City Lit Books

CITYLITStepping into City Lit Books brought me back to my high school days, when my friends and I used to frequent the now defunct Borders. A few things gave me that impression: the clean look and feel of the wooden shelves and carpet; the wider selection (compared to other stores at the time); and more seating dispersed throughout the store, rather than off to the side.

Aside from being much smaller than Borders, there were other aspects that made City Lit Books stand out, the most notable being their feature displays. In the store windows, and all throughout the shop itself, were tables of and shelves of feature titles. Some were new, others were currently trending. I could tell that a lot of time and effort must go into setting these displays up.

When browsing, I found that not only does City Lit Books include the more well-known authors, but also an array of lesser known and local authors (I noticed Sleep Tight by Jeff Jacobson, an author previously featured on LitCity).

To go a step further, staff have taken it upon themselves to stick notes beneath certain books throughout the store, providing a short summary of that book and why s/he would recommend it. It’s like a more personal version of an online recommendation system, and very creative. This system made even more sense once I got in contact with store owner Theresa Kirschbraun.

“We are continually evaluating the titles in the store to make sure that we are carrying books we know our customers will be looking for,” Kirschbraun said. “So there is a curating process here that is hard to match online.”

In addition to being responsive to customers’ interests, City Lit Books hosts a family-friendly Story Time every week, as well as author events, and monthly book clubs.

Being near the Logan Square CTA blue line stop has only helped to increase business.

“This is a perfect location,” she said. “Being next to Lula [Cafe] and the other businesses here has been great for visibility also. There is always pedestrian traffic passing by.”

Kirschbraun’s idea to open up City Lit Books first came to fruition when she decided to merge her love of books with her management consulting background. “I prepared a business plan and found that not only was the number of independent bookstores low relative to the population in Chicago, but also, Logan Square would be a perfect spot to open a store,” she said, “… based on demographics, competition, and strong support of local independent businesses.”

When asked if the notion that bookstores (and books themselves) are “dying” was true or just an exaggeration, Kirschbraun agrees with the latter. “The rise of ebooks has been greatly exaggerated,” she said. “About 25% of all books sold now are ebooks. That leaves 75% — the great majority — in print. Their sales appear to be plateauing.”

Visit City Lit Books at:
2523 N. Kedzie Blvd., Chicago, IL 60647

Mon: Closed
Tues-Fri: 11AM-8PM
Sat: 10AM-7PM
Sun: 10AM-5PM

Bucket o’Blood Books & Records

When I found out there was a local bookstore named Bucket o’Blood, I of course had to check it out, being the aspiring horror writer I am. My discovery of this place happened to coincide with a big change (for the better) on their end.

Recently, Bucket o’Blood moved from their location on Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square to the corner of Elston and California in Avondale. I had the opportunity to speak to owner Grant McKee (who runs the store with his wife Jennifer) and asked what prompted the move.

“It was two-fold,” McKee said. “We had the desire for a bigger space to host larger events, [and] the other store was in bad shape” (i.e., water leaking at the back of the store and not-so-great heat and air-conditioning in the winter and summer).

Knowing Bucket o’Blood had just moved explained the emptiness I felt when I walked into the new location. On one side were bookshelves, fully stocked. On the other was the checkout counter. Straight ahead, at the back of the store, were vinyl records. Between those three sections was a vast expanse of space with nothing filling it yet, emphasized by the light creak of the wooden floor as I walked across it.

Despite this emptiness, I enjoyed the setup so far. The bookshelves were separated into three sections: horror, fantasy, and speculative science fiction. What made each section even more distinct were the figurines dispersed throughout that side of the room: a plush Frankenstein casually sitting atop a shelf of horror books; a stuffed red dragon over the fantasy titles; and a statue of a knight in full armor standing between two shelves, just to name a few. There was even a small bookcase of graphic novels, a signed copy of The Last Unicorn displayed on top.

Moving past the books, there were three tables of vinyl records lined along the back of the store, shielded by a rack of DVDs (consisting primarily of horror titles). On the left, next to the checkout counter, was a shelf of cassette tapes, something I haven’t seen since at least 2001. Bucket o’Blood even has their own t-shirts, as well as various patches, pins, and stickers in the glass display case at checkout.

When it comes to price, both books and records are very affordable and won’t break the bank. Because Bucket o’Blood specializes in specific genres, there is a much bigger selection in those categories, unlike in stores where there a multitude of genres are sold.

You can follow Bucket o’Blood’s progress in the new space on their Facebook page and check out any upcoming events they will be hosting on their website. Since my visit, they have set up a listening center for the records and a mystery section!

Visit Bucket o’Blood at:
3182 N. Elston Ave., Chicago, IL 60618Avondale neighborhood
Sun-Wed: Noon-7PM
Thurs-Sat: Noon-8PM