Chicago: Home of the Used Bookstores

If there’s one major character trait that all MAPHer’s tend to have in common, it’s a borderline nerd-level appreciation for books (and, perhaps, booze…but that’s a post for another day). Thankfully, you now (or soon will) live in a city that is chock-full of fantastic book stores ready to cater to your every-reading need. And, thankfully, you have three mentors who share this trait and are happy to impart our knowledge on to you.

So, take a break from Core prep reading (syllabus coming soon) and mosey on down to one or two (or all) of these gems to pick up some books that should really be on your summer reading list (see A-J’s post on non-required summer reading for several suggestions). And, be sure to share any good title recommendations with us at MAPH Central (see where to go after the jump)…

Wicker Park/Bucktown:





Myopic Books is, hands down, one of the top used bookstores in the Chicago area (and open until 11:00!). Three floors of very reasonably priced books with an incredible selection. They also have several shelves of new releases in the front of the store (still at a great price). And it’s worth a visit to see their collection of rare books in the display case of the front room. They change the display frequently but it always has really cool first-edition, autographed copies of various things. Oh, and Wednesday night from 4:00-10:30 is Wicker Park Chess Club night, open and free to all…if you’re into that sort of thing.

Myopic Books

Quimby’s is the place to go for an extensive and eclectic collection of small-run, self-published zines and alternative graphic novels. Their book selection is minimal, but what they have is prime (like every novel published by Haruki Murakami). Don’t be weirded out by the small selection of sex toys in the front…I promise this is a very legit bookstore.

Myopic Books and Quimby’s are both located within a few blocks of the major intersection in Wicker Park (at Milwaukee, North, and Damen Avenues–an area also known as “the crotch”). This is a must-see area for everything, from restaurants and cafes to shopping and people-watching. Good eats while you’re in the neighborhood include:

-Earwax Café: Fantastic burgers and shakes (but also very well-known for their vegan and veggie options).

-Red Hen Bread Company: Sandwiches, pastries, and awesome selection of fresh-baked loaves for you to take home.

-iCream Café: You can make your own ice cream flavor on the spot…enough said.

Northside (Wrigleyville/Lakeview/Boystown):

Another great area for people-watching. If you go up to Wrigleyville on a game day, there will be Cubs fans (and, perhaps, uncomfortably out-of-place fans of another team) literally hanging out the front of every bar and pub along Clark Street.

Bookworks is conveniently right in the middle of all the action, just down the street from Goose Island Brewery. But it’s definitely worth it to dodge the drunks and fight your way into this place where the staff is super helpful, the vintage hardbacks abound, and the spin racks are full of pulp fiction.



Unabridged Bookstore is more in Boystown than Wrigleyville, but way worth the short trip southeast from Bookworks. Go there for the incredibly-priced bargain book window and the unbelievably-extensive selection of travel guides and LGBT lit. Also, Boystown is probably the most energetic and outrageous area of Chicago, so this will always be an entertaining visit.

Unabridged Books

If you get hungry, good eats while you’re in the neighborhood include:

-Lucky’s Sandwich Company: Featured on Man vs. Food for it’s stuffed sandwiches (I’m not saying it’s healthy…)

-Goose Island Brewery: Go for the beer.

-Hearty Boys (near Unabridged): Rumored to serve a Red Velvet Breakfast Dog for Sunday Brunch.

-Yogurt Pier (near Unabridged): You’ll find frozen yogurt all over Chicago, but not many places have flavors like Cheesecake, Pumpkin, and Snickerdoodle.

Hyde Park:

These were both already mentioned in a previous post about the highlights of Hyde Park, but they’re both worth some elaboration. And they’re close to you and your classrooms, so if you are yet unwilling to traverse the Chicago public transportation system (p.s. ask us for help…we know it well and once had to ask ourselves) these are fantastic options to get you through the next few weeks until you make friends during Colloquium who will volunteer to brave the bus with you into the city.

Seminary Co-Op

The Seminary Co-Op was recently described in Publishers Weekly as “hands down the finest scholarly bookstore in the country.” Although it’s not actually a used bookstore, it deserves to be on this list because it is so incredibly useful to UChicago students. It’s practically across the street from Walker (heart of the English Department on campus) and I was probably in here at least once a week during my MAPH year. The Co-op also has a sister store only a few blocks away, 57th Street Books, which is also worth a trip (you’ll find a much larger selection of mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy here). If you buy a $10 membership to the Seminary Co-Op, most of your purchases at both stores will be 10% off (including your textbooks, a lot of which you may end up buying at the Co-Op).

Powell’s is better if you’re tight on cash because it’s a used bookstore with probably the lowest prices of any on the list. I recently got a $4 copy of Faulkner’s short stories. And, during fall quarter Powell’s has a 50% off night, when every book under $20 is half-off. Yeah, it’s a pretty fantastic place. Go for the incredible fiction selection and the decently up-to-date section of literary criticism.

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