Category Archives: Destinations

A Book Lover in Chicago – Guest Blog by R. Hollingsworth

Book lovers in Chicago love Europa Books

My good friend Ralph Hollingsworth penned these words to share about his favorite reading haunts in the Windy City.  Ralph is a writer/creative director in Chicago, and he may be reached at

“I used to wonder about people who read books on the train or bus in Chicago. Their noses buried in a paperback, self-improvement guide or criminal romance novel, oblivious to the world and clatter around them, barely lifting their eyes past the tops of the pages as they squeeze through the turnstiles at the subway station, still reading. The El, I thought, is no place to read.

At the Old Town Ale House on North Avenue, there’s an informal lending library at the back of the bar, with a motley collection of dusty and tattered books: Politics, philosophy and Saul Alinsky, Clan of the Cave Bear and other Book-of-the-Month Club titles which were received but never opened, never read. The policy is “Take one, leave one.” Once I saw a book on rigging old sailboats. I took it. On long afternoons more than a few years ago, writers and artists would nurse pints and discuss politics, philosophy and Saul Alinsky. The bartender, her services only occasionally required, sat behind the bar reading.

I like After-Words bookstore on Illinois Street. It’s one of the few remaining independent bookstores in Chicago. They sell both new and used books, best-sellers and out-of-print books. The basement is a treasure cave. It’s the kind of place where you can pull a stack of books from the shelves and sit on the floor for hours. It’s authentic, not fabricated. There are no announcements read over the loudspeakers.

Sometimes, after finding books at After-Words, I’ll walk up State Street, stopping at Europa Books, a small bookstore that specializes in foreign language (mostly European) books and magazines. I’ll flip through a French magazine and pretend that it bores me. Then I’ll head over to the 3rd Coast Café on Dearborn and Goethe (which Chicago cabbies always pronounce as “Goath-y”). Like After-Words, it’s also independent. It’s been there as long as I can remember. I love sitting in the corner with a cup of coffee and a piece of flourless chocolate cake and reading through my new treasures. Surely a coffee house is a good place for readers in Chicago.

Not long ago while riding the Blue Line train to O’Hare, I looked over at an attractive young lady with an attractive ankle tattoo reading a well-worn and dog-eared copy of the Bhagavad Gita, which is one of the most important books in my own world. I travel with my well-worn and dog-eared copy and often read through it when I need ethereal substance. I was glad to see her and at the same time, ashamed of myself for having judged other mass-transit readers. It doesn’t matter where or what you read. Chicago is a good city for readers.”

Bradley S. Wirz, Founder & CEO

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Must-See Destinations for Readers – The Library of Congress

With this article we begin a new series, GoneReading‘s Must-See Destinations for Readers.  And where else to begin than the “mother ship” as I refer to it, the United States Library of Congress.

I first visited the “LC” last summer shortly after moving to the DC-area.  Although I had been to Washington dozens of times, like many people, the Library simply wasn’t top of mind.  An incredible oversight for this bibliophile.

The architectural wonder of the interior is reason-enough to visit the Library of Congress

So what is the Library of Congress anyway?  According to its website, the Library’s mission is “To support the Congress in fulfilling its constitutional duties… ”    Which explains the tunnel between the U.S. Capital and the Library itself.  The Library was originally formed in 1800 to make sure that Congress had access to the world’s most important written knowledge.  A noble goal in any era; more notably so at a time when libraries barely existed in the U.S.

Over time the Library’s mission expanded to include “(furthering) the progress of knowledge and creativity for the benefit of the American people.”  The Library is, above all, a massive collection of information, impressive even in the Internet era.

Why should you visit the Library of Congress?

If you love to read, you owe yourself a trip to the Mother Ship, aka The Library of Congress

  • It’s incredibly beautiful.  I’m not sure there is a building in all of Washington with a more grand, artful, ornate, palace-like  interior.  Bring your camera.
  • The exhibits.  Think of the Library as a museum for bibliophiles and book lovers.  The rotating exhibits are world-class, on par with the best of any major museum.
  • Thomas Jefferson’s Library.  After the original Library of Congress was burned in the War of 1812, Jefferson sold his personal book collection to the United States, forming the nucleus of the new Library.  His vast collection is now set aside for all to see.  If you love perusing bookshelves it simply doesn’t get any better than this.  I literally shivered to see, up close and in person, the actual volumes that Jefferson read.
  • The message it sends to your kids.  The grandeur of the Library, its vastness and beauty, sends a clear message: Reading is important, something to be cherished and valued.  While this message resounds for all, its impact on children is especially indelible.
Not to be forgotten, the Library is a working library available to all “researchers” aged 16 and up.  It does take a little advance planning, including a registration process,in order to access the collections.
And as you might expect, there is a gift shop.  I couldn’t help myself during my first visit.  And although I think the staff was as surprised as anyone, I left the Library with my very own baseball cap from the LC.  I wear it almost every weekend with proud distinction, much to my wife’s chagrin.
For visitor information on the Library of Congress, click here.

Please share your comments below…

Bradley S. Wirz, Founder & CEO
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