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.

Monday, April 30, 2012

A Bit Of Nostalgia

The Reading Place
136 S. Cochran
Charlotte, MI 48813

I have a guilty pleasure to confess: my husband and I are avid viewers of the TVLand cable network. Ah, the good ole days of TV when not all the shows were in color and there was more show and less commercial time. Our particular favorites are M*A*S*H. and Bonanza. Who can resist the sarcastic, yet charming Hawkeye hurling insults at Frank Burns or the drama of Adam, Hos, and Pa riding in at the last minute to get Little Joe out of yet another unfortunate situation? Perhaps one must be of my generation or older to fully understand the nostalgia these old shows evoke, a nostalgia I did not anticipate encountering when I entered The Reading Place in Charlotte, Michigan.

Not being much of a comic book reader as a child, I had no idea that many of the popular TV shows had comic book cousins. Yet there it was in a wall full of collectible comics at
The Reading Place . . . a Rifleman comic. Memories of my childhood swept over me. The Rifleman had been one of my very favorite shows. What's more, amidst the likes of the X-Men and Spiderman were several comic book versions of other shows from my childhood: Bullwinkle and Rocky, Maverick, Have Gun Will Travel, Wyatt Earp, and even Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. Now that's going way back.

But there's more to The Reading Place than comic books. Owners, Lewis and Emma Trowbridge, have been in the used book business for 33 years, most of them in Charlotte. For my non-Michigan readers, that is pronounced Char lotte' with the emphasis on the second syllable unlike the North Carolina city with the same spelling. Charlotte, Michigan, is a quaint small town about 25 miles southwest of Lansing, and on its main street The Reading Place inhabits a building that has been home to a variety of businesses.

Although paperbacks comprise most of the store's book inventory, there is also a good selection of hardcover titles all at very good prices. Entering the store, shoppers are immediately greeted by long rows of shelves with hardcover titles on the left and paperbacks on the right. Overhead is a gorgeous tin ceiling; underfoot a black stripe in the carpeted floor provides a path leading deep into the store. About half way back is the main desk, and beyond . . . room after room of paperbacks. There are five such rooms in all, every one full, but not crowded, with tidy displays of books from a variety of genres. The Trowbridges have devised a unique and creative way to display many of the collectible paperbacks. They hang in protective plastic sleeves thumbtacked in place to the walls, the ends of bookshelves, or overhead on crossbeams stretching from one row of bookshelves to another with a resulting effect not unlike walking through a tunnel of books, a very pleasant effect indeed for a person such as myself with an extreme case of book lust. Visitors to the store will also find sports cards, magazines, and even a small children's section.

When I stopped at the main desk to chat with Emma, a different kind of nostalgia overtook me as I was reminded of my office in the library at the high school where I worked. Piles of books and a somewhat cluttered desk are to me indications of work in progress and evoke a comfortable, homey feel. Small toys and placards add whimsey. I particularly enjoyed two M & M's playing saxophones and a small card nearby that read "Do you want to speak to the man in charge OR the woman who knows what's going on?" Just the kind of fanciful things I would have had in my library office.

Most of the titles sold at The Reading Place come from customers. An exchange program allows patrons to get credit on a purchase when they bring in books to exchange. I was not surprised to learn that there are many repeat customers who walk away with books for about a dollar. Signs advertising other discounts are visible throughout the store. On my visit, I received an over-55 discount of 10 percent off two Chicken Soup books that I had discovered in the "tunnel of paperbacks." This series was very popular with students in my library, and these will make nice gifts.

On my way out of the store, I noted another thing reminiscent of a library, a large reading promotion mural in the front window. It depicts a family reading a book titled This Magical World of Ours. Themes of fantasy, westerns, space, and nature are represented, under the descriptive heading "Reading For Adventure." What a fitting way to remember my nostalgic adventure at 
The Reading Place.

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