Book Group City Tour: Chicago

Reading Group Choices travels to Chicago for our next Book Group City Tour!

Chicago is known for its architecture, blues and jazz, deep dish pizza, and beautiful lakefront. It’s also fast on the rise as a major literary city, boasting a growing number of author residents and indie bookstores, plus the new American Writers Museum. And it’s a great place for readers to discuss books!

In our continuing Book Group City Tour series, Reading Group Choices strolls the streets of the Windy City in search of the best (and unexpected) places to join a book club. We recently profiled the groups at Chicago’s iconic Women & Children First bookstore. And there’s plenty more: From libraries to cultural institutions, poetry round tables to the birthplace of Hemingway — grab a good book and check out one of these options. Your next great discussion is waiting!

(Don’t miss our previous city tours of Nashville and San Francisco!)


The Book Cellarbook cellar logo

This indie bookstore and cafe has been an anchor of the Lincoln Square neighborhood on Chicago’s northwest side for nearly 15 years. The quarter still carries traces of its German origins (buy a book, raise a stein!). And the Book Cellar has created its own tradition of author events, a full array of coffee, wine, and snacks, and the friendly and knowledgeable staff. It also hosts 8 book groups, free and open to the public!

The options range from Never Too Old: A YA Book Club for Adults to Soul Pages: Spirituality Book Group. There’s also a French Book Group (discussions in English), and the store’s flagship Book Cellar Book Group. Join in their active discussion calendar! Note: some groups are quite popular, and you may need to join a waitlist.


One Book One Chicago cpl logo

Launched by the Chicago Public Library in 2001, One Book One Chicago (OBOC) turns the city into one giant book club! Each year a book is selected and readings are organized around the city at library branches. There are also related events like lectures and film screenings that explore the theme of the chosen book. All events are free and open to the public. (And the library carries plenty of copies!)

OBOC is currently reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick, now through next spring. Join in the discussion!


Hemingway Birthplacehemingway logo

You’ll find the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway in Oak Park, Illinois, just outside the city limits (and still reachable by the El). What better atmosphere to read and discuss some Hemingway-related literature?

The home is open to visitors, and just down the block is a museum and bookshop. The organization also runs Hemingway’s Ernest Book Club, an occasional group that reads titles by the author himself as well as related works. Note: the discussions are irregular, so consult the event calendar and join the email list to be notified!


pilsen communityPilsen Community Books

The mission of this new and used bookshop is to support literacy in the community. Part of their sales go back into schools, so you can feel extra good about buying books! The store is located southwest of downtown, in the traditionally Mexican neighborhood of Pilsen (don’t miss the National Museum of Mexican Art while you’re down there…). Attend an author book launch or join their book club, which meets once a month. Participation is free!

Can’t make it to Pilsen? Visit The Dial, a companion bookstore downtown, which hosts more author events.


Instituto Cervantesinstituto cervantes

For those interested in reading literature by the most important Spanish authors, join the monthly Library Book Club at Instituto Cervantes, located in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. The institute is a cultural center that educates and promotes the languages and culture of Spain. The book group began in 2004 and meets every month to discuss a classic or contemporary work. Note: library membership is required to participate.


City Lit Bookscity lit

Opened in 2012 in the Logan Square neighborhood, City Lit Books offers new, general interest titles and has welcomed a long list of local and visiting authors. It also features a robust series of book groups based on genres and themes!

The latest is Subject to Change, which focuses on coming-of-age stories. Other groups include Graphic Content for graphic novels, the Wilde Readers for LGBTQ literature, In Brief for collections of short stories and essays, and Found in Translation for translated work.

All groups are free and open to the public! Check out the calendar and join in.


Poetry Foundationpoetry foundation

Chicago is home to the Poetry Foundation, which publishes the renowned Poetry Magazine. The Foundation houses a free, public access library with a vast collection of poetry, to be consulted on site. It also runs regular writing workshops and author readings, and a free monthly book group!

You don’t have to be a poetry expert to join. The discussion is open to all levels, and occasionally the author sits in. It’s truly a great chance to learn about or further enjoy poetry in a welcoming environment. Note: sometimes spaces fill up quickly, so join the mailing list and RSVP in advance!