In a city as literary as Chicago, it's no surprise that two of the most beloved independent bookstores are not only still around but thriving. With both of them just a short ride or walk from the new rental apartments at NEMA Chicago in the South Loop, the right book for curling up with this fall is never far away. In fact, these are the kinds of bookstores where you might discover writers you would never have heard of otherwise, and where browsing can become an addictive way to spend an afternoon.
Sandmeyer’s Bookstore, which was opened in 1982 by Ulrich and Ellen Sandmeyer, has become a South Loop institution. The shop was one of the first establishments to rehabilitate Printer’s Row, which was a set of old print shop buildings, and it’s known for its stellar selection of fiction titles, travel tomes, and children’s books. When Ulric Sandmeyer passed away last year, the Independent Writers of Chicago paid him tribute on their website, honoring the way he helped to transform the neighborhood and create a literary community. "The vision of this idealistic pioneering couple transformed the neighborhood into a haven for independent writers. Sandmeyer's was an early supporter of the Printers Row Book Fair that at one time drew a handful of visitors and has now evolved into Printers Row Lit Fest that draws tens of thousands of visitors, artists, and authors from around the world to celebrate the influence of the written word and those that are brave enough to invest in sharing it."
Another beloved Chicago bookstore is After-Words Books, touted by Time Out Chicago as “one of River North's hidden gems.” After-Words sells new and used books and takes special pride in its poetry and art sections as well as its expansive collection of fiction. It has an event space where you can catch a reading, and it can also be rented for private events and parties. With two expansive floors of books and welcoming tables and chairs, After-Words is the perfect place to spend a brisk fall afternoon browsing and reading and discovering new authors. This is also a great venue to find art books that double as art object/coffee-table books for your South Loop rental at NEMA Chicago, where a monograph on the work of Chicago street photographer Vivian Meier will nicely complement the chic interiors by David Rockwell and the expansive views over the city. Of course, your bedroom or living room at NEMA is also just the spot to curl up with a cup of tea or coffee and a stack of must-reads after your book-buying outing on a chilly day.
Or you can take a book or two to a local coffee spot or cafe and feed your body as well as your imagination while also getting in some prime people-watching time. The Little Branch Café in South Loop, just a three-minute walk from NEMA Chicago, is a much-loved local spot where you can relax with a latte and eat a full breakfast platter or a red velvet waffle. Another Chicago favorite just a short walk from NEMA is Stan’s Donuts, the platonic ideal of the artisanal coffee and donut shop, where you can select the precise donut to pair with your novel of choice. May we suggest an apple fritter fresh from the oven to accompany Amanda Coplin’s The Orchardist to make South Loop Chicago your reader’s haven for your next quiet fall day?