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Local bookstore turns heads and pages

I Know You Like A Book is located at 4707 N. Prospect Road in Peoria Heights. The store is closed Sunday and Monday but opens from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. throughout the weekday. Photo via I Know You Like A Book.

With winter weather around the corner, there’s no better way to fight the cold than curling up in a warm blanket in front of the fireplace (or space heater).

While some people prefer to spend this time watching cheesy Hallmark movies, relaxing with a good novel is a classic and unparalleled indoor activity. That’s where I Know You Like A Book comes into play.

I Know You Like A Book is a bookstore located in Peoria Heights where customers can find a large selection of books. Store owner Mary Beth Nebel has owned the quaint bookstore for 15 years.

“One day, I was getting ready to go to church one morning, and my mother’s voice came in my head, and she said, ‘Mary Beth, I know you like a book,’ and I went, ‘Thanks, mom,’” Nebel said. “So even though she passed away years ago, she named it for me.”

The store offers various genres for customers to enjoy, including contemporary fiction, nonfiction, classics, children’s books, travel books, biographies, mystery and suspense. The store also offers a gift area with book-related objects such as bookmarks, journals, socks and note cards.

I Know You Like A Book also hosts book signings from local and national authors. The signings were typically hosted on Saturdays, but due to the effects of COVID-19, they happen less frequently. Nebel said that authors such as Mitch Albom (“Tuesdays with Morrie,” “The Five People You Meet in Heaven”), J. Ryan Stradal (“Kitchens of the Great Midwest,” “The Lager Queen of Minnesota”) and David Green (“Giving It All Away…and Getting It All Back Again,” “A Generous Life”) have visited.

As most local businesses struggled and worked with what they could during the pandemic, Nebel still made an effort to meet her customers’ needs by delivering books to them.

“I went to the store two or three times during the week in the morning, and I would check phone messages, emails, new mail and messages that people would place orders,” Nebel said. “And in the afternoons, I would drive around Central Illinois and drop off the books that my customers wanted. It was kind of fun.”

While the store has been open for 15 years, national attention did not emerge until it was recommended by an established author, which surprised Nebel. In J. Ryan Stradal’s novel “Kitchens of the Great Midwest,” the author gave two businesses a mention.

Stradal and Nebel met at a conference in New York. Nebel stated that Stradal’s publisher asked him to write an appendix describing the United States, specifically the Midwest. In his novel, Stradal had mentioned two businesses, saying, “If you ever happen to be in Peoria, Illinois stop by this independent bookstore called I Know You Like A Book, grab a book and have dinner across the street at Hearth Restaurant.”

“[Stradal] mentioned that, and I gave a copy to Hugh Higgins, the [Hearth] restaurant owner,” Nebel said. “I said, ‘Hugh, we’re international, just think about it.’ It was really something.”

In light of her accomplishments, Nebel has the goal to continue her work through the bookstore.

“I want to keep going,” Nebel said. “I enjoy [owning the shop] so much; the conversations that you have with people about reading, languages, writing, it’s just personal as well as a business.”

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