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.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Perks of an Electrical Co-op

Chad Pastotnik with his linotype machine
Deep Wood Press
P.O. Box 726
121 Doerr Road
Mancelona, MI 49659

You never know where or how good fortune might come your way. You just have to be ready to accept it when it does. Who would have thought, for instance, that being part of an electrical co-op could lead to one of the most engaging and memorable book adventures I have enjoyed to date. Allow me to elaborate. Our electrical service at the cottage in Baldwin comes from the Great Lakes Energy Cooperative, and as part of that organization, we receive each month a copy of Michigan Country Lines, a brief publication featuring news about the energy industry, electrical safety, energy-saving tips, GLE business information and the like. I enjoy thumbing through the magazine stopping to read in more detail the recipes that are a regular feature, and occasionally an article of local interest will capture my curiosity. Browsing this past October's edition, I found myself riveted by one such article, Michigan's Bookmaker, about Chad Pastotnik, creator of literary beauty the handcrafted way.

Sunday, November 29, 2015


Last month I had the privilege of meeting book artisan, Chad Pastotnik, and touring his studio in northern Michigan. A post about my adventure is coming soon. He was the subject of an episode of the American Public Television series, A Craftsman's Legacy. Here's a trailer for that episode:

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Library Classic

Wexford County
Historical Society Museum
127 Beech Street
PO Box 124
Cadillac, MI 49601

What do you do with a lovely old Carnegie library building once the library has moved on to new digs? Create a historical museum, of course. In my last blog post, I spoke of just such a building in Cadillac, Michigan. After a visit to the Cadillac Wexford Public Library, I went in search of the original Carnegie library building across town. I found the stately building easily, thanks to perfect directions from Tracy at the CWPL. Situated on the corner of a tree-lined, brick-paved street, the grand structure dominates this Cadillac vicinity. I quickly found a parking space nearby, eager to get some pictures of the impressive classical revival building and then be on my way. Or so I thought.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Words of Wisdom Revisited

Cadillac Wexford County
Public Library
411 S. Lake Street
Cadillac, MI 49601

Location! Location! Location! This mantra of the real estate world can often be applied with equal relevance in other areas of our lives. How close is that town to the highway? Is that camp site right next to the bathroom? Is that college near a bus station? Are these seats close enough to the stage? A bad location can ruin something otherwise suitable. A great location can make something mediocre into something good.

A great location can also make something great even better. The Cadillac Wexford County Public Library is a case in point. I was impressed with this library before I ever set foot inside based on two things: the wonderful Albert Einstein quote prominently displayed on the side of the building and the stunning location across the street from a lakeside park. I happened across this library quite by accident last summer and wrote a brief post about it, promising myself I'd return sometime when it was open. So on a sunny day in early October when the glorious Michigan fall color was just starting to appear, I set out on a pleasant drive from our cottage in Baldwin to the town of Cadillac about an hour away.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Art Books

Closeup of the detail in A Vintage Dream
You know I love books of all kinds. Coffee table art books are no exception. Monet and Escher proudly grace the table in our living room. But books as art? Now there's something I can really get behind. That is just what I had the opportunity to see this past September while visiting ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan--three unique entries, each featuring books. Now if you live outside of West Michigan, you may not be familiar with this art festival, currently in its seventh year. For nearly three weeks, three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids becomes one big art show during which more than $500,000 in prize money is awarded, half by a jury of art experts, and half by public vote. Artists and visitors from all 50 states have visited ArtPrize, and artists from 47 countries have participated. This year more than 1,500 entries were viewed. I was one of the many thousands of visitors.

I thought it worth sharing these three diverse works featuring books in three very different ways. The first one I might have missed as it was in a rather out-of-the way location. Thanks to my friend Cassie for sharing this very unique dress. That's right, a dress. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Update: After the Storm

New owner, Sue Boucher
The Cottage Book Shop
5989 Lake Street
Glen Arbor, MI 49636

Outside of an infancy spent in Texas when my dad was in the Air Force, I have lived my entire life in the beautiful state of Michigan. I love my state. It may be flyover country to many, but I can't imagine living anywhere else. I have been blessed to be able to visit many of Michigan's lovely scenic areas, and early in my blogging life I did a series of posts on "The Most Beautiful Place In America." Conferred by popular vote on the Good Morning America show, this designation refers to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in northern Michigan. Not only beautiful, this area is also home to several great bookstores. I have visited the Cottage Book Shop in Glen Arbor several times.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Oh, the Horror!

The Next Chapter
Bookstore & Bistro
141 E. Main Street
Northville, MI 48167

I scream. You scream. We all scream for ice cream! And the bibliomaniacs among us occasionally scream for books. Contemplating life without books? Oh, the horror! But horror literally in a bookstore? Now there's something to wonder about.

As usual, I'm getting ahead of myself. Allow me to back up and explain the horror of The Next Chapter Bookstore.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Remarkable Woman, A Remarkable Place

Gwen Frostic Prints
5140 River Road
PO Box 300
Benzonia, MI 49616

My aim is to bring you the wind in the trees or the very first violet of spring, a bit of serenity that exists in this world. I hope after reading or hearing the news at the end of the day, you may feel that loveliness is still of this world. Man must live with nature and cannot separate himself from it . . . he is an integral part of the whole.
Gwen Frostic

In a densely wooded area near the small town of Benzonia in northern Michigan, off the beaten path, lies a most unique shop. It is the print shop of naturalist, poet, philosopher, and artist, Gwen Frostic. The artist is no longer with us, but her spirit and work live on in this amazing structure, a place I was thrilled to visit this past July.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Words of Wisdom

I recently enjoyed a pleasant drive to the northern Michigan city of Cadillac. This scenic tourist town was actually the site of a very early blog post I wrote four years ago. Quite by coincidence I happened past the local public library, and when I noticed a quote prominently featured on the front of the building, I had to turn my car around to take a picture. This is worth sharing.

I have great respect for Albert Einstein even though, or maybe because, I can't come close to comprehending his work. The librarian in me certainly likes his way of thinking. This is what knowledge and education are all about.

What an impressive location this is for a library. Look closely at the reflection in the windows, and you will see beautiful Lake Cadillac across the street. Kudos to the Cadillac library. It was closed when I passed by, but I think a future visit is likely.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Tip of the Mitt, Part IV

Purple Tree Books
334 North Main Street
Cheboygan, MI 49721

Purple is my favorite color. What's not to love about the royal color, the product of a union of red and blue, two perfectly respectable colors in their own right. The color of mystery, magic, eggplants, and amethysts, majestic purple was worn by ancient rulers and Roman Catholic bishops. I must not be alone in my love of the color. There is even a purple Web page. Literally! (purple.com) And a purple store, which as you probably guessed, sells nothing but purple items. (thepurplestore.com) You can imagine how excited I was to discover a bookstore with a special association to this lovely color. More about purple later. First, let me introduce you to Purple Tree Books.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Tip of the Mitt, Part III

The Island Bookstore
215 E. Central Ave.
P. O. Box 1006
Mackinaw City, MI 49701

Who doesn't love a good picture book? One of the biggest advantages of kids and grandkids is that they provide a reasonable excuse to read these illustrated literary works. Not that I've ever needed an excuse, mind you. Some of my favorite books are picture books. But what about a picture bookstore? That was a new one on me, and that is precisely what I encountered in Mackinaw City. Allow me to explain.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Tip of the Mitt, Part II

The Island Bookstore
Main St. Center
PO Box 1298
Mackinac Island, MI 49757

With a view of the magnificent Mackinac Bridge in the distance, historic Mackinac Island, sitting in the blue-green waters of Lake Huron, attracts swarms of visitors every summer. Stepping off the ferry onto the Island is somewhat akin to time travel. Mass transit is strictly of the literal horsepower variety. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the Island. A walk down the quaint Main Street involves sharing the road with horse-drawn carriages and bicycles.

The hotels, stores, and restaurants are abuzz with activity during the warm weather season, but as the temperatures drop, so does the number of tourists. Hotels and stores close, and the hustle and bustle ceases until the next warm season. The Island is not entirely deserted in the winter, however. A residual group of citizens remains. For them the Island is a year-round home. One such resident is Mary Jane Barnwell, who along with her brother and sister-in-law, are the owners of The Island Bookstore.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Tip of the Mitt, Part I

Mackinac Island
Public Library
Mackinac Island, Michigan

One of the sweetest benefits of retirement is that I am free to visit tourist destinations before the arrival of the actual tourist season and all of the accompanying hordes of vacationers. Taking advantage of this luxury, I set out on a sun-filled day to begin an adventure in one of my favorite Michigan areas, the Tip of the Mitt, home to the Mighty Mac, our Mackinac Bridge. Joining Michigan's Lower and Upper Peninsulas at the intersection of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, the "Bridge" as it's known to my Michigan friends, is a "must-see" summer destination. But in case you aren't from Michigan and are unfamiliar with our Bridge, suffice it to say that it is longer than the Golden Gate (five miles from end to end) and, in my less-than-humble opinion, more beautiful than San Francisco's bridge, no disrespect intended. You haven't fully experienced Michigan until you have crossed the spectacular Mackinac Bridge.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Share: For Book Lovers

There are pros and cons for both ebooks and printed books. I read ebooks on occasion, but my strong preference is for paper books. I love the feel and the smell of paper books. And I have lots of fabulous bookmarks. How can I use those with an ebook? If you're like me, you'll appreciate this parody of All About That Bass created by the folks at The Book Man in British Columbia, a store that is on my bucket list for obvious reasons. Thanks to my friend, Cassie, for sharing this.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Froggin' Around

Bluefrog Books
3615 E. Grand River Ave.
Howell, MI 48843

A sunny day, a pleasant drive, and discovering another bookstore--it just doesn't get much better than that, unless of course you discover two great bookstores in one day. In my last post I gave an account of my stop at Owosso Books & More on my way to visit my son and daughter-in-law in their new home in Howell, Michigan. As luck would have it, Howell is home to a great bookstore of its own, and my daughter-in-law, Alysandra, was happy to check it out with me while we waited for my son, Culver, to get home from work. After a quick stop at the town library (possibly a future blog post), we headed out to Bluefrog Books.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Small World

Owosso Books & More
119 W. Exchange Street
Owosso, MI 48867

"It's a small world!" 
Disney World attraction aside, the expression is ubiquitous, yet I am still taken aback when a situation occurs that brings to mind this cliché. Such was a recent experience of mine. But I am getting ahead of myself. Allow me to back up and explain.

My husband and I recently acquired a daughter-in-law. To be precise, on March 14, (appropriately, Super Pi Day, 3.14 15) my physics-major son married his physics-major sweetheart. He got a lovely wife, and we got a wonderful daughter. The couple is setting up their household in the small Michigan town of Howell between Lansing and Detroit. So on a recent sunny spring day, I embarked on a drive to visit their new digs. I decided to take the back way, always my preference, which took me along Michigan Highway 21 to the charming town of Owosso about 30 miles northeast of Lansing. Now, I don't think it will come as any surprise when I tell you that Owosso is home to a bookstore. And I was lucky enough to find a parking space right in front of Owosso Books & More.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

In the Market for Books

Any true bibliomaniac will tell you that bookstores aren't the only purveyors of books. Library sales, drug stores, department stores, big box stores, garage sales, and even Goodwill can offer the book lover a possible new read or at the very least, the opportunity to thumb a few pages and inhale the intoxicating aroma of the printed page. Highly unlikely, however, is finding books for sale in my favorite place for acquiring something tasty to throw on the grill. Nevertheless, such is the case at O'Brien's Market & Deli in Ada, Michigan.

Here we momentarily interrupt this blog post for a shameless, yet unsolicited plug. At O'Brien's you will find the best beef kabobs ever, provided you get there before they have sold out. You'll also find everything you need to complete the meal from tasty deli salads to the perfect wine. And my husband says O'Brien's meatloaf is "to die for."

Okay, now back to our regularly scheduled blog post. I've been a fan of O'Brien's for a while, but when I noticed that they had started selling books, my face lit up with a smile as big as Christmas. Granted, it's only one rack. But still. It's not the size of the endeavor, but the location that is special here. And what bargains! Hard cover books are $4, paperbacks go for $2, and titles by the author of the month, currently Jonathan Kellerman, are only a buck.

During my most recent stop at O'Brien's, I enjoyed meeting Matt Moore, fellow book/bookstore enthusiast and manager of book sales at the Market. We swapped a few stories about some of our favorite library and book shop experiences. (There's a place in Florida that I have to add to my bucket list.) Matt shared that he has started a store of his own about an hour north in Newaygo, a town that I frequent during the warm weather months as it is on my route from home to our cottage in Baldwin. This charming town is also home to Bay Leaf Books, another bookstore that I love to visit and have blogged about in the past. One small town, two bookstores--two reasons to look forward to my next trip through Newaygo.

Books are always in my thoughts, but now that winter is over and grilling season is here, kabobs are on my mind as well.

Food, wine, and books--a winning combination at O'Brien's Market & Deli.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Double Winner

Spring is in the air! Last week the temperature reached 60 degrees, the robins are back, and the gold finches are turning gold again. The illness that was my companion for nearly half the winter has disappeared along with the dirty snow piles. And with the arrival of spring, my thoughts turn to the family cottage, my favorite base of operations for scouting bookstores.

This year it seems that a store from one of my past adventures is in the running for Publishers Weekly bookstore of the year. (Thanks for the heads up, Paula.) McLean & Eakin, a wonderful store in Petoskey, is among the top five candidates in the country with the winner to be announced later this month. Top Five! Wow! Read about this charming store as well as the other four candidates in this Washington Post article.

Congratulations to McLean & Eakin, a deserving bookstore indeed. I called it a "Winner" in my original post a couple of years ago. I'm happy to see that Publishers Weekly agrees. In case you missed it, here's my original post: McLean & Eakin.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Great News

Independent bookstores are on the rise. Yes, you read that correctly. Independent bookstores have increased by 27 percent since 2009. Who knew? Well, I did. When I first began this blog, I had my concerns, but my experience has been quite positive. As I have mentioned in previous posts, indie bookstores appear to be thriving.

Recently on its program, Stateside with Cynthia Canty, Michigan Radio aired an interview with Janet Jones, owner of Source Booksellers in Detroit. Janet offers her ideas about why indie bookstores are doing so well in this age of e-readers. This sounds like a lady I have to meet and a bookstore I have to visit.

You can listen to the 9-minute story here: Indie Bookstores.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Books! Books! Books!

Donation box at Fox Subaru in Grand Rapids, MI
Question: What do a retired librarian, a car dealership, and Dr. Seuss have in common? Answer: Books, of course. Big books, small books, green books, tall books. Books to read. Books to share. Books could turn up anywhere. In case you weren't already aware, MARCH IS READING MONTH!! And how better to kick off the month than by celebrating the March 2nd birthday of one of the most beloved children's authors, Dr. Seuss.

So how does the car dealership fit in you may be wondering? As it happens, this year when I visited my local Subaru dealership, Fox Motors, for a service appointment, I was also able to contribute to the Read n' Give program. As a business partner in the program this year, my local dealership is one of many businesses giving their time and resources to promote reading. Part of the promotion includes book collection boxes, and I was happy to donate a couple books while my car was being serviced.

The mission of Read n' Give, according to the program web site is to "collect, share, read, donate, and pass on books in a continuous cycle of giving." To that end, the program promotes not just literacy, but philanthropy as well by collecting books and promoting the idea of passing them on. The web site even offers teacher resources and ideas for teaching philanthropy to students at all K-12 levels.

Photo: PR Newswire
What a great idea!! Check the web site to see if there is a Read n' Give promotion in your area.

On a related and timely note, not long ago a previously unpublished Dr. Seuss manuscript was discovered, and a brand new Seuss book, What Pet Should I Get, is due to be published this July. Great news for Seuss lovers of all ages. Read about it here: New Seuss book.

Happy Reading Month!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Book Review--Not!

I don't fancy myself a book reviewer. I am not skilled at it, nor do I enjoy it. But every now and then I read a book that I feel compelled to talk about. One such book is The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.

This book was written for people like me--people who love bookstores and their owners. But Fikry is not what one would at first consider a lovable owner. He is cranky and antisocial. He stocks only books that he likes, and his likes are quite limited. No young adult fiction, no postapocalyptic fiction, no novelty items, and definitely no vampires. In short, no fun, by today's standards at least. It's not surprising, then, that his store, Island Books, has few customers, and Fikry has few friends. He drinks and keeps to himself, enjoying only the company of his prized possession, a rare and valuable first edition of Edgar Allan Poe's Tamerlane.

Not a very attractive character, you may be thinking, and you would be right. But Fikry holds special appeal for me because, you see, the book finely parallels my favorite classic novel, Silas Marner by George Eliot. Like Marner, Fikry has become withdrawn because of a lost love, in Fikry's case, a wife who has died. Like Marner's treasured gold, Fikry's prized copy of Tamerlane is stolen, turning his world upside down. And as with Silas Marner, a life-altering event happens that brings Fikry back to life and gives him purpose. Both characters are saved from their lonely, surly lives by an unexpected and unlikely gift given to them in the form of a child.

If you have read and enjoyed Silas Marner as I have, you will love A. J. Fikry. If you have wanted to read Silas Marner, but felt daunted by the book's archaic language, take heart. You can get the full literary effect of the classic tale in this modern retelling, beautifully crafted and touching without being melodramatic. Librarians, teachers, writers, readers, and book lovers of all sorts will enjoy the appreciation for reading, bookstores and books displayed in this novel. As Fikry comes back to life, so does his bookstore. My only regret is that it is impossible for me to ever visit Island Books, where "No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World." What a remarkable world exists in The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Home Town Treasure

Hackley Public Library
316 W. Webster Ave.
Muskegon, MI 49440

As our world becomes increasingly smaller and we get swept up in visiting new and interesting places, both literally and virtually, it is so easy to overlook the wonders in our own backyards. Of this, I am especially guilty. I grew up in the lakeshore community of Muskegon, home of a wonderful, historic treasure, the Hackley Public Library, yet I have only a vague memory of one visit to this gem while I was a student at the local community college. I really missed something. This special library was brought back to my attention last spring when I learned that it was a finalist in a beautiful libraries photo contest put on by the Gale Cengage organization. I made a mental note then to revisit Hackley Library. My sister Sue, who has been very supportive of my bookstore and library adventures and has accompanied me on several visits, still lives in the Muskegon area. She likewise had overlooked the Hackley library, so finally during a much-needed break in the Michigan winter weather, the two of us took time for a long overdue visit.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Adding Another One To The List

Strand Books
828 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

Okay, here's an article that's just too good not to share. A story that combines romance, books, and of course, a bookstore? What bibliomaniac wouldn't appreciate that? 

The scene: Strand Books in New York city. The story: a marriage proposal. Read the full article for all the whys and hows as well as photos: Bookstore Proposal.

The story inspired me to do a brief investigation, and I didn't need to learn much about it to know that I have to add the Strand to my bookstore bucket list. It sounds wonderful. In business since 1927, the store boasts "18 miles of books." Both new and used books are sold, and there's even a rare books room. Each week there is a story time for children, and plenty of author events for adults. A special service, "Books by the foot," helps patrons build a personal library collection to suit specific needs and tastes. Sounds like my kind of place. I may have to plan a trip to New York just to visit Strand Books.  A bookstore lover can dream, can't she?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Books Make Great Traditions

I love books. Obviously. That shouldn't come as any surprise. Show me a librarian who doesn't love books, and I'll show you a fraud. But what may be a surprise is the fact that I rarely check books out of a library. "Blasphemy," you say? Quite the contrary. I love libraries as much as I love books. My love for books is precisely why I don't check them out of the library. I want to own them. I want to discover them in bookstores, buy them, and add them to my huge to-read pile. I want to look at them lined up on my bookshelves, piled on my night table, and stacked on top of almost any available surface. And I want to be able to loan them to friends. Recommending a good book to someone that you hope will like it as much as you do is so much easier when you can actually hand over a personal copy.