Category Archives: Guest Blogs

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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