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 13, 2018

New Way To Read

Horizon Books
115 S. Mitchell Street
Cadillac, MI 49601

You know I love books, right? So don't think me a traitor when I say that I have discovered audio books. Now, before all you print book purists get your knickers in a knot, let me assure you that I do still love print books. They are by far my preferred way to consume the written word. But a couple of months ago, I discovered how audio books can be a viable way to augment my “reading.” Let me give you a little back story on how this came about.

A couple of months ago while up at the cottage, I had occasion to take a drive to Cadillac, about an hour away. Knowing that The Book Thief is my favorite book, a friend had just informed me that the author, Markus Zusak, had a new book out, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy. I never need much of an excuse to take a drive to Cadillac anyway, so off I went to visit Horizon Books.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Not All Vases Hold Flowers

Blue Vase Book Exchange
13963 S. Robinson Road
Traverse City, MI 49684

Fellow book lovers, can you imagine a warehouse full of books? I'm talking about a large metal building filled with almost nothing but books—tables of books, bins of books, boxes of books, and bookshelves a great deal taller than I am filled with books topped with boxes of still more books. Yes, such a place actually exists. Just outside of Traverse City, Michigan, lies one such warehouse, Blue Vase Book Exchange, and I had the pleasure of visiting this place last fall. But wait. There's more!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

What's In A Name?

Buy the Book
2894 S. Huron Road
Kawkawlin, MI 48631

In my last post I described a pleasant fall day, a day perfect for a drive across the state to Bay City and a couple of bookstores. (See 99 Trees.) Well, it may have been a lovely day then, but Mother Nature has a way of turning the tables on us, and now that I have found time to write about my second bookstore visit that day, the weather is anything but pleasant. I drove up to the cottage a few days ago for the express purpose of getting a head start on raking leaves before we shut the place down for the winter. Sadly, I ended up heading to the hardware store for a snow shovel instead. I must say shoveling leaves was a whole new experience for me—more accurately, trying to shovel leaves embedded in snow and ice. I somehow managed to clear a path to the door before giving up. On the plus side, the weather is perfect for sitting inside and blogging about a great bookstore.

I have found bookstore owners to be an interesting and creative lot. I've come across bookstores inhabiting unique locations like one in an old train car, one in a former  J. C. Penney store, and still another in a huge old glove factory. And I have encountered bookstores with very creative names. Booked for the Season and Books & Mortar are two of my favorites. On this particular visit to the Bay City area, I found a shop that offers both a unique location and a fun, creative name. Just outside Bay City proper in the small community of Kawkawlin, I was fortunate to discover Buy the Book.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Headed to the East Side

99 Trees
302 Center Avenue
Bay City, MI 48708

You know you're truly retired from education when September ceases to feel like the start of your new year, and January alone claims that distinction. It took a few years of retirement before I was fully able to relinquish the notion of the ninth month of the year as a starting point. And what a month it is. September at the cottage is glorious, the perfect combination of temperate weather with just the right amount of solitude replacing the flurry of activity that marks the summer cottage season. On one such pleasant September day, I was in search of something to do. Okay, truth be told, I was looking for a reason to put off doing laundry and cleaning. Find a bookstore to visit? Perfect! Even better—find two bookstores to visit. With a little assist from Google, I found two potential bookstores about a two-hour drive away in Bay City. I grabbed my notebook and a bottle of water, and off I went, headed for 99 Trees, the first stop on my double bookstore tour.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Just One More From Copper Country

Carnegie Museum of the Keweenaw
105 Huron Street
Houghton, MI 49931
(906) 482-7140

On a lovely day in Houghton, Michigan, I had visited an interesting bookstore, met an old friend for lunch, and discovered a fabulous library. But my posts about Copper Country would not be complete without one more brief account. Leaving the library, I headed back to our hotel room to find that my husband had not yet returned from his geologic adventure. So I calculated that I had a small sliver of time, perhaps enough time to try to find the old Carnegie building that had been home to the Portage Lake District Library from 1910 to 2006. Houghton is not that big a town, after all, and having already received general directions as to the location of the original structure, I decided that a quick trip to get a photo of the place was in order. So off I went.

Monday, October 1, 2018

More from Copper Country

Portage Lake District Library
58 Huron Street
Houghton, MI 49931

Well, here it is almost October already, and by the time this is posted, it will actually be October. But for right now as I write, I am enjoying the last of September. And I'm in my happy place at the cottage. Never mind that it is cloudy, cold, and wet. That just makes it the perfect time to hunker down with a cozy throw and write. Right? Well, I have a confession to make. Shhhhh!! Don't let this get out to other English majors and bloggers. I don't really like writing. I don't hate it. I just don't look forward to it, and I don't fancy myself a writer. I'm more of an observer. But what good are observations if you don't write them down? So sometimes it takes a day like this to help me sit down and focus on recording the part I love—discovering bookstores and libraries.

With that in mind, I have a great library to tell you about. In my last post I wrote about Bookworm, a great bookstore in Houghton, Michigan. But that was just the start of my day. As it turns out, a friend and former colleague just happened to be in the area that day. Though nine hours from home, I had the pleasure of meeting Todd for lunch. How cool is that! Then with the afternoon before me, I decided to walk the few short blocks to the local library, recently recommended to me by friends and fellow pyrotechnics enthusiasts, Andy and Janet Webb. Their favorable description, coupled with the fact that my husband was still likely to be enjoying his rockhounding excursion for a few hours more, made for an easy decision to pay a visit to Houghton's Portage Lake District Library.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Take the Long Way Home!

Bookstore & Coffee
815 Shelden Ave.
Houghton, MI 49931

Ahhh, the sights and sounds of a bookstore: patrons flipping through the pages of prospective purchases, book lovers engaged in conversation about their latest favorite titles, a child curled up on a lap to listen to a story. Of course the main thing to see is books, but any bookstore worth its salt will also have a variety of items like tote bags, unique bookmarks, mugs for book lovers, notebooks, pens, stationery, fun refrigerator magnets, meat, and eggs. Wait! Meat and eggs? You mean you've never been to a bookstore that sells meat and eggs? Well, I hadn't either until I visited Bookworm in Houghton, Michigan. This store has all that and more: a gumball machine, local honey, souvenirs, baked goods, a full menu of coffee beverages, and pieces of native copper. This is copper country, after all. Allow me to explain.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Just In Case You Didn't Already Know

If you're an avid reader and book lover as well as a PBS viewer, you probably already know about this. But just in case, I thought I would fill you in on The Great American Read. PBS is celebrating the power of reading in a quest to find the country's favorite book. The program actually began last spring, but it's not too late to get involved.  It won't end until October. People from across the nation can vote on a selection of the top 100 favorite novels selected in a national survey. The titles span a wide range of authors, genres, countries, and time frames, all part of a special series airing on PBS on Tuesdays beginning with a kickoff on September 11. Voting ends at midnight PT on October 18, and a Grand Finale show will air on October 23, to announce the winner—the most beloved book in America. If you would like more information on the program and how to vote, check out this link:
If you're like me, you'll find it incredibly difficult to pick just one. Fortunately, you don't have to. You can vote more than once. And I have.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Large Tiny Collection, Part II

Bethany, former grad student, now cataloger of tiny books

University of Iowa
125 West Washington St.
Iowa City, IA 52242

There we were, waiting with anticipation at table 2 under the watchful gaze of Captain Picard. Having stowed our belongings in a secure locker and filled out the necessary request forms, we waited for Laura to retrieve some items for us to view.

As I mentioned in my previous post, my husband Jim and I had arrived at the University of Iowa Special Collections Library and were eagerly awaiting the opportunity to see some pieces from the miniature books collection. In the meantime, Paula, the library assistant who had initially greeted us, mentioned that she would try to get a hold of a person who knows more about these diminutive volumes to provide more detailed information. Just as Laura was bringing out the first few books, Bethany showed up and sat down at table 2 with us. What luck! Bethany, who works part-time cataloging the tiny books, is usually off on Fridays, but just happened to be in on the day of our visit. We were more than grateful for her knowledge. We spent the next hour or so awed by the diversity and intricacy of these wee publications.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Large Tiny Collection, Part I

University of Iowa
125 West Washington St.
Iowa City, IA 52242

You're no doubt familiar with miniature poodles and miniature golf. You've heard of mini bikes, and MINI cars. If you're my age, you probably remember mini skirts, and if you've read my blog for the past few months, you know about mini libraries (a.k.a. Little Free Libraries). Lately even miniature houses have become popular. Are you ready for a whole new kind of miniature? I recently learned about miniature books and the people that collect, create, and exhibit them. Actually miniature books aren't new. They've been around for centuries, but they're new to me. I only learned about them a few months ago and was more than intrigued. So when I heard that the University of Iowa Library is home to a large collection of miniature books, I immediately added it to my bucket list. A large collection of miniatures? Somewhat oxymoronic, I know, but nonetheless a must see for me.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Just Beyond My Neighborhood

Glen Lake Community Library
10115 Front Street
Empire, MI 49630

I always say that when I'm at the cottage, my neighborhood expands. Thanks to the rural location coupled with the freedom of retirement and a car with great gas mileage, my “up-north” neighborhood is comprised of a cluster of counties rather than a cluster of houses, and a drive from one edge of this neighborhood to the other would consume a couple of hours—pleasant hours. Not only do I think nothing of driving half an hour to shop for groceries, I actually enjoy it. In fact, with sufficient enticement, I can be induced to travel even farther to the north into the adjacent multi-county “neighborhood.” You can well imagine that such enticement might involve something to do with a bookstore, and you would be correct. One of my favorite bookstores in northern Michigan had scheduled an author event? Say no more. That's all the incentive I needed.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

From Big To Big Time

Not long ago I wrote about a "Big" Little Free Library in Hersey, MI. (See post.) Now it seems that these diminutive book-sharing structures have hit the big time. In a recent newsletter from Little Free Library, I learned that none other than the NBC TODAY show has launched a Little Free Library of its own as part of a celebration of reading. During a recent show segment entitled By the Book, TODAY's Jenna Bush Hager gave a report on the state of reading in America, and the show anchors shared some of their favorite book titles. As part of the segment, the new TODAY show Little Free Library at 30 Rockefeller Plaza was unveiled. Visit the Little Free Library website here for a link to video of the segment where you'll also get some great book suggestions!

Monday, June 25, 2018

A Sweet, Cozy Place

The Mitten Word Bookshop
114 W. Michigan Ave.
Marshall, MI 49068

Pure Michigan—the lakes, the rivers, the beaches, the Mighty Mackinac Bridge, Sleeping Bear Dunes. My home state has many beautiful sights as well as a variety of nicknames: Water Wonderland, Great Lakes State, Beer State. And let's not forget the Mitten! The shape of our state affords Michiganders the unique ability to use our hands as maps, much to the amusement of outsiders. For example, the last bookstore I wrote about (See BayBooks) sits somewhere near the little nook where the top of my pinky finger joins the neighboring ring finger. Much farther south, near the base of this “handy” map sits a little bookstore I recently discovered, aptly named The Mitten Word Bookshop. On a perfect June day, I set out from my home in Lowell to investigate this store with the charming Michigan name.

Friday, June 15, 2018


Bay Books
419 N Saint Joseph Street
Suttons Bay, MI 49682

After receiving just the tiniest sliver of spring for a couple of weeks in May, Michigan fell headlong into summer with tropical weather over the Memorial Day weekend. Okay, so it wouldn't feel so tropical to my friends from Florida, but to us up here in the North, 90 degrees with high humidity is sweltering. I found myself wondering if I had somehow missed Memorial Day and gone straight to July. A week later the “heat wave” had fortunately eased off, presenting me with perfect traveling weather, and I had just the destination in mind. A brand new bookstore opened last month in one of Michigan's lovelier spots about 2 hours north of our cottage. So I grabbed a bottle of water, some snacks, and a notebook, and headed for Suttons Bay and Bay Books.

Friday, May 25, 2018

What A Bargain

Scottville Hometown Hardware
115 S. Main Street
Scottville, MI 49454

Places to buy books besides bookstores: library sales, garage sales, flea markets, big box stores, hardware stores—wait, hardware stores? That's right. Let me tell you about a unique book buying experience at a Hometown Hardware Store. I was in the small town of Scottville, about half an hour from our cottage. Not at all looking for books, I was enjoying a pleasant afternoon perusing antique shops and discount furniture stores on the hunt for a small dresser. But as you might expect, I'm always on the alert for books. So when I happened to see a small sign in the window of the Hometown Hardware advertising “Books, Books, & More Books,” I was intrigued to say the least. I soon discovered that there was more to this establishment than I first realized. Half hardware store, half “Mini-Mall,” a sidewalk sign out front advertised a curious collection of shopping opportunities: antiques, woodworking, candles, sporting goods, army surplus, and of course, books. This place demanded a look see, so inside I went.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Big Little Library

Hersey Little Free Library
Hersey, Michigan

April in Michigan—the sound of rakes clearing away the leftover debris of winter, robins hopping about on grass that's getting greener by the day, early spring flowers just starting to bloom, a hint of leaves on the trees, and baseball!! Nope. Not this year. This year April thought it was March, and April showers were snow showers. The April of 2018 gave us school closings, icy roads, and baseball games postponed on account of snow. Winter-weary folks let out a collective groan, and the weather was an angry topic of conversation. This year it was nearly May before we were able to open the cottage for the season. Even then, there was still snow on the ground. We comforted ourselves with the thought that once the real spring weather arrived, the snow and ice would soon be gone.

Once the cottage was open, on a sunny afternoon warm enough to finally cast aside a jacket, I decided to treat myself and take a drive. Last winter I had been made aware of a unique Little Free Library not far from our cottage. I referenced it in a blog post (See Library of Distinction.) and promised myself I would see it in person once the weather was better. Well, if you managed to ignore the stubborn piles of snow here and there, the weather was indeed better, so off I went to the small village of Hersey to visit this big Little Free Library.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Let the Celebration Begin

Long live independent bookstores. It's not just a hope. It appears to be a reality. And printed books are no longer on the endangered species list. That's right. Amazon and e-books may have forced them to reinvent themselves, but independent bookstores are far from dead. Not only are well over 2,000 bookstores alive and well in the U. S., but new ones are popping up more and more. According to the Wall Street Journal, e-book sales have actually declined while printed-book sales are rising. 

E-books have their place. For me that place is on the nightstand so that I can read without turning the light on while my husband is trying to sleep. Or while I'm waiting in the dentist's office. And I'm fine with reading the news online. But for the general pleasure of reading, give me a printed book. I want to feel, smell, and turn actual pages. And I want to buy those pages in an actual bookstore. I don't get individual attention at Amazon. I can't hold a prospective purchase in my hands, leaf through the pages, and read selections in a comfy chair at Amazon.

Independent bookstores are thriving. Let the celebration begin—literally. This Saturday, April 28, is Independent Bookstore Day, a nationwide celebration where bookstores across the country will be celebrating with parties, sales, and special events. There's even an Independent Bookstore Day website. Check it out here. Then go find a celebration at your local independent bookstore.

And check out this recent CBS video about the bookstore boom.

Special note for email subscribers to my blog: It has come to my attention that many of you are unaware that your email notification of a blog post includes a link to the actual post. It is best to view the post on the blog itself rather than just reading it in the email. The video links may not appear in your email. Just click the title of the post, and that should take you to the actual blog.

If you're not an email subscriber, you can sign up in the "Follow by Email" box in the sidebar. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Different Kind Of Library

Libraries nowadays are practically ubiquitous, and it's easy to take them for granted. But in rural Kentucky during the Great Depression, such was not the case. Life was hard, and access to reading material was limited, if not nonexistent. Riding to the rescue came The Horseback Librarians. That's right, librarians bringing books to the countryside via saddlebag.

These tenacious librarians have been documented by the likes of NPR and Smithsonian. And I recently learned of a book about their exploits: Down Cut Shin Creek by Kathi Appelt. I've added this gem to my Goodreads To-Read list.

Here's a link to the Smithsonian article: Horse-Riding Librarians.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Rare Thrill

Bauman Rare Books
The Palazzo
Las Vegas, NV

Calling all extreme book lovers! You will certainly appreciate this. Okay, regular book lovers will probably appreciate it too. Are you ready? I touched the pages of a 1675 edition of Cervantes' Don Quixote!!! That's right. The skin on my fingertips came in contact with actual paper from this classic book printed over 300 years ago, a scarce third edition of Thomas Shelton's translation of the famous work. Wow! To say that it was a thrill would be like saying Hemingway, Dickens, and Twain dabbled in writing. How did I come to enjoy such an auspicious tactile experience, you may be wondering. Well, you see it's like this . . .

Monday, March 5, 2018

Location! Location! Location!

Mohave County Library
Lake Havasu City
1770 N. McCulloch Blvd.
Lake Havasu City, AZ 86403

Location! Location! Location! Three important words in the real estate industry. Well, I'm here to tell you that location can be an important word in the world of libraries as well. As I've said before, I never met a library that I didn't like, but when you take a great library and add a magnificent location to the mix, the end result is spectacular. As I'm sure you have guessed by now, I recently had an opportunity to visit a great library in a magnificent location. For starters, I was in Arizona. In February. That's pretty spectacular in and of itself. My husband and I had occasion to visit the Lake Havasu City area for five days, and we completely enjoyed the sunny temperatures in the mid seventies. One gorgeous morning while my husband was out rock hounding, I took a walk around town and paid a visit to the local branch of the Mohave County Library.

If you are unfamiliar with Lake Havasu City, you may not know that there is more to this fabulous location than warm sunny days in February. This place is home to the famous London Bridge. Yes, that London Bridge. Allow me to provide a little background information.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Update: Library of Distinction

If you read my Small But Mighty post last month, you already know about Little Free Libraries and that I have a LFL at our cottage. As a steward, I periodically receive a newsletter from the Little Free Library organization in which they often highlight what they call a "Little Free Library of Distinction." This month the honor fell on one of the libraries I highlighted in my post, the little log cabin in Hersey. How timely.

Here's the story from steward Charmaine Lucas as published in the newsletter:
"Larry Trombley, owner of the Hersey Roller Mills Store, acquired a little log cabin from the Village of Hersey, with the idea of starting a library. It became a Little Free Library charter member in November 2017. Books that began the Library came from Eldon and Mary Lou Zimmerman, who were lifetime Hersey residents and active community members. The library is dedicated to their memory."

Larry Trombley's library also caught the attention of a local TV station that named him a "Person of the Week." Here's a link to the story and a video featuring Larry and the Hersey LFL:
Hersey Library of Distinction.

Kudos to Larry and the Village of Hersey. I look forward to the snow clearing and the coming cottage season when I will be sure to visit this gem in person.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Community Centered

Englehardt Library
200 N. Monroe St.
Lowell, MI 49331

I've never met a library I didn't like. Each one has a story. And I enjoy them all—from large (LOC) to small (Small But Mighty), in exotic settings (Hong Kong), in unusual locations (Topinabee), and in lovely vacation spots (Mackinac). But there's something special about a hometown library, one that is an integral part of the community in which it resides. Such is the case with the Englehardt Library, my hometown library in Lowell. I recently paid a visit to get reacquainted.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Dual Purpose

Kelloggsville Branch
4787 Division Ave S
Grand Rapids, MI 49548

Question: When is a high school library not a high school library? Answer: When it is also a public library. On the south side of Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the small neighborhood of Kelloggsville, the local public library system, Kent District Library, has teamed up with the school district to bring library services to the community. My old school, and by that I mean the school where I spent 10 wonderful years as a librarian, is now home to a double-duty library, a school/public library. Not long ago Kelloggsville Public Schools embarked on a major renovation of its high school, part of which involved the creation of a brand new, two-story, 6000-square-foot library. Then last fall the district partnered with KDL to transform this new addition into a space that could serve both the school and the community. Last Friday I met with some old Kelloggsville friends for breakfast, something we did every Friday as colleagues. I thought this the perfect time to check out this new high school facility.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Small But Mighty

My Little Free Beach Library
Winter in Michigan, that time of year when I am at odds with many of my dearest friends and relatives—the skiers, skaters, and snowmobilers—the ones who dearly love the winter months. The more snow, the better. I am not one of those. I'm more of the hole-up-under-a-cozy-throw-with-piles-of-books type. This time winter hit my neck of the woods like a frozen tidal wave, suddenly crashing down mercilessly with sub-zero temperatures just in time for the start of the new year. Happily, however, a brief respite came when the sun appeared, and temps soared into the 30's. So what to do during this balmy streak? A scavenger hunt! Yes, a scavenger hunt. “Hunting for what?” you might ask. Libraries, of course. Little Free Libraries that is.

If you are unfamiliar with Little Free Libraries, check out my earlier blog post about these small marvels and the one my husband built for me. Apparently the LFL movement is taking the country by storm. Tiny buildings usually mounted on posts, or in my case on a picnic table on the beach at our cottage, these diminutive structures offer books to take free of charge. No library card required. And if patrons like, they can leave books for others to enjoy. After a quick search of the LFL official map, I discovered that there are six of them right here in the Lowell area. So I set out to find them.