Evanston Poetry Scene – Where to Find Books!

Bookman's Alley

Welcome to this second installment of RHINO’s guide to the Evanston poetry scene! As promised, we’ll start our tour with places to read and write.

The first thing anyone tells us about writing in any genre is that we have to read everything we can get our hands on. Even disregarding Barnes and Noble, there are a lot of books for writers to get their hands on and in here in Evanston, RHINO’s home base.

Evanston Public Library

Where to Find Books

The two main libraries in Evanston, Evanston Public Library and the Northwestern University Library both provide excellent resources to the community and host expansive collections of books. Northwestern’s forte is research, and EPL boasts a wide variety of fiction for kids and adults. Bright, open, and inviting, the public library functions as a literary community center, hosting various book clubs, conferences, and other events (including RHINO’s monthly workshop series, The Forum!).

Near campus, Market Fresh Books is a favorite of “Townies” and “Gownies” alike. They have a wide variety of books in every genre, including a good-sized selection of new releases. The best part? At Market Fresh you pay by the pound.

Bookman’s Alley has been an Evanston institution for more than thirty years. The

Bookman's Alley

quaint storefront opens into a veritable labyrinth of old books, snaking through poetry, western history, children’s books, photography, and more. The owner announced his plans to go out of business in December 2011, but there’s no rush; Mr. Carlson plans to stick around as long as the books do.

Howard's Books

Piled high with books, but well organized and easy to navigate, Howard’s Books is well worth the jaunt north of downtown Evanston. Howard himself runs the shop and is happy to help you find what you’re looking for, happy to let you browse as long as you’d like, even happy for you to sit cross-legged in the middle of the aisle so you can see the books on the bottom shelf.

In and among the larger book stores of Evanston are nestled several tiny ones as well. Amaranth Books’ narrow, no-frills aisles shelve a wide variety of used and rare books whose makeup seems to be half nonfiction and half Literature (with a capital L), all in mint condition and at excellent prices. Further south, Squeezebox Books feels much more playful than Amaranth, with a selection that is small, but off-beat and surprising. Book Den, another tiny space stacked to overflowing with books of all kind, is more or less organized by topic, but definitely built for exploring.

The Chicago-Main Newsstand has been around forever (almost literally), and carries a huge variety of local and out-of-state magazines for all kinds of interests, as well as a huge selection of literary magazines. A perfect place to find inspiration for your own writing.

Chicago Main


Thanks to RHINO Intern Sarah Weber for the research and compilation of this series. Sarah is a senior Theatre and Creative Writing major at Northwestern University. Originally from Dallas, she’s spent the last several months making a concentrated effort to truly get to know Chicago and Evanston and has, in the process, fallen in love with them. She will head to Emerson College in the fall to pursue her masters in publishing.

RHINO wins Mayor’s Award for the Arts from the City of Evanston!

Presented in 2013, the 2012 Mayor’s Award for the Arts is for “contributions to the Evanston community through the demonstration of excellence in the arts. Recipients are selected from nominations submitted by the public at large.”

Thank you, City of Evanston!

We’re so happy to have a home for RHINO Reads! and the Poetry Forum here in Evanston.

The award will be presented at the Annual State of the City Address and Mayor’s Award for the Arts Luncheon, scheduled to be held on March 8, 2013.

Read more about the award here!

Evanston Poetry Scene – places to write and read

We’ve put together a guide to the poetry scene right here in Evanston, RHINO’s home base. This guide will come in four occasional installments: today’s covers favorite spots to think and write and contemplate. Check back soon for community events and publication opportunities, a bookstore lowdown, and a who’s-who of Evanston poets and roundup of our town’s literary cameos.

Places to Write and Read

While Starbucks, Peet’s, and Argo have all set up shop here in Evanston, so have countless independent coffee shops. We at RHINO are especially fond of Brothers K, the host of our monthly reading series, RHINO Reads!. Despite its heavy literary name, Brothers K has a decidedly lighthearted, community-gathering-place feel to it. (The name is a red herring anyway. The owners are two brothers whose last name is Kim.) This is the one of the larger coffee shops around and, while it’s generally buzzing with customers of all ages, it seems there’s always a place to sit and write. The Brothers K’s smaller offshoot in downtown Evanston, The Other Brother, makes up for its size with a relaxing atmosphere and a friendly staff eager to chat with the customers.

Thanks to their proximity to Northwestern Campus, Kafein and Unicorn Café are hotspots for student writers as well as Evanston residents. Open late, offering a menu whose highlights include Grasshopper Milkshakes and Aztec Mochas, and hosting weekly open-mic nights, Kafein oozes artsy-ness. Unicorn Café, a little brighter, a little more modest than Kafein, opens early in the morning and closes at eight pm: perfect for the daytime writer.

Down the street from Amaranth books, Café Mozart has a distinctly (stereotypically?) European feel. In fact, the clientele this afternoon includes a trio of young French people, an Italian couple, and several (presumably American) solos with laptops and legal pads. In a complete 180 flip, the newest of Evanston coffee houses, JJ Java, resembles the garage your high school friend’s awesome parents turned into a lounge for the kids. They’ve taken advantage of their enormous, eclectic space by hosting events for a few Northwestern organizations. However during regular business hours, the shop is quiet, making it a perfect place to write uninterrupted.

For those who prefer a scenic vista to a caffeine pump for their writing inspiration, we recommend Northwestern’s Lakefill. However, the Lakefill is just one of the many scenic vistas from which to draw inspiration. As local poet Parneshia Jones says, “We sit on such a beautiful piece of land. We have this coastal, almost New England feel, while being every bit Midwest at heart. Landscape is important and usually a driving force in a writer’s work. The land, the people, the history provides the artistic community with endless inspiration.”

Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our good friend and RHINO Fourth Sunday Poetry Forum supporter, the Evanston Public Library. Light, airy, and of course, quiet, EPL has 2 locations and provides a full “free” bookstore of inspiration and many places for contemplation.


Thanks to RHINO Intern Sarah Weber for the research and compilation of this series. Sarah is a senior Theatre and Creative Writing major at Northwestern University. Originally from Dallas, she’s spent the last several months making a concentrated effort to truly get to know Chicago and Evanston and has, in the process, fallen in love with them. She plans to head to grad school in the fall to pursue her masters in publishing (location tbd).