12 Chicago Bookstores to Visit Instead of Amazon Today

Today, Amazon opens a brick-and-mortar bookstore in Chicago—in my own neighborhood of Lake View, no less. Like the vast majority of Chicago’s literary community, I’m pretty pissed about that, so I was comforted to see the following post on Rebecca Makkais Facebook account last night (repurposed here with her permission), where she implores Chicagoans to stay away from Amazon and invest their book-dollars where they’re needed most: our beloved independent bookstores.

auth.-ph.-13-cropped-jpeg1Rebecca Makkai:
“With Amazon at the gates and whatnot, this feels like a good time to remind you how best to enjoy some of Chicago’s incredible independent bookstores. Today would be a REALLY good day to get your indie on. Ahem.”

The Book Cellar
“Get a latte and roam the aisles, which are thrillingly tall. Then get a glass of wine and sit there and write. Go up to the desk to ask for Kurt Vonnegut, because he’s too special to live on the shelves. It’s the same Vonnegut you can buy elsewhere, but you’ll feel like you EARNED your Vonnegut.”

Bookends & Beginnings
“You’re technically in Evanston, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the giant giraffe. This one’s in an alley, so it always feels like you’re in a secret bookstore. It has the best kids-section-with-a-sightline-from-books-adults-might-look-at, which is no small thing.”

The Book Stall
“I know it’s in the suburbs, but also it’s right between one of the greatest independent toy stores and a coffee shop, so you can pretend you’re holiday shopping for your kids when really you’re buying yourself Elena Ferrante and a latte.”

The Book Table
“I actually haven’t been here yet because it’s in Oak Park, which is actually in South Dakota, but the city’s best handseller, Javier Ramirez, works here now, so maybe just go in and hug Javier?”

City Lit Books
“Sit by the fireplace with your new read. Head down the street to Lula Cafe afterwards. Or head there before your friend’s reading and come in pleasantly buzzed. Your friend won’t mind, I promise.”

Open Books
“Buy a huge stack of used books and feel really good about all the literacy programming you just funded. Which is kind of a good excuse to run back and pick up two more books.”

“I once had a dream that this place had a train set running around the whole thing, and that there were bobbleheads of famous writers. Neither of these is true, but it’s a gorgeous new store and you should shop here anyway. This is a perfect one for browsing right after dinner. Don’t know why, but it’s true.”

Sandmeyer’s Bookstore
“Duck in for the air conditioning during Printers Row Lit Fest, and stay because it’s just so damn sophisticated. You might have gone in looking for something pedestrian, but you’re going to leave with a beautiful book on Bauhaus and feel really good about it.”

Unabridged Bookstore
“Go here to feel cool. I don’t know why, I can’t explain it, but you’re a cooler person when you stand in this store. You walk out and all day long people want to be near you. This is not a joke. Try it.”

Volumes Bookcafe
“I’m not saying that you should stalk David Eigenberg from Sex and the City; I’m just saying that he shops here, and once he showed up to shop when I was doing an event here, and I was basically the only person who didn’t see him, and if you wanted to stalk him for me that would be cool. So do that, and drink some coffee or booze, and buy a book from the great local author section. Also you can make a day of it and head down the street afterwards to pick up some weird old out-of-print stuff at Myopic Bookstore.”

Women & Children First Bookstore
“Go here when the world is terrible and you remember that stupid men are in charge of everything and you feel like crying. Pick up some Audre Lorde and James Baldwin and Susan Sontag and feel more politically energized than you’ve felt since senior year of college. Hang out for an event like The Conversation: a Chicago literary series and leave with your brains on fire.”

57th Street Books/Seminary Co-op
“I’m lumping them together, but really they’re good for different things. Sem is great for spotting people with elbow patches. Some of them have Nobel Prizes, and if you follow them around and buy what they do, you’ll wind up smarter. 57th is by far the most splendidly labyrinthine store in the city, and I suspect it’s great for making out with a date, NOT that I’m advocating this — but if you do and then you get married, “Fifty-Seven” would be a great name for a baby.”

“What did I miss? Help me fill in the gaps. And please show our indies your love this week — they always need it, but now more than ever.”

Are you passionate about diverse voices and genres in literature? Do you wish small, independent, and university presses got just as much attention as the Big Five publishers? You can help the Chicago Review of Books and Arcturus make the literary world more inclusive by becoming a member, patron, or sponsor. Each option comes with its own perks and exclusive content. Click here to learn more.

26 comments on “12 Chicago Bookstores to Visit Instead of Amazon Today

  1. Kibbitznest books, brews & blarney


  2. Kibbitznest the nonprofit has used books


  3. Unabridged Books in Lakeview.
    Uncharted Books in Logan Square.
    Myopic Books in Wicker Park.

    and just a general extra BUMP for Women & Children First. =)


  4. Bucket O’Blood Books & Records, established in 2010 is the only genre bookstore in the city. Go here for the unique atmosphere and talk to the owner Grant for a great reccomendation to broaden your Science Fiction knowledge. New and used books fill the shelves that are separated into scifi, fantasy and horror. There are also smaller, well-curated sections for literary fiction, non-fiction, mystery, true crime, and young adult. Whether genre fiction is something you’re passionate about or just discovering, there are 2 book clubs that meet monthly for lively discussion, as well as various author events and readings that occur throughout the year.


  5. Armadillo’s Pillow used book store in Rogers Park. Matt and Betsey are awesome!


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  7. We’re small compared to these literary champions in Chicago, but The Wicker Park Secret Agent Supply and 826CHI is a great spot to find books by local authors and young voices. All proceeds support 826’s mission to inspire Chicago students to write and publish. http://Www.826chi.org


  8. Susan kordek

    This Old Book in Grayslake 👍


  9. Quimby’s! http://www.quimbys.com Best selection of small-publishers and Zines in the city!


    • Carrie Colpitts

      Right? My first response was uh…Quimbys isn’t on the list. It’s #1 for unique weirdness, which I love!


  10. Ravenswood Used Books on Montrose


  11. Half-Price Books on Touhy in Niles, IL.


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  13. Definitely a shout-out to Myopic, my favorite place in the city next to Women & Children First. If you are into occult stuff (including some remarkably rare texts), check out The Occult Bookstore at 1164 N. Milwaukee.

    Also, Oak Park is not in South Dakota, it’s more like Iowa. I live in Woodstock, which actually is South Dakota.


  14. Leena Nanda

    Just a little east of South Dakota are Anderson’s Bookshop’s three locations: Naperville, Downers Grove and LaGrange. Independent bookstore that is a family business. The people who run it are 5th generation. Lots and lots of author events. http://www.andersonsbookshop.com/


  15. Paul Fagen

    Pilsen Community Books http://www.pilsencommunitybooks.org/


  16. Maureen Peifer

    Women and Children First in Andersonville. Please support local Indies,not corporate giants who accept advertising from Brietbart!


  17. the Book Table in Oak Park
    Centuries and Sleuths in Forest Park


  18. Oh, you North Siders are so cute. Come to Printers’ Row and visit Sandmeyer’s.


  19. What are the bookstore’s addresses?


  20. S L Tassy

    Centuries and Sleuths (in neighboring Forest Park) would get our last dime before we’d set foot in Amzn!


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  22. Margo Chambers

    Wilmette’s only bookstore, Books Down Under is located in the basement of the Wilmette Public Library. Run entirely by volunteers, Books Down Under has a wide variety of gently used books at rock bottom prices. Proceeds help fund programming at the Library. For more info, or get an idea of the types of items available, check out our facebook page:
    Friends of Wilmette Library.


  23. Samuel Harned

    The Dial Bookstore in the Fine Arts Building on Michigan Avenue is awesome.


  24. If we are doing the suburbs – The Book Bin in Northbrook.


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