Bookstore Review: Amaranth Books

Amaranth BooksBookstores can be like old friends. I had a chance to visit one of those while in Evanston, Illinois this weekend. A number of years ago I was at meetings in Evanston and found a wonderful used and rare bookstore called Amaranth Books. C.S. Lewis lover that I am, I found a reasonably priced copy of Allegory of Love. So, when I had a break between morning and evening speaking engagements, I looked up bookstores near where I was staying and discovered it was .3 miles away, just a short walk.

One of my first impressions walking in was of a store neatly organized that optimized display, an extensive selection and ease of moving through the store’s three main aisles, lined with books on each side. Just inside the entry are a good selection of $1 and $2 books. I was tempted by several but limited myself to a biography of Cotton Mather, reflecting my interest in American religious history.

The store also features an extensive selection of used classical CDs, tempting me with another of my loves. I found a recording of Adolphus Hailstork music. Our choral group has sung some of his music and I was delighted to actually find something recorded by him.

Amaranth interiorThe store’s website indicates that they buy and sell children’s literature, classical CDs and DVDs, cultural books, fiction, non-fiction, poetry and rare books. Given the location near Northwestern University, one gets the feel that its appeal is to an educated, literate clientele. In the fiction section there were a number of first editions. I was impressed to find the full Oxford English Dictionary in what looked like mint condition as well as the Grove Dictionary of Opera (four volumes) which I’d not seen a copy of before. I was particularly impressed that the books I looked at were in good condition and, I thought, reasonably priced.

The owner, Joe Warnick, has been in this location for 24 years. Like many booksellers, much of his business is done online and you can search their selection through AbeBooks website. Because he specializes in used and rare books he also buys collections, preferring to work within a 20 mile radius of the store (much of greater Chicago).

Like nearly all booksellers I’ve talked with, he spoke of the challenges of bookselling in the rapidly changing environment we are in–knowing what to buy and stock, how to promote, how to connect with customers. What impressed me, however, was the fine selection and display of books (as well as CDs and DVDs) he achieves in his space without the clutter, dust, disorganization, and indiscriminate attention to book condition one sees in many stores. My only regret was not getting back to see this “old friend” sooner.

Contact information and hours:

Amaranth Books, 828 Davis Street, Evanston, Illinois 60201

Phone: 847-328-2939  Email: amaranthbooks@gmail.com

Hours: Monday – Saturday, 11 – 5:30, Sunday 1-5 (their website indicates that they are closed Sunday, but often in from 1-5–best to call first!)

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