Our 7 Favorite Bookstores for Inspiration, Coffee and (Oh, Yeah) Books

  • By Abraham L. Braden
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Forget new car smell. We think new book smell is the real winner. Which is why we’re hitting up these seven Chicago bookstores on the regular. They’ve got new book smell—not to mention thoughtful staff and charming ambiance—in spades.


Here’s something you won’t find shopping online: As you browse Unabridged, you’ll notice a crop of yellow laminated cards, each one bearing a handwritten recommendation from the staff. Chat them up, and they’ll be happy to help you navigate the store’s leading collection of LGBTQ literature, ample children’s selection and well curated sale section.


Walk into Open Books looking for a book and you’ll walk out totally inspired. The used bookseller stocks some 50,000 titles and also runs literacy programs around the city. Don’t be shy—join the corps of volunteers, who get paired up as reading buddies to Chicago kids.


Join the co-op that operates this long-running Hyde Park bookstore and you’ll join ranks with luminaries like the Obamas and Susan Sontag. Not bad when you consider membership is free and also gets you 10 percent back every month in credit toward the shop’s world-class children’s selection and wide array of fiction and nonfiction.


Bright and cheery with a well-stocked coffee bar and even better stocked shelves, Volumes is the perfect place to pass an afternoon. The welcoming atmosphere extends to the shop’s programming, which includes three book clubs, regular open mics, children’s story time and more.


With its dim, narrow aisles, this Wicker Park fixture is your quintessential used book store. Its stacks span 70,000 titles and three levels, but the staff are more than happy to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. They’ll also sort through and buy your used books during walk-in hours Fridays and Saturdays.


“Coffee. Books. Wine. Repeat.” is the motto of this Lincoln Square bookstore. So naturally we’re there pretty much 24/7. Our Saturday routine includes picking up a few new reads, then diving into them along with a light sandwich and coffee (or wine!) in the adjoining café.


We get major neighborly vibes every time we walk into this Logan Square shop. You can tell the staff really cares, whether you’re reading one of their handwritten recommendations or chatting them up about the latest releases.

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