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Chicago’s Best Bookstores: A Bibliophile’s Take

The smell of freshly baked bread, the fabled aroma of “new car,” the scent of a freshly talcum’d baby: these are but some of life’s olfactory pleasures. How boring it would all be without them, right? And then, of course, there’s the woody, musty, leathery and wise smell of an old book, oft overlooked when you consider the others. When I lived in Chicago and was in the market for a good whiff of a well-written sentence–or just looking for a wordy adventure–these were my comfort-zones where I could lose myself for ages.

Quimby’s Bookstore: Are you an indie kid at heart? If you are into zines, small-press releases, graphic novels and readings with by local and independently-published authors, Quimby’s has what ails you. Independently-owned with a helpful staff, Quimby’s and its sister-store, Chicago Comics, provide an off-beat selection for an off-beat clientele.

Ravenswood Used Books: A veritable fire-hazard, Ravenswood Used Books in Lincoln Square on the North Side is a headache to navigate. Books are organized by section but that’s when any semblance of order ends. Find them in stacks, on the floor, on stools, chairs, ladders. It’s hard not to lose oneself in this wonderful, wizard-tower-like Purgatory of words.

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Myopic’s Lenny, RIP

Myopic Books: Located in the heart of Wicker Park, this literary mainstay is pregnant with books. There are three floors (arguably three and a half) of shelves crammed with used books, while new and local releases are kept by the front desk. The claustrophobic walls, steep stairs and deep couches on the third floor will beckon to any bibliophile ready to drown in words.

Women & Children First: Located in the diverse, queer-friendly Andersonville neighborhood, Women & Children First is one of the nation’s largest feminist bookstores. Proudly stocking over 30,000 titles by, about and for women, including children’s books and LGBT fiction and non-fiction, WCF also regularly hosts visiting poets and authors.

Shake Rattle & Read Book Box: Boxes of plastic-sleeved vinyl greet you upon entering this long storefront in Uptown. The man pricing books absentmindedly flicks ash from his cigar, nodding a gruff hello. The books, magazines and collectible ephemera catch your eye, and though you’re not too impressed, you notice the prices. You leave with an armload.

Bookman’s Corner: The sign out front says “Books Rare Medium Well done,” and, well, Lakeview’s Bookman’s Corner delivers. It’s prices on used books can’t be beat, especially when there’s a Border’s down the street. Unlike some of the other stores on this list, it is surprisingly organized, despite the general clutter of well-loved books.

Book Cellar: Cafe, wine bar, books, neighborhood vibe: this Lincoln Square book slinger is a cultural anchor in the quaint right-off-the-Brown Line ‘hood. The shop hosts readings and signing by local and national authors, and kiddies can enjoy any number of well-curated titles while the grown-ups take in their book club.

Note: A version of this post originally appeared on Gridskipper, which, well, is no longer. So basically, I’m cannibalizing it.
[Lead photo by Moyan BrennMyopic and Lenny pic by Flickr user juicyrai]

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