This past Saturday, April 27th, marked the 5th annual Independent Bookstore Day. Each year on the last Saturday of April, Independent Bookstores around the US open their arms to book lovers everywhere. In Chicago, they set up the ChiLovesBooks Passport challenge, where if you visit 10 of the bookstores in the passport, you can receive 10% off at those bookstores for a whole year!
My wonderful friend Stephanie asked me this year if I would like to go with her, as I somehow had never really heard about this before. Since we also had to fit in a screening of The Avengers, we did not have the ability to go to downtown Chicago and really go all in. However, this ended up working out in our favor as the weather was pretty gross. Instead, we visited a few of the suburban independent bookstores to learn more about where we could shop nearby.
Our first stop on our exploration was The Book Bin in Northbrook. I have driven by this bookstore multiple times without knowing it even existed, and I am so thankful that this day brought it to my attention. This store, while on the smaller side, is my perfect bookstore. It is well organized, beautifully laid out, and not overwhelming. The staff was also very friendly and helpful, striking the perfect balance between not breathing down your neck and not leaving you searching when you need some help. They also had a fun little basket in the Young Adult section of free ARCs. I love the idea that because you can’t sell ARCs, they just had a basket offering for people to take one. I forgot to check with them to see if they accept ARC donations, because I would love to pass my copies on to them.
The fun thing about being there on Independent Bookstore day was that they had a lot of little specials going on. Not only did they have a raffle for a Harry Potter water bottle (which I am heartbroken that I did not win) and a bowl with coupon discounts off your book ($1, $3, or $5 off), but they also gave away a free mystery book with purchase! They had a shelf of books wrapped in newspaper and you had a choice of fiction, nonfiction, or mystery. Stephanie and I each picked a fiction (which I’ll get to a little later). We also bought a gift for our friend who is expecting a baby and they offered free gift wrapping (done beautifully by the way).
This store was an absolute gem ad was the perfect beginning to our bookstore adventure. I will definitely be heading back in the future.
Our second stop was in Winnetka at The Book Stall. This store was a lot busier and a lot bigger than our first stop. It still had that warm welcome feel, but definitely leaned more towards a bigger bookstore feel. Not that that is a bad thing, just that it ended up making me feel a little bit more overwhelmed. However, a bigger store does have its benefits. This store appears to have a lot more author events, which is fun to look out for. They also had an entire shelf full of signed books. I think if you’re looking for something a little more niche and still want to purchase from an independent store, this would be your pick.
I also liked that this store offered non-book items, such as cards, socks, stationary, and candles. For independent bookstore day, they were having a raffle for a $20 gift cards, offered a $5 off coupon for the month of May, and also were doing the mystery book giveaway with purchase (though they were only offering fiction and nonfiction). Oh! And I forgot to mention! Both this store and the Book Bin had some snacks to enjoy. The Bookstall also had some jazz musicians playing in the back of the store as we were leaving.
After visiting two bookstores, we had worked up an appetite. We found a cute little sandwich shop called Stacked and Folded that was delicious. I had a Turkey, brie, and apple sandwich with French fries that was delicious. They also offer tacos and bowls and it was within walking distance of The Book Stall. While at lunch, we decided to open up our mystery books and see what we got. Stephanie had picked one fiction and one non-fiction, whereas I picked fiction both times. You can see in the picture below what we ended up with. My books are the first two and Stephanie’s are the second two. We were both happy with at least one of our free books and, honestly, how can you get mad at a free book?
For the final stop, we headed to Bookends and Beginnings in Evanston. This one easily had the best aesthetic/atmosphere though it as a little tricky to find. It’s hidden down an alley between buildings, so it’s not easy to spot from the street but definitely adds to the feel. I loved the layout of this store. The low ceilings and twisty layout and dim lighting all summed up to a perfect warm and inviting independent bookstore feel. This is the type of bookstore you could find a chair and cozy up in for a while. Size wise, it was in between The Book Bin and The Book Stall. This was also one of the only bookstores we visited that
The unfortunate thing about this store was that after visiting two wonderful bookstores that embraced the celebratory mood of Independent Bookstore Day, this one fell a little flat. There were no raffles, coupons, or free books. It left me feeling like this store’s personality was a bit hipster. Like it was saying “Yeah, I’m an independent bookstore, but I’m too cool to participate in the excitement of this event.” Overall, while it was a nice store with a lot of fun recommendations hanging from the shelves, it wasn’t my favorite of the day.
This day was such a success and I’m already looking forward to next year. We have already made plans to head downtown a commit to visiting at least 10 of the stores. I love the books that I got and bought and I love knowing that I supported local businesses. I also have a new store to visit in the future! Of the books in the picture below, I only paid for one of them. I bought 3 children’s books for friends and one birthday book for Stephanie that I didn’t take pictures of because I don’t want people to see them. The bottom book, Dancers Among Us was a $5 used book purchase from Bookends and Beginnings that I am obsessed with.
Did you visit any bookstores on Independent Bookstore Day? Do you have any local bookstores that you love to frequent?