LitCity312 Review: The Book Cellar

The Book Cellar (New Books)
4736 N Lincoln Ave #1 Chicago, IL 60625
Lincoln Square neighborhood
Mon. Wed. Thur. Fri. Sat: 10am – 10pm Tue. Sun: Noon – 6pm
773-293-2665 / Email:


Location + Feel
The Book Cellar is situated in a cool, little crevice within the heart of Lincoln Square. Halloween decorations embellish the store during the October season, like black cat printouts hanging along the opening of a doorway that leads into the seating area, skeletons sitting above bookshelves and miniature-sized pumpkins adorn each table. The nicely smooth wooden ground parallels the calm atmosphere of the store, overall. Several small love seat couches are stuffed in corners as a means to sit, if even for a moment, to read a story and bask in the words. As far as the seating area and live literary area, it is quite decently sized with an array of silver chairs and tables. Adjacent to this is a bar and café where customers may order a vast array of wine, sandwiches, salads, and all kinds of cookies. Along the immediate wall near the display of magazines are full bottles of wine for sale as well, while a single, idle television rests at the forefront of the magazine wall (ironically enough, considering the setting). Behind the check-out counter, a BOOK CELLAR WINE CELLAR BOOKS sign hangs in huge block letters while enlarged posters of some front cover novels also hang in parallel. Through certain points in the store, there is dim lighting and bright spotlights, depending on the point of reference. In the immediate portion of the store, there are several red love seats behind the front window, where readers are able to bask in a slightly more intimate setting because it is slightly quieter: a tiny abyss.

Book Display
As a whole, the books here are all sparklingly new and fresh and untouched, meaning that they all mostly have a clean slate! Particularly enjoyable are the sticker signs that read “The Book Cellar Recommends…” along various shelving units within the aisles, if one is having trouble deciding what simply looks good or what is worth spending time on. Best of all, these little indiscreet notes share a personal, handwritten note from one of the staff regarding why this book or that book is awesome. In addition, there are “Danielle…[or so-and-so]…is currently reading…” notes meant to showcase what others may be interested during that particular time and if that may interest you as well. With a special aisle filled with colorful children’s books and the general trajectory of fiction and non-fiction books, anthologies, and poetry chapbooks, the “Staff Pix” section of the store is also worth a visit in order to have a kind of implied dialogue with members of the staff regarding their particular interests and how those views may or may not align with yours!

Parting Thoughts
The Book Cellar truly reminds of a wine cellar of sorts, as far as its size, but …it comes with an array of books! What could be more awesome and vintage and literary than that?

LitCity312 Review: CHIRP Radio Present First Time: First Scare!

Location + Time:
On October 9, 2013 at 8 P.M., I attended CHIRP (Chicago Independent Radio Project) Radio Presents First Time: First Scare! This event was hosted at Martrys’, a bar on 3855 N. Lincoln Ave. in the North Center area. CHIRP is a non-profit community organization, and though I had to pay $10 to attend the event, the funds went to their streaming costs, as this was essentially the reboot of the organization. This CHIRP series itself, The First Time, started in 2010.

Atmosphere + Feel:
Considering that October is the time of year when spooky stories are in order, I thought it was a good idea for them to establish a First Scare series. From the moment I walked into Martrys’, I was immersed in frightful, Halloween-themed decorations, ghosts hanging from ceilings, spider webs, candles, and a dark and moody atmosphere/lighting. The music was pretty mellow and standard for what you’d expect at a bar (at least before the actual event started), but overall I had the sense that it was a pretty sophisticated, adult-ish, spooky experience, especially with the Martyr paintings/mural along the back wall. A large stage area with red curtains (David Lynch style) took up one half of a wall, tables and seating situated in the middle, and the bar was nestled in the immediate back corner of the room. Though the event did not start up exactly at 8 sharp, by the time it was underway 20 minutes later, it ended up being a pretty delightful experience. (Side note: my bag ended up being in the way of the host’s, Jenn Sodini, time-keeping clock – and she touched and shifted my bag. I quickly apologized, of course, though she seemed pretty nervous and scatterbrained).

Performers + Quality:
Seven readers total were scheduled to read original stories of their first frightful experience: Adam Burke, Steve Frisbie, Ellen Lekostaj, CHIRP DJ Helean Lee, Shannon Cason, Scary Lady Sarah, and Ji Suk Yi. The show as a whole was pretty well organized and timed, as far as when it actually took off. What surprised me the most is that the stories I heard were not about experiences with ghosts or spirits or anything of the Halloween sort. Instead, these stories were incredibly real, honest, and heartfelt, undeniable first human experiences of absolute dread or fright. I found this to be especially successful because the stories were also exceptionally varied in topic and mood: while Adam Burke and Helean Lee’s readings were quite humorous at times, Ellen Lekostaj and Steve Frisbee’s readings were horribly chilling, and quite emotional (especially the latter). Another aspect of the show that also stood out to me in a positive way was that after each reader, a band called The First Time Three, who are associated with CHIRP, played two-minute cover songs regarding the mood or theme of the piece that was just read. I felt like it was a great way to express, on a musical level, the story or reading the audience just heard, as the musical pieces seemed to envelope them fully. Some of the cover songs I heard were “Breaking Glass” by David Bowie and “All I Have To Do Is Dream” by The Everly Brothers, so those were nice surprises. I’m glad I attended the CHIRP Radio Series, as I felt like it was an all-encompassing event of those horrible, frightful first-time experiences which are both distinct to us, yet entirely relatable to all. Would do again!

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LitCity312 Review: Myopic Books

Myopic Books (Used Books)
1564 N. Milwaukee Ave Chicago, IL 60622
Wicker Park Neighborhood 
Mon – Sun: 9am – 11pm
773.862.4882 / Email:


Location + Feel
Myopic Books is quite a wonderful, little gem burrowed on Milwaukee Ave in proper Wicker Park. Some warm lighting and fans hang low from the ceiling over your head as you traverse the shelves. The small, tiny aisles parallel the soft music overhead, producing a comforting vibe to the bookstore overall. The really friendly staff helps with this as well. The floor is bumpy and at times creaky as you try to navigate. It’s not perfect, but that’s what distinctly delightful about it! A red and green staircase leads to the second and third levels of this narrow but long experience. On the top floor, there is a great wooden, carpeted area with tables and seating, a well-lit room from the natural light seeping in through the large windows. Through those windows, you can overlook Milwaukee Ave. Here, it is much quieter than on the first floor, as it provides a stellar opportunity for live literary events to take place.

Book Display
From the moment you walk in, you are immersed in thousands and thousands of used books scattered everywhere. There’s a cramped feel to the store, but it has this awesomely cool vintage DIY look. This particular also has to do with tacked-on aisle headings, instead of properly situated ones. And since there are, indeed, three levels, the bookstore seems to be a maze of fiction and non-fiction, especially since there are wooden balconies you are able to peer over from.

Parting Thoughts
On my first visit, I bought a book that was very easy to locate. Hands down, Myopic Books is one of the best bookstore experiences I’ve had. You’ll like it too!


LitCity312 Review: After-Words Bookstore

After-Words Bookstore (New & Used Books)
23 E. Illinois St Chicago, IL 60611
Downtown Chicago
Mon. – Thur: 10:30am – 10pm
Fri: 10:30am – 11pm
Sat: 10am – 11pm
Sun: Noon – 7pm

Location + Feel
After-Words is a really great new and used bookstore. Since they play soft, quiet music, the atmosphere as a whole is comforting (as it should be!). Nestled in a rather inconspicuous, little niche next to Jazz Record Mart in the Near North Side, you’re not expecting it to be larger than it really is. All of the walls are adorned with lovely brick (what could be more Chicago than that?) and some of the columns that support part of the building are masked with graffiti, words or phrases randomly sprayed on: the perfect sentiment to express a love for literature. There are wooden desks and chairs throughout different areas, as well as several computers on the lower level. Speaking of the lower level, it is one of my favorite points of the store because there is a decently-sized open space for live-literary events, with even more desks and chairs filling that space. I also enjoy the staircase: it’s red and wooden (I have a thing for staircases.). Finally, I like the idea of using armoire-looking cases that are meant to be holding anything but books (instead of proper bookshelves) since it provides the bookstore with a slightly more rustic, antique feel.

Book Display
Serving a variety of topics and themes, from fiction to non-fiction, from children’s to Chicago-only oriented books, the bookstore as a whole seems pretty simple and straightforward to navigate, with proper headers along each aisle. On the first or main level, in the far back of the store, there is a cute, little children’s section, an array of picture books and young-adult stories. Pasted onto one of the walls on the children’s side is a neat photograph of Derrick Rose, head resting on a basketball, holding up a book: a great, Chicago-oriented, tool to encourage kids to read! The new books appear to be on the upper level of the store, while the used books are on the lower level (or basement level).

Parting Thoughts
Smart, straightforward, large and open, After-Words Books will suit anyone with any literary taste.