Bookbound celebrated its grand opening on Saturday, September 7th, and is now nestled into Ann Arbor’s north side neighborhood as part of the Courtyard Shops on Plymouth Road, selling a variety of new titles as well as bargain books. The store has an easily maneuverable layout that includes a used book wall, a section for Michigan literature, and an expansive children’s section.
Bookbound is adding to Ann Arbor’s already strong presence of independent bookstores, and their location has created a kind of literary balance throughout the community. While the downtown area has several prominent bookstores including Literati Bookstore, and the west side houses the infamous Nicola’s Books, the north side seemed noticeably absent of a local literary hub.
Moreover, as bookstores across the country struggle to stay competitive with bookselling despots like Amazon.com, Bookbound offers competitive prices on the majority of their books. Megan Blackshear, who owns Bookbound with her husband Peter, explains, “Our bargain books are actually often—because we’ve looked—priced lower than Amazon…and then there’s the human factor. The algorithms on Amazon can only get you so far.” While Amazon continues to perfidiously undercut retailers with ethically questionable business practices, Bookbound is proving that brick-and-mortar stores can not only still compete, but also provide portentous advice that can’t be found online.
Consider this: You walk into Bookbound to find two amicable, jovial book-lovers that happen to own the store. They have shelved each and every book. They know what you’re looking for even if you can’t give them anything more than “the one about the guy and the thing.” The distinguished scent of dog-eared tomes blends with that of freshly printed paper. They’re excited to talk to you about books and Michigan and where to eat in the neighborhood and local events and authors, and you can walk right out of the store after, book in hand, reasonably priced, without having to wait two days for some overworked, underpaid Amazon worker to ship it to you. No brainer right?
Featured Literature: In The House Upon The Dirt Between The Lake And The Woods, by Matt Bell
Matt Bell’s novel, released earlier this year, is looming, tortuous tale of husband and wife attempting to build a house and create a family. The title is apt in its length, but is also calculated in its elements. While there are idyllic expectations at the novel’s opening, they are quickly overshadowed in a mucky, somber string of challenges the couple face: the problems of building a home, conceiving a child, living amongst a world of peculiar natural wonders, the grotesque realizations of death and decomposition, and the struggle of maintaining love while being surrounded by despair.
Yet, there is something more here. The prose rings clean and terse and elemental, but it unwinds in vibrant, lyrical waves, at times ringing in a saddening chorus, undulating with such distinct focus on both nature and nurture, on decomposition and birth, romance and loss, earth and water, hope and malice. There are songs that ring out through woods and words lost bubbling in the lake.
What Bell’s novel accomplishes (in a way that will make you shiver and sigh and ponder) is the specious means by which we measure traditional family success. He pries apart how we love, and why we love, and the nature by which love exists, and at the rare moments an answer seems to sift to the surface, it is again buried or sullied in the complexities of our strangest desires, the incomprehensible leanings of the elements, and the overall imperfections of a world that is abundant with sorrow. This novel is an endless death rattle, but simultaneously a praise to life, a howling, gasping shout at moons and lakes and stars, an echoing ululation demanding to make some sense of existence, and its swift disappearance.