Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Heaven is a Place on Earth: Open Books Warehouse

Heaven is a Place on Earth is a new segment on The Lit Girl where I share with you my favorite bookstores and other bookish places! 

One day I was virtually poking around my neighborhood on google maps, and imagine my shock and surprise when I happened upon a big ol' building that was labeled 'Open Books Warehouse.' Honestly, all I saw was "books" and "warehouse" and knew that whatever it was, I HAD to go there. A warehouse of books! I had actually heard of Open Books a while ago. They are a non-profit organization that sells books, and then uses the funds to promote literacy programs in Chicago and create a community around books! After some research, I discovered that their warehouse is JUST DOWN THE STREET FROM ME, and is where all of the books are processed, sold online, and distributed for book grants. Luckily for me, it is also open to the public as a store! And I mean, knowing that the money I'm spending on books is going towards a bigger picture makes me feel pretty good, too.

It took me a couple of weeks to make it there, but on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I rounded up my friend and we took the short walk to the warehouse. It's in a warehousey part of Pilsen, which would have been a lot more creepy if it was dark outside, and there's not a whole lot happening in that area. But what a GEM the Open Books Warehouse is.

Right when you walk in, you are greeted by that big, lovely wall of books that is pictured above, and there is a table with some newer and popular titles. After our jaws had a chance to drop and we took in the super high warehouse ceilings and looked around at the shelves and shelves of books, we were welcomed by one of the volunteers there. Even though our arrival interrupted her eating of a sandwich, she was super friendly and explained to us the layout of the shelves. Up front, where we were standing, was all non-fiction, and a little further back were the shelves of children's books, and fiction. When she left us, we stood there for a couple more seconds, unsure of where to start before we started gravitating towards BOOKS.

The non-fiction section was a little overwhelming. As you can see, there are books stacked to the ceiling, and as the volunteer explained to us: they are not yet organized. Part of the fun of bookstores, though, is discovering something new. So it was fun to explore the shelves and come across different titles and topics. After a few minutes of looking through non-fiction, we decided to head over to the fiction shelves and tackle those first. The fiction shelves were organized alphabetically, which made a much simpler browsing process, of course. All of the books are used and donated, but despite this, all of the copies they had were in mostly wonderful and practically new condition.

Did I mention that the books intended for grownups are only three dollars?! Because they are. Children's books are only $1, which makes the Open Books Warehouse an especially wonderful place for parents and teachers looking to stock their classrooms. The idea of $3 books is just insane, and I was constantly picking up books, and my arms started getting quite tired. At the end of our trip, I walked away with 4 books.

1. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen: This was recommended to me very passionately by a former co-worker. So when I saw this nearly perfect conditioned copy of it, I snapped it up! 
2. Candy by Kevin Brooks: The friend that went on this shopping excursion with me recommended this one to me in the teen section. I should add that their Young Adult section was not as extensive as their other sections, but there were still a couple of stand alones and members of series. 
3. The Road by Cormac McCarthy: Another nearly perfect copy of a book I have been dying to read. The movie made me cry like a baby, and I've been wanting to read the book ever since!
4. I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb: I've mentioned before how much I love Wally Lamb, and this is one of my favorite books of all time. I knew I had to have it. Because it was $3, and also because I have never seen this cover before! 

Dreamy sigh. Open Books Warehouse is definitely heaven on earth. My tax return is due in any day now, so I am assuming that it won't be long before I'm taking another walk over there and loading up on books! Thank you for being you, Open Books! 

Open Books Warehouse is located at 905 W. 19th St, Chicago, IL and is open Wednesday-Saturday 10am-4pm. They accept credit cards! Their bookstore is located at 213 W Institute Place, Chicago, IL and is open Monday-Saturday 10am-7pm, and Sundays noon-6pm. For more information on what Open Books is all about and volunteering opportunities, visit http://www.open-books.org/about.php. 

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