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, September 12, 2012

Reading Is Forever


Forever Books
312 State Street
St. Joseph, MI 49085
269-982-1110

There's an old saying in Michigan, "If you don't like the weather, wait 15 minutes; it'll change." The expectation of a week's vacation without at least one rainy day is wishful thinking to say the least. As you can imagine then, I was not surprised when I awoke to rainy weather on our second full day of vacation. (See previous post.) Neither was I discouraged by this climatic development. Quite the contrary, for cloudy skies provide a perfect opportunity for indoor activities which might otherwise engender feelings of guilt when enjoyed on a day when the weather is beautiful and it is nearly a sin to stay indoors. So with the day perfectly suited for a bookstore visit, my son Culver and I headed out on a short road trip from New Buffalo to the nearby town of St. Joseph, home of Forever Books.

True to form, the weather fluctuated throughout the day from rain to drizzle to sometimes even a patch of sunshine, but inside Forever Books, the weather is perfect all the time. Blue skies and puffy white clouds cover many of the walls, and a mural adorns one wall with a beach scene reminiscent of the Lake Michigan coastline along which the town of St. Joe rests. How many times have your heard the saying, "If walls could talk . . ."? Well, the walls in Forever Books actually do, proclaiming proudly the store's dedication to author visits. Signatures, photos, and author drawings grace several of the store walls. And the wall behind the front desk where several awards hang speaks to the popularity of the store. Every year since 2005, Forever Books has been voted Best Bookstore in Southwest Michigan.

It's all about fun in the children's area which comprises about 40 percent of the store. Pint-sized furniture, toys, games, autographed walls, creative displays, and of course a large selection of books all make it easy to understand why the store has been twice nominated for the Pannell Award, a national award which recognizes booksellers who stimulate, promote, and encourage children's and young people's interest in books.

At the young adult level, Culver noticed a comprehensive collection of popular fantasy authors such as Riordan and Paolini.

Elsewhere in the relatively small space, wicker furniture sits comfortably on carpeted floors punctuated with traditional style area rugs adding a comfy cottage feel. Displays of greeting cards, bookmarks, puzzles, and even handbags complement the selection of books. On the day of our visit, another notable item in the store was people, a continuous stream of people. When I asked the store manager Diana if something special was going on, her one-word reply was "summer." Apparently the store is always busy during the summer, and Diana was constantly in motion putting away books, helping a customer locate a title, or serving the people lined up at the counter.

What Forever Books lacks in floor space, it makes up for with an accommodating orientation toward special orders. Very often if a title is not in the store, it can be available within the next day or two. Both Culver and I were interested in specific titles that we could not find on the shelf. Diana suggested that we order them, and since St. Joseph was more or less on our way home, we decided that it would be easy enough to stop by again at the end of our vacation. You don't have to twist my arm to visit a great bookstore twice.

Store owner,  Robin Allen
I did discover one book that I had to have immediately: Guy Noir and the Straight Skinny by Garrison Keillor. Anyone who is a fan of the Prairie Home Companion radio show will immediately understand my attraction to this particular title.

For the rest of the day, the rain would come and go, but my spirits were never dampened, especially knowing that I would be making a return trip to Forever Books in just a few days. When we returned at the end of our vacation, Culver's girlfriend Aly accompanied us, and we had perfect, sunny weather. Our books were waiting for us at the desk. Culver was happy to finally be in possession of a book he had been unable to find, Before the Lights Go Out by Maggie Koerth-Baker. I selected Wonder by R. J. Palacio, a book that has been highly recommended by many school librarians. Our second visit to the store also provided me the opportunity to meet the congenial owner, Robin Allen, who was not present on our first go round.

A small Forever Books sticker was placed on each of our purchases, expressing what I thought to be a very apt motto, "Exceptional Books, Exceptional Service." No matter the weather, Forever Books is a bright spot in any day. 
A few of the drawings and autographs from the wall in Forever Books

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