Voyaging at the Dawn Treader

When writing non-fiction, there is much from fiction that can be incorporated. Metaphors and storytelling are important tools in such a writer’s toolbox. In what may be a series of pieces about bookstores across the United States, and a few other countries along my travels, I will explore these locations with an eye for using tools that are similar to writing fiction. I hope you share this journey. Please share your favorite bookstores in the comments section. If I pass through your area, I’ll visit, and bring the experience to this blog… John McCarthy

DT Sidewalk

The Dawn Treader is one of those ports of call that from the outside appears to be a typical storefront. Bookshelves line the sidewalk in front with the bargain books for a dollar or less. All are used or well loved in usage depending on your view point. Like any seafaring ship, you must enter to find the treasure inside. And oh what plunder there is to be gained.

On first setting foot inside, I’m reminded of the time I took my son on a sleepover in a submarine. For such a small vessel, the inside was packed with compartments that, had I’d not known better, I’d think the sub was much larger from the outside. The same illusion occurs on first entering the Dawn Treader. The store entrance is spacious and open–that is if you consider a 6’ by 10 foot area surrounded by bookshelves as open. On the left is the cash register with stacks of books on the floor and desk, siren’s temptation that calls to you when making a purchase—“buy me, just one more book.” There are a few shallow steps up into what can only be described as narrow winding passageways of shelves filled with books. The different paths take you deep into the store–more so than one would believe could be the capacity from the view outside of the store front.

DT pathway

Antiquities to contemporary books pack the shelves. Along one passage there is a cart of mystery and suspense novels that are all signed by the authors. On this sojourn, I found two such treasures, King of the Corner by Loren D. Estelman and The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer–both 1st editions & 1st printings.

DT signed

At the furthest depths of the store the “passageway” opens up into the best collection of Science Thieves WorldFiction/Fantasy that I’ve seen anywhere. It rivals even King Bookstore, a 5 story monolith bookstore in the heart of Detroit. A curving 20-30’ wall contains floor to ceiling shelves of tightly packed hardcovers. Three rows of 2 sets of bookshelves, also floor to ceiling, are tightly packed with paperbacks. Many decades are well represented by great stories, such as the 1970s. I uncovered original paperbacks from classic, and still incredible series, such as Thieves’ World, Conan, and the original Star Trek.

DT tall shelves

Part of lore for the magical world of the Fey is that time spent there does not measure in the same way as the mortal world. Time exploring the “decks” of the Dawn Treader is the same. Beware of entering the store, thinking you have ten minutes to kill, as an hour will pass when next you leave the premises. Enter if you dare.

DT WindowDawn Treader – Established since 1992 (per website)

514 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

(734) 995-1008
11 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday,
11 a.m. until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday,
11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

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  1. Love the topic! I visited Bauman Rare Books in Las Vegas last month. Saw a beautiful variety of first editions, from children’s stories to adult classics, including _Cat in the Hat_, _Frankenstein_, and _Adventures of Huckleberry Finn_. Rare books indeed. Locally, I’ve heard of a small used bookstore in Farmington: Off the Beaten Path Books & Café. I’ve not yet visited, but hope you’ll take us readers there one day.

  2. I enjoy this port of call and am looking forward to many more. Magina Books has been a staple of the Lincoln Park, MI, and Downriver communities since 1948. Give it a try if you pass through the area.

  3. Empty handed? No way! I’ve been there and had no idea how long the store was; the great sci-fi section is in the netherworlds on the back behind the Egyptian sarcophagus. More than books, they have maps, postcards, pamphlets and other paper ephemera. A treasure trove.

    If your travels take you to Chicago, a must-see is Sandmeyer’s bookstore in Printers Row.

  4. Nice piece, and please do write more antiquarian bookstores, my favorite topic! BirchwoodBooks.com resides in cyberspace, please do drop in the next time your in town.

    • An online used bookstore? Intriguing. It may seem incongruous with supporting local brick-and-mortar stores–to going in and touching and smelling books–but if the online site holds true to such customer service values found in person, then that’s a good thing. I hope that will be explored sometime; a different approach, perspective.