Backstory Cafe There are used books for sale in this socially/environmentally conscious cafe at the Experimental Station. For more, see Restaurants.
Blackstone Library By Hyde Park standards, this is a wee little library, off the beaten path and not exceptionally well-stocked. You could probably drop its entire collection in a corner of the University of Chicago's Regenstein and the librarians there wouldn't notice for weeks. In fact, compared to the Reg, Crerar, and sundry other U. of C. libraries, this CPL branch—the city's first—has only three things going for it: it's in a lovely old building by Solomon S. Beman, it's home to the Hyde Park Historical Collection, and it's open to the public. 4904 S. Lake Park, 312-747-0511, chipublib.org/branch/details/library/blackstone. —Noah Berlatsky
Borders Borders outposts everywhere have been badly hit by the recession, and Hyde Park's is no exception. In the last couple years its inventory has been slashed. DVDs and music are mostly gone, magazines and books have been heavily reduced, and notebooks, stationery, and tchotchkes have been brought in in an attempt to fill the yawning gaps. You'll still see lots of folks browsing here, but with all the newly opened up floor space, this place has started to feel like a two-story tomb. 1539 E. 53rd, 773-752-8663, borders.com. —NB
57th Street Books The Seminary Co-op's more mainstream sister is one of the city's most venerable independents. Though the steep stairs leading down to its basement location can look a little foreboding, the interior is well-organized and easily browsable, with a smart selection of recent titles always featured on the front tables. The children's section is a highlight, and a small forest of strollers is parked on the sidewalk out front every Wednesday for story hour. The store runs two or three readings a month, featuring both local authors—from professors to Sara Paretsky—and out-of-towners. 1301 E. 57th, 773-684-1300, semcoop.com. —NB
First Aid Comics James Nurss opened his second-floor walk-up store 15 months ago, in the teeth of the recession. Lacking a street-level window, he put a stand-up sign on the sidewalk, emblazoned with a Jim Lee Batman, and hoped passersby would bite. And so far, miraculously, they have—Nurss is actually thinking of expanding to a bigger location. The current shop is a standard hole-in-the-wall, very light on the manga and independents. Still, Nurss is friendly and knowledgeable, and given the quixotic nature of his endeavor, you've got to keep your fingers crossed for him. 1459 E. 53rd, 773-752-6642, firstaidcomics.com. —NB
Frontline Books and Crafts & Crystal Power The crystals and crafts are at the front. Walk through, brush aside the curtain of beads in the doorway, and you'll find the books—a mix of multiethnic spirituality, self-help, and black pride, heavy on Marcus Garvey, Rastafarianism, and Nubian pharaohs. 5206 S. Harper, 773-288-7718, 773-651-9888, frontlinedistribution.com. —NB