10 Small Independent Bookstores In The Midwest To Support Right Now

Kelly Jensen


Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

When The Strand posted about the challenges they’re facing in the midst of COVID, nearly 25,000 orders poured into the store. It’s an astonishing level of support for an iconic store. But it’s also hard not to wonder if the same kind of support could be given to smaller bookstores.

The following ten independent bookstores are all located in the midwest and all offer U.S. shipping. The midwest has been hit particularly hard with COVID, and that pain trickles down to local bookstores. Give them a little love this season to ensure they can continue to serve their communities, including the country-wide reading community, through and beyond the pandemic.

Your shipping will likely be more costly than through Amazon, but your dollar will go so far in keeping these businesses and their employees afloat. You still have time to make those orders now in time for the holiday season—and if stocking or shipping delays continue as they have over the last year, always remember that a good gift comes at any time, and not just on a specific holiday date.

Can’t purchase anything right now? Note that most of these bookstores also have online book clubs for a wide range of reading interests. Pop into one of those meetings to connect with fellow book lovers and discover new reads.

I’ve noted where these bookstores are woman owned and/or owned by a proprietor of color. This curated list was developed with the help of a wide array of bookstore lovers on Twitter, so feel free to peruse that list for even more shops to check out. The below were among the smaller and newer shops, as well as from across as broad an expanse of the midwest as possible. Some of your favorites and the better-known indies of the midwest are not noted below, but certainly give those places your love, too.

10 Rad Midwest Independent Bookstores

Books and Mortar, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Woman owned.

Looking to support a small progressive bookstore that stocks and advocates for social justice? You’ll do great right here. This small shop prides itself on being fiercely independent and community minded. The store hosts an annual reading challenge in different age groups to encourage reading widely and even rewards those who complete the challenge with free bookstore cash.

They’re open to online orders throughout the U.S., and for those who spend $50 or more, shipping is on Books and Mortar.

Put in an order here.

Brain Lair Books, South Bend, Indiana

Black woman owned.

This incredible small bookstore was the dream of Kathy Burnette, a former school librarian who wanted to create a bookstore catering to marginalized young readers. The store’s focus highlights stories and voices of and for young people of color, as well as for LGBTQIA+ and disabled folks.

Like other independent bookstores, you can order just about any book you desire through their online shop.

EyeSeeMe, University City, Missouri

Black and woman owned.

Pamela and Jeffrey Blair are the owners of this incredible bookstore focused on showcasing Black stories for Black children. The couple, upon raising four kids and not being able to provide the sorts of stories that engaged their children featuring Black leaders and creators, they decided they’d create a bookstore to make finding these stories accessible for young people.

In addition to the books and games in store, EyeSeeMe also offers literacy and STEM classes, lectures, and mentors for young readers.

Orders ship throughout the USA and can be placed on their website.

Madison Street Books, Chicago, Illinois

Woman owned.

Mary Mollman and Javier Ramirez opened their bookstore in Chicago’s West Loop on March 14, only to close the doors two days later because of the pandemic. The store quickly moved to online orders, offering a steal for nationwide shipping and the opportunity for locals to pick up orders curbside.

Mollman and Ramierez — who stepped down from his role as co-owner recently — are long-time booksellers and set up their shop with the vision of being something different: the fiction is all shelved side by side, while poetry sits up at the front of the store, rather than the back. There is a large children’s selection as well.

Madison Street Books ships across the country.

Moon Palace Books, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Woman co-owner.

You may be familiar with Moon Palace Books if you paid attention to the Minneapolis social justice movements this year, as the store was spared from damage and proudly displayed an “abolish the police” sign. This radical bookstore is owned by husband and wife duo Angela and Jamie Schwesnedl, named booksellers of the year by the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association.

In addition to selling a wide range of new, used, and bargain books, the store has a host of sideline items to help you round out your purchase. Grab yourself a sweet bookmark, stellar tote bag, or even a game or two.

Order online and have items shipped anywhere throughout the country.

Prologue Bookshop, Columbus, Ohio

The owner of Prologue is a former library page and software engineer for Goodreads, who was itching for the chance to work in a space where he could talk books. Enter: Prologue.

This small independent bookstore in the Ohio capital offers a thoughtfully curated collection featuring both beloved titles and bestsellers, as well as titles of community interest.

In-store browsing is open for those in the Columbus region, but anyone across the U.S. can place an online order.

The Raven Book Store, Lawrence, Kansas

Owned by a former employee of the store, this independent bookstore prides itself on being a force for good in the community and beyond. The store stocks social justice books aplenty, as well as a wide array of crime reads and mysteries. All of the store’s titles are thoughtfully curated and appeal to readers of any genre or category of book.

You can place an online order, shipped through USPS, and perhaps that order could be in the form of The Raven’s mystery box of books. Take a chance and see what new gems you fall in love with.

And yes, they have in-store cats for those who are local.

Read Between The Lynes, Woodstock, Illinois

Woman owned.

In full disclosure, this is my independent bookstore, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking it’s one that deserves some more love for all of the work being done in and outside the shop. Since the beginning of COVID, staff at the store have not only worked hard to continue updating the community about the realities of their current situation, but they found innovative ways to continue serving readers. In addition to curbside pickup, locals can have books delivered to their doorstep, and orders are open nationwide. Lynes has an awesome curation, and like most independent bookstores, can order just about anything your heart desires.

If you’re in or near Chicago’s northwest suburbs, the store is open for shopping with limited hours, as well as hours designated for private shopping. And bonus: you can grab a delicious beverage or sweets from the candy/coffee/ice cream bar inside.

Order online from Lynes.

Redbery Books, Cable, Wisconsin

Woman owned.

This small bookstore in a small northwoods town in Wisconsin features both books of interest on the national level, including bestsellers, but it also offers up a host of books of local and regional interest. The store offers what they call “grandreads,” a subscription book service for board books and picture books, which includes a specially selected book, gift wrapping, and shipping of the gift to the lucky reader-to-be.

Bonus: Redbery offers FREE shipping nationwide with no order minimum. You can order from them online.

River Lights Books, Dubuque, Iowa

Woman owned.

In addition to having a wide array of books, puzzles, and other sideline goods, River Lights offers book subscription boxes and what they call a book concierge service. Give them the ages and interests of who you’re purchasing for and they’ll do the shopping for you (with, of course, a chance for you to preview all of those picks before purchase). They’ll even wrap and ship them for you. The easiest gift purchases you’ll make, especially for those hard-to-buy people in your life.

You can order from River Lights online and they ship throughout the U.S.

Bonus: Love’s Sweet Arrow, Tinley Park, IL

Woman owned

Known as only the second brick and mortar bookstore focused exclusively on romance books, Love’s Sweet Arrow would be the perfect place to purchase all of the love stories you need. In addition to offering the titles you know or will be interested in purchasing, Love’s Sweet Arrow has curated a number of book boxes to keep you warm through the cold winter nights that each center around a favorite romance trope.

Order online from Love’s Sweet Arrow for nationwide delivery.