I saw this article on the Condè Nast Traveler website listing 11 Mega Bookstores We Love. I’m a bit of a book store connoisseur myself, so I thought I’d do something similar.
My criteria is simple: they must be book stores I have physically set foot in, and their main revenue is derived by the sales of new titles. This criteria would eliminate John King, where Condè Nast Traveler included it. That’s okay because in a forthcoming entry I’ll list ten of my favorite used/rare/old bookstores as well.
The list is not ranked, but in alphabetical order – which also seems appropriate because I can’t claim a single “favorite” book store.
TEN FAVORITE BOOK STORES
For over thirty years, Book Beat has been Detroit’s premiere Indie bookseller. Maneuvering through the narrow spaces between the shelves, it is a browser’s paradise. Too many times I’ve gone into this store with a single book in mind and discovered more. Author visits are frequent. It’s a hip, Detroit cornerstone of art and literary delight.
There’s more to Columbus, Ohio than Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew SC. The Book Loft is a huge, two-story building with thirty-two rooms of books. It’s like wandering through a mansion of books. They do have a map so that you don’t get lost, but getting lost in this place is half the fun. Book lovers should plan on spending a few hours here.
I started visiting Traverse City annually for the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan conference in 2008. One year, this classy book store popped up, opening its doors the week I was there. The sales force is knowledgeable and friendly. Signed editions are available, some of which I kicked myself for not having picked up at the time. They have a Surprise Book of the Month club where, for a single payment, they will send you one book a month that, from what I’ve heard, customers love. They offer a membership, which, if you are voracious like me, will pay for itself in no time.
I am writing this blog entry in the lower level of this store. That is how comfortable it feels to be in Horizon Books. And what could be more special than a book store open from 7AM to 11PM every day.
Since I’ve been coming to Traverse City and writing in their lower level, other groups have met including a knitting group, a mass of Mahjong players, a book club, and Occupy Traverse City. Friday nights there is live music by local artists. And books. Lots of books. All the new stuff on the main and upper floor; bargain books and magazines in the basement with the cafe.
A little over a year old, Literati has filled the void left by the closure of Borders in downtown Ann Arbor. Fiction on the main floor, nonfiction below ground, they are adding a cafe on the second floor. Awesome atmosphere and host to many authors on tour.
My summer trip to New York City introduced me to this pleasant, two-story book store, where literature is sorted by countries, not en masse, alphabetical order by author. One element that impresses me in a book store is its writer’s reference section, which McNally Jackson was well stocked. Perhaps this is because they offer book publishing services through their in-store print-on-demand service.
This makes the list by virtue of being the closest independent book store carrying new titles to my residence. In business for over thirty years, it does serve its community with the latest titles – leaning more toward the best seller lists than from the Indie Next lists. It boasts a large magazine selection, yet carries no literary journals.
Another gem of Ann Arbor, Nicola’s is located in the Westgate Shopping Center west of downtown, featuring a large selection of titles. This is another location where authors often visit on their book tours, and signed copies can be found. I’ve lost many hours browsing the abundant shelves here.
When our daughter attended American University, she resided in an apartment a couple subway stations away from this cozy book store. An abundance of political and history titles (it is Washington DC after all) and fiction, they host many author visits. I was in town when Naomi Klein was there for the release of The Shock Doctrine. On another visit, Barbara Ehrenreich was going to be signing what was her new book at the time – Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America – the day after we left town. No problem. They were willing to have a copy signed and shipped to me. Over a week had passed from the signing and I contacted them about the book. They looked it up and discovered they had forgotten to have one signed for me. No problem. They sent one of their staff to Ms. Ehrenreich’s residence for signing, then shipped it to me. Now how’s that for service! (Awesome book, by the way, if you haven’t read it yet).
This is not the biggest book store on my list. Nor is it the easiest to visit. However, just over a year ago this book store took root in downtown Cheboygan (the top of the Michigan mitten) and serves its community well. Owner Emily Clare, a well-educated bookseller, named the store in order to bring awareness to Cystic Fibrosis (purple is the awareness color for this incurable genetic disease), which her niece was diagnosed with when only six days old. It’s a book store with a cause.
Those are my Top Ten Independent Book Sellers. Soon, I’ll post my Top Ten Used, Rare, and Old Book Stores.