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Bookstores are magical places: I love the way they smell, the endless trove of knowledge and stories available, and the perfectly wonderful sense of relaxation that is immediately felt upon entering. They are for losing yourself in, whiling away countless hours wandering around calming shelves, and leaving satisfied with what you eventually pick out. Paring down a list of Michigan’s top bookstores was nearly impossible, but we at the Awesome Mitten feel confident that you will enjoy our selection of the seven best.
Traverse City Location:
118 E. Front Street
Traverse City, MI 49684
Suttons Bay Location:
305 St. Joseph Street
Suttons Bay, MI 49682
One of the most compelling features of the Brilliant Books stores is their four book clubs, which cover a variety of literary interests: the Mysterious and Playful, Suttons Bay Library Great Books, Suttons Bay Bingham Library, and Last Girls reading groups all get a 20% discount on their selections. Extending the monthly reading theme, you can also sign up for a Surprise Book of the Month subscription. The staff asks you to fill out a short questionnaire and, based on the responses, chooses a different book each month to be sent to you, or to a loved one as a thoughtful gift. Brilliant Books makes a point of supporting northern Michigan’s local authors, showcasing their works both online and at the stores. Signed and personalized copies of many titles are available on request. Both Brilliant Books locations are great additions to northern Michigan’s cultural milieu.
307 East Grand River Avenue
East Lansing, MI 48823
Holy macaroni! Be prepared to spend some time being overwhelmed (in the best possible way!) by shelf after shelf of the 50,000 books that the Curious Book Shop contains. Thankfully, they pride themselves on hiring the most knowledgeable staff to assist in the navigation of three floors of literary treasures. If you are in a hurry, you can plan ahead by using a section of their website that describes the store layout and then make directly for the section of choice without getting distracted by the desire to purchase a billion other books (these things happen!). Areas of specialty in this wonderland include Michigan history, science fiction, sports memorabilia, mystery, children’s books, and old magazines covering every topic.
243 E. Front Street
Traverse City, MI 49684
Horizon Books prides itself on being “The Third Place“. What does that mean? In Ray Oldenburg’s book The Great Good Place, he describes the different places we encounter in society. The first place is the home, second is the place of employment, and the third place is an anchor of community life. Horizon Books is certainly an anchor of Traverse City, having been established in 1961, and it is still family owned and operated. The Horizon Shine Cafe located on the bottom floor offers coffee, food, and the legendary Northwood’s Soda. My favorite part of the store is the section dedicated to the history of the State Hospital (Northern Michigan Asylum), such a fascinating part of Traverse City’s history that it seems almost a necessity for a local bookstore.
4. Kazoo Books
407 N. Clarendon
Kalamazoo, MI 49006
“Excite your mind!”, Kazoo Books exclaims as they do just that; motivating readers to join one of their many book clubs, classes, or simply to pick up a book by one of the many Great Lakes Authors they feature. Their website has an comprehensive list of local writers, and provides details of which of their books Kazoo Books carries. This independently-owned bookstore has a plenty of shiny, brand-new titles as well as discounted used books that are still in excellent shape. Kazoo Books has an extremely knowledgeable staff to enthusiastically help you, and there are the store cats to steer you in the right direction, too! Book trade-ins are accepted as long as the store has a need for them and they are clean and unmarked.
194 S. River Avenue
Holland, MI 49423
Downtown Holland has been home to Reader’s World for 45 years. A cornerstone of the community, this bookstore offers an enormous selection of magazines and allows 20% off titles on the current New York Times Best Sellers list. If you are looking for an item and cannot find it among the orderly rows of bookshelves, a courteous staff member will be more than happy to order it for you. Their website conveniently highlights their wide range of new arrivals and provides a brief description of each book. Right now, a series of Holland Welfare Junior League Cookbooks are the feature item, and Reader’s World offers just enough information on each to make you hungry to purchase one of these enticing cookbooks.
Five Different Locations in the Grand Rapids and Lansing Area
With cozy fireplaces and the smell of freshly brewed coffee, it’s obvious why Schuler Books has made our list of best bookstores. At events such as Snoozapalooza, guests are invited to listen to readings of Dr. Seuss books and enjoy an afternoon snack while wearing their pajamas! During the month of October, if you buy any two Dr. Seuss books, you can pick up a third one for free. Schuler Books is one of the few bookstores to offer an Espresso Book Machine, which prints, binds, and trims books for self-publishing.
118 N. Third Street
Marquette Township, MI 49855
“The place for those allergic to life without books,” is the watchword of Snowbound Books. Founded in 1984 with 10,000 books collected by owner Ray Nurmi, this bookstore has expanded its wares to include reading glasses, greeting cards, journals, and a large collection of new and used books. Staff picks are conveniently categorized into groups based on season, age group, or genre, and are portrayed with intriguing descriptions. Book signings and community book reads are regular occurrences at Snowbound Books, and the store has thrived on the extensive support it gets from the community. If you are in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, this bookstore is exactly where you need to be.
Jennifer Hamilton, Feature Writer
Did we leave one of your favorites off the list? Tell about it in the comments!