Today Laura and Joelle are joined by Tanner McSwain owner of Uncharted Books, a used and rare bookstore, secret club, and event space in Andersonville at 5140 N Clark.
Listen to Episode 89 with Tanner McSwain!
- To start off, Andersonville is known for its many shop animals, and Uncharted Books is no exception with their resident shop dog and mascot, Ramona Flowers Quimby Age 8 Adams McAdams McSwain, or just “Ramona” for short, who is joining in on the #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast fun with her human, Tanner. She’s a husky and rescue from Paws, and may serenade us later in the show. She’s sweet, beautiful, and she knows it.
- To kick things off, a few curated good book-based jokes.
“What do you get when you mix alcohol and literature? Tequila Mockingbird.”
“Why did the reader give up on Pride and Prejudice? The characters were too Austen-tatious.”
“I just read a book called, ‘How to Survive Falling Down a Staircase,’ it’s a step-by-step guide.”
HARRY POTTER SPOILER
“I found the first four Harry Potter books to be quite light-hearted and funny. The fifth one was dead sirius.” Fun Fact: Harry Potter (and JK Rowling) and Laura have the same birthday.
“I asked the librarian if she had any books on paranoia, she leaned in close and whispered, ‘They’re behind you.’”
“What kind of dinosaur writes romance novels? A Bronte-saurus.
- Ok, seriously though. Tanner was born on a chicken farm in rural North Carolina, whose mother was a high school English teacher and father a farmer. He went to UNC, and then moved to Chicago on a whim, under the recommendation that “Chicago is like New York, but with nice people.” He liked it, and 11 years later, he’s still here. Now married, with a dog, and a bookstore. Prior to Uncharted, he was in publishing. He noticed big bookstores, like Borders, were closing and after lots of research, took advantage of the opening in the retail book store market.
- He first opened Uncharted Books in Logan Square in 2012. And moved to Andersonville this past summer in July 2019. It was hard to leave Logan Square, but easy to choose Andersonville. He selected Andersonville for its culture and because it’s known to be one of the most independent/small business friendly neighborhoods in Chicago. It’s not all too different from Logan Square, and he remarks that there is a similar appreciation for their aesthetic, and curiosity and support for independent businesses overall in both neighborhoods. When asked how moving went, “It was as smooth a transition as moving 30,000 books across the city can be,” Tanner says.
- Uncharted Books sells a highly curated selection of used books, zines, a rare titles. The collection is acquired a couple of different ways. Uncharted buys books from the public Mondays and Tuesdays, 12-6PM. The process is simple, you can bring in a book, which could be accepted for cash or store credit. “The way the curation process goes, is that we like to tell people that we are looking for books that are really good, weird, or ideally both.” Uncharted looks less for popular titles, and more for literary books, unusual titles, and anything that might make your grandparents give is the ‘side eye.’ They want that.
- For rare books, sometimes Uncharted is fortunate to receive these directly from sellers, but Tanner is more active is seeking these out. He visits estate sales, library sales, auctions, etc. When he opened the store, the agreement was that he wouldn’t horde books at home anymore. So, he tries to only keep books that have particular personal importance.
- Uncharted hosts many events. Monthly recurring series events and one-offs. And in fact, Uncharted has a secret room, behind a secret bookcase door that reveals “The Adventurer’s Club,” which functions as event space, rare books room, and co-working space. Events include independent author readings, lectures, interviews, open mics, a comedy show called “Congrats on Your Success,” and small community events. Typically 3 or 4 events per week, which you can see here. In particular, the co-working space is available for $99/month, which gets you access to all amenities – access to all events, a space to read, use the reference library, write, bring clients, do homework, play board games, etc. And 10% off all books. If you’d like to test it out first, you can use the co-work space for $12/hour. There is even a vintage sound-proofed phone booth!
- A quick hello from Ramona, who very much enjoyed her new toy from her favorite shop, Jameson Loves Danger.
- The layout of Uncharted Books is laid out based on logic, like kids books are on short cases that are accessible. On the south wall are books on occult, religion, philosophy, psychology, science. Fantasy and sci-fi are next to each other. Tanner tries to keep local writers and artists in the front, and likes to rearrange frequently as well.Among the books, Uncharted also carries collectibles, like telescopes, globes, and clocks, which lend to the adventure theme of the store. The artwork is mostly from thrift stores, flea markets, and all over.
- When you meet Tanner, you might notice his “flair.” Buttons! He and his partners are big Disney fans, and particularly love pin trading. They have a pin trading board in the store in the kid section, where you can leave one and swap one.
- Uncharted is participating in Late Night Andersonville on December 6 & 20. They are offering the deal of buy 2 used books, get 1 free. Other events happening at Uncharted are “Congrats on Your Success” on Thursday, December 5, “Excited Utterance” a reading series is on Friday, December 6, “Other People’s Poetry” is on Monday, December 9, and Carrie McGath’s Poetry Salon open mic on December 10, and so much more! Find it all here.
- Does Tanner have a go-to book recommendation? Tanner has so many, and the store has staff-picks. His favorite book of all time is Treasure Island, and most recently The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. He is also reading Tegan and Sara’s High School. Tanner keeps a small calendar notebook, which he lives by. He also has a giant notebook, where he writes (he’s an author), and works out ideas.
- If Tanner could trade with any Andersonville business for a day, it would Women & Children First, his favorite book store ever since he’s been in Chicago. He loves their character, point of view, and they have the best events and aspires to be like them as a book store owner. This episode is brought to you by Lakeshore Dental Studio located at 5505 N Clark, where they are proud to provide a modern dental experience for patients in Andersonville. Keep your smile bright this season with a free take-home whitening treatment. You can claim your gift after your first exam, cleaning and x-rays. Offer valid for new patients only, cannot be combined with any other offers. Find out more at lakeshoredentalstudio.com or on Facebook.
Visit Uncharted Books on the following platforms: