Bookish Places

Repost – Chicago: Unabridged Bookstore

This post was originally written for my travel blog, Fernweh Follies. Some sections have been reworked for The Book Nook Chronicles.

I have always found solace in good books. They are my way of escaping to far off lands without even leaving my bedroom– a break from reality that could only be stopped by a bookmark.

I happened upon Unabridged Bookstore while searching for a literature-based activity to do this year for my blog. It just so happened that the compact indie shop in Lakeview is home to an extensive travel section.

When you walk through the doors of Unabridged Bookstore you are greeted by tables and bookcases tactfully placed throughout the store. Colorful handwritten signs hang above each table, giving off a quirky hospitality that is quintessential to an indie bookshop. Books are either placed on shelves in the traditional fashion or stacked with their bindings facing out, giving the store the look of intentionally organized chaos.

Employee book reviews are tapped below certain titles throughout the store.  Each is written out, again by hand, in meticulous and clear writing giving thoughtful assessments of the titles above them. Each included personal touches like sketches and highlighted sections for emphasis.

Photo taken by Erica Nolan

The first floor of the store included every genre from Children’s Lit to Cookbooks. I was quickly distracted by the surprisingly large selection of my favorite author Flannery O’Connor in their fiction section. (I’m not used to finding anything outside of her short stories in shops). I then remembered I was on a mission– I need to find the travel section.

I had read that the store had an entire room dedicated to travel, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. The quaint store front didn’t seem like a place that had secret passageways so I asked one of the store’s booksellers where to head and was directed to a set of stairs. I was slightly disappointed that the room was not hidden behind a trick bookcase, but that small setback was quickly overlooked when I realized the travel section was actually the entire basement of the shop.

I can say wholeheartedly that if you live in Chicago and are in need of a travel guide or two, look no further than Unabridged Bookstore. Any travel book publisher you’ve ever heard of– and some that you’ve never heard of– are in this basement. A few publishers featured outside of my personal favorites, Lonely Planet and National Geographic, included:

  • Secret Cities
  • Moon
  • Bradt
  • The Monocole Guides
  • Globe Pequot
  • Falcon Guides

A small description of each press’s style was placed beside its designated section so you could decided which book was right for your trip. Tables of travel-themed coffee table books were placed throughout, a section dedicated to Chicago, a map wall, and a foreign language section were just a few other highlights found in that basement. There were even two stacks filled with literature written in French and Spanish.

I was personally intrigued by a series found on the wall dedicated to Traveler Literature called, A Traveler’s History. The series was summed up as brief books focused on a country’s history– good for students, travelers, and history buffs alike. As someone that loves a good backstory before walking the streets of a new place, this felt like a potential diamond in the rough find for me.

As you’re heading out of the store,  you’ll notice a table filled with local publications like Yoga Chicago and Windy City Times. Above it is a bulletin board filled with colorful signs either promoting events happening in the store or motivational posters celebrating diversity. The sign that initially caught my eye promoted the store’s three book clubs. If you are interested in going to either a Latinx, Queer, or Fiction book club (or maybe all three)– check out what titles the groups are reading in March at Unabridged Bookstore’s website.

I am a lover of the literary beacons that are indie bookstores, so this adventure might not be as thrilling for you as it was for me. However, I doubt you will find any other bookshop in Chicago that is as prepared for a traveler than this one. Please stop in and explore the place if you find yourself in Lakeview with a lazy evening or afternoon at your fingertips.

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