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Hidden Gems: The Bookstores of Hyde Park

Hyde Park, home of the University of Chicago and the future Barack Obama Presidential Library, is a community that knows books. It should come as no surprise, then, that some of the best bookstores in the city are located in Hyde Park. Here is your guide to these bookstores.

57th Street Books

57th Street Books and Seminary Co-op books share a wonderful partnership, but each store offers a unique atmosphere and schedule of readings, signings, and literary events. 

Located on the corner of 57th St and Kimbark Ave, 57th Street Books is located down a charming set of steps leading to a subterranean book nook. The cozy space boasts plenty of room for tables and chairs to curl up in and read. On most days, some sort of book-related event takes place, and Michelle Obama did a talk on her memoir, Becoming in the bookstore’s middle room. 

57th Street Books also offers an extensive children’s section, far larger than that of Seminary Co-op, and you may often find families stopping by after school to pick out books and read together on the carpet. 

57th Street Books, Chicago

Seminary Co-op

In contrast to 57th Street Books’ cozy, warm, and subterranean atmosphere, Seminary Co-op’s space is open, sunlit, and modern with a more mature clientele. Seminary Co-op is the spot for academic texts and harder to find books published by independent presses. They also offer a small ‘zine selection and an extensive catalogue of poetry and fiction. Along with 57th Street Books and Powell’s, Seminary Co-op is a go-to coursebook source for students at the University of Chicago. 

Located in the same building as Seminary Co-op, at 5751 S Woodlawn Ave is the small but bright cafe, Plein Air. One will find students, professors, and Hyde Park locals chatting away for hours over coffee, pastries, and small meals beneath a rotating gallery of art created by local artists. It is the perfect spot to stop by after an afternoon of book browsing. 

The interior of Powell’s Books, Chicago

Powell’s Books

You may know of the famous independent bookseller Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, but what you may not have known is that Powell’s Books began in Hyde Park, Chicago. In 1970, University of Chicago student, Michael Powell opened the original Powell’s location in Chicago with the encouragement of his friends and professors, including famed poet, Saul Bellow

Powell’s is truly a gem. Located 1501 E 57th St, several blocks east of 57th Street books, Powell’s is the spot for discounted and used books, stationary, and the occasional miscellaneous item. Be sure to check the free book bin stationed outside of the front door and the front tables for brand new and heavily discounted art books as well as best-sellers and classics in both paper and hardcover.