English Major (and Avid Readers)’s Heaven on Earth: Printer’s Row Lit Fest

As a recent college graduate with a degree in English literature and creative writing, I imagine this is what heaven is like: hundreds of thousands of books sold inexpensively within a few blocks by numerous vendors and publishers. Why haven’t I heard about the Chicago Tribune Printer’s Row Lit Fest before? I found out about it Saturday night after the first full day of the event had ended. My mother had happily read the article from the Chicago Tribune to me while we were having dinner. Instantly, I demanded that we go the next day. (I’m not a demanding person, but when it comes to books, you better do what I say!)

The Chicago Tribune Printer’s Row Lit Fest is an annual two-day even on Dearborn Street with hundreds of vendors and thousands of books. This year it took place on Saturday and Sunday June 4th and 5th. Now, here is a link to the Chicago Tribune’s FAQ about the Fest, but I’m going to share what I experienced. First: the smell of books. Does that sound strange? I’m not talking about a stench sort of smell, but the experience of smelling millions of sheets of paper in one spot. If I could have made a huge pile of books and jumped in just to be overwhelmed with the smell of paper, I would have. However, I’m sure vendors would have been upset with me and passer-bys would have thought I was insane. I probably am insane if I want to jump in a pile of books like it’s a ball pit at a McDonald’s Play Place. Not to mention I’m 22 years old.

Second: the crowd. The street was already tight from the tents and tables each vendor had, but there was such closeness between the people on the street that could not be avoided. Yes, we were closely packed. I was constantly brushing against people trying to walk booth to booth and bookshelf to bookshelf. But what I enjoyed was hearing people talk about the books they were picking up. Whispers of their opinion on Samuel Becket or Willa Cather or science fiction and fantasy novels wisped around me. Perhaps I should have joined in on the conversation, but I was in too much awe from touching a grass-woven bound edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1867, if I remember the date correctly) to converse with anyone around me.

One gripe I do have though is that I did not know about this sooner. Let me tell you a little story: My mother was reading the article about the Lit Fest while she and I were having dinner. I clearly was excited over the news of something so amazing being so close. She then proceeds to tell me about how my father used to work on Printer’s Row. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, he worked out there…. And I had no idea! Why wasn’t this news brought up to me before? Because he worked there before my brother and I were born. Over 24 years ago, my father worked on Printer’s Row, but I don’t find out until I finish my degree in ENGLISH and CREATIVE WRITING. Would this have been some inspiring news had I heard it while in high school, or heck, even in college? Why, yes! How kind of you to ask. But I was denied this joy. Despite this overlook by my parents, I have found a new tradition to kick off my summers now that I am back in suburbia.

And with that being said, I need a new bookcase.

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