Yes, yes, yes. I’m a little late to the game, seeing as how it was voted as Chicago’s “Best New-Book Store” in 2015, but I finally made my way down to Lakeview’s Unabridged Bookstore to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day on April 30. (To clarify, “new-book store” refers to a shop where you can purchase new books instead of used books.)
Opened in 1980, it’s been a neighborhood–and city–staple for more than 35 years. Given how tumultuous the last decade has been for brick and mortar bookstores, it’s incredibly impressive how much this one thrives. If you’ll recall, I’m a huge proponent of shopping locally. For the most part, locally owned businesses just care more. They are more knowledgeable about their products and provide superior customer service than the typical big box (and certainly more than online shops). This holds especially true for Unabridged.
The staff was extremely helpful and patient. I was actually a little startled when one employee immediately recognized the titles of two rather obscure children’s books I was trying to find. Though he sadly informed me they were not in stock (which he knew without having to check), he quickly offered to order them for me. After I unsuccessfully searched for a third book, he walked me straight over to where it was hiding. It was a busy day and he didn’t need to do it, but he didn’t even bat an eye. Perhaps these things shouldn’t have impressed me as much as they did, but his sincere helpfulness seems extraordinary nowadays and I really appreciated it.
I was equally impressed with the size and variety of stock Unabridged has. I expected the store to be smaller given that it is located in a city where space is limited. Since one of my favorite pastimes is lackadaisically perusing bookstores, you can imagine my delight when I discovered I was wrong. I could have spent hours exploring all the genres and shelves Unabridged carefully curates. Since I had a hungry baby at home, my first Unabridged adventure was unfortunately cut short. However, I think it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Here’s my quick virtual tour so you can see for yourself how great Unabridged is. Keep in mind that this barely scratches the surface; I only took a handful of pictures because I felt a little creepy taking any, much less any more. I suppose you’ll just have to visit to see the rest. And if you need inspiration on what to buy, you can either ask someone or browse among the several staff recommendation stickers lining the shelves.
Baby Bear has so much story time ahead of him!
I’d never seen such a large area devoted to classics before. A good reminder of so many books I have yet to read.
I love anything to do with Scandinavia, so this whole wall called to me.
This is just part of the travel section in the basement. Being in this room gave me even more of a travel bug than I already (constantly) have.
Unabridged Bookstore has one of the largest LGBTQ book sections in the city (if not the largest). Not shown, but right by this is a huge discounted section. It had several titles I’ve been wanting to read, including newer ones that I would never expect to be on the sale shelves.
It was tough, but I narrowed down my bounty to the above selection. I see several visits in our near future.
Plan Your Visit
Location and hours
Unabridged Bookstore is located at 3251 N. Broadway Street, Chicago, IL 60657. It’s open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Parking and transportation
There is metered street parking along Broadway and its side streets, but I’d recommend taking the Red, Brown, or Purple ‘L’ train to the Belmont stop and walking for about 10 minutes.
Stroller or carrier
Though Unabridged is large, I’d recommend using a carrier if you plan to bring your baby. It will allow you to navigate much more easily, though it’ll be harder to bend down to read the bottom shelves.
As someone who feels pretty well versed in bookstores, I am telling you this one is exceptional. I’d make it a point to visit, and soon.