful hand-drawn artwork illustrates every page with recognizable and picturesque scenes from different Columbus neighborhoods. Interspersed puzzles and activities add to the enjoyment and fun. If most of the other books on this list represent our city’s mature intellect, our #1 is Columbus’ whimsical soul.
Sound interesting? The Columbus Ohio Coloring and Activity Book is available on Amazon.com, click here for more details.
Agree with our list? Did we include your favorite Columbus-themed book?
Tell us in the comments below!
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