You don’t need to travel to an off-the-beaten-path basement bookstore in a far-flung neighborhood to get your Chicago literary fix. There are plenty of book options right in the downtown Loop area that you may be passing by every day. Make it a point to venture into a few on your next lunch break. You may find your new favorite hideout in the city.
Open Books truly goes the extra mile. This secondhand bookshop provides ‘literacy experiences for tens of thousands of readers each year through inspiring programs and the creative capitalization of books.’ Their stores in the West Loop and Pilsen offer instructional programs as well as weekly book delivery to local nonprofits and under-serviced Chicagoland schools. Donate or shop at their locations to support the invaluable work they do for Chicago’s youth.
Books-A-Million may be a massive nationwide chain, but it’s worth a visit in Chicago’s Loop. The company was founded and is based in Alabama, and they operate more than 260 stores, making them the second largest book retailer in the country. Their main Chicago outpost is in the heart of downtown, a perfect location for stopping in after work or during a day of sightseeing.
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Selected Works Used Books and Sheet Music
Located in the Fine Arts Building on the Roosevelt University campus, Selected Works has been delighting customers in its present location for more than seven years. The owner started the store by selling off his own book and music collection in the 1980s, and it’s only grown from there. It has the cozy feel of an antique shop that’s been around for centuries, accompanied by its unique location, old book smell, and resident shop cat. Hodge climbs the stacks, befriends customers, and is an overall highlight of the browsing experience.
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Barbara’s has been Chicago’s most trusted independent bookseller since the 1960s. Today, they have six locations throughout Chicagoland and one in Boston. The Willis Tower, Macy’s on State Street, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and O’Hare Airport all feature their own unique Barbara’s outpost. They sell thousands of titles, host author events, throw book release parties, and much more.
The quaintest of bookshops in the Loop is tucked next to the Revival Food Hall. Curbside Books and Records is ‘curated by the staff of award-winning independent press Curbside Splendor Publishing.’ Their selection rotates and tends to reflect local Chicago musicians. Though small, the shop is a gathering place for the literary community to host pop-up events, readings, and happy hour discussions.