Independent Bookstores in Chicago

19 November 2019


With cold weather approaching, it’s more tempting each day to stay inside and curl up with a good book. In fact, the seasonal habit is so strong that Iceland has made it into a tradition. Jólabókaflóð (yo-la-bok-a-flot), or “Yule Book Flood,” is when everyone in the country buys books for one another to read on Christmas Eve. 

The Icelandic tradition begins with the delivery of Bokatidindi, an annual catalogue of every book published in Iceland that year. The catalogue is delivered, free-of-charge, to each and every doorstep in the country. People then select titles to give to their friends and family for the Yule Book Flood.

Though in the States we aren’t gifted with an annual comprehensive catalogue, Chicago is nevertheless here to provide. The city is home to independent bookstores bringing warmth—and good reads—to each and every neighborhood in the grid. We propose checking out a local business and picking out a few titles for friends family — and yourself — to while away the holiday season, Iceland-style.


Open Books – West Loop and Pilsen

Open Books is a new and used bookstore, with all proceeds helping to run their literacy programming throughout the city. They have two locations — their main store in the West Loop, and a massive warehouse in Pilsen. 


Women and Children First – Andersonville

Women and Children First is a new bookstore featuring a carefully curated collection of local and internationally-known authors, with a focus on feminist literature. Their overall collection includes over 30,000 works about and by women.


The Seminary Co-Op/57th Street Books – Hyde Park

These two stores, only a block apart, are both run by The Seminary Co-Op. The former offers an impressive selection of academic books — one of the largest in the world, in fact. The latter is the perfect place to discover a new staff-favorite novel.


Sandmeyer’s Bookstore – South Loop

Sandmeyer’s is a beloved mom-and-pop shop located not far from 1000M in the South Loop. The store always promises to showcase best-selling titles alongside lesser-known oddities.


Myopic Books – Wicker Park

Myopic Books might be known for its ambiance as much as its expansive library of used tomes. The tri-level storefront on Milwaukee Avenue is the best place to get lost, and found again in a new, old book. 


Curbside Books and Records – The Loop

Located in Revival Food Hall, Curbside Books and Records is the official shop for one of Chicago’s few independent publishers, Curbside Splendor Publishing. Here, you’ll find homegrown titles, records and cassettes alongside work from other small presses.


No matter which book you opt to read this winter, our local bookstores are the perfect place to peruse and purchase your next great novel.