Shop ‘Til You Drop: Chicago

Being from the Midwest, I always thought Chicago seemed so close yet so far away. It’s only a five-hour car ride from my hometown of Festus, Mo., and it’s silly that I only spent one day in Chi-Town of my 22 years that I lived in its neighboring state. But lo and behold, adulthood came, and two of my dearest friends, Layne and Nick, moved to DeKalb, Ill.

This past March I flew out to visit the couple, and they kindly indulged me with stops at four superb Chicago bookstores. (Let’s be honest: Nick enjoyed the perusing just as much as I did — if not more so.) We definitely shopped ’til we dropped, though that could also be due to the insane amounts of yummy food we consumed during our trip to the Windy City. Read on to see four must-see Chicago stops for bibliophiles.


View from the Navy Pier.

If you’re looking for …

… something true to form, check out everything After-Words has to offer.

With over 70,000 titles, you’re bound (pun intended) to walk out of After-Words with exactly what you want. This bookstore offers both new and used books in its roomy two-floor downtown space that neither overwhelms with shelves upon shelves or disappoints with a limited selection. It does everything just right. Its collection of signed copies will also entice you. I would recommend taking a short walk over to Molly’s Cupcakes to settle in with your literary purchase and something sweet and tasty … “afterward” … We certainly didn’t hold back on our trip.

23 E. Illinois St.

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… a convenient stop, go straight from Macy’s to Barbara’s Bookstore.

There’s a lot to be said for convenience, especially in your typical big city where a quick trip to the bookstore is rarely possible. Barbara’s makes it easy to collect everything all at once. The location we visited was in the basement of downtown Chicago’s Macy’s, but there are seven other locations sprinkled throughout the city. While this particular site doesn’t have the largest selection, it does contain all the latest and greatest and some solid staff pics. Its discount section is also nothing to scoff at. And if I can pick up a pair of shoes at the same place where I’m purchasing some new literature, I’m golden.

111 N. State St.

… a place to get lost in the shelves, get lost in Seminary Co-Op Bookstore.

Seminary Co-Op Bookstore lies across the street from the University of Chicago. In its 58 years, this cooperative has grown from 17 members to over 53,000, and many of its works reflect its owners. One of the most fascinating parts about Seminary is that, because it’s an academic bookstore, it has a stellar selection of books written by university faculty members. But don’t let its educational landlord trip you up; this bookstore is far from a normal academic bookstore as it has an unbelievable amount of books — both classics and contemporary — to pique your interest.

Also, don’t miss out on Open Stacks, a literary podcast recorded at Seminary!

5751 S. Woodlawn Ave.

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… über cuteness, you need to see 57th Street Books.

Situated in adorable Hyde Park (and a few blocks from Seminary Co-Op Bookstore, which owns it), 57th Street Books screams cuteness — though it’s more of a sweet squeal because yelling would never happen at this intimate literary watering hole. The subterranean space is also the store that keeps on giving. Just when you think you can’t get enough cuteness in room one, you realize room two leads to an entire fiction space, which leads to a children’s room, which leaves to rooms four and five with travel, food, sports, and more. It’s a maze that doesn’t confuse; it only excites.

1301 E. 57th St.

Last but not least, let’s pay tribute to the home in which Michelle Obama was raised in the South Side of Chicago (because of course we made a stop after leaving Hyde Park).

Michelle Obama's Childhood Home

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