Chicago has a strong literary community and a wonderful selection of independent bookshops. Some shops are small and niche and some are large stocking a wide variety of genres and titles. So whether you are looking for reading material on politics or pop culture, psychology or painting, there is a shop for you. Ready to slip between the sheets of a good book? Here are some of the best bookshops in Chicago.
The 7 Best Bookshops in Chicago
1. Open Books
You are bound to find what you are looking for in Open Books, a huge secondhand bookshop with branches in Pilsen and West Loop. This not-for-profit organisation raises funds to start and run literacy and creative writing programs for youngsters. Books are donated and sold at very reasonable prices. So pile your backpack with books as all the money that you spend is going to good causes.
Quimby’s Bookstore at 1854 West North Avenue is the place to go if you are looking for independently-produced zines, comics, graphic novels and reading materials on counterculture subject matter. On the shelves, you’ll also find music books, politics and revolution books, poetry collections and a great selection of magazines. This is also a great place to pick up gifts and accessories like stationery, pins, pens, stickers, games and apparel. It’s a very cool and quirky shop with fun, friendly staff.
Myopic has 60,000 books spread over three floors of its Wicker Park premises. There is all manner of genres here but the fiction, sci-fi and Chicago history collections are really great. Staff are on hand to guide you around the store and help you search the shelves if you are looking for a specific title. Throughout the year there are music nights, poetry readings and other fun events. You can also sell your unwanted books here.
Housed in a beautiful historical building in the South Loop, Sandmeyer’s is a family-owned bookstore full of character and charm. On the shelves, you’ll find titles relating to all genres with a notable collection of books on local history and books by local writers. There is a sizable children’s collection too.
Located on North Lincoln Avenue, The Book Cellar is a gem of an independent bookshop. The bookcases are filled with a well-curated selection of books and there are plenty of titles by first-time authors and lots by local authors too. There’s a real community feel here and the space, with its cosy couches, beckons you to stay awhile and relax. You can sip coffee and wine and nibble on snacks whilst browsing and you can join in with the book discussions and the book club.
For reading material on feminist topics drop into Women and Children First, an independent bookshop in the Andersonville neighbourhood. This feminist bookshop has a collection of more than 30,000 titles by and about women with plenty of children’s books and LGBTQIA+ literature. Since 1979, through the bookshop, its owners have celebrated and amplified underrepresented voices and the store is a welcoming space for learning, dialogue and reflection. The bookshop is also a space for support groups, TEDx Talks, book launches, author readings and many other literary events.
Unabridged is an iconic institution of the Lakeview neighbourhood. The award-winning bookshop is stocked with titles from all genres but is particularly known as being a great source of LGBT literature. There is also a delightful children’s section and a wanderlust-fuelling travel room in the basement. The personal touch is evident throughout the shop with the handwritten notes on the shelves which offer recommendations and draw your attention to interesting and exciting titles. A true treasure trove for book lovers.