A Treasure Trove of Books in Ann Arbor!

Do you ever wake up and say, “I love my job?”  I do.  Writing is a wonderful opportunity to think and grow, and I revel in the experience every day.  Yes, the pay sucks, but the lifestyle can’t be beat.  Every person you meet is a new story; every place you go becomes a wonderland.

And last week was no exception.  I did my annual trek to the Detroit area and had a blast with family and friends for ten days straight.  I only wish I could jot down all of my experiences, but that would make this post several thousand words long.  So today, I’ll just share my Ann Arbor afternoon in search of bookstores with you.

Ann Arbor Bookstores

You may already be familiar with Ann Arbor, or as the locals call it “A-Squared.” It is the home of the University of Michigan and the great sports teams of the Wolverines.  Ann Arbor also boasts one of the largest and more successful art fairs each summer.  It was a thrill to return to the place where my good guy studied and received his masters degree in business, recognizing this and being freshly introduced to that.

Aunt Agatha Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

Ann Arbor must see–Aunt Agatha’s mystery books

My mission (which I shamelessly dragged my sister through), was to visit Aunt Agatha’s mystery book store on 4th Avenue.  This mystery store received the 2014 Raven Award from Mystery Writers of America, and I’ve made it a goal to visit ever since.

No disappointment, Aunt Agatha’s was a delightful collection of mystery served every way you could want, from the dark reaches of Jeffery Deaver to cozies by Maggie Sefton.  Wonderful!  Of course, Sis and I picked up a couple of new treasures.  I bought “An Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating” (bwaa,ha,ha, ha, ha!) and the “Edgar Allan Poe Keepsake Journal,” the latter of which I’ll be giving away in my WINTER NEWSLETTER (so be sure to sign up to be on my mailing list if you haven’t already done so).

Chess at Ann Arbor Public Library

Fun at the library has a whole new meaning in Ann Arbor.

We also visited the Ann Arbor Public library, a place that checks out the usual treasure trove of books, but so much more.  I even stopped by the gigantic chess board in the main reading room and had some fun with it.

Next up was Literati, a wonderful place where a person could spend an hour just reading and re-reading quotes painted and printed everywhere, including a couple of my favorites, “Life, like this typewriter, has no backspace,” and the ever popular (and important), “Welcome Book Lover, You Are Among Friends.”

Welcome Book Lovers

Sign of great things to come!

It was wonderful to see so much good reading opportunities, and bundled within easy walking distance of each other.

What about where you live?

Do you have a bookstore you’d like to share?  Could you take a friend on a tour of that store?  Even if yours is a “big box store” like Barnes and Noble, it’s a valid choice for finding a new friend.  Did you know that each B&N is managed to serve the specific needs of its local community?  Please tell me about your favorite bookstore.  What sort of books does it carry?  Are the managers particularly helpful or insightful? Are there good nooks and crannies to curl up in or do you prefer a minimalist shopping experience?  If you had a million dollars to support your local bookstore, what would you do with it?

Wishing you a fun and creative week.

Books Abroad

Traveling in a flight pod

If you ever get to travel in a “pod” be sure to do it. Marvelous!

Please, please, please!  If you ever hear me say I don’t like to travel, just slap my face.  OMG!  The past couple of weeks have given me such a wealth of experiences, drawing visions, and writing ideas that I could kick myself for the bad attitude I’ve had about traveling before.

Over the past couple of weeks, my family and I went to England and Italy, and there was so much to see and do that I was able to write a list of about 16 blog posts I could conjure up–everything from reporting on the Dr. Who Experience in Bristol to seeing the crypts under St. Peter’s Basilica; from partying with friends and family in England to flirting with strangers in Rome (“Gramma!  That’s forbidden.  You’re a married woman!”)

WH Smith Booksellers

Even at the airport the WH Smiths are there to welcome you.

One of my happiest thoughts, though, is of the books and bookstores everywhere we went.  Looks like Europe hasn’t embraced the electronic revolution that we have in the States.  People everywhere were reading, especially on public transport.  What a thrill for someone like me to see.  Unfortunately, I’m horrid with a camera, and didn’t think to ask travelers if I could take a snap of them reading the newspapers, the books, the magazines I saw them with.  But believe me, they were there.

Now, I have to admit, I don’t ride a lot of public transport back here in Littleton.  Part of the reason for this is because I own and use a car for just about every errand I have, and part is because Littleton, unlike London, doesn’t have a lot of public transport (oh, and don’t get me started on London’s “Oyster Cards.” Wonderful!)

Visiting Foyles New Bookstore

London’s magnet for readers!

But not only do people seem to read a lot “over there,” the brick-&-motar stores seem to be doing well also.  I saw several W.H.Smith stores sprinkled about, just as when I lived in England in the ’70s, and I made a pilgrimage to the great and newly relocated “Foyles” bookstore.  Foyles is no longer the largest bookstore in Europe, but there were still several floors (floors!) of books on all sorts of subjects. The link I’ve inserted here leads to a webpage that claims this store has over 6.5 kilometers of books–200,000 titles, and I believe it.

My good guy knows how important books and bookstores are to me, and even though he shakes his head sadly about my archaic drive for the printed book, he was kind enough to help me find the new Foyles.  How very cool!

We went on a typically drizzly day via bus. This was after a stop in a ballroom dance store for a couple of pair of shoes.  As we neared the book shop, I could almost feel the breath of readers permeate the air.  Reading has a certain rhythm, and I think it come from the relaxed breathing people have when engaged with a good book.  My guy was heads down on his phone, using GPS to find the place (and he almost missed it) when a squeal escaped me.  There it was, bold as a modern building tends to be in an ancient city like London.

We strode up and in.  I went to the information desk to see if picture-taking would be okay.  I expected a rejection (many stores in the US have a problem with people taking photos–a little old woman like me might be stealing corporate secrets or something).  At the very least I knew there would be a delay while the Information clerk went to check on okays from management.

Books, books, everywhere!

Books, books, everywhere!

The young man smiled at my question.  “Of course, madam, you may take photos. We’re very proud of our update.” Wow! I almost jumped in the air. Then he continued. “As for a history of mystery writing, I’m not quite sure what we have.  Please check on the first floor (in American, that’s the second floor).  I believe we have a section on commentary regarding mystery.  You might find something there.”

I was blown away.  I gave my good guy permission to sit on one of the comfy benches in the stair area and ran to the “first” floor.  I am without words.  I know mystery is a popular genre, but even my local Barnes and Nobel can’t compete.  Shelf after shelf and book after book appeared before me.  I was in heaven, and had to keep reminding myself that I only had a small suitcase in which to bring back these treasures. Darn it.

I found the commentary section, and while there wasn’t a specific history per se, I did find a book called “The Cambridge Companion to American Crime Fiction” among others.  Needless to say, I picked that book up before leaving . . . and I left a couple of copies of my brochure with the kind folks in the store.  You never know.

This small perspective is just one of the several great travel experiences I had.  How’s your summer shaping up?  Are you planning any travels?  Please look forward to them and come back to share your adventures with us all.