With winter encroaching upon us earlier than expected, now is probably the best time to stock up on supplies for the harsh(er) weather to come. And I’m talking about more than a solid pair of snow boots and a waterproof backpack. The best remedy for days when the weather won’t allow us outside is a good novel to venture indoors with. But don’t just swing by any generic old Barnes & Noble. Instead, head to the city, where you can support local business! And when it comes to finding bargain books, Chicago has a great selection of diverse stores.
Hailed as Chicago’s “premier go-to-bookstore for LGBTQ literature,” Unabridged Bookstore offers a wide variety of books, expansively stocked with novels by queer writers in particular. Located at 3251 N Broadway, Unabridged has been up and running since the 1980s. This store has floor-to-ceiling bookshelves — which can initially seem cramped and overwhelming if it wasn’t for the selection that does not disappoint. It hosts several community events, from a queer book club to their monthly #litsyndicate, which highlights novels for the community to read and discuss. The bookstore also hosts several authors for presentations and talks, including critically-acclaimed novelist André Aciman, the creative behind “Call Me By Your Name” and its sequel “Find Me.”
If you’re looking to support independent artists — or if you’re just a fan of the odd — Quimby’s is the place for you. Stocked with small-press and independently-published books, zines and comics, this store operates under a guarantee to “satisfy the soul beaten flat by our mainstream culture’s relentless insistence on dumb pictures and insulting syntax.” Founder Steven Svymbersky, who opened Quimby’s back in 1991, described the establishment as a place where visitors could find “every cool, bizarre, strange, dope, queer, surreal, weird publication ever written and published.” Beyond being a curator of the quirky and unique, Quimby’s also hosts several community events for their eclectic clientele to partake in. Their most recent one was another installment of Quimby’s “Zine Club,” centered on some of the best journalism zines in circulation. Quimby’s is located at 1854 W North Ave.
For those looking for lighter reading material and more fun graphics, Alleycat Comics has you covered! Offering an assortment of dynamic comics, Alleycat is the perfect place to visit both if you’re looking to jump into a new series and if you’re just scouring for additions to spruce up your vintage Spiderman collection. The store, located at 5304 N Clark St, is a hub of all-things-nerdy. Besides hosting several Keyforge tournaments, it recently held its annual Halloween costume contest. Their events aren’t just geeky though, as the store caters to a plethora of interests. Back in August, for example, Alleycat invited graphic novelist Gene Ha for a drawing presentation where he offered advice and pointers on how to approach character design.
Women & Children First
Women & Children First opened its doors in 1979 and is currently one of the country’s largest feminist bookstores, stocked with over 30,000 novels. The store carries books by and for women, as well as queer literature and children’s books. What makes Women & Children First unique? Its activist platform. They have a Women’s Voices Fund that raises money to support “women’s lives, ideas and work.” It is a project “guaranteeing that a wide and diverse range of women’s voices and the best voices in children’s literature continue to be heard.” The bookstore also has a "safer space" policy, which demands the best behavior from its patrons to ensure a respectful and inclusive environment. Besides that, they also have a fantastic program that provides incarcerated women and trans inmates with books off a curated wish list. Located at 5233 N. Clark St. Chicago, this is a great independent business to put your money toward!
Bucket O’ Blood
Bucket O’Blood is your one-stop-shop for all books occult, creepy and edgy. Advertising themselves as an organization that isn’t “interested in romances, computer books,” this store has everything kooky you could possibly conjure up. They also specialize in records, stocked with genres like indie and metal. Beyond their expansive selection of supernatural reads and records, Bucket O’Blood also hosts a bunch of community events. Some examples of these include their Bloody Reads series, a book club put on by the store. They also have a tipsy-friendly 21+ book club, titled “Alcoholics Synonymous.” If you’re not a fan of booze or hard reads, their graphic novel book club — Sketchy Discussions — might be worth a try. Either way, the dark whimsy of this place is sure to delight! You can find Bucket O’Blood at 3182 N Elston Ave.
These are my suggestions of where to grab some good books before the snow chains you to your dorm room. There’s no greater relaxation strategy than sitting down with a fun novel and letting your mind wander, so don’t hesitate to check these places out. Happy reading, and stay warm, NU!