Intrepid former Algonquin intern David Bradley and his trusty sidekick, Lucky the Leprechaun, hit the road last summer for a tour of (almost all) the coolest, hippest, greatest indie bookstores in the United States. Join us for the journey…
WINNETKA, Illinois — I could totally be an explorer. On my journey to The Book Stall at Chestnut Court through Chicago’s L system, I decided to check my email on my phone. But my phone decided it would rather die. So die, it did (irreparably so). In my everyday life this would qualify as nothing more than a minor inconvenience, but Chicago was not my everyday life and I was using my phone as my map. Suddenly without step-by-step directions, I had to concoct my own way of getting to Winnetka. I busted out my sundial, improvised a compass, and was in the midst of some complicated trigonometric calculations when a bus pulled up in front of me — Pace bus 423. Being as it was idling in eyesight and had such a pleasing combination of numbers, it had to be the bus for me. I hopped on and immediately began scanning my surroundings, doing the nonchalant I’m-not-a-tourist-I-just-like-to-look-at-EVERYTHING head swivel to make sure I didn’t miss The Book Stall. I made it through three stops and was beginning to let fear set in when, lo and behold, the blue awning of the best bookstore in Winnetka caught my eye. I yanked the “Stop” line, congratulated myself on my natural sense of direction and unbeatable navigation know-how, and then tripped flat on my face stepping off the bus.
Fortunately for me, The Book Stall is filled with such amazing levels of kindness that I quickly forgot any idiotic moves that I might (or might not) have just taken part it. Stepping inside I was instantly greeted by booksellers and ushered back to speak to Roberta Rubin (The Book Stall’s former owner, retiring after 30+ years of book-sharing glory) and Stephanie Hochschild (a fervent book lover and The Book Stall’s new owner), two of the most hospitable people you’re ever likely to meet. They took me around the store, where every customer was attended to with care and dedication. The staff at The Book Stall is second to none, and their sincere desire to provide the best experience for each and every customer was stunning to watch. Then Stephanie and Roberta took it to another level. I told them about my phone’s recent demise, and they took it upon themselves (after offering me food and drink and patiently answering all of my questions) to drive me to a phone store, pick me up when I had a new phone in hand and bring me back to the train where I could safely find my way home. The Book Stall at Chestnut Court is an extraordinary store, and its owners (both past and present) are truly extraordinary people, deserving of all the praise you can heap on them.
Stephanie, Roberta, and bookseller Robert McDonald sat down to answer our Algonquin Questionnaire.
When did The Book Stall at Chestnut Court open?
What inspired the name The Book Stall?
The two women who founded the store loved the Book Stalls sitting on the Seine River when they visited Paris, so they named their store after those stalls.
What is the funniest book on the shelves?
We all think The Encyclopedia of Immaturity is a pretty funny book.
What is the oddest non-book item that you sell?
We consistently sell Social Capers really well. They’re calenders that are very “Winnetka” and have been a tradition in the area for years. Each purchase helps out the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago, so it helps out a great cause too.
What is your favorite Algonquin title?
Robert: I’ll go with Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons. That’s a great little book.
Roberta: I loved The Art Forger this year, and then I was a big fan of Hillary Jordan’s Mudbound when that came out a few years back.
Stephanie: I thought Life After Life was great. It’s good to see Jill McCorkle at it again. I’m also a fan of Lee Smith and Alice Hoffman who have books coming out soon [Guests on Earth and Survival Lessons came out in Fall 2013].
And your favorite summer book?
Robert: I really enjoyed Timothy Failure: Mistakes Were Made. It’s like a more sophisticated version of the Wimpy Kid books.
Roberta: I thought M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans was great.
Stephanie: And I’ll go with Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen.
Is there an area of the store that really draws customers in?
Our most popular sections are probably the Hard Fiction and Children’s sections. They’re busy any time of day.
Next stop: Indy Reads Books in Indianapolis.
*Note: The Lucky Tour posts are not in real time. David and Lucky have returned from their travels with great tales and many, many books. Stay tuned for more road stories…