Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Thursday, July 25

Gapers Block

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David / October 18, 2005 12:02 PM

Myopic, in Wicker Park. Chock full o' books, and all at great prices. SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE.

elena / October 18, 2005 12:03 PM

O'Gara & Wilson on 57th Street in Hyde Park.

wackpuma / October 18, 2005 12:19 PM

I like Barnes and Noble the best. They usually always have the book that I am looking for in stock.

I used to go to local bookstores first, but after many times of finding that they didn't have the books I was looking for, I stopped trying.

I do like Town House Books & Cafe in St. Charles though and Woman and Children First, though

Maureen / October 18, 2005 12:28 PM

The Educational Bookshop in East Jerusalem!

In Chicago, Unabridged Books is a favorite (I love their detailed descriptions of recommended books, and they have always a good sale selection), though i admit I survived university by being able to spend hours at Borders, keeping caffeinated and basically using it as a library so I could do research.

hench / October 18, 2005 12:28 PM

the dirty one.

also, quimby's.

eep / October 18, 2005 12:29 PM

I'm a big fan of Barbara's. I like browsing the aisles and finding the recommendations by the people who work there. I've found several great books that I'd never have even known about this way.

princeleo / October 18, 2005 12:33 PM

Prairie Avenue Bookstore for architecture and design. Bookman's Alley in Evanston for out-of-print books.

Staci / October 18, 2005 12:33 PM

Unabridged -- just north of Belmont on Broadway. They have a great selection and super sale section, but the little note cards around the store are the best. They are handwritten by the staff and explain why particular books are so good -- very helpful when you just need something new to read.

Joe / October 18, 2005 12:34 PM

Prairie Avenue Bookstore!

I could bankrupt myself there within 15 minutes.....

MikeH / October 18, 2005 12:40 PM

The Book Cellar in Lincoln Square...

JP / October 18, 2005 12:43 PM


Eric / October 18, 2005 12:44 PM

There are three that really set me off on a buying spree:

The Armadillo's Pillow
Left of Center

Support the locals!

printdude / October 18, 2005 12:47 PM


Oh, yeah, and Myopic.

Veronica / October 18, 2005 12:48 PM

Unabridged practically gets me hard.

Emerson Dameron / October 18, 2005 12:59 PM

All hail Bookman's Corner (2959 W Clark): "a rare medium well-done" indeed. RIP Raindog. Thanks, Quimby's, for continuing to sell my little xeroxed booklets. Ca-ching.

Emerson Dameron / October 18, 2005 1:00 PM

"N" Clark, that is. That place is so full of books, it makes my head spin.

bam / October 18, 2005 1:04 PM

Powell's City of Books out in Portland is about the best ever.

or for times when you're not in the city of roses.

and don't forget your local library!

j / October 18, 2005 1:30 PM

Unabriged for new literature
Powell's for art books
Borders for dirt cheap mass purchases
O'Gara & Wilson for the finest collectables

And that's that Mattress Man.

Dunl / October 18, 2005 1:33 PM

Has to be The Seminary Co-op Bookstore -- followed not too distantly by 57th Street Books and Powell's (57th St).

paul / October 18, 2005 1:39 PM

The Ram. It's a gay treasure.

OH, not that kind of bookstore?

I like Comic Revolution, really a comic/magazine store, but it has a small offering of smartly selected books.

slb / October 18, 2005 1:46 PM

quimbys! hooray for quimbys! yeah!

redliner / October 18, 2005 1:51 PM

For used books, Armadillo's Pillow. For new books, 57th Street Books. Both are havens of serendipity.

Andrew / October 18, 2005 1:53 PM

bam, you know there are three Powell's stores here in Chicago, right? The chain started here.

Other than Chicago Comics, I don't really have a favorite. I frequent the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square, Women & Children First in Andersonville, Unabridged in Lakeview and Quimby's in Wicker. And Amazon if I'm feeling lazy.

Jillian / October 18, 2005 2:04 PM

Myopic does have a ton of stuff - but it's pretty overpriced as far as used bookstores go. I love Armadillo's Pillow on N. Sheridan, it's cute, quiet, and I always walk out with an armful.

robin.. / October 18, 2005 2:08 PM

political or feminist books: women & children first

counterculture, local, 'zine books: quimby's

comics: chicago comics

regular ol' books: the book cellar

wackpuma--anyplace can special order, if you're willing to wait a bit. don't wanna pass judgement, but support yr local bookstores! i say this as an employee of the book trade (non retail)!

Robin / October 18, 2005 2:08 PM

Powell's in Portland is tops. The ones in Chicago haven't got nearly the heart or energy. (or customers, sadly.)

In Chicago, I buy most of my books at the Brown Elephant.

Mike / October 18, 2005 2:22 PM

Amaranth Books in Evanston (828 Davis) is a great little shop. Although it's small, the buyer is picky and they're dirt cheap.

laura / October 18, 2005 2:44 PM

Myopic Books of course!

ED / October 18, 2005 2:50 PM

Got to say Myopic. I hate chain stores.

tina / October 18, 2005 3:12 PM

myopic for sure. oh, and just south a couple blocks from the book cellar in lincoln square is this tiny little place that is just packed with books. i don't know the name, but the books (used) are reasonably priced and the guy there (owner?) figures out the cost and the tax on a little spiral notebook. it adds to the experience.

Ruth / October 18, 2005 3:44 PM

The Chicago Public Library - great selection, they'll get me the book I want from any branch, and it's FREE! Plus they have free WiFi, with no pressure to buy something.

bam / October 18, 2005 4:03 PM

Andrew --

Yes, Powell's was started in Chicago, but the founder's father reinvented the place out in Portland and the founder/son moved out there and they kicked it up to the next level. It's the largest independent bookstore in the US, millions of books. The city of books occupies a converted car dealership, it's over a block long, it's a big deal! If you haven't had the pleasure of getting lost in there, try it.

As Robin siggested, the Powell's in chitown have nothing on the big store in Portland, not even close, they are not even part of the same company.

p / October 18, 2005 4:28 PM

Chicago Powell's is getting slept on here. No one wants to admit they get down with remaindered books. I get down with remaindered books. South Loop powell's basement might smell like chanel no. 1 but has a lot of good stuff in it.

Myopic does have the best used fiction shelf but I've never understood the vaguely antagonistic stance towards customers.

whoever said brown elephant, good call, although sometimes the selection is kind of repetitive

Shake rattle and read (B'way, just north of lawrence) is weirdly underused, if you want mysteries, cheap lit, records, magazines, and the guy can find anything for you and get it, provided you want to buy it.

always wanted to try the bookstore on milwaukee south of grand (fagin's maybe?) because it looks like a throwback to 19th century.

also love to the tiny used place on Jarvis by the el tracks, the books rare medium and well done place on clark, the unnamed used place on belmont by the El (is it still there?). and the sem coop, which is the only corporate entity in the world that i own stock in.

Rudiger / October 18, 2005 6:00 PM

The Seminary Co-op. You can spend hours just looking around and not even realize that that much time is passing.

e / October 18, 2005 6:06 PM

the free box outside powell's 57th st. because it's FREE and once i found a copy of the criminally-out-of-print figgs and phantoms in there.

john / October 18, 2005 6:39 PM

I'm surprised that no one has yet mentioned Bookworks at 3444 N. Clark St. Great prices on second hand books, nicely sorted, with some very good finds there. How can you go wrong with a near-mint copy of the novelization of "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" for $2.99??

leelah / October 18, 2005 7:52 PM

I'm on the far south side, so I love the Borders on 95th. I don't think there are any other bookstores around me.

I also love

FLowFeel / October 18, 2005 8:09 PM

I have to say B&N - they sign my checks!! But after that i like Book Cellar - not for the books as much as the vibe.

nico / October 18, 2005 10:03 PM

i'm very pro-library, so as much as possible, i borrow my books @ the harold washington library as it is a 10 min. bike ride away. but when i buy, i do like the barnes and noble on clybourn and webster.

dave / October 19, 2005 2:49 AM

seminary coop, quimby's, powell's on 57th

Veronica / October 19, 2005 7:40 AM

p - The unnamed place by the Belmont El is called Gallery Bookstore, I believe. They have some good stuff there and the owner is always interested in what you're buying.

I had forgotten about Powell's Hyde Park! Love it! I don't get there that often since moving out of the HP, but that's probably a good thing for my checking account. I get down with remaindered books. (Also why I love Unabridged.)

Atul / October 19, 2005 8:32 AM

Any bookstore that has those little handwritten notes on the shelves with employee recommendations is great, but I'll have to admit that's user reviews beat those hands-down when it comes to usefulness (the well-written ones, at least). I use Amazon for almost all my book-buying research, and most of their books have sizeable discounts so it's hard not to order from them when I'm not in a rush.

Other than that, I mostly like bookstores for their atmosphere (bookstore cafes are the best idea ever), but I find a lot of independent bookstores to be a little claustrophobic for my tastes, so I'm a big fan of Borders and Barnes & Noble.

Back home we had a great chain called Half-Price Books, and it looks like they just opened a store in Niles, so I'm looking forward to perusing their shelves sometime.

Oh, and the Chicago Public Library is great, especially when it comes to their selection of Chicago-related books.

elena / October 19, 2005 8:58 AM

The library is the ideal place to get books, but I also enjoy browsing and stumbling upon books I'd never even think to look for. And I prefer a store that has its own personality, both in its atmosphere and in the selection of books. Used book stores are unusual in permitting the owner to be an arbitrary dictator of what will and will not appear on the shelves (I used to work for a store where the owner loathed the Bearenstein Bears and would not permit any to be bought for the store -- I never knew why, but this quirk was strictly observed).
For that reason, I O'Gara & Wilson, and I also love Bookman's Alley in Evanston. The place is filled with rare books, prints, strange antiques (blankets, a small falcon statuette perched above the section containing Dashiel Hammett, a hand press, old postcards, and I seem to remember a saddle). You can sit down in a corner there and stay as long as you like, and the owner is charming, too. It isn't just a good bookstore, it's a good place.

Matthias / October 19, 2005 9:15 AM

Must be Sandmeyer's (in Printer's Row). Nice small and cozy independent bookstore. Way too few of those in Chicago!

E / October 19, 2005 9:24 AM

Yes, support the locals.

I love browsing Chicago Comics.

YAJ / October 19, 2005 9:27 AM

Gotta ditto the library!. I visit a branch of the Chicago Public Library about once a week.

If I'm going to buy books I start at Myopic, then Women & Children, because if they don't have it they'll special order anything you want.

I go to Borders if I need something while I'm downtown. I think told me there were ok, even if they are a chain.

I discovered on-line
They helped me find an out of print edition of Charlie & the Chocolate Factory recently.

I second leelah's lament about the lack of bookstores on the southWEST side (Hyde park's about the same as downtown from my neighborhood, unfortunately).

Alex / October 19, 2005 9:33 AM

Myopic, baby!

Wendy / October 19, 2005 9:54 AM

Barbara's in Oak Park still rocks. I remember when they were a tiny store on a side street, and when they opened in their current spot on Lake it seemed HUGE. Now, compared to the chain stores, it seems really small.

I'm sad their Old Town location closed. I heard their UIC-area store is a good spot for readings but I haven't gotten down there yet. Chicago needs a good, big indie, and Barbara's used to be it...

liz / October 19, 2005 10:28 AM


Mitch / October 19, 2005 11:18 AM

Leo / October 19, 2005 11:40 AM

The Tattered Cover in Denver, Colorado will always be my favorite. It has the large selection and good organization you'd find in a Borders but it still has that local feel to it (lots of nice woodwork and cozy places to read and such). Check it out if you're ever in Denver.

jas / October 19, 2005 11:57 AM

leelah -
Reading on Walden, just south of 99th on Walden Pkwy next to the Metra Station is worth a visit. Also, Bookies, on 103rd just west of Western.

jas / October 19, 2005 12:03 PM

leelah -
I neglected Books' Ink on 103rd and Hale (just east of the 103rd St. Metra station).

Caz / October 19, 2005 1:19 PM

The Bookcellar in Lincoln Square has those little hand written notes on the bookshelves...

Flappity Jack / October 19, 2005 1:51 PM

O'Gara's is full of beautiful books, but if you go in looking for something in particular you won't find it. I agree that Powell's in the Loop is great. Powell's on 57th is great for history (especially Americana), poetry, and selected remainders (especially art remainders), but woefully lacking in fiction (other than sci-fi and mysteries), unless you pick it from the free boxes out front. Myopic is good for fiction and OK for many other things, but their readings are a circle jerk of aging ex-scenesters and their staff can indeed be irksome. Quimby's is pretty much a relic --- zines have been surpassed by the Web, after all, and even if you only consider indie comics Chicago Comics kicks Quimby's ass. But if you're after particular books, Amazon,, and eBay are where you'll find what you want, and usually where you'll find the best prices too.

Veronica #2 / October 19, 2005 2:06 PM

I dont really read books for the most part. Im a rabid magazine whore though so Quimbys most definitely (props for carrying Relax now!). I also go to some of the weirdo newstand places out iriving park. Sometimes you can find good obscure european or japanese fashion mags.

i really fail to see the allure of myopic. ive been there and didnt see a single book that seemed interesting in the least.

if i feel like reading a book for a change i really like unabridged as well.

Sarah / October 19, 2005 2:46 PM

I grew up in a small town and didn't have access to a good bookstore growing up, and can vividly remember my first trip to Barnes & Noble, in Pittsburgh, in 1996 as something heavenly. Every year, a couple of days after Christmas, my family still makes a trip to Borders, where my brother and I are given free range to get anything we want. So I can't be completely anti-corporate bookstore.

My favorite local bookstores are Quimby's, Women & Children First, the Seminary Co-Op, and Myopic. I am sad that the theater bookstore is going out of business.

In New York, I liked Shakespeare & Company, and in London Unsworth's, a used bookstore near the British Museum and my university, was a weekly destination.

erika / October 19, 2005 5:10 PM

Seminary Co-Op (in Hyde Park) and Powell's North on Lincoln for used books; Quimby's (North Avenue) and Left of Center (Granville) for delicious new ones...

m / October 19, 2005 5:44 PM

i haven't seen anybody mention the book table in oak park. they've been a really great addition--wide selection in the store, discounts of usually twenty percent or more on everything (even new stuff and orders), and if they don't have it, they get it for you fast. they're one of the only bookstores that makes me want to buy something and not just get it from the library. plus we signed up so that a little portion of our purchases go to the animal shelter (not sure if they still do this, but they had a bunch of local charities you could choose from).

nissa / October 19, 2005 6:37 PM

Powell's on 57th St. in Hyde Park does it for me. It's packed with cheap books, and who can pass up the box of free books at the entrance?

Vanessa / October 20, 2005 2:25 AM

Centuries & Slueths on Madison in Forest Park. It caters to history and mystery lovers, and while I've only been there a few times, I still love it.

Book Table is also good, as is Myopic.

But the best is the library. My problem is that I read books too fast and always need more. I can't afford my habit as much as I want to!

Jeigh / October 20, 2005 8:45 AM

Sandmeyer Books has such an nice old timey feel in their store. The floors creak as you browse. Prarie Avenue Books is the most complete store I've ever seen for art/design/architecture, and the interior is lovely. If I was retired or unemployed, I'd just hang out there ALL day...

Nick Vilione / October 20, 2005 10:57 AM

Favorite bookstore? I'm gonna go with State Street Brats in Madison, WI.

MM / October 26, 2005 9:51 AM

Brent's Books and Cards at Washington and Franklin

Jason Greenberg / October 26, 2005 9:40 PM

Others have noted it but,
Quimbys, Quimbys, Quimbys!

Its specialized focus on indy, DIY, art & design, and taboo erotica may make it miss the Lowest Common Denominator tastes of the general public. But it is a vital force on the culture-making landscape and provides access to the kinds of books and printed material that the big chains have never heard of or are too prissy to handle.

And no, I don't work there. But have shopped there for years.

Joe Besser / May 15, 2007 10:15 PM

BookMarks Used Books in Mount Prospect. Great selection and prices. Always something new with a quick turnover. 100's of new titles every week.

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