Literary Tourism: Michigan

Literary Tourism: Michigan

I just got home from a weeklong road trip across Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. It was a whirlwind! 

And just because I'm on vacation doesn't mean I stop reading. In fact, stopping at local bookstores and other literary attractions while I travel is one of my favorite things to do on the road. So this week and for the next two weeks, I'll be sharing some of my literary adventures. If you find yourself around the areas I visited, I hope you'll enjoy them too.

First up, Literati in Ann Arbor, Michigan. 

 The quote on the window says: "A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness leading out into the expanding universe." 

The quote on the window says: "A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness leading out into the expanding universe." 

Located on the corner of a busy street in the heart of Ann Arbor's downtown area, Literati Bookstore invites book lovers and typewriter enthusiasts inside. 

I generally don't take photos inside given that it tends to make shop owners nervous and patrons awkward. Plus, I'm a shy person and that just doesn't jive with my lifestyle. So I'll tell you what I loved about the bookstore and you'll have to experience it for yourself. 

Like several of the best, most welcoming bookstores I've found, Literati is curated extremely well. There are two floors––the first floor being generally fiction and the basement being generally nonfiction––however, they don't have an abundance of space. Despite that fact, they've done a good job making the most of what space they do have. Rather than give in to the temptation to pack as many books as possible into a small space to maximize every inch, they take the more reasonable approach, which is to make sure every book they do have is easily found and seen. 

That means ample walkways so book shoppers aren't stepping on each other's toes, several tables featuring new releases and books on a particular theme. It also means a lot of books facing covers out on the shelf. I know the old saying is to not judge a book by its cover, but if the cover weren't important, publishers wouldn't spend so much time on them. Plus, an intriguing cover is how I've discovered many a good book I might have otherwise missed. 

 The quote on the window is: "In a good book room you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, even without opening them." 

The quote on the window is: "In a good book room you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, even without opening them." 

True to its name, Literati is more focused on literary fiction and more academic-like nonfiction. That's likely due to the fact that Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan, which has a well-respected MFA program for creative writing. While there is genre fiction available, the selection appears to be minimal. While this may be disconcerting to some, they're playing to their audience and upholding their name, so I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing. 

One cautionary note: The local police are pretty brutal about enforcing the parking meters. Some meters throughout the city are only enforced M-F 8-6, but that's not the case on the street in front of Literati, so I was slapped with a parking ticket even though I'd only been in there for about 35 minutes. God forbid I should stay too long spending money in a local business! For that reason, I'll think twice before going there again. I'm a little bit of an anarchist who believes parking tickets punish people for supporting the local economy, but that's another rant for another day. 

After leaving Ann Arbor, our next stop was camping in the UP: Michigan's Upper Peninsula. That meant driving over the Mackinac Bridge, which goes across the straits of Mackinac, the link between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. 

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There are some pretty great lakes up there. 

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Just before you cross over the bridge into the Upper Peninsula, there's Mackinaw City, a cute little tourist town that's the last stop on the mainland. 

Being a tourist town, I should've known the bookstore would pack a surprise or two. But I didn't expect it to be old timey portraits! 

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The portraits are of the kitschy saloons backdrop where the boys and men are in cowboy hats and fringe vests and slinging plastic guns and the girls and women are in chunky pearls and feather boas and ill-fitting sequin dresses. Not my thing, but there was a family of like 16 people getting their pictures done while my partner and I shopped in the front half of the store, the bookshop, so it seems to be a good use of space for them. 

I could tell by the selection of books this is a bookstore that knows their target audience. People go to the areas around the Mackinac Bridge because they're resort towns, so while the selection of books was small (less than a quarter of Literati), the books reflected what people on vacation might want. There were a number of "beach reads" and the mystery and romance sections were much more robust than Literati's, for example. There were also a sampling of recent bestsellers, in both fiction and nonfiction, though there weren't many options for poetry, small press, and more nuanced topics. The books were mainly popular fiction. 

Though quite different in their goals and the readers they catered to, both bookstores were wonderful and my partner and I bought several books from each. That's on top of the backpack full of books from our house we bought to go on the trip. 

This is by no means an exhaustive list, so if there are other bookstores in Michigan you like, let me know so I can check them out next time I visit! 

Do you like to visit bookstores on vacation? Where are some of your favorites?

Tell me in the comments below! 

Literary Tourism: Iowa

Literary Tourism: Iowa

Gone Road Tripping! Here Are Some Fun Things You Can Do While I'm Gone

Gone Road Tripping! Here Are Some Fun Things You Can Do While I'm Gone