Nine Highlights of Chicago Independent Bookstore Day

Here’s your guide to the readings, discounts, and giveaways at indie shops across town.

Nine bookstores in different neighborhoods around the city will each have a different piece of this puzzle for guests to gather.   Lilli Carré / Courtesy Independent Bookstore Day

Nine local independent bookstores have banded together to create Chicago Independent Bookstore Day, with giveaways, readings, and discounts held across the city on Saturday, July 12, 2014.

“We all have this unique idea about how to present books but also sort of the same passion for books,” says Stefan Moorehead, the manager of Unabridged Bookstore and event’s organizer. “What we want to emphasize is that we’re all really exceptional at bringing great books to people that might not otherwise know them.”

The stores range from the Seminary Co-op in Hyde Park to Women & Children First in Andersonville. To help persuade people to visit as many as they can, Moorehead has enlisted Chicago artist and illustrator Lilli Carré, who has designed a frameable print that’s been divided up as a puzzle. Each of the nine bookstores will give a set of puzzle pieces to the first twenty guests who ask; you’ll have to spend at least $30 to get that first set, and will have until August 3 to visit every store and complete the puzzle.

Moorehead and company also enlisted help from the mayor. On Tuesday, Rahm officially proclaimed July 12 “Chicago Independent Book Store Day.” (“WHEREAS,” his appropriately bookish proclamation begins, “books were spawned by the evolution of the act of transcription and written language in pursuit of greater communication, which can be traced to ancient civilizations….”) According to Moorehead, the mayor has “been a pretty loyal customer to Unabridged and The Book Cellar for a long time.”

Moorehead says the bookstores are “all thriving,” especially since Border’s closed, and hopes to expand the celebration next year. For now, check out these nine:

57th Street Books

A general-interest cousin to the academic-minded Sem Co-Op, this store’s windows are as well-curated as its collection. While one’s filled with Star Wars books (May the 4th Be With You!), the other’s filled with books on the West, or the Stonewall riots, or whatever else the store’s knowledgeable employees come up with. Excellent selections of children’s books, books on Chicago, and bookworm periodicals. Score raffle items and free swag from publishers.
1301 E. 57th. Hyde Park. 773-684-1300

The Book Cellar

Browse a while, and treat yourself to a glass of wine at the cafe. Or have a glass of wine, and then treat yourself to the books. Either works. Book Cellar will have drawings every half hour to give away signed posters and hardcovers, and swag bags filled with free books. Their in-store cafe will also have cupcakes.
4736 N. Lincoln. Lincoln Square. 773-293-2665

City Lit Books

Small but well stocked, this Logan Square shop just turned two. They’ll be having a sidewalk sale all day, in addition to a children’s story-time session with Ms. Irica Baurer, sing-along specialist (10:30); a book signing with Martha Bayne, author of the Soup & Bread Cookbook, who will also serve gazpacho from nearby Lula Cafe (12-1); and readings and giveaways with authors from Curbside Splendor, the Logan Square–based indie publisher.
2523 N. Kedzie. Logan Square. 773-235-2523

Open Books Store

The store is a side project for Open Books, a nonprofit that offers literacy programs for children across the city. Its stock of donated books has an enormous selection of children’s titles. Children’s story time (10:30) will be followed by a book signing—and pie sampling—with Paula Haney, founder of Hoosier Mama Pie Company and author of The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie (2-3).
213 W. Institute. River North. 312-475-1355

Powell’s Bookstore

A shrine for bibliophiles and bargain shoppers (unfortunately only the University Village location is participating in the day’s events). It’s got a quite lineup, though: a children’s reading with Lisa Kulisek (10), readings from local essayists Eula Biss, Megan Stielstra, and Ben Tanzer (2-4), local poets Anthony Madrid, Virginia Smith Rice, and Kenyatta Rogers (4:30-6:30), and local fiction writers Eric May, Joe Meno, and Shawn Shiflett (7-9). Through August 3, bring in receipts from any of the other eight participating bookstores to get a discount: 20 percent off for visiting one other store, 30 percent off for visiting two or more.
1218 S. Halsted. University Village. 312-243-9070

Sandmeyer’s Bookstore

This small store has a great collection of travel and children’s books. They’ll be holding raffles throughout the day to give away books and publishing swag.
714 S. Dearborn. Printer’s Row. 312-922-2104

Seminary Co-op Bookstore

You no longer have to dodge basement plumbing to shop at the Sem, but in its new home on South Woodlawn, around the corner from the old seminary building, the store still has one of the broadest collections in the city and best academic collections in the country. Like 57th Street Books, they’ll be holding raffles throughout the day.
5751 S. Woodlawn. Hyde Park. 773-752-4381

Unabridged Bookstore

Located on the east side of Boystown, Unabridged has a wide selection, particularly of children’s and LGBTQ-themed books. The store will have a 10 percent discount all day, and Chicago Diner masterminds Jo Kaucher and Kat Barry—who recently authored The New Chicago Diner Cookbook—will stop by with free samples (12-1).
3251 N. Broadway. Lake View. 773-883-9119

Women & Children First

This feminist bookstore has supported women and LGBTQ writers and readers since it opened in 1979. Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich, whose collection Even the Terrible Things Seem Beautiful to Me Now was released last year, will be on hand for a signing (1-2).
5233 N. Clark. Andersonville. 773-769-9299

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