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These Chicago bookstores will ship fresh reading materials right to your door

Photograph courtesy of 57th Street Books
Photograph: Courtesy of 57th Street Books

Has all this staying-at-home got you itching for a new read? While it might be tempting to head straight to the Amazon bestseller list, consider visiting the website of your favorite local bookstore instead. Though they're all currently closed to the public, many of Chicago's independent booksellers have online shops where you'll find staff-curated picks, new releases and rare editions available for delivery—and unlike Amazon, these neighborhood spots need your support to help weather the storm of a temporary closure. Here's a roundup of Chicago bookshops that will ship books right to your door.

57th Street/Seminary Co-op

Does quarantine have you feeling wistful for the heady academic reading of your university days? Dive back into Foucault and Butler with the help of Seminary Co-op, which houses one of the largest collections of academic books in the country. If the very thought of theory makes your head ache, try the general interest selections of 57th Street Books, where you'll find everything from contemporary lit to travel books. Either way, you'll enjoy free shipping on online orders from both of these Hyde Park institutions.

City Lit

Even amid a stay-at-home order, Logan Square residents (and other pedestrians) are free to window shop at City Lit's storefront to get a feel for the bookstore's new and recommended titles, which were carefully displayed for viewing prior to when the shop closed its doors to the public—highlights include essayist Rebecca Solnit's new memoir Recollections of My Nonexistence and Louise Erdich's The Night Watchman. Visit City Lit's website to see the rest of the store's offerings available for home delivery.

Challengers

Comic book and graphic novel fiends will be relieved to hear that Challengers, the comics store with locations in Bucktown and River North, is selling its wares online. Browse the store's website to see what's in stock; there, you'll be able to place an order to be shipped to your address, picked up at the nearby Chicago Board Game Cafe or—on Wednesday and to select neighborhoods only—have it hand-delivered for a $5 fee. 

Madison Street Books

This brand new West Loop spot celebrated its grand opening just days before the state's stay-at-home order went into effect, meaning it's likely you didn't get a chance to check out the storefront's wares before it temporarily closed shop. Go online to peruse its collection of books, which can be delivered anywhere in the country for $1 shipping. Plus, tune in to the bookstore's website each day with your little ones to catch a virtual singalong for toddlers.

Open Books

Open Books' two spacious locations (in Pilsen and the West Loop) are closed for the time being, but their online store offers free shipping on all book orders over $10. We recommend exploring the selection of $1 books, which as of press time includes choice titles like Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie, to net an especially good deal. In the event that you're looking to finish up some spring cleaning during quarantine, both neighborhood locations are still accepting used book donations via contactless drop-off points.

Pilsen Community Books

Feeling torn about what you want to read next? The savvy folks at Pilsen Community Books—open since 2016 and newly owned by three of its longtime bookselling employees—provide regular book recommendations on their website and social media pages to point you in the right direction. Their expertise will come in handy when you browse the store's online collection of books, including new and collectible titles, available for delivery via USPS. Especially indecisive readers are invited to seek personalized recs by reaching out to the bookstore via email or social media.

Quimby's

Quimby's has long served as Chicago's hub for graphic novels, small press titles, zines, independently published works, manifestos and more—it's the best (and perhaps the only) place in the city to find erotica comics, hand-illustrated chapbooks and activists zines all under one roof. Readers still have access to the store's troves of weird and hyper-niche works via delivery orders, which can be placed through the store's website or by phone, email or Zoom video call.

Semicolon

Part bookstore, part gallery, this West Town shop—the only black woman-owned bookseller in Chicago—is also a BYOB community space which ordinarily hosts a full roster of monthly events. You can still get in on the community spirit with the store's new virtual book club hosted on Instagram live (tune into Instagram for updates) and source new reading materials through its online store, which will ship books to you; right now, you'll even get a 10% discount on all titles.  

The Book Cellar

Lincoln Square's cozy bookstore and cafe, home to a thriving community of book clubs, also offers online shipping. The store has a particularly robust assortment of signed books; check out the dedicated tab on the website where you can browse signed copies of titles like the Nigerian-American chef Kwame Onwuachi's memoir Notes from a Young Black Chef, Chilean writer Isabel Allende's A Long Petal of the Sea and YA stalwart John Green's Turtles All the Way Down.

Unabridged

An East Lakeview standby since 1980, Unabridged's many-roomed, multi-level store has an especially huge selection of LGBTQ+ lit and travel books, and is well-loved for the densely handwritten staff recommendations dotting its shelves. You can keep up with new, digital recommendations on the store's social media pages and order in-stock books for delivery either online or via email; be patient, though, as reduced staffing may lead to minor shipping delays.

Uncharted

Book collecting might seem like a slightly eccentric (and not to mention expensive) hobby, but Uncharted's hefty, affordable selection of rare and first edition books available for delivery makes it easy to get started. The Andersonville bookstore's limited edition wares include tons of titles under $50, like a hand-pressed 1864 edition of Charlotte Bronte's Villette for $35, or a lushly illustrated copy of Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousins for $23.

Volumes

Normally, the original Volumes location in Wicker Park (the other is downtown) is a bustling cafe-plus-bookshop, serving up Metropolis coffee up front and a well-curated selection of book titles in the back. Although the cafe storefront is closed for now, you can recreate the experience at home and score free shipping and delivery on the store's online literary selections through the end of April. If you'd like to opt into something a little more long-term, consider signing up for their six- or 12-month book subscription plan, which sends out a new book hand selected for your interests every month.

Women & Children First

The staff at Andersonville's Women & Children First bookstore—famous for its impressive selection of feminist works and theory—will continue to work diligently to fulfill online orders, though you may encounter a slight delay in shipping due to current volume of requests. Social distancing rules also mean that many of the store's upcoming community events and author events have been canceled. There's a little bright side, though: you can still nab tickets to author talks with Samantha Irby and N.K. Jemisin, which will be held via livestream in the coming weeks (the tickets still come with a signed copy of each writer's new book, too).

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