3 Go-To Midwest Bookstores
Sunlight streams through oversize windows at the 50-year-old Reader's World in Holland. Add a backdrop of classical jazz and 1,200 square feet of good reads, including an impressive selection of travel magazines, and you've earned the kudos of Holland-based travel editor Mary Lu Laffey.
"Thousands of people come here to vacation every year," she says, "and when they go to Reader's World, they can definitely find things to do."
Late founders Chris DeVries and Bob Hungerink first worked as book and newsstand wholesalers, and their expertise still shows in the wooden periodicals rack that extends down the store's center like a giant spine. In addition to topics you'd see at the supermarket checkout (food, celebs, decorating), you'll also find glossy titles on canoeing, kayaking, biking, skiing, backpacking, golf and local dining.
Mary Lu credits Lisa Hungerink (Chris's granddaughter and Bob's daughter, who returned to Holland to manage the family store) and longtime employee Anne Schaefer for cultivating the mix of service and stock that keep her coming back. "They're friendly, and they're book-friendly," she says. "I've never gone in there without leaving with something" (readersworldbookstore.com).
The Book Cellar
Baseball led Elizabeth Taylor, co-founder and editor of The National Book Review and chair of several Pulitzer Prize juries, to The Book Cellar. Years ago, when her daughter, Caroline, was in a baseball league, team parents organized a book club to show their children that books could be just as exciting as sports.
"Nobody particularly wanted 10 rambunctious 8-year-olds in their homes," Elizabeth recalls, "but Suzy Takacs, owner of The Book Cellar, didn't pause for a moment and welcomed us."
Suzy's community spirit still shines in the events she hosts there, including stand-up comedy nights and an annual adult spelling bee.
Now that her daughter is in college, Elizabeth stops by the Lincoln Square store to shop and attend readings. The store's cafe selling wine and beer makes events-or just getting comfy with a book in one of its cozy chairs-all the better (bookcellarinc.com).
The only problem with browsing for beach reads at Chicago's Book Cellar: You won't want to leave. Photo by David Orndorf
4 Kids Books and Toys
Children's book illustrator Jennifer Zivoin knows where the inspiration is. Her favorite hangout, 4 Kids Books and Toys, looks, sounds and feels like a Caldecott Medal winner has sprung to life.
Jennifer's praise of this shop in suburban Indianapolis starts with selection. "I discover new, beautiful books every time I visit-books that might otherwise get lost or overlooked in a larger store," she says.
Owner Cynthia Compton shares her secret: "The authors we love, we carry all of their works, not just their current or most buzzworthy titles." She also guarantees that at least one person on her staff has read each title sold in the store.
A balanced blend of books and toys throughout the space builds an atmosphere of discovery, and in-store activities keep Jennifer in tune with her audience. Offered weekly, Silly Songs and Stories fills the shop with the sounds of singing, bells and even little guitars.
There's also a Paint-a-Story day-and yep, it's as messy as it sounds (4kidsbooks.net).