Madison, Wisconsin, has several claims to fame. We’re the capital city of Wisconsin, home to the University of Wisconsin–Madison (which boasts over 40 libraries on its campus!), and the host of the World Cheese Championships. Additionally, Wisconsin is home to hundreds of breweries and farm to table restaurants, so you can be sure you’ll have something delicious to eat and drink while on your bookish adventures.
Some of these sites are more traditional book tourism, while others are a little out of the norm but make great reading spots. Hope to see you here soon!
Based in downtown Madison since 1975, A Room of One’s Own offers a space for feminist and indie publishers to share their work and always has a diverse roster of author guests for patrons to hear from at various events. The staff loves giving out personalized recommendations and they support various causes, both national and local, to help protect marginalized groups and bring a wider range of voices to the Madison literary scene. Before or after your visit, pop in to one of the many independent coffee houses or restaurants along nearby State Street, which runs the mile-long stretch from the University of Wisconsin campus to the capitol building.
Mystery to Me independent bookstore on Monroe Street (home to some great small shops and restaurants) has a lot more than just mysteries. Readers can pick up the latest bestseller, browse their colorful children’s section, or hear from a local author during an evening talk. I love that the staff here is always willing to order books in for me if they don’t have them in stock and it's a great place to find gifts for my mystery loving family and friends. For an extra treat, drop by Bloom Bake Shop
on the same block, for a variety of baked goods (including vegan options) as well as seasonal popsicles, beer, and coffee.
While the name might make it sound like it’s only for teachers, this book warehouse on Madison’s south side is open to the public and offers great deals, especially on children’s books, while also focusing on the importance of diversity in publishing. With an average price of $1.85, this store concentrates on books for kids from birth to 12th grade, making it a great stop for families or YA fans. Once you’ve got your books, stop next door at the newish Delta Beer Lab
. Not only do they have an awesomely geeky, science themed space, but they also make sure all employees are paid a living wage, donate to a new cause each month, and have awesomely colorful, gender neutral bathrooms as part of an effort to make sure everyone feels welcome.
The Wisconsin Historical Society reading room has everything a classic book lover needs. Green lamps? Check. Comfy chairs? Check. Gorgeous architecture and wooden desks? Check. Set up here for that writing project you’ve been working on for ages and get a serious dose of inspiration. And if you need any research advice, the excellent reference librarians are available to help you!
The main branch of Madison’s Public Library system is located downtown near the capitol building and boasts a beautiful, light filled design. Not only can you browse books, but the library also hosts a series of workshops, speakers, and town squares at the creative hub The Bubbler
and many of the events for the twice-yearly Wisconsin Book Festival
. True book lovers can even book the library’s event space for their wedding, which includes permission to explore and take pictures after hours!
Whatever bookish stops you make in Wisconsin’s capital city, we hope you’ll stay a while. Grab some tasty cheese, a cold beer, and a good read and enjoy!