Your NPR news source
Volumes Bookcafe interior

Volumes Bookcafe in Wicker Park is one of 46 participants in this year’s annual bookcrawl on Indie Bookstore Day.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Take a Chicago indie bookstore crawl with our transit-friendly guide

Book-lover Sarah Collins said she hopes to visit more than a dozen bookstores over the course of 12 hours for Saturday’s annual book crawl in honor of Indie Bookstore Day.

As part of the journey, participants get a “passport” and collect “stamps” for proof of visitation. No purchase at the stores is needed to get a stamp. Hitting up 10 bookstores earns visitors a 10% discount at all participating locations for a year – and visiting 15 equals a 15% discount. Click here to see our transit-friendly guide of participating indie bookstores near train stations.

Collins, 30, said the most book stories she’s visited in a day is nine, but her goal for this year is 15. And she has a plan: Collins said she will start at The Understudy in Andersonville, then head south and west, eventually ending her trip at Exile in Bookville in the Loop.

However, after mapping her route, she’s calculated that she can only spend about 20 minutes in each store.

“It’s the day I’ve been looking forward to for months,” she said.

Unabridged interior

Discounts and free merchandise on Indie Bookstore Day are ways of thanking patrons who consciously shop at local booksellers, said Matt Faries of Unabridged Bookstore.

Her first time participating she bought eight books. Her second time she bought about a dozen. This year, she’s trying to limit herself to one book per store.

“We’re really lucky to live in a city that has so many indie bookstores that I sort of just love this idea that there’s this day that we can all get together and celebrate as a community,” Collins said.

For Collins, the day is about more than just visiting bookstores – it’s about seeing people she met on Booktok and Bookstagram.

“There are these bookish folks and it’s fun to see them out in the wild,” she said.

Those wanting to participate in the book crawl Saturday can do so by going to one of the 46 participating stores (a full list can be found here) and getting a “passport” and their first stamp.

“We know that they have other options, and we know that they’re choosing to keep money here in their neighborhoods, even here in their city. And so that’s just one small way that we can kind of say thank you for being a conscious shopper,” said Matt Faries, assistant manager of Unabridged Bookstore in Lake View.

While readers can find cheaper books on Amazon or at Walmart, buying from indie bookstores is often a show of support Faries said. The discounts and free merchandise on Indie Bookstore Day is also a way of thanking the community, he said.

“The whole point of the crawl is to get people out to enjoy and celebrate bookstores but also to explore new ones,” said Rebecca George, organizer of the book crawl and owner of Volumes Bookcafe in Wicker Park.

Every year, the book crawl has grown, George said. In 2017, when the book crawl began, about 150 people completed the passport. Last year, George said, that number was more than 700.

George also hired charter buses for a bus tour this year to help participants reach some of the “far flung bookstores,” like those in the suburbs. Tickets for the bus tour are $60. (Find more details on the routes here.)

George said celebrating independent bookstores is especially important this year after Barnes & Noble announced they were putting up more storefronts in the city. But unlike retail bookstores, indie bookstores curate to the needs and wants of their community, George said.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Da Book Joint (@dabookjoint)

And beyond just selling books, indie bookstores can bring the community together, said Courtney Woods, owner of Da Book Joint in Bronzeville.

“Independent bookstores are just so important because they are community hubs. They’re places that people from that neighborhood can meet up and actually really find out who their community is,” Woods said.

Often, Woods tells people that running a bookstore is a labor of love. In the time since her mom has opened Da Book Joint, Woods has seen the store’s doors shutter during the mortgage crisis and become an online store, until three years ago, when they were finally able to reopen a storefront.

“I just hope people do take away and realize we do need support,” Woods said. “We hope that book lovers are just able to go ahead and discover a lot of cool new bookstores, in which not only they can buy books, but they can also participate in the programming and just be a part of the legacy of the bookstore itself.”

Phyllis Cha is a digital reporter for WBEZ. Follow her @phyllischa. Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis is a digital producer for the Arts & Culture desk.

Transit-friendly local bookstores

Blue line

Open Books Logan Square
2068 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Quimby’s Bookstore
1854 W. North Ave.

Semicolon Bookstore and Gallery
1355 W Chicago Ave.

Volumes Bookcafe
1373 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Skunk Cabbage Books
2826 N. Milwaukee Ave.

City Lit Books
2523 N. Kedzie Blvd.

Brown line

The Book Cellar
4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave.

The Last Chapter Book Shop
2013 W. Roscoe St.

Exile in Bookville
The Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 210

Green line

The Book Table
1045 Lake St., Oak Park 60301

Open Books Pilsen
905 W. 19th St.

Pilsen Community Books
1102 W. 18th St.

Da Book Joint
330 E. 51st St. #9

Open Books West Loop
651 W. Lake St.

Purple line

506 Main St.

Bookends & Beginnings
1620 Orrington Ave.

Red line

Sandmeyer’s Bookstore
714 S. Dearborn St.

The Understudy Coffee and Books
5531 N. Clark St.

Women & Children First
5233 N. Clark St.

After-Words Bookstore
23 E. Illinois St.

On the Metra

Powell’s Books Chicago
1501 E. 57th St.

57th Street Books
1301 E. 57th St.

Bookie’s Chicago
10324 S. Western Ave.

The Book Stall
811 Elm St., Winnetka 60093

The Bookstore of Glen Ellyn
475 N. Main St., Glen Ellyn 60137

The Latest
Yes, Chicago is always a food town. But summer brings forth a particularly glorious array of handhelds, frozen delights and seasonal specials.
The city’s teen-driven, underground scene is so prolific there’s now a festival dedicated to it.

WBEZ’s annual list of 80-plus markets across the metro Chicago area, including this season’s programming and available prepared food offerings.
These are the best ways to stay cool right now without spending too much or going too far.
This summer, brush up on your local history with tours that highlight everything from architectural styles to underground critters.