This probably doesn't strike you as much of a surprise, especially if you've seen my intense TBR pile. I love going to bookstores, being in bookstores, and finding new bookstores in my own city and elsewhere. When I travel, I make sure to look up the best bookstore in the city and visit it.
So I'm going to explore bookstores -- in the Chicago area and beyond. I'm not going to write much about big chains like Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million, as there are a bajillion of those and I'd never make a dent, so I'll try mostly stick to indies and used bookstores. As a Chicago resident, a lot of these will be close to home, though I do so love to travel...
To begin, it seems only fair to celebrate a store that I might as well just hand over my wallet to - the Half-Price Books in Niles, IL. Sure, HPB counts as a big national chain. They're everywhere. But after all this time they're still family-owned and focused on doing good, so as far as I'm concerned they can have my money and time.
Niles is a cute little northern suburb of Chicago, and this HPB is nestled just off Touhy Avenue in an area of big-box commerce that includes Target, Costco, Wal-Mart, an AMC movie theater, Dick's Sporting Goods, a Barnes & Noble, and multiple strip malls. (A new section of stores is being built now that supposedly will host a Panera Bread and Goodwill.) Yes, there's also a Starbucks nearby. This HPB isn't huge, especially compared to a few of the newer ones built around the area, but it's my favorite.
The store boasts impressive sections for science fiction/fantasy, cookbooks, gaming and games, general fiction, graphic novels/manga, mystery, non-fiction (grouped in smart ways), and a recently re-done and expanded teen/YA section. There's a massive clearance corner, and most sections include their own smaller clearance section as well. Used DVD and CDs are also for sale, as well as lots of cute gift items, a wide variety of note cards and journals, and action figures.
Also, they have all the Game of Thrones swag and merchandise you could ever need.
All that being awesome, I adore this particular store because of it's vast romance section.
Now, here's the thing. I love indie bookstores. I love living in Chicago, where bookstores are all over, and I respect and adore each and every one of them.
But - Most indie bookstores I've encountered don't really have romance. If they do, they sort of hide it. A few romance authors will sneak in with the general fiction, or there'll be a tiny corner. It's a genre that sells phenomenally well and gets next to no respect. That's fine, whatever. But as a reader (not to mention a writer) I know what I like. This HPB puts the romance aisle right in the center and it's packed with great writers old and new. During the trip I took to put this post together, I saw books by everyone from the Johanna Lindsey bodice-ripper classics I love (BRAVE THE WILD WIND, guys) to very recent releases from Sarah MacLean, Lisa Kleypas, Naliini Singh, and including practically every sub-genre from dark erotica to Highlanders.
I counted THIRTEEN Eloisa James titles. THIRTEEN! Be still, my romance-loving heart! It's so great!
The staff here is quirky (you'll often hear staff members debating Game of Thrones, music, or in the middle of lengthy conversations about the books they sell) and knowledgeable. One of the great mysteries of being a book nerd is what section Gail Carriger's books will land in in any given bookstore, but when I asked I was shown right to her place in Sci-Fi/Fantasy.
I go to the Niles HPB quite a bit - and I always leave with at least one book and I'm never sorry I went. On this trip, I snatched my son a hardback copy of Shel Silverstein's A LIGHT IN THE ATTIC and, for myself, Eva Leigh's SCANDAL TAKES THE STAGE. (Read her WICKED QUILLS series. For real.) Grand total? Six bucks. Everyone wins!
I look forward to exploring other bookstores in this series. Next up, I'm trekking to one of the busiest corners in Chicago to visit the creaky-charming used book mecca, Myopic Books.
Let me know if there's one I should/must visit! OR! Let me know of great bookstores in your area. :)