Interview with a Bookstore

I’m stealing this idea. I’ll be honest. I don’t know where I saw it first. Maybe something on LitHub, the great aggregate of literary news. But wherever it was, I’m offering credit their way.  The idea was to interview a bookstore.


My approach is a bit different than the one I first saw. My questions are not the same. My purpose is different. The original idea was to offer insight into the workings of a book selling business. Mine is to highlight one of Chicago’s best literary destinations. This is not hyperbole. The Book Cellar in the Lincoln Square neighborhood  is a gem, not only in Chicago, but it stands alongside some of the top book selling venues in America, and has been named one of Chicago’s best places to write.
So, here we go. An interview with The Book Cellar. (Owner Suzy Takacs)
Q: What’s your favorite section of the store?
A: The cookbook section and the picture book section. It’s a tie.
Q: What is the bookstore’s specialty?
A: I would describe us as a general bookstore. Our bestselling sections are literary fiction, no-fiction, and board books.


Q: Who is your store’s favorite regular?
A: Bill comes by several days a week and always has something interesting to say about the book world. He clips The New Yorker cartoons for us or Chicago Tribune articles. He reads a crazy number of books and was very quick to finish our store’s reading challenge.
Q: What’s the biggest surprise about running a bookstore?
A: The physical store itself. The mechanics of it are such a tool. From light bulbs to leaks, to HVAC to refrigeration, to people driving into our sidewalk cafe, all of it is a constant expensive and problem to deal with .


Q: Tell us about your most memorable author event.
A: I think there are two events that will never leave my mind. Ray Bradbury joined our book club by speaker phone. He had not done any speaking events for a long time, and he and all of us became very teary. The second was the pleasure of hosting Studs Terkel. He was a remarkable person and character of Chicago.
Q: What is children’s book you would want adults to read?
A: Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers and Owen and Mzee by Crag Hatkoff. And also Wonder by RJ Palacios.
Q: How does your store build community?
A: By hosting story time and local author events. Really all events in general. From a spelling bee to Independent Bookstore Day to working with the Chamber of Commerce. They are all reasons for us to be part of the community our store lives in and part of the literary community.
Last year, Suzy Takacs and The Book Cellar won the Spirit Award from the Chicago Writers Association for its support of Chicago writers.
The Book Cellar is at 4736 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL.


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