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, November 12, 2012

Absolutely Brilliant

Brilliant Books
118 E. Front Street
Traverse City, MI

Retirement affords me many luxuries. I can go for a walk in the middle of the day on a Monday or decide to completely chuck my original plans for the day because I suddenly found myself caught up in an engaging movie on AMC. I can grocery shop at 10 a.m. on a weekday without the companionship of crowds. Afterwards I can cook. Real meals. From scratch. With fresh ingredients. I can go to the mall around the holidays at convenient times when the parking lots aren't full. At the risk of being perceived as rubbing salt in the wounds of those of you still laboring at gainful employment, I have to say that one of the greatest luxuries of all is the freedom to hit the road on a beautiful fall day during the week when normal people are working. Whether planned or as the mood strikes, such road trips are always something to be savored. This past October the opportunity for one such road trip presented itself. I took a drive to Traverse City, Michigan, to visit with my old high school friend Tim, who had accompanied me on my trip to Reading Books, the store in an old train car. It goes without saying that there would likely also be a bookstore involved in this trip.

On my trip to "The Most Beautiful Place In America" a little over a year ago when I had barely begun my blogging adventure, I had occasion to visit Brilliant Books, a wonderful little bookstore in nearby Suttons Bay. Since that time, Brilliant Books has opened a new store in downtown Traverse City. An old friend, a new bookstore . . . what more could a retired librarian ask for except maybe perfect weather. It's not often that mid October in northern Michigan supplies sunny, 70-degree weather, but this was one such day. Having made arrangements with Tim to meet at Brilliant Books, I happily hit the road. Oh, and did I mention that it was a Wednesday?

Helpful, friendly store manager, Jack
I am happy to report that the friendly, inviting charm of Brilliant Books is alive and well in the new Traverse City store which at the time of my visit was just about to celebrate its first year in business with an anniversary party complete with prizes, crafts, and goodies. Special events are commonplace at Brilliant Books. Jack, the store manager, described some of the recent author events and special activities such as a Star Wars Reads day when costumed characters from the movie series could be spotted in the store. Check out the altercation that store owner Peter had with Boba Fett on the Brilliant Books Facebook page. The store also participates in local events such as the recent National Writers Series held at the City Opera House just down the street. And Jack informed me that during Poetry Month, the store will likely have at least one special event per week.

While the new store exudes the same character and welcoming atmosphere of the Suttons Bay store, the physical space is quite different. Larger than the old store, the new Brilliant Books has an airy artist's loft feel. I was not at all surprised to learn that the building was formerly an artists collective and gallery. Overhead the high ceilings are accented with simple track lighting. Below, old wood floors with worn paint, and visible knots and nail holes create an industrial look especially when combined with the metal floor in the center of the shop where leather ottomans and a suede sectional define the "hang out with coffee" area. A self-serve carafe is kept full with freshly brewed coffee from Higher Grounds, a local company. 

I was drawn to a nook in the front of the store where I spotted an old typewriter situated on what looked to be an antique school desk. For my younger readers, a typewriter is a machine in which the user places a sheet of paper and after pressing keys similar to those found on a laptop, is able to immediately see the letters printed on the paper. My college days sprang immediately to mind. Jack told me that the store has plans to make this typewriter station available to customers who may wish to purchase a postcard and type it out the old-fashioned way.

In addition to postcards, Brilliant Books has a large selection of greeting cards of all kinds, as well as calendars, reading glasses, unique mugs, fridge magnets, and other fun things. I always enjoy a good play on words, so of course I was attracted to the array of fun mints--embarrassmints, disappointmints, enlightenmints, and retiremints--to name a few. More than simply mints, however, this product is an apt representation of the witty sense of humor that is a big part of what Brilliant Books is all about.

The kids are not left out at Brilliant Books. Quite the contrary, the children's section is designed such that younger readers have their own mini store within a store. Tucked away behind its own "front desk," this colorful, cheery area boasts an abundance of children's titles amidst kid-friendly posters, stuffed animals, brightly-colored small chairs, and a pint-sized table topped with a toy train track. What a fun place for a kid to hang out while Mom and Dad browse.

I took great interest in one special Brilliant bookcase filled with signed editions. From across the room I had noticed one author in particular, Sherman Alexie. His YA title, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, is one of my favorites. So when I saw the autographed copy of his new short story collection, Blasphemy, I made an easy purchasing decision. Nearby I also noticed a signed copy of Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova. I have read and enjoyed her book The Historian, and have been meaning to pick up a copy of Swan Thieves. Jack mentioned that Kostova had been in town for the aforementioned National Writers Series. Sorry I missed that one, but at least I now have a signed edition of her book. With so many special events going on at Brilliant Books, I guess I will have to make it a point to take a road trip to Traverse City more often.

As I had just about finished browsing the store, my friend Tim arrived. Before heading off for lunch, I paid for my purchases and thanked Jack and Peter for another lovely visit at another impressive Brilliant Books.

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