Unique Indie Bookstores in Chicago

January 16, 2024

Get your literary fix with this comprehensive Chicago independent bookstore guide! From cozy used bookstores to feminist bookshops and even a bookstore bar, the Windy City has got it all. Here’s a rundown of all 35 of our indie booksellers by area.

North Side & Loop

📚 New Book Joy, Edgebrook, 5512 W Devon Ave

New Book Joy is a super cute brick-and-mortar with a book nook perfect for small gatherings upstairs. NBJ staff curates books, book clubs, unique reading gifts, bookish events, and more. It opened in January 2023 and is woman-owned.

📚 Heirloom Books, Edgewater, 6239 N Clark

This cozy used bookstore has a bittersweet story. Founder Chelsea Carr Rectanus unexpectedly died from illness in 2020. Her loved ones, both friends and family, stepped in and now continue to manage the store as a non-profit 12-7pm Tuesday-Sunday. 

📚 Armadillo’s Pillow, Rogers Park, 6753 N Sheridan Rd

A quirky used bookstore with old English shoppe vibes. 

📚 The Understudy Coffee and Books, Andersonville, 5531 N Clark St

The Understudy celebrates the robust Chicago performing arts scene with a theatre-focused bookstore and cafe. LGBTQ+ Owned.

📚 The Book Cellar, Lincoln Square, 4736 N Lincoln Ave

The Book Cellar is a woman-owned bookstore with a wine and coffee cafe! It’s an inviting, friendly shop with great featured book tables and a large YA section.

📚 Women & Children First, Andersonville, 5233 N Clark St

Women & Children First is a feminist bookstore that’s been open for over 40 years. This bookstore has an excellent collection of books on feminism, LGBTQ+ issues, and other social justice topics. Women & Children First is known for its welcoming atmosphere, and it is a great place to find books that are not available in other bookstores.

📚 Uncharted Books, Ravenswood, 5140 N Clark St

Uncharted Books is a rare and used bookstore in a great neighborhood with a beautiful shop dog named Ramona. 

📚 RoscoeBooks, Roscoe Village, 2142 W Roscoe St

RoscoeBooks is another welcoming and woman-owned bookstore with a great selection of all genres, including the cutest kids’ reading nook and reading-related small gifts.

📚 The Last Chapter Book Shop, Roscoe Village, 2013 W Roscoe St.

Just across the street from RoscoeBooks is one of Chicago’s newest indie niche bookstores. Chicago’s first all-Romance bookshop! It’s #booktok IRL. Expect sections in popular genres like Enemies to Lovers, Fantasy, LGBTQ+, Friends to Lovers, and Extra-Spicy.

📚 Three Avenues Bookshop, Lake View, 3009 N. Southport Ave

One of the newest bookstores in Chicago, Three Avenues is a general-interest independent bookstore. Owners and life partners Jordan and Tim named the store after its location at the intersection of Lincoln, Wellington, and Southport. Expect an emphasis on sci-fi/fantasy and mystery/thrillers from Tim and children’s books from Jordan.

📚 Unabridged Bookstore, Lake View East, 3251 N. Broadway

Open since 1980, this beloved Lakeview bookshop has new books, a fantastic sale section, and friendly, knowledgeable staff.

📚 kibbitznest books, brews & blarney, Lincoln Park, 2212 N. Clybourn Ave.

kibbitznest is a non-profit with a bookbar that encourages face-to-face communication – meaning they have no WIFI! Phone and laptop use should be kept at an absolute minimum, which shouldn’t be a problem. In addition to their liberal arts bookstore, they have over 35+ craft beer options, cocktails, snacks, board games, and even typewriters should you be so inspired to start writing your next screenplay. 

📚 after-words bookstore, River North, 23 E Illinois St.

A charming new and used general interest bookstore with two floors. They’ve recently started a quarterly Banned Books Club. February’s book is The Color Purple. 

📚 Exile in Bookville, Loop, 410 S. Michigan Ave

Located on the second floor of the gorgeous Fine Arts Building on Michigan Ave, Exile in Bookville has a great selection of books and gifts with a super-friendly staff. They’ve also got a new vinyl section!

📚 Sandmeyer’s Bookstore, South Loop/Printer’s Row, 714 S. Dearborn St.

Sandmeyer’s Bookstore is nestled in the cozy Printer’s Row neighborhood. This family-owned gem has been delighting book lovers since 1982 with a top-notch selection of new books, warm and friendly service, and personalized recommendations.

West Side

📚 Skunk Cabbage Books, Avondale, 2826 N Milwaukee Ave

Skunk Cabbage Books, an eco-friendly and accessible indie bookstore with a big heart, is named after a Chicago-area native plant that brings its own heat to the soil for spring growth! Inside, you’ll find fresh books and a treasure trove of local artist goodies. They also host fun book clubs and hands-on workshops.

📚 City Lit Books, Logan Square, 2523 N Kedzie Blvd

City Lit, a women-owned and LGBTQ+-friendly bookstore, specializes in contemporary fiction and non-fiction. They host multiple themed book clubs (sci-fi, queer, popular new fiction, horror, and non-fiction), poetry open mics, and author events. There’s a nice kids section, and dogs are always welcome, too!

📚 Open Books, Logan Square, 2068 N. Milwaukee Ave; West Loop, 651 W Lake St; Pilsen, 905 W. 19th St

Open Books has three locations with a great used book selection, low prices, and friendly staff. They operate as a non-profit selling donated books for children’s literacy workshops and gifting books to teachers and organizations throughout Chicago. You can volunteer to coach elementary students, shelve books, or help at community events. 

📚 Quimby’s Bookstore, Wicker Park, 1854 W North Ave

Quimyby’s specializes in “unusual publications, aberrant periodicals, saucy comic booklets, and assorted fancies, as well as a comprehensive miscellany of the latest independent ‘zines.” And that sums up their vibe, too.

📚 Myopic Books, Wicker Park, 1564 N Milwaukee Ave

Myopic Books is a quirky, 3-floor labyrinth of a used-book shoppe and a Chicago institution. You have to see it in person, pictures don’t do it justice!

📚 Volumes Bookcafe, Wicker Park, 1373 N Milwaukee Ave

Volumes Bookcafe (women-owned and LGBTQ+ friendly) has a large airy space with a literary-themed cafe! It’s a smaller selection of books, but there’s lots of space to hang out and find great gifts. I picked up the cutest pair of mini book earrings for my school’s librarian here!

📚 The Wicker Park Secret Agent Supply Co, Wicker Park, 1276 N Milwaukee Ave

The Wicker Park Secret Agent Supply Co. is a non-profit run by volunteers, so call ahead to make sure they’re open. The storefront supports an after-school writing lab for students in grades 1-8, field trips, and other writing and story-telling student workshops.

📚 Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery, Online, for now, East Garfield Park in August 2024

Semicolon is a beloved nonprofit bookstore (Black Woman-Founded, LGBTQ-friendly) focusing on providing access to and building interest in literacy among minoritized communities and schools. Their brick-and-mortar store is currently closed while owner Danielle Mullen moves operations to a new building in East Garfield Park. The change in location will also include the addition of a bar and restaurant that will offer “book and wine flights” plus cocktails and a full food menu. I can’t wait to see it!

📚 Madison Street Books, West Loop, 1127 W Madison St (closed for repairs until Feb 2024, online ordering is available!)

Madison Street Books serves as a community resource for all book lovers. They offer book club themes like classics, romance, and small press titles. 

📚 Pilsen Community Books, Pilsen, 1102 W 18th St

A general interest used bookstore with a politically left-leaning focus. Fair prices, great selection, and the staff is friendly and helpful. 

South Side

📚 Tangible Books, Bridgeport, 3324 S Halsted St

Tangible Books has a huge selection of general-interest-used books and a decent-sized comic book section. They have a weekly chess night, and it sounds like the owner is very friendly!

📚 Da Book Joint, Grand Boulevard/Bronzeville, 330 E 51st St

Da Book Joint is a Black-Woman-owned bookstore, a mother-and-daughter team, that directly contributes to the literary development of youth by featuring diverse bestselling and rising authors and promoting engagement within the community. They were going to close at the end of 2023, but decided to fight to stay open due to the book desert on the South Side, the lack of book diversity, and the belief in their mission. Go visit ASAP!

📚 57th Street Books, Hyde Park, 1301 E 57th St

Step through the red telephone booth-type portal into this garden-level bookstore, and you immediately sense the magic. It may look like a small basement storefront, but once you start to move through the main room, you’ll find six more nooks and areas! It’s also a time warp because you’ll want to stay and browse while chatting with the friendly, helpful staff.

📚 Seminary Co-op Bookstores, Hyde Park, 5751 S Woodlawn Ave

Seminary Co-op opened in 1961 in the University of Chicago neighborhood and carries academic and scholarly books as well as general interest. It’s a bright store with a lovely maze of shelves and nooks. Avoid shopping during the lunch hour because you’re going to want to grab a seat at the Plein Air Cafe next door and savor your purchase(s) over pastries and coffee. 

📚 Powell’s Books Chicago, Hyde Park, 1501 E 57th St

Powell’s is a used and rare bookseller located in a deceptively large space. I found two books that have been on my Goodreads TBR list for years and only paid $7.50 per book! Definitely worth a visit!

📚 Underground Bookstore, Calumet Heights, 1727 E. 87th St

The Underground Bookstore offers a range of books on black heritage and history, written by African and Diaspora authors, covering various genres. They also have a great children’s section and other gift items to purchase.

📚 Bookie’s – New and Used Books, Beverly, 10324 S. Western Ave

Bookie’s is a gem that has been serving the South Side of Chicago for over three decades with their new and used books of all genres. They also carry book-themed gifts, and reviews mention how friendly and knowledgeable the staff is. 

📚 Undercover Books, West Washington Heights, 1232 W 103rd St

Newly opened in October 2023, Undercover Books is a rare and used bookstore serving the far South side. This is another bookstore that feels like a portal into another place! There’s a great children’s section, and they feature art from local artists. 

And there you have it! Thirty-five currently active bookstores in Chicago, and I feel like I’ve barely made a dent in visiting them all! I hope you found this helpful. Let me know if I’ve missed any or you have any updates! Find more things to do this winter here and my fave midwest getaways here!

Happy reading, Chicago!

Christine

  1. Lauren says:

    Amazing list! Guess I have to leave my house this winter 😂

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