Three Bookstores in Three Days
Posted July 28, 2012on:
I love going to bookstores I’ve never been to before. With just an address and a not-to-scale badly hand-drawn map, I might get a little lost on the way. I might drive around the shopping plaza a few times until I find the place. I might park a smidgen illegally. I might show up 20 minutes before they are going to close. I might spend $5, I might spend $50.
Exploring a bookstore is an adventure unto itself. do they have a store cat? do they have a decent science fiction section? do they have fair prices for used books? do they have any chairs to sit on while reading the first few pages of a book? is the staff knowledgeable? Is the staff friendly? and most importantly, would I go back?
First up, was The Remarkable Book Shop, in Merrillville Indiana. The on-hand stock is all used, but they will order you anything you want. A rather small, narrow space, this seemed to be the busiest shop in a rather unremarkable shopping plaza. At no time was there less than 3-4 customers in the store, and as it was quite small, that was a lot of people. I had a very nice chat with the owner about independent bookstores on the Lake Michigan lakeshore, and although he knew every single one and all their owners, I was impressed with myself that I knew the stores that were in some of the touristy towns I’d visited. I picked up a paperback copy of The Paths of the Dead, by Steven Brust. Would I go back? Tough to say. The owner was very friendly and nice to talk to, but his selection in the genres I read was just so-so more due to lack of space than anything else. I think next time I’m in the area I’ll call ahead to see what titles he has of authors I’m interested in.
Next up was Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor Michigan. Located in an affluent area, and with an uptick in business since the closing of Ann Arbor’s landmark Borders Books, Nicola’s is a large, beautiful, family friendly bookstore. I’d gone there to see Sarah Zettel talk about her new book, Dust Girl (which I did buy), and ended up spending another half hour or so chatting some bookstore staff and some college aged customers. Nicola’s sells only new books, and they have a stationary and gift section as well. There was a small social area in front for book clubs, and a larger area in back with a microphone and podium for speakers and authors and such. Nicola’s seemed to have a section for nearly every genre, which means they didn’t have that many titles in each genre. Their scifi/fantasy section was depressingly small, and the employee that I spoke with said they’d gotten more demand for scifi and fantasy since Borders had closed, so they were looking to expand that area. Nicola’s is a perfect suburban high-end bookstore. You walk in, and someone greets you and asks if they can help you find anything, the entire store is decorated with bookish things, they have a newsletter, a frequent buyer card, events for all different age groups, all sorts of modern conveniences. But alas, no used books that be purchased on the cheap and not much Scifi. Will I go back? Yes, if only to nag them about expanding their scifi/fantasy section, and they seem to get a lot of midwestern authors in to do booksignings.
Last but not least, was Rodegher’s Used Books in Dearborn Michigan. First off, this place looked like crap from the road. Really. I’d driven past it about 6 times before deciding to stop in, and finding the parking in back took some intuitiveness. It’s rare that I’m this reluctant to visit a bookstore, but I was expecting one of those dark, dingy stores, where everything is covered in dust and the books smell like grandma’s basement. That’s what I get for judging a bookstore by their front window. Rodegher’s is very well lit, spotless, spacious, friendly, and nice and old fashioned. Even better, they had an entire row of science fiction, AND a handful of old Fantasy and Science Fiction magazines from the early 2000’s, which I would have bought all off had I had enough money. Their pricing is very simple – books that don’t have a price written in/on them are 1/2 the original retail price. I picked up a copy of Alastair Reynold’s Pushing Ice, and a random Fantasy & ScienceFiction magazine from 2006 in which I’ve already found a few gems. the top shelves of one wall were decorated with the owners collection of snow globes and figurines. You can tell this is her home away from home. Will go back? Absolutely. Now that I’ve figured out where to park, I’m itching for more of those old scifi magazines, and she had an impressive selection of authors I enjoy reading. If you find yourself in the Dearborn area, look for the green awning on the Northeast corner of Telegraph Rd and Michigan Ave. Use the Mich Ave turn around to get to the parking lot in back.
In a few weeks I’ll be stuck in the southern stretches of Chicago for a week. What bookstores should I visit?