Friday, December 30, 2016

Unabridged Books - Chicago, IL

Unabridged Books, Chicago, IL
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I recently visited an indie that has been around since the 1970s (there are more of these than you think) and expressed my admiration for such an enduring accomplishment.  The same is true of this wonderful indie in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago which began its journey in 1980.  Since 1980 it has not changed locations and has not changed owners, an achievement that I find equally remarkable.  But this store didn't start as your typical, general fiction bookstore.  Unabridged Books began as a gay bookstore and when it opened in 1980, times were different.  They perhaps had challenges that other bookstores may not have experienced.  In those beginnings, the customers were most exclusively gay and the space served not only as a bookstore, but a community center and place where people could express their concerns and find support from sympathetic staff or customers.  This is the ethos found in indies everywhere regardless of who or what we are.  Almost all the indies I visit, in one way or another, are centers of support and concern for the customers who gather there.  

Unabridged Books offers all new books in a one-level space.  You'll find two smaller rooms with two different stairways to a lower level, one room with calendars and the other with lots of travel guides and books.  Other than some journals and planners, there are no sidelines here.  The books are the thing and the good news is they are thriving.  In addition to the travel section, I thought the small press/translation offerings, children's section, and LGBT section were particularly strong.  As for staff recommendations, they are everywhere throughout the store.  Like many other bookstores I visit, Unabridged can feel a renaissance for the independent bookstore.  The store has a solid base of regular customers and also enjoys frequent visits from out-of-towners and tourists.

The staff here is second to none.  Ed D., the owner, told me (as did Katharine, one of the staffers) they pay a living wage to their booksellers and it is recognized as the best in the country.  They also offer health insurance.  This helps keep their employees here and provides good continuity for the store.  And I can attest that the employees are the best.  Katharine was an absolute wealth of information and she along with Owen and Yanni couldn't have been nicer to meet and visit with.

This indie is not only recognized locally, but nationally as well.  My mistake is that I didn't get to this one until now!  Take public transportation or park on the street if you drive.  Either way, don't put off and don't delay.  The next time you're in Chicago, put this wonderful bookstore at the top of your list.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Door, Magda Szab√≥.  A translation of this renowned Hungarian author.  This book gets lots of great reviews and I can see why.  Work of fiction but partly autobiographical story of a writer, Magda, who hires an older lady to be the housekeeper.  Emerence, the housekeeper, is an oddity and a very unusual literary character.  No one is ever allowed in her villa, she lives by herself, and is very strict in her behaviors and relationships.  She and the writer who hired her form a somewhat strained relationship over 20 years and in the end it is very meaningful.  This book won't be for everyone but I liked it.  Check out the movie on Youtube starring Helen Mirren.  Recommended.  

CURRENTLY READING:  I Thought You Were Dead, Pete Nelson.  

Another exterior view.  

A portion of the exterior window display.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

Looking to the right from the front entrance.  

A great book display in the front of the store with lots of staff picks mixed in.  

Check out the new non-fiction table in the front of the store.

Unabridged offers books for all ages.  This is a great display for middle readers.  

After you enter and walk through the main room, go to the left to find lots of children's books.  

Find this display if you're on a budget.  

These are only a few of the Penguin classics in the store.  

Proceed downstairs... this room and pick out a 2017 calendar.  

A display of staff picks which is in addition to recommendations you'll find throughout the store.

A long row of bookshelves.  

Some of the bestsellers and favorites at Unabridged, a great display.  

After going through the main room, go to the right and check out this room.  Lots of classics, translations, and small press books found here.  

A second stairway downstairs... this room and just about anything you can imagine about travel.  

A strong section of small press publications.  

Staff picks in the LGBT section.  

With Katharine on the left, one of the fine staffers at Unabridged.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Five minutes before I left, Ed, the owner came in (on the left).  Thanks for a great visit.  

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