Milwaukee Cheap & Free: 7 Things All Book-Lovers Should Try

It’s never been cheaper (or cooler) to be a book lover in Milwaukee.

Forgo buying shiny new hardcovers from bookstore chains and use this guide to save some cash while also meeting fellow book lovers.

$20 and under:

Patronize a Used Book Store

Address: 5032 S. 74th St., Greenfield (Half-Price Books), 624 N. Broadway Ave. (Downtown Books)
Estimated Price: $4-20 per book, depending on the type of book

Forget Barnes and Noble – you can buy the same books in (mostly) prime condition for a quarter to half the price at any used or half-price book store around Milwaukee. Local favorites are Half-Price Books in Greenfield and Downtown Books – Bought & Sold on Broadway Ave. If you don’t recognize it by name, Downtown Books is the one with the two cats.

Photo courtesy of iStock.
Summon Your Inner Poet at Woodland Pattern Book Center

Address: 720 E. Locust St.
Estimated Price: $10-20 per book, Free for poetry readings

Woodland Pattern Book Center is mecca for lovers of contemporary literary and poetry. The non-profit sells poetry chapbooks of local writers, who often hold readings in the store and, occasionally, in a park.

$10 and under:

Join a Book Club (or Three!)

Address: Wherever the club’s at
Estimated price: $10 per meeting, if you need to spend on drink/snacks

Milwaukee has no shortage of book clubs, as one glance at Meet Up will confirm – the Pfister even started one! There are clubs for lovers of all genres, for people from all neighborhoods and, in true Milwaukee fashion, for people who like to drink and read (see Books N’ Booze). Joining a book club is pretty inexpensive – usually all you need is a library card and opinions.

2017 Pfister Narrator in Residence Nicole Mattke
Photo courtesy of the Pfister Hotel
Start Your Own Book Club

Address: Your residence or a local coffee shop
Estimated Price: Free, or you can splurge on $10 for snacks/drinks, though budget for more if you intend to cook for your members

If none of the above options scratch your book itch, start your own book club. It can be as unique as you want – if you like mysteries, form a club around that, or if you like westerns that take place in space, that works too. Your club can cost as little as you want, as you can check out books from the library and host a potluck and have your members bring you refreshments.

$5 and under:

Curl Up with a Book Outside or at a Coffee shop

Address: Anywhere that tickles your fancy (we have some suggestions)
Estimated Price: Free if outside, less than $2 if at coffee shop

The beauty of being a reader is that you can take your hobby anywhere for free. In the warm summer months, bring a blanket and enjoy the halcyon weather at Bradford Beach or one of Milwaukee’s many parks. When the air grows too cold to handle, head inside to a local coffee shop, like Colectivo and Rochambo, purchase a small coffee, and the baristas will let you sit and read for hours.

Photo via Shutterstock



Go to an Author Event at Boswell Books

Address: 2559 N. Downer Ave.
Estimated price: Free (+$20 if you buy a signed copy)

There’s more than enough to occupy a literary aficionado for a weekend in Boswell Books just upon entering, but their author events are an extra special treat for prudent book lovers. Some events are ticketed, but more often than not attendance is free. Local writers and national best-sellers alike have graced the back of Boswell with their presence, their stories and if you have cash to spare, a signed copy of their book.

Milwaukee Public Library
Photo by Archer Parquette
Attend a Class or Event at the Milwaukee Public Library

Address: There are events at branches around the county.
Estimated Price: Free

There’s always something going on at the various branches of the Milwaukee Public Library, whether it be photography exhibits, tours, history classes or author visits. When you attend, use your library card to its full potential and check out enough books to keep you from splurging on buying new ones




Since interning for the magazine in spring of 2017, Anna has contributed to both the print publication and website. She has covered topics from women in the workplace to communal gardens and also writes guides to life in Milwaukee. Outside of writing for the magazine, Anna is going back to school at UW-Milwaukee to work towards a career in genetic counseling.