About This Blog

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I'm not on board with the whole ebook thing. I enjoy books in all their formats. But there is nothing quite like a bookstore with its neatly arranged shelves of books and artfully created displays of new arrivals, best sellers, and suggested reading. I especially enjoy discovering small, independent bookstores and have made it my mission to visit and report back on as many of these gems as I can. That is my focus, but there is really nothing that is off limits as long as it is about books or reading. Hope you enjoy my blog and come back often.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

All Aboard!

Reading Books
27 S. Squires Street
Rockford, MI 49341

Take a ride on the Reading! No, I'm not talking about the Reading Railroad of Monopoly fame. To be sure, this Reading Railroad sits on iron rails, and yes, it has train cars. But this particular Reading Railroad has books, and a ticket to browse is free. This railroad is a nostalgic used bookstore called Reading Books. My traveling companion on this one-of-a-kind trip was my writer friend Tim. Our conductor, somewhat under the weather, but nonetheless friendly and accommodating was owner, Kim VerHage. Step aboard Reading Books for a unique adventure in train travel.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

King's Castle, Part II

John K. King
Used and Rare Books
901 W. Lafayette Blvd.
Detroit, MI 48226

What could possibly compare with four remarkable floors containing over 900,000 books? I was about to find out.  (If you haven't yet read Part I of King's Castle, I suggest you do so before continuing with this post. Click HERE to learn how this expedition began.)

And now, the King Books adventure continues . . .

I had completed my purchases and was wrapping up my visit when who should arrive on the scene? It was none other than John K. King himself. How did I ascertain the identity of this notable personage? Let me back up a moment to provide some important background and introductions.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

King's Castle, Part I

John K. King
Used and Rare Books
901 W. Lafayette Blvd.
Detroit, MI 48226

From the small-town charm of Montague to the fast-paced excitement of downtown Detroit, one of the great joys of hunting independent bookstores is their broad variety in style and location, each with its own unique appeal. While it may be known as the "Motor City," Detroit is also home to a king, for within its storied downtown area, surrounded by a mote of highways and busy city streets, stands a mighty fortress of the printed word. This four-story structure, once a glove factory, now houses the largest bookstore in Michigan, John K. King Books. Not by any means knightly in manner or countenance, I felt somewhat intimidated by the imposing brick facade. Remembering, however, that the pen is mightier than the sword, I was compelled to storm this castle to discover what riches lay therein.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"Friends Don't Let Friends Drink STARBUCKS"

The Book Nook & Java Shop
8726 Ferry Street
Montague, MI 49437

My sister Sue in front of the Book Nook & Java Shop--Note: No Jacket.

Noting the tongue-in-cheek sign displayed atop the coffee maker at The Book Nook & Java Shop:  "Friends Don't Let Friends Drink STARBUCKS," I realized that here is an establishment fighting the war of independents against the established commercial giants, not just on the printed-and-bound front, but also on the fashionable beverage front. I like this spunky attitude.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The date and circumstances of my visit and the charming locale in which this noteworthy shop resides deserve a certain amount of attention.

November weather in Michigan, by and large, is a mystery. You never know what you're going to get. My Michigan friends will bear witness to the fact that it is possible to have howling winds and snow one day and go out sans jacket the next. November 7, 2011, happened to be one of those jacket-free days when the amount of blue in the sky pretty closely equaled the amount of cloud cover. So I called my sister Sue and suggested that she accompany me to visit a bookstore I had heard about that is not far from her home. Getting to be a regular companion on these bookstore jaunts, (She was with me in Williamston.) she quickly agreed, and her husband Ralph suggested we meet for lunch at a local establishment before beginning our adventure. In addition to the Book Nook, the quaint town of Montague on the shores of White Lake just a stone's throw from Lake Michigan is also home to an assortment of galleries, antique shops, and a most enjoyable lunch spot, Lipka's Old Fashion Soda Fountain. I can think of no better prelude to a bookstore visit than a nostalgic lunch in a historic pharmacy and soda shop. It promised to be a great day.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Slightly Off Topic, Barnes and Noble Book Fair

A post about a visit to Barnes and Noble? I know. I know. This blog is about independent bookstores, and that is indeed my focus. But regular readers will recall that I don't have anything against Barnes and Noble. (See Tiny Giant post.) Before retiring, I regularly took advantage of their educator discount to acquire books for my high school library. Truth be told, I love all bookstores, and I promise to get back on topic with my next post. Meanwhile, this being only my first year of retirement, I still have a strong bond with and affection for Kelloggsville High School and its staff and students. So when I learned that their English department would be holding a book fair at a local Barnes and Noble, I was interested to say the least. When I learned that Gary Schmidt, one of my favorite authors, would be there, I was thrilled. I knew that I had to attend to support KHS and to get my copy of Okay For Now (See Book Reviews and Favorites.) signed by the author.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Doctor's Orders

Literary Life
Bookstore & More, Inc.
758 Wealthy Street, SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Question: What do an old bank, a doctor, and a bookstore have in common? Answer: Not much unless a doctor purchases an old bank and turns it into a unique and interesting bookstore. That is exactly what happened in Grand Rapids, Michigan, when a doctor with a passion for all things literary devoted three years to renovating a classic old bank building. From the dust and debris emerged Literary Life Bookstore & More, Inc., an establishment in which the owner's enthusiasm for the written word is, well, contagious.

Monday, October 10, 2011

All About Frogs and Kids

Tuesday Books
137 W. Grand River
Williamston, MI 48895

Once upon a time in the charming village of Williamston, Michigan, there was a charming bookstore called Tuesday Books, named after, you guessed it, a charming book called Tuesday. David Wiesner's award-winning picture book depicts the amazing story of one "Tuesday evening around eight" when frogs take to the air on lily pads. For a peak into the book via youtube click this link: Tuesday by David Wiesner.  I found the store to be every bit as delightful as the book.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Most Beautiful Place in America, Part III

Leaving the delightful Leelanau Books (see Part II), I set off across the Leelanau Peninsula (see map below) on the third leg of my bookstore discovery trip through "The Most Beautiful Place in America" (see Good Morning America video) and headed toward the small town of Suttons Bay.

Brilliant Books
305 St. Joseph Street
PO Box 550
Suttons Bay, MI 49682

Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go. OK, so I didn't actually cross a river, and if I were to be really accurate, neither did I go through the woods, but when I arrived at Brilliant Books, I felt for all the world like I was paying a visit to someone's friendly and inviting grandmother. The phrase "warm and cozy" is cliche, I know, but it is nonetheless an appropriate description for this comfy shop, located in what looks to be a converted two-story house with an interior that incorporates wood floors and stained wood shelving with many homey touches like a self-serve coffee pot and a small nook for food, cooking, and wine books, aptly called "The Pantry."

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Most Beautiful Place in America, Part II

Leelanau Books
PO Box 1108
109 N. Main Street
Leland, MI 49654

Leaving behind the lovely village of Glen Arbor, (See Part I) I headed north past a scenic mixture of coastal beauty, farmland, and vineyards into the Leelanau Peninsula where I was greeted by the picturesque town of Leland. Situated on the western shore of the peninsula where Lake Michigan and Lake Leelanau meet, Leland is home to a rich assortment of shops and galleries including Leelaunau Books, another recommendation by a friend. (Thanks, Tim.) The charm of Leelanau Books struck me before I even entered the building. The bright white clapboard exterior, punctuated with black shutters has a clean, traditional look replicated within by crisp white walls and shelving. A window seat and windsor chairs sprinkled throughout the shop add appropriately to the charm while displays of postcards, greeting cards and framable posters and maps of the area also grace the space.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Most Beautiful Place in America, Part I

The Cottage Book Shop
5989 Lake Street
Glen Arbor, MI

There I was. Open road ahead. My only companion, the brilliant blue sky looking over my shoulder through the sun roof. It was Wednesday, September 7, the second day after Labor Day, and I was relishing every aspect of this road trip to--drumroll please--The Most Beautiful Place in America. This past August, tens of thousands of Good Morning America fans voted to bestow that honor on Michigan's Sleeping Bear Dunes, and since I was already at the family cottage barely 2 hours from this esteemed locale, I turned my attention to three bookstores in the area. Click this link (GMA video), watch the announcement video closely, and you will get a brief glimpse of the first stop on my scenic tour, The Cottage Book Shop. The scenic drive along the Lake Michigan coast is reason enough for such a road trip, but when a bookstore awaits, well, it just doesn't get any better.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Deception can be a good thing.

Bay Leaf Books
49 E. Lake
P.O. Box 105
Sand Lake, MI 49343-0105

Preferring to forgo the efficiency of the expressway in favor of a more relaxed and far more interesting drive on roads through small towns, I have an assortment of routes that have become my custom when I travel from my home in Lowell, Michigan, to our family cottage near Baldwin. One such route takes me through the small village of Sand Lake. Many times I have passed by the unassuming storefront of Bay Leaf Books. An equal number of times I have thought I should stop to see what this small shop had to offer, but was usually too intent on my journey to the cottage--until recently. The deceptively modest shop exterior belies the noteworthy size and assemblage of items therein.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tiny Giant

Books at a Fifth
4101 13th Ave. S.
Village West Shopping Center
Fargo, ND 58103

Writing from the deck of my house on one of the last perfect summer mornings of August, I am thinking back on all the events of the season and recalling one of the highlights, our annual trek to the yearly convention of the Pyrotechnics Guild International, held this year in Fargo, North Dakota. It was in this lovely city that I discovered Books at a Fifth, a small, but impressive, used bookstore. There it was, snuggled up next to a barbershop in a small strip mall less than two blocks from, of all things, a Barnes and Noble. Now I have nothing against Barnes and Noble. I am in fact a frequent B & N shopper possessing both a membership card and a Mastercard from said store. But outside of discovering whether or not there is a cafe or a music section, when you enter an unfamiliar Barnes and Noble, you know exactly what to expect. It will be very--well--familiar. That's one of the reasons why I find it such a treat to unearth an independent bookstore, rather like trailblazing a new route to a favorite place taking back roads instead of the highway. I was immediately intrigued by this small bookstore that had the chutzpah to be located in such close proximity to the giant of bookstores.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Gem of the North

The Village Bookstore
201 NW 4th Street
Grand Rapids, MN 55744

As we made our way across Michigan's Upper Peninsula (the UP to native Michiganders), my senses were inundated by the breathtaking beauty of the region. More than the quiet splendor of the rolling evergreen forests, more than the wilderness unencumbered by the trappings of urban life, more even than the gloriously rugged vistas along Lake Superior, it was the smell that I most appreciated--the spectacular, fresh piney aroma that permeated my nostrils. Across the UP and northern Wisconsin and into northern Minnesota, the beauty would continue. We were on our way to Turtle Lake, about 40 minutes north of Grand Rapids. (Michigan friends, take note: that's Grand Rapid, MN.) As luck would have it, the area is home to a small mall featuring The Village Bookstore, a shop completely fitting to the region in which it resides.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A New Horizon

Horizon Books
115 S. Mitchell Street
Cadillac, MI 49601

The wailing call of a loon on a still summer evening, a baby laughing, the subtle flutter of book pages being turned--all ear candy to me. The latter treat I enjoyed as I entered Horizon Books in Cadillac, Michigan. One patron, sitting in the comfortable cafe area next to the fireplace, was engrossed in a book while others with laptops were taking advantage of the free WiFi.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

. . . and so it begins

The Book Mark
201 South Rath Avenue
Ludington, MI 49431

A curbside lined with tidy red, white, and blue flowers greets me as I enter Ludington, a tourist town nestled along the shore of Lake Michigan. There is much to like about this town, populated with gift shops and stately Victorian bed and breakfast establishments, and of course, a bookstore, but not just any bookstore. Ludington is home to the bookstore which, I'm sure you realize by now, will be the subject of my first blog entry. With a family summer cottage about 30 miles from Ludington, I have visited this bookstore yearly with my son, an avid reader and also a bookstore enthusiast. I thought it only fitting that the Book Mark be my first subject.