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, June 24, 2013

A Winner In My Book

McLean & Eakin Booksellers
307 E. Lake Street
Petosky, MI 49770

They don't call Michigan a water wonderland for nothing. The state is home to more than 11,000 inland lakes and is the only state to border four of the five Great Lakes giving it over 3,000 miles of fresh water coastline, more than any other state. Stand anywhere in my beautiful home state, and you will not be farther than 85 miles from one of the Great Lakes.* I bristle when I hear people refer to my state as "fly-over country" as though living here were some sort of penance. Such people have obviously never been to Petoskey, an enchanting small town gracing the shore of Lake Michigan's Little Traverse Bay. Beyond its natural beauty, the area has the distinction of being home to Windemere, the Hemingway family cottage on nearby Walloon Lake. Yes, that Hemingway! Petoskey's distinguished literary connection does not end there. Not long ago, best-selling author, Ann Patchett (Bel Canto, State of Wonder), made a reluctant trip to the town and fell in love with it. Read her article for the New York Times, in which Patchett discusses a book tour which took her to the area, specifically to McLean & Eakin, a marvelous bookstore that I recently had the good fortune to visit as well.

Barely had I stepped through the wide open, bright red door than a friendly staff person asked if I needed any assistance. When I explained the purpose of my visit, she immediately directed me to the store office and introduced me to the owners. I was warmly greeted by husband and wife team, Jessilynn and Matt Norcross and their lovable bookstore dog, Edith. Matt's mother started McLean & Eakin in 1992, and it is readily apparent that he and Jessilynn are right at home running the store now. A more committed pair of bibliomaniacs you will not find. One of the first things Matt said to me was, "What was your favorite of the books you've read this year?" With that, a delightful discussion of books was launched.

While Matt went about store business, Jessilynn graciously took the time to provide me with information about the store as well as a tour. Filling two delightful floors, McLean & Eakin is chock full with greeting cards, magazines, puzzles, games, candles, stationery, reading glasses, and of course, many enticing displays of books. A children's area, brightly decorated for summer at the time of my visit, features the latest in great books for kids and a small table and chair set for browsing. A substantial young adult section, tucked away in its own nook on the lower level, provides the perfect place for teens to sit, relax, and discuss what they're reading. 

Wood paneling, exposed brick, and a charming fireplace lend a rustic, yet cozy feel to this lower level. One out-of-the-way room features inviting wing-back chairs surrounded by gardening, cooking, and art books. Here Jessilynn says patrons frequently enjoy spending more than just a few minutes browsing. In yet another area of the store, not surprisingly, visitors will find a special section devoted to the aforementioned Hemingway.

When deciding on something to read, it's always nice to have a recommendation, and Jessilynn says that one of the most popular areas of the store is the "Staff Pics." For still more great reading suggestions, patrons can browse the area featuring book club selections. McLean & Eakin sponsors three store book clubs but stocks titles for other area book clubs as well. The store website also provides a list of book club titles, and with shipping at only 99 cents, online patrons can easily and cost effectively read whatever the clubs are reading.

Special events and author visits are a common thing at McLean & Eakin. A large "Coming Soon" banner hangs from the ceiling displaying no less than 15 events covering late May to early July. A full calendar is also available on the web site. Of particular interest to me is a special author visit scheduled in July. The store went all out entering a contest to win a visit by 2013 Caldecott winner, Jon Klassen. One staff member, Hannah, was instrumental in securing the win for McLean & Eakin by creating a giant stuffed version of Klassen's bear character from the popular book, I Want My Hat Back. Klassen's visit promises to be something really special, and no wonder; McLean & Eakin is really something special. It is itself an award winner having previously earned, among other awards, a Pannell Award for excellence in stimulating and encouraging children's and young people's interest in books.

As I walked around the store with Jessilynn, a former elementary school teacher, I couldn't help but think that she would make an excellent librarian. With her love of books and vast knowledge of titles and authors, she exhibits an uncanny skill for pinpointing a reader's particular likes and easily suggested two titles for me. Rather than try to decide between the two, I bought both: Serena by Ron Rash and The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. In addition, because the store had signed copies, I couldn't resist purchasing the latest novel by Kite Runner author, Khaled Hosseini, titled And the Mountains Echoed.

I could have talked books with Jessilynn all day, but I had taken up a considerable amount of her time as it was, although it seemed only a few moments to me.

After visiting McLean & Eakin myself, I can certainly understand how author, Ann Patchett, became enamored with the place. I did too. McLean & Eakin is a Winner.

*Michigan Information from:

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