Chicago’s independent bookstores are the heart and soul of its vibrant literary community. Each locale has its own unique character that makes shopping there an experience in itself. Oh, and they sell some pretty great books, too.MoreLess
You’ll spot this little shop easily by the whimsical neon sign in the window that reads, “Books sold here!” With floor-to-ceiling bookshelves spanning the entire store, you are sure to find something you like at Pilsen Community Books. Located in Chicago’s Lower West Side neighborhood known as Pilsen, the store is dedicated to supporting local schools by providing books to students. And if you’re someone who likes to browse in peace and quiet, Pilsen Community Books is the place for you.
The Book Cellar is the perfect place to spend an entire afternoon, as nestled within this little Lincoln Square bookshop is a small café selling salads, sandwiches, coffee and even wine by the glass. Make your purchases and then curl up in the cozy seating area with some food and a beverage and start reading. If you stick around until the evening you may even catch a book group or author talk.
Open Books is a massive used bookstore and nonprofit organization. It uses its proceeds to fund and run literacy and creative writing programs for Chicago youth. Its Pilsen and West Loop locations offer a huge selection of books so cheap you’ll want to bring a backpack to fill with your purchases. And the best part is that purchasing them helps a great cause.
Stop by this one-of-a-kind bookstore to fulfill all your reading and secret agent needs. In addition to a bevy of progressive titles, this shop provides everything a kid requires to become the perfect spy – from mustache disguises to soda can safes. And that’s not all. Behind a secret door in the back lies a huge writing center called 826CHI, which thousands of Chicago’s young people visit every year to partake in free creative writing programs.
The iconic Women and Children First bookstore is one of the last remaining feminist bookstores in the country. It is also one of the largest, with over 30,000 books that celebrate women writers and readers. Women and Children First is also known for its robust calendar of feminist literary events. You can wander into the store almost any night of the week and stumble upon a reading, author talk or book launch party taking place – all designed to raise women’s voices.
Sandmeyer’s Bookstore is a family-owned gem located in the heart of Chicago’s historic Printer’s Row neighborhood. Printers and publishers occupied the buildings in this area throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, and while those companies are long gone, many of the structures that once held their printing presses remain.
Unabridged Bookstore has been a staple of Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood for almost 40 years. It has a large collection of books of all kinds, but is known for celebrating local authors and for its large selection of LGBTQ titles. It’s also located in the center of Lakeview’s main shopping area, so it’s a perfect place to stop before exploring the rest of the neighborhood.
If you’re not looking for 57th Street Books, you might miss it, but this Hyde Park establishment is well worth seeking out. Take a few steps down through the small, unassuming entryway and you’ll find yourself in an expansive world of books. Inside, exposed brick walls adorned with Christmas lights stretch much further than you’d expect and give the store an old-time feel. What makes this place especially cool is that it’s part of Chicago’s Seminary Co-op, meaning it’s customer-owned.