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, December 28, 2016

In A Country Shire

Northon's Shire Bookshop
110 N. Main Street
P. O. Box 31
Evart, Michigan 49631

Once again I find myself in the annual interim between Christmas and New Year's, the perfect time for introspection and review of the year about to end. In 2016, I reached a milestone—my fifth year of retirement from my job as a high school librarian. I am only now just beginning to actually think of January, rather than September, as the start of a new year. It's hard to believe I have been doing this blog for five years. When I began, I really had no idea that I would still be finding new bookstores to write about. Part of me expected to find that brick-and-mortar bookstores would be scarce by now. Happily, quite the opposite is true.

Quite by accident I happened upon the last bookstores I visited in 2016. On a drive through rural central Michigan, my route took me through the small town of Evart. Now, I have made it my habit when passing through any unfamiliar town to drive slowly along the main street just in case the community might be home to a bookstore. You never know. In the case of Evart, the main downtown street runs perpendicular to the two-lane highway on which I was traveling, a fact which I noted only after I had already passed through the intersection. As the afternoon was waning, I debated for about a quarter mile as to whether or not to take the time to turn around. Evart is but a small country town after all. Of course my bookstore curiosity got the better of me, and I did indeed turn around. Thankfully. For low and behold, I did indeed find a bookstore in this country hamlet, Northon's Shire Bookshop, and there was still about half an hour before closing time.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Imbibing books! Literally!

I know plenty of bibliomaniacs who devour books, figuratively that is. Now thanks to The Book Nook and Shelf Awareness, I have learned that it is possible to literally imbibe books. The Columbia Room, a cocktail bar in Washington D. C., has created a drink that literally uses pages from old books as an ingredient. This creation, served in a flask inside of a book, is called "In Search of Time Past" and is part of a three- or five- cocktail tasting flight. Don't expect happy hour prices for this concoction. The three-course option is $79. I guess that's to be expected when pages from a 100-year-old book constitute a key ingredient. For more on this literary cocktail, see this article from Washingtonian.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Nice Surprise

Happy Owl Bookshop
358 River Street
Manistee, MI

I'm not generally a big fan of surprises. I'm more of a planner, preparer, organizer. My husband would probably say too much so at times. But who doesn't enjoy a pleasant surprise out of the blue from time to time? And discovering a bookstore out of the blue? Count me in.

This past October my husband and I decided to take advantage of a lovely fall day and drive from our cottage to one of my favorite places, the scenic overlook on M-22 (see previous post) near Arcadia, the perfect spot for a Christmas card picture. Our trip took us through the summer tourist town of Manistee where we suddenly encountered a halt in traffic while a drawbridge was up to let a large boat pass through a channel on its way to nearby Lake Michigan. Thinking there might be a way around the traffic jam, we veered off course into downtown Manistee. Now, you should know that my husband is afflicted by a neurological disorder that causes him to uncontrollably hit the brake whenever he sees a yard sale, flea market, or antique shop. As he is always on the lookout, I was not at all surprised when he pulled into a parking spot after spying a promising antique shop. I don't share his fascination with rooting through old stuff, but as long as we were waiting for the drawbridge anyway, I agreed to sit in the car while he did some rummaging. After a quick check of my email and a couple games of solitaire on my phone, I looked up and glanced across the street where—Surprise!—I saw, as you probably guessed, a bookstore. Happy Owl Bookshop.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Another Dog Ear

Dog Ear Books
301 W. Main Street
Russellville, AR

Time to add another bookstore to my bucket list. Thanks to Pamela Grath at Dog Ears Books in Northport (see previous post) for turning me on to this one. Dog Ear Books (only one "ear" on this one) is a brand new bookstore, just opened this month, in Russellville, Arkansas. Can't think of a better reason for a road trip.

Monday, October 31, 2016

I Dogear Books!

Dog Ears Books
106 Waukazoo Street
Northport, MI 49670

Fair warning—I'm going to rave about my beautiful state of Michigan again. Why shouldn't I? Once again my fabulous state has received national recognition. One of my very favorite places, highway M-22, has landed squarely at the top, yes first place, in USA Today's Ten Best Scenic Autumn Drives. The paper describes M-22 as “a 116-mile route along Lake Michigan that is absolutely breathtaking come autumn.” Having driven this highway many times, I can attest to the fact that it is quite breathtaking even before the fall color arrives. I am not alone in my admiration; M-22 even has its own website: m22michigan.com.

Up until recently, though, I had never taken the time to follow this lovely byway to its northern peak in the the charming town of Northport on the Leelanau Peninsula. So early in October I decided to make that drive and was happy to discover, as you might have guessed, a unique bookstore, Dog Ears Books.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Old Building, New Shop

Books & Mortar
955 Cherry Street SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Independent bookstores will soon be a thing of the past. Do you remember those dire predictions? Amazon and e-books will drive them out of business. That's what we were told. Yeah, right! And by now we were also supposed to be living in a paperless world. How has that worked out? Apparently the readers of the world didn't get the message. The American Booksellers Association has reported growth in their membership for a straight seven years. Rather than dying out, new bookstores are opening, and existing bookstores are thriving. It seems that people still want print books and the personal touch of a brick-and-mortar establishment. In keeping with this trend, Grand Rapids, Michigan, now claims a brand new independent bookstore called, appropriately, Books & Mortar, and I had the pleasure of visiting this shop shortly after its grand opening.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

He Who Sits Quietly

Public Library
1576 Straits Highway
P.O. Box 266
Topinabee, MI 49791

Ahh, September, the best month of summer. That's right. If you are a retired high school librarian, September is the best month. Don't get me wrong. I loved my job. But as a retired educator, I enjoy the luxury of an additional month of summer. Wonderful weather without the heat and humidity, and beautiful summer days without the crowds. Schools are back in session, and much of the regular population is absorbed with kids and fall sports. The perfect time for a road trip!

So on a beautiful Friday in September, I set out for a small dot on the map, a place far up north in Michigan. In fact, if it were much farther north, 30 miles or so, it would be in the UP. (That's Upper Peninsula for those of you not familiar with my fair state.) On this particular September day, a few hours' drive took me to the shores of beautiful Mullett Lake and a town called Topinabee. What brought me to this remote speck on the map? You see, this lovely town is home to one of the most charming little libraries I have ever set foot in.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Books and More

Griffon Bookstore
121 W. Colfax Ave.
South Bend, IN 46601

What could be better than a pleasant drive on a sunny summer afternoon when the destination is a bookstore? When the destination is two bookstores? Even better! In a recent post I wrote about my visit to South Bend, Indiana, where I discovered Idle Hours Bookshop. (See Luck of the Irish.) As luck, Irish or otherwise, would have it, I was able to drop in briefly on another area bookseller that same afternoon. Griffon Bookstore is not your run-of-the-mill book shop, however. Like its well-known mythological namesake, this shop is a unique amalgam--part bookstore, part game store.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Luck of the Irish

Idle Hours Bookshop
212 South Michigan Street
South Bend, IN 46601

I've mentioned my fascination with Scotland in previous posts. A visit there is tops on my bucket list. Of course when I eventually get there, I will also want to visit nearby Ireland. (If you give a mouse a cookie . . . right?) My son Culver and daughter-in-law Alysandra have a love of the Emerald Isle that was recently cemented when they spent part of their honeymoon enjoying Irish scenery, Irish food, Irish beer, and Irish landmarks. The closest I have come at this point to an actual trip to Ireland is a recent visit to a different brand of Irish town, South Bend, Indiana. That's right, South Bend, home of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. The luck of the Irish was with me on a sunny August day when I discovered that South Bend is also home to a small used bookstore, Idle Hours Bookshop.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Back Where It All Began

The Book Mark
201 S. Rath Avenue
Ludington, MI 49431

Hard to believe that it's already been five years since I started this blog, and what a delightful five years it has been. It all began on the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline in the town of Ludington. The Book Mark was the first stop on my blogging journey, and as I contemplated this anniversary, I felt it only fitting that I revisit the store that kicked it all off.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

New Favorite Library

I have many things for which I am exceedingly grateful, and I count my wonderful, inventive husband chief among my blessings. He put his many creative talents to work to create a unique Little Free Library to present to me for my birthday. My new favorite library is actually a Little Free Beach Library as it lives on the beach at our summer cottage near Baldwin, Michigan.

Currently it rests on top of a picnic table, but will soon be installed on a post. Also in the works is an official designation. I am in the process of registering it with LittleFreeLibrary.org after which my LFL will have an official charter number and a charter sign that will be added to the front of the diminutive building.

The library has so far received a fair amount of business from a variety of readers. Happily, there are young readers as well as mature readers with various reading interests. I have already enjoyed a few conversations on the beach about books and reading.

My husband created this LFL mainly from found materials. He adheres to the old saying, "Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do, or do without." So when he found an old radio cabinet free for the taking alongside the road, the project was underway.

He added plexiglass to a picture frame to create a door, built a roof and shelves with scraps of wood, and topped it off with leftover shingles. The sides are papered with book jackets from favorite titles (including two books written by my father-in-law), book marks from some favorite places (including one from the high school library where I worked), some of our favorite book pages (including some treasured pages from Deep Wood Press--see earlier blog post), and a few items with special meaning for us thrown in for good measure.

Many thanks to my awesome husband Jim for giving me yet another reason to love being up at the lake. I am truly blessed!

Note: You may have seen some Little Free Libraries in your neck of the woods. They are springing up everywhere. But if you aren't familiar with the Little Free Library project, I encourage you to visit the official web site: https://littlefreelibrary.org.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Cup of Tea and a Book

A cup of tea and a book? How about a teacup made from a book? I know. I know. Some book lovers are horrified by the thought of pages being torn from their books. But if the purpose is to recreate something beautiful from those old pages, then the book lives on in a new form, kind of a literary reincarnation, if you will. That is precisely what artist Cecilia Levy does. She uses books in a novel way (pun definitely intended). From the pages of old books spring lovely, new works of art like the one pictured above. Now that is a wonderful way to recycle.

To learn about the artist and see more of her fantastic creations click here:  Book Art.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Reading Tail Tale

Turns out reading isn't just beneficial for kids.
Watch this video about why kids are reading to dogs.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Author! Author!

Two visits with R. J. Fox
I try never to miss an opportunity to sing the praises of my beautiful state of Michigan. The beauty! The Bridge! The beaches! The bookstores! The books! Michigan boasts a great connection to writers, even including the likes of Hemingway. I recently had the opportunity to revisit four great Michigan bookstores and to meet three great Michigan authors.

Bonnie Jo Campbell reads from her new story collection.
On a very cold, snowy day last winter, I traveled to Albion to meet R. J. Fox and hear him talk about his book Love & Vodka. (See Crazy In the Name of Love, my post about that event.) Then at the tale end of winter on a much nicer day, I was able to see Fox again, this time along with my son and daughter-in-law at Bluefrog Books in Howell.

In May I had the good fortune to travel to Traverse City's Brilliant Books for an author event with National Book Award finalist, Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of Once Upon A River. On this visit she was signing copies of her new story collection, Mothers, Tell Your Daughters.

Adam Schuitema talks with my book club.
Then in June, it was on to Montague and a meeting with my book club at The Book Nook and Java Shop where we were fortunate to have Grand Rapids author, Adam Schuitema, in attendance to discuss his book, Haymaker, our June selection. This well-crafted book takes place in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Each of these writers was engaging, and I enjoyed all of their books.
Author events is just one more thing that makes bookstores special. After all, you can't meet an author in an e-book.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Add Another One To The Bucket List

The Open Book
Wigtown, Scotland

I am often asked if I would ever want to have a bookstore of my own. To this query I always immediately answer a definitive "No." I love visiting bookstores. I have no desire to be tied down to just one. But I recently learned of a unique shop where I could actually stay and run the shop for a week. That's right. Rent the room upstairs and tend the bookstore downstairs. Now this I would enjoy. What's more, the shop is in Scotland, a country I have dreams of visiting. So two bucket list items in one. Perfect. Someday . . .

For the whole story on this intriguing bookstore, check out this article:
I Ran A Scottish Bookshop.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Small Space, Big Appeal

Cabbages & Kings
36 Center Street
P. O. Box 2735
Douglas, MI 49406

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:

Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--

Of cabbages--and kings--

And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."
from The Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Carroll

Who says children's books are just for children? Some of my very favorite books are designated as children's books. My copies of Maurice Sendak's Higglety Pigglety Pop!, Stellaluna by Janell Cannon, and the classic Margery Williams tale of The Velveteen Rabbit are all prized possessions. And some of my most memorable bookstore encounters have been children's bookstores. (See Wild Rumpus and Storybook Village.) Recently I had the good fortune to discover yet another charming shop that caters to the reading tastes of the younger set, whether young in age or in spirit. After my visit to Booked For The Season in Saugatuck (See previous post.), I made the quick trip across the bridge to the adjacent town of Douglas where I found Cabbages & Kings, a children's bookstore that takes its name from a line by the iconic children's author, Lewis Carroll.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Man for All Seasons, A Bookstore for One

Booked For The Season
439 Butler Street
Saugatuck, MI

If you are the kind of book lover that I am, you probably have lots of books, right? No, actually lots of books doesn't begin to describe it. If you are the kind of book lover that I am, you have piles of books. Everywhere. You have piles of books on the floor. You have piles of books on tabletops. You have piles of books on chair seats. And you probably have a pile on the nightstand that just seems to grow. You have shelves full of books, drawers full of books, bags and boxes full of books. What do you do when you become overrun with books? Well, if you are Tim Lux, you open a bookstore. Yes, when his attic filled up with books, this book lover decided to open a bookstore, and the first Booked For The Season store was born. That's right, I said first store. Tim didn't stop with one. A couple of summers ago, I had the pleasure of discovering his store in Pentwater. (See earlier post.) And just recently, I enjoyed perusing his shop in the artsy tourist town of Saugatuck, Michigan.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Independent Bookstore Day

In my world, any day is a great day to visit a bookstore. But now there is a day dedicated to independent bookstores. So go out and find a store near you. Or if the weather is nice, go on an adventure and find a store not so near you. Enjoy!

Follow this link to more info: http://www.indiebookstoreday.com.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Must Share

Shared on my Facebook page by my wonderful daughter-in-law, who knows me oh so well.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Leap Day, Part II

1180 S. Washington
Holland, MI 49423

Word on the street is that print books are making a comeback. That's right. The e-book craze has recently leveled off while print book sales are on the rise. Worry not, bookstore enthusiasts. Don't let the decline of chains like Borders put fear in your heart. Bookstores, once thought to be headed the way of the dinosaur, now seem to be alive and well.

When I first started this blog nearly five years ago, I feared that the life of the project would be limited, that I'd better get started right away before all the bookstores were gone. Though big chain stores have seen their share of adversity, happily small independents are not merely still in existence, but thriving. Personal observation suggests to me that their resilience is due in large part to a high level of customer service coupled with a special brand of creativity reserved for owners of small bookshops. Many inhabit interesting places (an old train car, an old factory, a bank) while others have found a particular niche to fill. Some of the most memorable bookstores I have visited, for example, have been geared specifically toward children (Wild Rumpus, Storybook Village). This past Leap Day I had the pleasure of visiting a small and very specialized bookstore. Bookmart in Holland, Michigan, sells nothing but used paperbacks.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Leap Day, Part I

Reader's World
194 S. River Ave.
Holland, MI 49423

The world is filled with glass-half-empty people and glass-half-full people. I have recently made a conscious decision to be a half-full person. Case in point, after more than a week of fighting off a head cold, I am admitting defeat. The head cold is winning. However, though I acquiesce, I am not feeling defeated. Everything is relative. This year it's only a minor head cold, the first one I have had all winter, whereas last year I was the victim of a vicious chest cold that was with me for at least six weeks. Besides, having a head cold gives me a good excuse to spend more time in my comfy reading chair--without guilt.

This past February I was provided with yet another opportunity to cement my half-full attitude when the 29th of the month rolled around. The half-empty winter haters among us will likely view Leap Year as an unbearable lengthening of the already longest, shortest month in the year. I must confess that until recently, I would have counted myself among those. But with my new, half-full attitude, I take a broader view and choose to look at Leap Year from a 366-day perspective. WE GET AN EXTRA DAY! A whole day. Twenty-four extra hours to do, to make, to enjoy, to create--or perhaps to visit bookstores. I'm sure you saw that coming. Yes, I took advantage of my extra day to visit not just one, but two bookstores, the first of which was a delightful store in Holland, Michigan, called Reader's World.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Crazy in the Name of Love

Books and More
of Albion
119 N. Superior Street
Albion, MI

"If you've ever done something crazy in the name of love, R. J. Fox's adventures in Ukraine will strike a chord." So says author Davy Rothbart of the new book Love & Vodka. Well, earlier this month I did something a little crazy for love--the love of bookstores, books, and reading that is. On the coldest day of the season (8 degrees for a high), I set out on snowy roads for a two-hour drive to Albion, Michigan, to revisit Books and More of Albion, a store I blogged about a few years back, and to hear author R. J. Fox talk about Love & Vodka.

Albion holds a special place in my heart as it is home to Albion College. Some of my fondest memories are of visiting my son and attending college events together while he was a student there. Not only did he get a great education, but he also met a wonderful girl, now his wife. Rediscovering Books and More, meeting an author, and a chance to visit Albion College again? There were plenty of reasons prompting me to make the frigid drive.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

This Is Not A Book Review

For the record let me clarify something. I don't write reviews. When I visit a new bookstore, it's for the sheer pleasure of discovery and love of books and all things related. I would consider what I do more along the lines of observing and reporting. And if you want to know the whole truth, I don't generally look forward to the writing itself. It's the bookstore experience that is the fun part. The writing is simply a necessary component.

I don't generally review books either. I read books. I recommend books to friends. I discuss books. But review books? Nah! Writing book reviews is not a skill I claim to possess. That said, every once in a while a book comes along that touches me in such a way that I feel compelled to share some feelings about it. One such book is A Man Called Ove, a first novel for Swedish author, Fredrik Backman.

Ove is a curmudgeon. Overly obsessed with rules, Overly annoying to his neighbors, Overly preoccupied with strict routines, Ove is one of the most engaging characters I have encountered. He mostly keeps to himself, and those around him like it that way. But things are about to change, and since I detest spoilers, that is all the plot you will get from me--except to say that there is a cat.

Ove is also a philosopher of sorts. Some very poignant thoughts come from his bitter, cranky brain. Like this one: ". . . all people at root are time optimists. We always think there's enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like 'if'."

This book had me laughing out loud and crying within the space of a page. It had me reflecting on life, and it gave me a new appreciation for my husband's endearing quirks. This is not a review of A Man Called Ove so much as it is an enthusiastic recommendation. If you found Walt Kowalski inspirational and enjoyed the movie Gran Torino, you will love this book. Five Stars from this non-reviewer.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Books By The Bag, Books By The Box

Unless you are at least as old as I am, chances are good that you are not familiar with the wit and wisdom of Sam Levenson. More's the pity. One of my prized possessions is his book, Everything But Money, in which he recalls with endearing humor and philosophy his upbringing by poor Jewish immigrants in the tenements of New York in the early 1900's:
"In those days people did not live as long as they do today, but things lived longer. In our house old things were not discarded but retired to a drawer in the kitchen which we called 'Mama's shame-to-throw-out drawer' . . . appropriately lined with old newspaper of which there was always a great abundance, since news, too, did not have to be new to be good. Mama saw no reason for buying new news when she had not yet used up the old." p. 26

This approach to print material can, of course, also be applied to books. Some of the most successful bookstores I have visited are purveyors of previously loved volumes. According to the handwriting on the inside cover, my copy of the Levenson book was given as a Christmas gift in 1966 from "Arlean" to "Brie." Thanks to my friend Gabe at Bay Leaf Books in Newaygo, it found its way to me. Since Levenson's books are now all out of print, finding used or library copies is the only way to read them.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Seen At Bookstores

Booksellers are the best. These imaginative signs seen in and around bookstores provide perfect examples of the spirit and creativity I so often encounter in book lovers. Had to share.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Addition By Subtraction

Totem Books
620 W. Court Street
Flint, MI 48503

Now for something completely different! Okay, maybe not completely in the strictest sense of the word. Rest assured I'm still talking about a bookstore. But this brand new store is in a location so far removed from the majority of stores I have visited that to me it seems completely different.

If you've followed my blog for very long, you have no doubt noticed my attraction to quaint small towns and charming tourist areas. The Lake Michigan shore has been a favorite of mine. Towns from St. Joseph in southwest Michigan on up the coast to Montague, Traverse City, Petoskey, and Charlevoix plus numerous summer vacation spots in between (Newaygo, Gaylord, Pentwater, Glen Arbor) all provided memorable bookstore experiences for me. I've enjoyed bookstores while traveling (Hong Kong, Washington D.C., MinneapolisPittsburgh, Iowa City), bookstores in unique locations (a converted factory, an old train car), and even in small out-of-the way places (Mecosta, Owosso, Albion)--each store interesting and enjoyable in its own unique way.

Then this past December I took a trip to a Michigan town I had never before visited, not a tourist town, not a quaint small town, not an out-of-the way discovery. No, this trip took me to Flint, Michigan. What attracted me to Flint, you may wonder, a town which has seen more than its fair share of trouble and turmoil of late? Well, I got wind of a new bookstore opening up in Flint, thanks to my alert cousin Jane. Couple that with a Michigan December that was uncharacteristically mild, and a road trip was definitely in order. So on a much warmer than normal December day, I set out for Totem Books.