Independent Bookstores in Chicago thrive! Check these out on a day off, for gift ideas or just to settle into some quiet time in this wonderful, but God-awfully noisy city.
After-Words 23 E. Illinois: This haven is nestled just steps down from Michigan Ave. and east of State. It’s bright, well-kept and spacious upstairs and down, staffed by friendly and knowledgeable book lovers.They buy used books during a specific time frame each week – first come, first served so be patient.
Armadillo’s Pillow 6753 N. Sheridan: This is a great little shop just north of Loyola’s main campus. It’s crammed and a bit haphazard looking – and COZY! Nice comfortable furniture, inviting one to browse and relax…more inviting than some cafes I’ve been to. On my first visit, a guy was playing guitar – a small, bright gem in Rogers Park.
The Book Cellar 4736-38 N. Lincoln: A beautiful location in Lincoln Square, across from the fountain and mini-park, it’s very orderly and clean with a cafe area (adult bevs as well!) and window seating. The staff is knowledgeable and excited to be there – their “Picks” are plentiful throughout. It’s kid-friendly and a first-stop for nephew and niece Christmas gifts.
Bookleggers 2907 N. Broadway: It’s small but well-stocked – the ladder is a good friend! The owner is always helpful. There are some amazing vintage materials here.
Bookman’s Corner 2959 N. Clark: Literally, it’s on the corner. It’s a bit cramped with an abrasive sign on the front door about cell phone usage, but charming. The owner knows his stuff and is inviting. Give yourself DAYS to check out the massive inventory.
City Lit Books 2523 N. Kedzie: One of two recently-opened indies in Logan Square. This is a bright, clean and welcoming shop. They have a fireplace and comfortable chairs. The staff picks are abundant – one, highlighting a local author, got me to buy the pick.
57th Street Books 1301 E. 57th Street: Hyde Park’s best! The step down into the shop is only a first step into a literary kingdom. The space goes on and on and on…It’s a true escape.
The Gallery 923 W. Belmont: Quirky is a good description of the place. It’s set just a block from the Belmont “El” station, near the Belmont Army store and the Ann Sather restaurant. The shop is jammed with every kind of book for any single interest.
Myopic Books 1564 N. Milwaukee: Near the busy Damen/North Ave./Milwaukee intersection (6,000 corners?), this space is a well of quiet. Browse, sit at an upstairs table and read – find a nice paperback on an obscure American from the early 19th Century who was the world’s first Socialist. (Thomas Skidmore, btw – 2 generations before Marx!)
Powell’s 1218 S. Halsted and 1501 E. 57th St.: Sadly, in early 2014, they are down to these two shops in the city after their 2850 N. Lincoln store announced it’s closure because of the building being sold. The Chicago-born, Portland-raised small chain has been in Hyde Park since 1970 – happily, this one and the University Village location still thrive.
Ravenswood Used Books 2005 W. Montrose: They’ve just moved into this location from their former shop on the south end of Lincoln Square. More room and a little more organization set off this new place.
Sandmeyers’ 714 S. Dearborn: An appropriate location in the midst of Printer’s Row. This was the shop where I bought my first book on the Haymarket Affair and the best collection of primary source material on the major players in that event that became the guts of the tours! The shop is small, clean and orderly with a very helpful staff.
Selected Works 410 S. Michigan Ave, Suite 210: This is the most-hidden treasure of ALL literary gems in the city! It’s nestled on the second floor of the Fine Arts Building, a short elevator ride up with a human being pulling a lever to go and opening the door for you…Ahh, for other days. The shop seems small upon entering, but it’s spacious. They have one of the best vintage/rare/out of print/ancient language selections I’ve seen anywhere. There is ample space to move around and plenty of ladders to assist an ascent physically, just as it lifts one’s spirit. This place most-likely houses the best collection of sheet music around. Hours to be well spent here.
Unabridged Books 3251 N. Broadway: a beautiful spot in Lakeview – an oasis just off the oft-times crazed, alcohol-infused, thumping bass-pounding clubs of North Halsted. They offer an impressive classics sections as well as ample choices for new works.
Uncharted Books 2630 Milwaukee: A co-worker recommended that I check this place out a couple of years ago and I was hooked. They’ve since moved two doors down to better accommodations. Tanner, the owner, hosted a staged reading I held there in November, 2012. They’ve got great deals on “lovingly pre-owned” books. Their store front is featured in the pic.
Women and Children First 5233 N. Clark: The store name says it all! It’s a great resource and very kid-friendly. The interior is clean and orderly and open to fun.