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 28, 2017

Your Local Library, What a Bargain!

Over the past six years, I have spent countless hours seeking, exploring, photographing, and enjoying a variety of bookstores. What a joy it has been. I have even written about a library or two. When I saw the infographic below, I decided that it was high time I paid a little more attention to libraries. I do, after all, love libraries every bit as much as bookstores. And libraries have so much to offer beyond books: computer and internet access, e-books, videos, enrichment programs, youth services, research assistance, and more. For this reason I intend to dedicate a few posts to specific libraries, and because winter is a good time to stick close to home in Michigan, I intend to begin with a look at libraries in and around my home in Lowell. I know there are some gems just waiting to be discovered. Take a look at this enlightening infographic, and stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Share: Extreme Book Lover

Wow! Book lovers all over the world would love to have a home like the one built by these bibliomaniacs in Japan. They designed their entire house around bookshelves to store and display their revered print possessions. Requiring a ladder to reach the top shelves, it's not just huge; it's also earthquake proof. Color me green with envy.

More pictures and the complete story are here:

Thursday, November 30, 2017

One Book, One Community

Reading a book as a group is a great way to bring a community together, and community reads seem to be popping up all over the place. This makes the librarian in me very happy. Last summer I wrote about a Muskegon area project centered around Timothy Egan's Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher, which was also a selected title for the book club I attend. Then this fall The Friends of the Montague Library and The Friends of the White Lake Community Library collaborated on a One Book, One Community undertaking featuring Michigan author, John Smolens and his book, Wolf's Mouth. As with the Muskegon area read, the Smolens book was a featured selection of my book club, and our usual meeting was attended not just by the regular club members, but also by a crowd of interested White Lake area readers and participants in the community read.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Old Store, New Store

Stirling Books & Brew
119 N Superior Street
Albion, MI 49224

Always look on the bright side of life. Every cloud has a silver lining. When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. I don't want to be cliché here, but a few years back I made a New Year's resolution to have an attitude of gratitude and not let the negative stuff bog me down. Okay, easier said than done, but when I remember to apply this thinking, it is amazingly helpful. Recently I had a great opportunity to find the silver lining and make some lemonade.

My husband was scheduled to take a work trip to Asia, and I had planned to drive him to the airport in his car so that I could take it in for repairs while he was gone. Well, I ended up driving him to the airport alright, but not in his car and not to our local airport. As it turned out, his originating flight was delayed such that he would not be able to make his connection in Detroit. So what else could we do? We drove the 140 miles to Detroit. Since we had just returned the night before from a great, yet exhausting trip to Atlanta for a wedding, we were both tired, cranky, and on edge. The last thing I wanted to do was spend another five hours in the car. I really needed to make some lemonade out of this sour situation. What can always brighten my mood? A bookstore, of course. After dropping my husband off, I was already two hours from home with nobody but the cat expecting me for dinner. The perfect time to take a slight detour for a bookstore I had been meaning to visit. My mood brightened immediately as I drove away from Detroit and toward Albion, home of Stirling Books & Brew.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Bookstores In Advertising?

There are books about bookstores. There are movies about bookstores. There is even a Monty Python sketch about a bookstore. And now there is a new FedEx commercial about a bookstore, Conspiracy Books. This creative 30-second spot is so well put together I had to share it. From the opening shot featuring the exterior of the store to the paranoid woman behind the desk sporting a t-shirt that says “Greetings from Area 51,” this ad immediately caught my attention and prompted me to look for it on Youtube then watch it repeatedly. How else would I have been able to ascertain the hilarious names of these books offered for sale:
Did the 15th Century Happen?
Follow the Chemtrails
Healthy Paranoia
Who's Really Pulling the Levers?
Did 1971 Happen?
Dinosaurs Built the Pyramids
and my favorite, They Control ALL from Shaking Ceiling Fans to Unanswered Text Messages.
A nice added touch is the small sign on the cash register picturing a helicopter above the words, TRUST NO ONE.”

What a fun bookstore this would be to visit!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Intersection of Art and Books

“What most attracts you to a book's construction? The dust jacket? The binding? The end papers, paper or font? The inside illustrations, a ribbon place holder, a colophon? The scent of fresh ink, the crispness of the paper, the texture of a deckle-edge? Each part of a book's anatomy contributes to our sensual delight as readers and as artists.” These words are from a call to artists by Three Pines Studio for its exhibition, Anatomy of the Book, Deconstructed/Reconstructed, a special display in support of the Harbor Springs Festival of the Book. When last I left you (see previous post), I had just reached the apex of a glorious drive along M-119, the Tunnel of Trees, and on the recommendation of Katie Capaldi Boeckl, I was about to visit this art installation. And an impressive visit it would be.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Scenic Beauty and a Bookstore

Suddenly it was mid September. As with most summers, the weeks had flown by faster than the Road Runner escaping the clutches of the Coyote. Beep beep! It's gone. Before I even had a chance to take a road trip, it was over. But wait. This year summer decided to hang on for a few extra weeks. What luck.
Since I'm retired, my summer is dictated by the weather, not the calendar. So when September 19 arrived with the promise of sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 70's, I decided it was the perfect opportunity for a road trip after all. For quite some time friends had been telling me about scenic Michigan Highway 119, otherwise known as the Tunnel of Trees, and this was the perfect day to do it. And on my way, I decided that this would also be a great time to stop in Harbor Springs and revisit a lovely little bookstore, Between the Covers.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

My Bear Encounter

Flying Bear Books
79 State Road
Newaygo, MI 49337

Lions, tigers, and bears.
Oh my! Okay, so we don't actually have lions and tigers. But we definitely have bears. In the wooded northern Michigan area where our cottage is located, there have been numerous sightings. Some of my neighbors have reported bird feeders being destroyed, and some have reported scary close encounters. But in the town of Newaygo, about 40 miles south, there is a bear of another sort—a friendly, literary bear—one that encourages close encounters . . . with books that is. I recently enjoyed such an encounter at Flying Bear Books.

Friday, August 18, 2017

@Your Sparty Library

What do the gals do when their men have gone away for a guys weekend? Well, if you're three intelligent, book-loving nerdy types, you go to the library, of course. Specifically the Michigan State University library in East Lansing. Apologies to my Wolverine friends, but I am a Spartan at heart. I follow their football team. And the basketball team. Tom Izzo is my favorite coach ever. I even hung a “Sparty @ Your Library” poster in the high school library where I worked. I took it with me and hung it up at home when I retired. I never actually attended MSU, but I lived vicariously through my son while he was in graduate school there.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Very Special Writer

Robert Redd--March 14, 1926-August 2, 2017
I'd like to take a moment to post a few lines about a writer near and dear to me, my father-in-law, Robert Redd, Bob to most people. He moved on to another blogosphere last week at the age of 91. 

Like me, he didn't take up writing until later in life after having successful careers in industrial engineering and accounting. When he retired as a partner from a storied career at BDO Seidman, he finally got around to writing. 

His book Achievers Never Quit provides a guide to opportunities that life after retirement offers and was utilized by companies like Weyerhaeuser, Amway, and AT&T in educating their retiring employees. Whimsy, Wit, and Wisdom provided a lighthearted look at the stresses of retirement on marriage. Always the dramatist, Bob later penned books designed for senior theater, writing several collections of skits based on his life experiences. Senior centers around the country are still making use of his scripts today. He also wrote a resource book on writing, Synaps-cercise, Exercise Your Brain. This workbook includes humorous writings as well as exercises to help improve creativity and thinking.

Bob led a full and interesting life. There was never a dull moment with him around. He was a son, husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather. He was a golfer, an artist, a sculptor, and an avid collector of antiques. And yes, he was an author. He will be missed.  

Shameless plug that Bob would appreciate: You can still buy the senior theater publications online at: seniortheatre.com.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

We Want Books

In past lives I have had various occupations, most notably a librarian and also an English teacher. It's already pretty evident how much I like books. But my undergraduate degree in English actually shared double-major billing with history. It stands to reason then that I enjoy historical literature and learning about history. World War II is of particular interest to me. This summer I had occasion to experience a special exhibit encompassing both World War II history and literature.

Muskegon, Michigan, is rich with special exhibits this year. After my sister Sue and I took in the Edward Curtis display (see previous post), we went on to visit the nearby USS Silversides Submarine Museum where visitors are afforded the opportunity to actually descend into the bowels of a real WWII submarine. What an experience.

“But what does this have to do with literature?” you may be wondering. Well, this summer the museum is hosting a special exhibit entitled, “When Books Went to War—The Power of Literature and the Press in Wartime.” What a historical learning adventure it was.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Intersection of Books, Music, and Art

Bryan at the piano
One lovely November day early in my blogging career I walked into the Book Nook and Java Shop in Montague, Michigan. I saw a piano in the corner and was immediately hooked on this delightful bookstore. Today nearly six years later I am still a fan of the place and once a month make a drive of more than an hour to attend the Book Nook book club hosted by store owner, Bryan Uecker, also a concert pianist. That explains the piano. Since my first visit to the shop, it has moved to a larger location and expanded to include Best Cellars wine bar as well as a small stage where musical performances are now a frequent occurrence. I recently had the opportunity not only to hear Bryan play, but also to witness what I found to be a stunning intersection of books, music, and art. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Allow me to provide some background.

Monday, June 26, 2017

A Sweet Store

23 East Illinois Street
Chicago, IL 60611

What's better than experiencing two great Chicago bookstores (Sandmeyers and Open Books) and one fabulous Chicago library? Well, a third great bookstore, of course. After a special weekend with my husband during which he had agreed to accompany me to the aforementioned establishments, I had a day to myself while he attended a work seminar. As luck would have it, a brief Google investigation turned up a potential shop within walking distance of our hotel. It looked like my nice weekend might be followed by a promising solo trip afterwards. So Monday morning I set out into the heart of Chicago to a bookstore appropriately named after-words.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Power of Books

Open Books
651 W. Lake St.
Chicago, IL 60661

Ask avid readers about the value of reading, and you may get varied answers, but I guarantee they will have no trouble rattling off a few advantages: reading reduces stress; reading adds to your knowledge base; reading broadens understanding of the world; reading is a way to relax and escape. Ask an educator, especially an English teacher or a librarian, and you will likely get even more compelling answers: reading improves memory; reading boosts vocabulary; reading improves focus and concentration; reading improves writing. And did you know that reading can reduce your rate of cognitive decline? You probably won't find it surprising to also learn that books in the home have been linked to academic achievement. I think most of us can agree that literacy is not simply important; it is transformative.

There is a bookstore in Chicago that is taking book selling to a whole new level—helping to improve literacy in an innovative and impressive way. The third stop on my Chicago adventure, Open Books, is built on a remarkable concept, the non-profit bookstore.

Monday, May 29, 2017


Harold Washington Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago, IL 60605

Well, I wasn't anticipating a visit to a library on our weekend in Chicago. (See previous post) But a truly fabulous one sort of fell in our laps. While I was making my purchases at Sandmeyer's, Ellen happened to mention that the bookstore sometimes works in cooperation with a library only a couple of blocks away. So when we found ourselves back out on the sidewalk, I asked my husband if maybe we should stroll a couple of blocks to check it out before catching a cab to our next bookstore destination. “Why not?” he said, and off we went in the direction of the city. Upon inquiry, a friendly passerby assured us that we were headed in the right direction, and within a few minutes, we stood gazing at the imposing edifice that is the Harold Washington Library.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Historic Neighborhood Icon

Sandmeyer's Bookstore
714 S Dearborn St.
Chicago, IL 60605

I loved my job as a high school librarian; don't get me wrong. But when my husband traveled for business, I was rarely free to tag along. Now that I'm retired, I am more able to accompany him, a perk of retirement that I have enjoyed on a few delightful occasions. (See Hong Kong, Washington, and San Francisco.) Recently a business conference presented me with the possibility of three days in Chicago, a prospect I could not turn down.

Since the conference was on a Monday, we decided to head out on Saturday and spend the prior weekend in the Windy City. Saturday evening was filled with a leisurely stroll along the Riverwalk followed by a delicious meal and terrific music at the House of Blues. (I highly recommend the Voodoo Shrimp and Loretta's meatloaf.) And Sunday? Well, that turned out to be a perfect bookstore day, and this time my husband decided to tag along with me. First stop: Sandmeyer's Bookstore in Printers Row.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Great Idea!

To wrap up my posts about San Francisco, I must include a brief note about this little gem. When I think about the main places that I see people reading books, there are two that immediately spring to mind: the beach and the airport. A tip of the hat to the folks at KDL, Kent District Library, who apparently think the same way. At our local airport on the way to our gate as we headed to San Francisco, my husband and I spotted this free book exchange right on the concourse. Brilliant!! Hmmmmm, I wonder if they have one on a beach somewhere.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Big Apple in San Francisco

506 Clement St. @ 6th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94118

“Content: pleased and satisfied, not needing more.” Webster's definition aptly describes my state of mind after two and a half lovely days and three great bookstores in the remarkable city of San Francisco. (See City Lights, Russian Hill, and Alexander.) I had taken full advantage of some delightful weather to venture forth within a reasonable radius of our hotel. With decidedly gloomier conditions forecast for the remainder of our time in the City, I was indeed content with the bookstore experiences I had enjoyed. But in the back of my mind was a recommendation I had received from Bonnie Stuppin during my visit to Alexander Book Company. “You must go to Green Apple,” she said. Perhaps on my next trip to San Francisco, I thought. But as luck would have it, I awoke the next morning to a sky with just enough blue to give me hope that I might be able to sneak in one more bookstore, and off I went. After all, when a bookstore owner recommends another store, I take that very seriously.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

On Shaky Ground

Alexander Book Company
50 Second Street
San Francisco, CA 94105

One more day. According to the local forecast in San Francisco, I had only one more day of agreeable weather before mother nature would swap cool rain for the sunny skies and pleasant temperatures I had enjoyed so far. One more day—one more bookstore. This time, however, I was determined not to encounter any more severe hill climbs (see previous post), opting instead to exercise my newly acquired Uber skills. So I fired up my app, and a few short minutes later (Uber drivers are plentiful in San Francisco.) I was on my way downtown to Alexander Book Company.

Monday, March 20, 2017

An Easy Walk

Russian Hill Bookstore
2234 Polk Street
San Francisco, CA 94109

There's nothing quite like visiting a bookstore that has been on my bucket list for several years. (See previous post.) Likewise, there's nothing quite like discovering a charming bookstore completely new to me. After my tour of San Francisco's City Lights, I still had plenty of sunny afternoon left for exploration and, according to Google, plenty of possibilities. I settled on one that judging by the map looked to be an easy walk, and off I went to Russian Hill Bookstore. I was enjoying a pleasant stroll through a section of Chinatown . . . and then . . . suddenly before me loomed the all-too-obvious inspiration for the name, Russian Hill. To call this a steep slope would be rather like calling War and Peace just a book. San Francisco natives, I'm sure, would chuckle, but bear in mind that I am from Michigan. We have beautiful sand dunes and maybe some ski hills with such a severe pitch, but not sidewalks. With no end in sight!! Nevertheless, I pressed on in the firm belief that the cross street I needed was just a couple of blocks away. Five blocks later, I encountered an even steeper portion of this “hill,” so steep in fact that the sidewalk became a stair case. That's right. A sidewalk of steps! Ready to meet the challenge, I continued on, thinking that this bookstore had better be worth such bodily aggravation.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

City Lights In the Afternoon

City Lights
Booksellers and Publishers
261 Columbus Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94133

Often referred to as a literary landmark and one of the best independent bookstores in the country, City Lights in San Francisco has been on my bookstore bucket list for several years. What a pleasure it was to finally have a chance to visit this famous bastion of alternative culture. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my husband was scheduled to attend a conference in the City by the Bay, so I took the opportunity to tag along. San Francisco is full of bookstores, and I would eventually visit four of them. (More posts to come.) But of course, City Lights was the very first stop on my whirlwind bookstore tour.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Just for Fun

Attention all readers who have read and loved Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights or any title by one of the famous Bronte sisters. This YouTube creation is for you. Actually, you may have already seen it. It's fairly old. I'd say it qualifies as an oldie, but goodie. As a matter of fact, even if you haven't read any Bronte books, this is still fun. I love it when the classics inspire fun. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

More For The Bucket List

NYT photo of Patchett in her bookstore, Parnassus
Family and friends constitute one of the great blessings in life, and I am extremely blessed in both regards. Since I started this blog, I have received strong support in my pursuit of bookstores, and not just in terms of praise and encouragement for the blog itself. My son Culver, just one example, provides unflinching editing advice whenever I request it. Several family members and friends have been on the alert for bookstores I might like to visit and happily passed pertinent information on to me. Many of them have accompanied me on bookstore visits, some have facilitated such visits, and most importantly, my husband has been willing to put up with my many road trips. I am blessed indeed.

Recently, my friend Paula brought to my attention a wonderful article in the New York Times by Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and State of Wonder among many other notable titles. The article, “Ann Patchett's Guide for Bookstore Lovers,” provides suggestions from her own personal favorites, some of which can already be found on my bucket list, and others which I am lucky enough to say I have already visited.

One of her “knockout stores that sell nothing but children's books,” Wild Rumpus, I had the pleasure of visiting and writing about, and I can attest that it is indeed a knockout. I have also enjoyed one of the stores that she calls “The Venerables,” Politics and Prose in Washington D.C. as well as one of her personal favorites right here in Michigan, McLean & Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey. Patchett's own store, Parnassus Books in Nashville, has been on my list for a while now. There are many others in this article that I gratefully add to my list.

And speaking of my bucket list, here is a preview of a potential coming attraction: Next month my husband is scheduled to attend a conference in San Francisco, and yours truly is planning to accompany him. A quick online search shows that this beautiful city is rich with bookstores, one of which, City Lights, has been on my list from the beginning. Needless to say that I will have plenty to occupy my time while my husband is attending conference seminars.

Stay tuned.  

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Books to Movies, 2017

cover art obtained from GoodReads
I realize that some book lovers have no interest in seeing titles they have enjoyed give birth to film counterparts. Some are chagrined at the very idea. I, however, am not one of those people. I enjoy seeing characters and events that have moved me translated to the big screen. With that in mind here is advanced notice of just a few of this year's crop of celebrated books due to be released as movies.

Most notable to me is Wonder by R. J. Palacio, due in theaters in April and starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson. This book for young readers tells the story of a boy with a facial deformity trying to live a normal life. I found Auggie's story to be touching, uplifting, and moving. If you haven't read this one yet, I highly recommend it. It's a short read, and there's still plenty of time before the movie comes out, but I suspect there may be waiting lists for library copies.

Another book I recommend is the Jeannette Walls memoir, The Glass Castle, which details her upbringing in a dysfunctional family. Due in August, it stars Brie Larson, Naomi Watts, and Woody Harrelson.

Part action, part adventure, part love story, The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin just began production in December and stars Kate Winslet and Idris Elba.

Idris Elba also stars in the July release of Stephen King's The Dark Tower. Other actors include Katheryn Winnick and Matthew McConaughey.

Additional titles to watch for:

-Captain Underpants by Dave Pilkey, June, animated with the voices of Kevin Hart, Nick Kroll, and Ed Helms.
-The Dinner by Herman Koch, May, stars Richard Gere and Laura Linney.
-The Shack by William P. Young, March, stars Sam Worthington and Octavia Spencer.
-A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron, January 27, stars Britt Robertson, Josh Gad, and Dennis Quaid.

and, yes, another installment in the Fifty Shades saga will come out this year.

Happy reading and viewing.