Buddenbrooks & the Unabridged Bookstore

the door

I had some business to attend to today in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago.  Afterwards I decided to take a stroll to visit one of my favorite bookstores, one that I haven’t been to in years, the Unabridged Bookstore.

And I’m SO happy I decided to go because I FINALLY came across a copy of Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks which I’ve been wanting to re-read.  I could have gotten it from the library, but I wanted my own copy.  (I’ve no idea what happened to the copy I read in the late 80s–Did I sell it? Loan it out?  Lose it during a move?  Was the copy I “owned” earlier not really mine?  I may have Bibliodementia.)

I’ve had the desire to re-read this novel for a few years now and more recently I decided I needed to re-read it THIS summer, so I’ve been keeping an eye out for it when I find myself in a bookstore.  Since early March I’ve been in close to a dozen used & new bookstores in three states (Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska) and haven’t found a copy on the shelves.  And since I’ve sort of unofficially challenged myself not to order books online anymore, that easy, almost-instant gratification wasn’t really an option (unless I got desperate, I told myself).  Today in addition to Buddenbrooks, I also picked up a copy of Hermann Hesse’s Demian and Thomas Wright’s Built of Books: How Reading Defined the Life of Oscar Wilde, all of which were in the bargain section.

the store front

The Unabridged Bookstore has been going strong in Lakeview since 1980.  Part of the Lakeview neighborhood is well known to most Chicagoans as Boystown, a gay and lesbian cultural/business area.  (There’s also the Andersonville neighborhood, which is/was more lesbian and where you’ll find Women & Children First bookstore.)  I spent a lot of time in Lakeview when I was in college and loved it.  It was great to have a place to hang out where I fit in and felt safe.  I’m glad bookstores and neighborhoods like this still exist and are thriving.  I know society is changing, but sometimes it doesn’t seem like its changing fast enough what with all the angry rhetoric about Gay Marriage and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, young people being bullied to death due to their orientation, and how the labels “fag” and “faggot” still permeate high schools and the every-day language of some adults.

For me the Unabridged Bookstore has always been the anchor of the neighborhood. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and usually too busy to stand around and chat.  Here’s the store description from their website:

Owner Ed Devereux opened Unabridged Bookstore in its current location at 3251 N. Broadway in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood on Saturday, November 1, 1980, and while it has expanded since, his vision has remained the same: to promote and sell great books, focusing on gay and lesbian titles while maintaining an excellent selection for the general public. In an era of explosive chain store growth, the advent of Amazon.com, and a corresponding disappearance of independent media outlets, a thriving bookstore specializing in gay and lesbian books as well as general fiction, children’s, travel, and home design titles is worth celebrating. Unabridged is known for its dedicated, knowledgeable full-time staff, (and their hand-written personal recommendations) an unparalleled sale book section, and an award-winning children’s section. It’s safe to say that Unabridged is the only bookstore in the Chicago area where a shopper can buy the latest issue of a gay magazine, a copy of children’s classic Goodnight Moon, or newest title, and pick up the latest literary fiction & non-fiction sensation, all in one stop.

the block (white van is in front of the bookstore)

The title selection is impressive and the store is well laid-out and clean. I liked that they have a separate section for classics and for Europa Editions.  The bargain section is not the usual overstock of former bestselling mystery titles and cookbooks that you see in many bookstores, but is full of literary titles and non-fiction leaning towards history and biography.  And I gotta say that the hand-written staff recommendations are personal and helpful.

I spent about two hours browsing today and it was a good thing that I only had a twenty dollar bill on me or else I could have done some serious damage to my checking account.

Unabridged Bookstore
3251 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL 60657

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