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The best of French in Chicago: French booksellers in the Windy City

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Europa Books closed its Chicago store back in September of last year, and with it went a French book haven cherished by locals and travelers alike for so many years.

Its closing sent many of us into a tailspin, leaving us lost as to where to go to find French (and other foreign language) books in the Windy City. Not one to let anything keep me down, I went in search of other booksellers that offered books and magazines for Francophones and francophiles of all ages.

While my search continues to this very day, I am glad to be able to share some of my most recent French-language bookseller finds – both in Chicago and online…

French and foreign-Language bookstores

Aimee Thompson, 03/06/13
Open Books / 213 W. Institute Place, Chicago, IL 60610
Open Books is a nonprofit social venture that promotes literacy and a bookstore in Chicago’s River North neighborhood – all rolled into one. It has a great selection of used French-language books for children and adults. Since Open Books gets its books through donations, its selection can vary greatly from one visit to the next.

Powell’s Bookstore / 1570 E. 57th Street, Chicago, IL  60637
Powell’s Bookstore is located in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood right in the heart of the University of Chicago campus. You can descend into its basement for a large selection of used French-language books for adults. Just be prepared to browse through lots of titles to find your next favorite French read.

Aimee Thompson, 03/06/13

Chicago-based online booksellers

Lectures de France / 1230 W. Washington Blvd., Suite 202, Chicago, IL 60607
Lectures de France is an online supplier of French books and magazines for children, teens and adults. It offers more than 1,200 titles with new ones added each month. Lectures de France offers Chicago residents the option to purchase books online and then pick them up free of charge at their office in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. For pre-paid orders, Lectures de France will contact you as soon as your order arrives at their location to schedule a time for you to pick up and take home your books and/or magazines. Their pick-up hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Schoenhof’s Foreign Books / 8124 N. Ridgeway Avenue, Skokie, IL  60076
Schoenhof’s Foreign Books is the parent company of now-shuttered Europa Books. It offers an extensive selection of French-language titles. The company operates a fulfillment center in Skokie (just outside of the Chicago city limits) where you are welcome to go in and browse the available titles. Or, you can choose to order online and have your books delivered right to your door.

Aimee Thompson, 03/06/13

Without a true replacement for Europa Books in sight, my search for the quintessential foreign-language bookseller continues in Chicago. I will be sure to share any future finds with you, and continue to hold out hope that Europa Books reopens in the Windy City or another bookseller steps up to take its beloved place.

Where do you purchase your French-language books in Chicago or online? Share your tips, secrets and sources in the comments below.

All images by Aimee Thompson:
1. Foreign language books at Powell’s Bookstore
2. Open Books
3. Powell’s Bookstore
4. Exterior of the now-closed Europa Books


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