In the age of the digital download, a great independent bookstore can be hard to find. Luckily, Chicago
offers plenty of stacks for bibliophiles to browse, along with handwritten staff recommendations, local author nights, children’s story hours, and even wine. A true book lover knows that an e-book can’t compare to holding the real thing at your cozy neighborhood bookstore. Check out these local favorites.
57th Street Books
This Hyde Park neighborhood bookstore has been around since the 1980s, and has since amassed quite a loyal customer base. 57th Street Books is famous for their mystery, science fiction, and cookbook selection, but visitors will find plenty of other fiction and non-fiction titles. The unobtrusive staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and generally happy to make recommendations. With low ceilings and a labyrinth vibe, it is a fun place to explore. The weekly children’s story hours, proximity to one of Chicago’s nicest parks, and the nearby Museum of Science and Industry makes a visit here into a day-long excursion for the whole family.
57th Street Books, 1301 E 57th St, Chicago, IL, USA, +1 773 684 1300
Read It & Eat
This bright and shiny space in the heart of Lincoln Park holds a food lover’s paradise. Read It & Eat is a newcomer to the Chicago bookstore scene, but the culinary-focused shop has made quite an impact already. With features like author/chef signings, a cookbook club, cooking classes, and discussions, it is no wonder that the store has enjoyed rapid success in the literary landscape. The immediately apparent enthusiasm of the staff turns Read It & Eat into an engaged community buzzing with passion for food.
Read It & Eat, 2142 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL, USA, +1 773 661 6158
As one of the few independent bookstores in downtown Chicago, After-Words is a gem for anyone who works or lives in The Loop. The two floors house both new and used books in a worn industrial setting. The selection is well curated, with new books on the street level and used books in the basement. Many shoppers report better luck at finding fiction works than non-fiction. There are not too many comfortable places to settle in and stay for a while, but visitors will find plenty of volumes to browse.
After-Words Books, 23 E Illinois St, Chicago, IL, USA, +1 312 464 1110
One of Chicago’s oldest and largest used bookstores can be found in the offbeat Wicker Park neighborhood. With three floors and over 80,000 editions, it is hard to imagine anyone walking out of Myopic Books empty handed. Thought some visitors may feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of books (and the slightly disorganized atmosphere), many book lovers enjoy getting lost in the stacks. Locals and visitors alike can enjoy the store’s curated music series, featuring improvised and experimental music. Myopic Books also hosts a semi-weekly poetry series, ensuring visitors could truly spend an entire day enjoying the store.
Myopic Books, 1564 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL, USA, +1 773 862 4882
While many bookstores feature staff recommendations, Unabridged manages to make their handwritten reviews personal and heartfelt. The personal touch is also felt in the store’s gift wrapping, a convenient service for busy customers. The shop is known for its great selection of children’s books, but visitors will also enjoy plenty of new titles and a large sale section. One helpful feature is the website search bar that allows shoppers to find out if the store has a specific title. As with most independent bookstores, it is best to check ahead if a particular book is desired.
Unabridged Bookstore, 3251 N Broadway St, Chicago, IL, USA, +1 773 883 9119
Quimby’s goes beyond offbeat – the place is a mecca for the aberrant, saucy, and unusual. The miscellany inside the store is not limited to the excellent selection of independent zines, books, and other assorted fancies. From the shelving labels to the quirky photo booth, the entire store is equal parts artistic, intellectual, and debaucherous. Many bibliophiles will be pleasantly surprised by the exceptional selection of magazines, some of which rival books in quality and length. With sterile bookstores infiltrating many neighborhoods, Quimby’s effortlessly maintains an eclectic vibe fitting the Wicker Park community.
Quimby’s, 1854 W North Ave, Chicago, IL, USA, +1 773 342 0910
The Book Cellar
The Book Cellar
There is arguably no better complement to a good book than a glass of wine and a comfy couch. The Book Cellar provides all of these, along with café fare and friendly staff. The store hosts several book clubs for a variety of genres, making it a favorite destination for a diverse crowd of locals. The Chicago section is hefty, but visitors will also find most top sellers and a few oddities. Young writers flock to the store for local author nights, though there are plenty of other events to enjoy.
The Book Cellar, 4736 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL, USA, +1 773 293 2665
This haven for readers and writers alike can be found in hip Logan Square. Uncharted Books is a used bookstore, with the term ‘used’ encompassing everything from truly vintage to nearly new. Tanner MsSwain, the store’s friendly and sincere owner, is helpful and well-informed. Visitors are also sure to be greeted by the resident dog, Ramona, adding to the feeling of a home away from home. The prices are not rock-bottom, but they are fair. Treasure hunters will thrive in this environment.
Uncharted Books, 2620 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org
Women and Children First
With the motto ‘Shop as independently as you think,’ it is no surprise that Women and Children First is known for feminist works, diversity, queer-friendliness, and strong community spirit. As one of the largest feminist bookstores in the county, the Andersonville shop was originally established to support female writers and create an environment of equality and mutual respect. Customers will also find plenty young adult, classic fiction, and non-fiction titles. With its welcoming and upbeat atmosphere, the store is considered a community anchor and a must-see for many travelers.
Women and Children First, 5233 N Clark St, Chicago, IL, USA, +1 773 769 9299
Open Books surpasses the average used bookstore by offering shopping with a conscience. With the goal of providing community literacy programs, the two stores (West Loop and Pilsen) are run by volunteers and stocked by book donations. Walking into Open Books is an instant mood-booster. The cheery colors and comfortable lounge spaces scream ‘kid-friendly,’ though adults will find plenty of books to enjoy as well. Proceeds from retail sales go to funding literacy and book grant programs in Chicago, so visitors can feel good about every purchase.
Open Books, 651 W Lake St and 905 W 19th St, Chicago, IL, USA, +1 312 475 1355