Best bookstores in Chicago

Shop the stacks for new and used books, from novels to nonfiction, at these top bookstores in Chicago

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Uncharted Books is one of the best bookstores in Chicago.

Uncharted Books is one of the best bookstores in Chicago. Photograph: Martha Williams

You know what you can't buy on Amazon? A cozy nook to hang out and skim the new or used book you're about to buy. Knowledgeable staffers (not algorithms) to recommend favorite novels. Some of our favorite bookstores even offer coffee, wine or beer. So the next time you're on the hunt for a page-turner, browse the stacks inside these wonderful, well-read shops. 

Bookstores in Chicago

The Book Cellar

  • Price band: 2/4

When it comes to bookstores, this place defines class. Not only can you browse books while sipping wine, but the staff recommendations are usually just what you want them to be: varied and idiosyncratic. Catch young area writers here the third Thursday of every month at Local Author Night.

  1. 4736–38 N Lincoln Ave, between Leland and Lawrence Aves
More info

City Lit Books

  • Price band: 2/4

Teresa Kirschbraun has lived in Logan Square for 25 years, and felt it always needed a bookstore. So she decided to open one. The indie bookshop sells new books, and also features an extensive children’s section and an area offering literature in Spanish. Look for a roster of events (book clubs, author visits and story times).

  1. 2523 N Kedzie Blvd, at Linden Pl
More info

57th Street Books

  • Price band: 2/4

This Hyde Park landmark is a great place to buy based on the employee selections and to check out some more intellectual fare. Many readings here fall into the academic/nonfiction category, though the shop often features authors who have written about local history.

  1. 1301 E 57th St, at Kimbark Ave
More info

Myopic Bookstore

  • Price band: 1/4

This legendary used bookstore—one of Chicago's oldest and largest—stocks three floors' worth of books from floor to ceiling. Also, local poet Larry Sawyer has booked one of the best free poetry series in the Midwest here for years, and in Myopic’s top-floor space, the readings are even sunnier.

  1. 1564 N Milwaukee Ave, at Damen Ave
More info

Open Books

  • Price band: 2/4

The sprawling, warehouse-like space isn’t your average bookstore. Opened in 2009, the shop is an outgrowth of the Open Books nonprofit. The more than 50,000 books—rows and rows of wooden shelves painted in primary colors house novels by genre—are used and donated. The funds go toward literacy programs in Chicago. Open Books invites customers to sit and stay awhile, offering a snug reading area complete with plush leather couches and a fake fireplace.

  1. 213 W Institute Pl, between Wells and Franklin Sts
More info

Powell's Bookstore

  • Price band: 2/4

The University Village outpost of this local bookstore carries the textbooks that students are looking for as well as the novels and bestsellers that everyday readers crave.

  1. 1218 S Halsted St, at Roosevelt Rd
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Quimby's

  • Price band: 1/4

You’ve probably heard of Quimby’s as the place to buy small-press books, zines and comics, but it’s also the place to catch their writers. McSweeney’s writers often stop in, as do indie darlings such as Kelly Link, Michelle Tea and the revolving cast of the Perpetual Motion Roadshow.

  1. 1854 W North Ave, at Wolcott Ave
More info

Sandmeyer's Bookstore

  • Price band: 2/4

Located in the South Loop, this family-owned and -operated book shop has been in business since 1982. Step into the brick building and you'll find shelves filled with new releases, travel guides and books to keep you occupied on your train ride home.

  1. 714 S Dearborn St, between Polk and Harrison Sts
More info

Unabridged Bookstore

  • Price band: 1/4

Hand-written, personal recommendations from employees line the shelves at the Unabridged Bookstore, offering helpful, heartfelt tips for customers. The Lakeview shop is known for its extensive children's section but also stocks a diverse selection of literary fiction and nonfiction for more advanced readers.

  1. 3251 N Broadway, between Melrose St and Aldine Ave
More info

Uncharted Books

  • Price band: 1/4

This laid-back Logan Square bookshop is chock full of used books, from newly released literature to nonfiction favorites. Give yourself ample time to dig, then rest your feet by taking a seat at the table and chairs. Shop owner Tanner McSwain hosts occassional author events, and Ramona, the shop dog, is an added bonus.

  1. 2630 N Milwaukee Ave, between Logan Blvd and Diversey Ave
More info

Women and Children First

  • Price band: 1/4

Don’t be fooled by the store’s name; though the Andersonville shop has a definite feminist slant, any and all can find something here. The store stocks more than 30,000 books, and it's an active location for author readings and community events. It's also the endearing inspiration for Portlandia's Women and Women First bookstore sketch.

  1. 5233 N Clark St, between Foster and Berwyn Aves
More info


Users say

2 comments
diepanzer
diepanzer

I'm really surprised that Bucket O'Blood Books & Records got overlooked on this list-a Logan Square staple for over four years, it is the only bookstore in Chicago that specializes in genre fiction. An extremely well curated selection of science fiction, fantasy and horror books is housed in a small, inviting space that also includes literary fiction, mystery/true crime, non fiction, YA and vintage collectibles. Most books are only a few dollars and the proprietors are always willing to offer recommendations or just chat and hang out. They feature various author events, acoustic music, and seasonal festivities. It is definitely a "must visit" book store!

Protocol417 .
Protocol417 .

Mentioning that Portlandia sketch is more likely to make me avoid ;)

I'm surprised at the notation about Quimbys.  Even we out in the suburbs have heard of it!  Lovely place, with book readings and signing and tons of interesting stuff to find (including independents and even Chick tracts!)  Staff is wonderful too, and not far from Myopic Books if you want to make an afternoon of it.

However, I need to check out the Book Cellar.  Books and wine?  Did I just die and go to heaven?