“We’re happily seeing an increase in web-order sales,” says Clancey D’Isa, marketing director for Seminary Co-Op. “Many people are buying not just course books [for nearby University of Chicago] but also a ton of kids’ books — which we’re really excited to see.”
D’Isa adds, “I think a lot of people are really committing to buying locally and to supporting independent bookstores, but also investing in their own time and picking up giant novels. It’s really exciting to see people take on War and Peace in this kind of moment, or take on that George Elliot novel.”
For grown-ups, Seminary Co-Op manager Alena Jones recommends Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning for quarantine reading.
“To the Lighthouse is one of [Woolf’s] smaller novels,” D’Isa says. “It’s beautifully atmospheric, and has at its core a message of the human capacity for change. It’s a beautiful thing for people to be able to have this poetic and literary experience [during the pandemic], but also to have this resonating message of ‘We can change, we can adapt, and we will move on.’ ”
Of Frankel’s memoir, which was written during his time in interment during World War II, D’Isa says: “It’s a very beautiful, deep book about the power of finding personal meaning and using that as an anchor, even in the bleakest of times.”
Lincoln Square’s Book Cellar is continuing to sell books online as well, with staff fulfilling orders remotely and arranging for home drop-off from the distributor.
Bookseller Julia Steiner suggests Kevin Wilson’s Nothing to See Here, which she describes as a delightfully quirky novel involving a deadbeat governess, a blue-blooded political family, and spontaneously combusting children. “This book is heartwarming and funny and weird — because of, you know, the spontaneously combusting children,” Steiner says. “[It’s] just what you need if you love stories about found family.”
She also recommends Julia Phillips’s Disappearing Earth, recently released in paperback. The story centers on the disappearance of two young girls from a rural Russian peninsula; Steiner calls it a “sharp and nuanced portrait of an unfamiliar — to me, and probably to you too — part of the world.” She adds, “[It] will leave you marveling at the unexpected ways lives can intersect.”
In Lake View, Unabridged Books has beefed up its newsletter to put out more book recommendations as customers are staying home. The store typically puts out a monthly newsletter to share news about readings and events, as well as to suggest books. Now, that newsletter goes out weekly, listing reading suggestions from staffers.
In a recent newsletter, staffer Kate writes, “I’ve found myself reaching for Jodi Moreno’s plant-forward, pescatarian cookbook More with Less frequently over the past few weeks. Versatile and forgiving recipes encourage a creative approach to cooking, and each recipe has the option of being dairy-, gluten-, and soy-free.”
On Printer’s Row, Sandmeyer’s bookstore is offering contact-free, curbside pickup between noon and 3 p.m., seven days a week.
“We’re getting close to getting hooked up with Bookshop.org, but we’re not quite on there yet,” says co-founder Ellen Sandmeyer. “Sometime we may have more of an actual shopping site, but we’re just a small shop. We love to have people come in and look at the books.”
But Sandmeyer is still happy to recommend books by phone. For a mood lifter, she suggests Deacon King Kong by James McBride. “That’s just a brilliant, funny novel that has heart,” she says. “And Samantha Irby’s new book just came out: Wow, No Thank You. [Irby] grew up in Evanston and does hilarious little essays. [Her book] would be good comic relief at this time.”