Located in Chicago's Hyde Park, 57th Street Books is everything a neighborhood bookstore should be: cozy, charming, friendly, inviting, accommodating. From the street, 57th Street Books looks simple and nondescript, but once you step off the street and down a few steps into the store, you know you have found a magical place.
This well-kept bookshop, serving the community since 1983, is alive with good energy. Customers saunter between display tables and through the stacks, making their way through five rooms filled to capacity with a full spectrum of genres. From room to room, titles of all things imaginable line the shelves: literary journals, fiction, nonfiction, children's books, an entire section dedicated to Chicago.
The staff cheerfully greets those arriving and can be heard going beyond expectation to ensure a customer's request is met. On the Saturday I visited, a staff member could be heard on the phone confirming for a customer that a specific children's book was available in the shop, yet she went one step further by telling the customer on the line that even though the online system showed the book in stock she wanted to go pull the book from the shelf to ensure that the title was indeed physically available before the customer made the trip into the store.
57th Street Books is also family friendly, providing an inviting spot equipped with small wooden stools for little ones to do some literary exploring of their own. In fact, 57th Street Books recently won a WNBA Pannell Award for excellence in children's programming. According to an article in the Hyde Park Herald, "The WNBA Pannell Award recognizes bookstores that nurture a love for reading and books among children and young adults. The award jury selected 57th Street Books for the store’s 'exceptional passion and creativity.'"
If you are looking for book-themed gear for yourself or for a gift, you will find a pretty nice selection of that as well. From journals to cards to mugs to puzzles to totes to tees, 57th Street books has all that and more.
This is one bookstore you will want to pop into often. It's a bookstore with character. Soft lighting, well worn flooring, exposed brick walls, rows and rows and rows of solid wood shelves all contribute to an ambiance inviting bibliophiles to linger as long as they'd like. I was there a week ago and already want to go back. It really is that special.