The Run Down

We’re going music and book shopping in Andersonville today. The great thing about record stores and bookstores is that you don’t have to buy anything to enjoy yourself—browsing covers and reading back summaries, mind racing with anticipation of what’s contained—that’s its own fun. The difficult thing about records and books is you usually want to buy more than your wallet allows. Today, we’re looking at three different shops in Andersonville’s famed commercial district on Clark Street.

1. Records @ Rattleback Records

2. Books @ Women & Children First

3. Comics @ Graham Cracker Comics

1. Rattleback Records

Any neighborhood with a claim to cultural coolness needs a good record store. Situated towards the northern end of Clark Street, Rattleback is an unassuming, no-frills shop with a ridiculously good collection of records. The combination of new and used inventory in a streamlined space makes for an all killer, no filler browsing experience.

Rattleback also holds in-store events, including concerts and album signings. Come on the right day and you might get treated to an acoustic set from a local artist. These happen sporadically so following them on Instagram is probably the best way to keep tabs on their in-store events.

If you’re lucky, one of Rattleback’s “mystery box” sales will be going on, and you can go home with a stack of 45s to explore. Hold up, though. If you’re really into exploring new music? Sign up for the Rattleback Record Club, a monthly subscription service tailored to your tastes but with an eye towards introducing new music.

“But wait,” you might be thinking. “I’ve got a cool record collection already. What I need is the full 3-D experience. I need posters, I need knick knacks, I need band T-shirts.” Oh, you sweet soul. Rattleback has already heard you, dude, anyone who’s seen High Fidelity has already heard you. Don’t fear the reaper and stock up all manner of record junkie paraphernalia.

2. Women & Children First

We’re heading south on Clark, straight down into the heart of Andersonville’s main drag. A Chicago bibliophile destination for decades, Women & Children First is comfortable in its own skin. Sitting on the corner of Clark and Farragut, a long, purple awning bears the stores’ name boldly across the Clark side.

The Farragut side is a brick wall with elaborate chalk murals, usually emblazoned with messages signaling this is a safe place for marginalized groups: Black Lives Matter, Black Trans Lives Matter, LGBTQ+ pride. The store is also incredibly worker-friendly, having transferred co-ownership to two employees after the original owners decided to (semi)-retire.

Inside, the inventory backs up the mission statement. Fiction and non-fiction alike boast works from cutting-edge writers and thinkers, with an emphasis on social justice, equality and inclusivity, and building a better world.

The center of the store features a large and open children’s section, with plenty of books and elementary-sized seating to read them in.

Fiction and poetry line the immediate walls, complete with staff picks and new release displays. Around the corner from the cash registers, you’ll find shelves devoted to LBTQ+ issues, social justice issues, and even reformed-minded cookbooks.

Women and Children First goes beyond the simple commerce of books, though. The store frequently holds readings and book signings, featuring both local and nationally known authors. Don’t forget to bring a couple of quarters and pick up a poem from the poetry gumball machine on your way out.


3. Graham Cracker Comics

Further down Clark, almost to St. Boniface Cemetery, sits a tall blue building you’d be forgiven for mistaking for a house. “Whoever lives there must love Spider-Man,” you think, noticing the life-size Peter Pan in the window. Stop, law-abiding citizen! It’s not a house! It’s Graham Cracker Comics!

Having outgrown their former location in Edgewater, Graham Cracker Comics makes use of their space. Marvel and DC titles abound, sure, but there’s more to comics publishing and there’s more to this store. Independent comics of all stripes provide the chance to discover something new, while boxes of cheap back issues promise the chance to catch anything you might’ve missed.

They’ve got your collectible needs covered, too. A wall of Funko pops stands sentry by the cash register, tin lunch boxes and other knick knacks abound, or you can finally buy that Superman shirt you’ve been dying to reveal via button-down ripping. Whatever your nerd culture needs, the helpful staff here has got your back. Remember: not all heroes wear capes, but all indie retailers are heroes.