Coffee Shop Chronicles: Coffee, books and the end of an era

img_7200Borders Bookstore

Canton, MI

April 2011

I came here because I have a coupon.

The coupon is for 33% off one item or 20% off your entire purchase.  I’m upstairs sampling the vanilla bean loaf, and there’s this weird aftertaste.  The black tea is helping only so much.  I’m glad I have a peanut butter sandwich with me.  It’s not gourmet breakfast, but I do feel like a queen as I look over the café railing down upon the bookstore.

It’s 9 o’clock on a Saturday, and it’s a bustling morning.  I stood at the door as the store opened, and now I’m in my favorite seat here, a table along the railing.

I think, dream and wonder…why do I have only one coupon?  I want to walk out with the whole bookstore.  Right now, I want one particular book.  I’ll go tease myself and see if the paperback is out yet.  The vanilla loaf taste is still hanging on my tongue anyway.

Tongue.  Teeth.  Fangs.  Vampire fangs.  Vlad the vampire.

I’m into Young Adult books, but I don’t like hardbacks.  Hardbacks are heavy to carry and you can’t fold the covers back to make it comfortable in your hands.  I got sucked into this vampire series by…oh, I don’t recall how or who introduced me to it.  The first book was in paperback, I know that, and maybe the smiley vampire face on the cover caught my eye.  I’ve read eighth grade through eleventh grade, but Vlad’s senior year is still a mystery.  It hasn’t been a year yet–the standard time between hardback release and paperbacks–but a girl can hope and think, dream and wonder.

I walk instinctively to the right side of the store and look under “B” for Brewer.  My eyes jump from bookend to bookend, shelf by shelf.  Hardback–hardback–hardback–paperback.  There it is!  Paperback!  Tucked at the edge of the shelf, hidden in the shadows of overhead lights, is The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod: Twelfth Grade Kills.

I grab it and drop it on the floor.  I’m so excited I can’t even hold it!  I dash over to my husband who wanders the CD racks, of course.

“Oh, this trip was so worth it!” I say.  I have waited so long.  I smile, I gleam, I may even be glowing.

How many more times will I feel like this?

How many more times will I be this excited about a book series–so excited!–so excited for a paperback because it’s cheaper and lighter and more flexible than a hardback?  How many more times will I be able to walk into a bookstore, pick up a book made of paper and walk out with my treasure?

A purchase.

The glisten of a glossy cover.  The ruffle of pages flipping through them.  The smudgy fingerprints in margins from cheap ink.  The triumph of finding what you want.  To leave with the treasure.

There’s joy of being able to flip through a book for a sample; through the entire book, not just some random chapter.  In fact, by doing this now, I find another YA novel to buy.  That book is here but more expensive at $9.99.  I’ll wait for another coupon.

An actual purchase.  Even the smell.  I pull it up to my nose, to make sure.  There’s that musty, raw dusty smell.  Yes.  The delicious anticipation.  Page One awaits.

With the dying brick-n-mortar stores going the way of the Dodo, I will probably not have many more moments like this.

I walk by the shelves one more time to relive the glorious moment.  It’s the only paperback there.  Or it was.  It’s mine now.

Vlad is $8.99.  I use the coupon, but I would have bought it without one.

Even the receipt is a bookmark.


The Book Gallery

The Book Gallery (Phoenix AZ) is in a non-descript plaza, which from the outside does not attract the eye. I might have missed it if I was not looking for it. The place has the familiar and strong odor of antiquarian books. I prefer bookstores that have more inventory of books from the last couple of decades, whereas this store is filled with books that go back much further. I almost left on taking a few steps past the entrance. If I had, it would have been one of the biggest mistakes in my bibliophile life.

Stacks of hardcover books line the shelves as you walk to the back of the store. Many books are from the time when publishers did not turn covers into eye candy to draw a prospective buyer’s attention. On finding the Science Fiction and Fantasy section, I was mildly curious about the classic authors from the 1970’s and before – when I first started reading books. It was an interesting collection that reminded me of the classic greats who laid the foundation for the amazing writers today.

My attention waning, I turned to leave when I noticed a Dean Koontz novel, Seize the Night,  had a “Signed by Author” tag. After looking over the $35 copy, I skimmed the shelves. It was like somebody sprinkled fairy dust on the shelving and a third of the books sparkled. I’ve never seen so many signed by author books collected in a single space for Science Fiction and Fantasy.

It was joyful and frustrating.

I felt awe looking at signatures of authors who I admire and enjoyed reading. Several of them inspire my ideas about fiction. There were many books that I wanted to take home, which would have been a challenge to pack for the plane, but they were expensive.

Refusing to leave empty handed, I settled on The Book of Skulls by Robert Silverberg. It’s a nice well kept signed 1st edition that was sold for $35. The same copy on Abesbooks was going for $100. It’s most valuable to me for being a story I read as a teen that stays with me today. There were a couple of other books I purchased—none signed but having great appeal.

The Book Gallery is one I strongly recommend visiting for the genres that you love. I know I’ll be visiting my book friends again, and, perhaps, take more signed editions home with me.

The Book Gallery

3643 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85018


Books and Death

Reaper ManI recently read a blogpost reflecting on the death of author Terry Pratchett.  Terry Pratchett…why did that name sound familiar to me?

The reflective blogger lived in the UK and noted that Pratchett was a best-selling English author of fantasy novels.  I guess that’s why I hadn’t heard the news.  He must be a bigger deal there than here across the pond.  But that name still tugged at me. Did I ever read his books?

Of course I did.  I’m embarrassed to admit that.  I didn’t make the connection until I did an Internet search.  He wrote the Discworld series, a satirical set of stories that ties together dragons, witches, politicians, gods, cats and centaurs that live in a flat world.  During high school, I dove into book series like this as well as the Myth series by Robert Aspirin and the Xanth series by Piers Anthony.

The Color of Magic was Discworld Book 1, a tale about our hero wizard, Rincewind, who travels from his home city of Ankh-Morpork to the edge of the Disc, a journey that is actually a chess game played by gods.  Suddenly nostalgic, wanting to feel a part of it all and properly mourn the death of a fine writer, I searched my stash for his book.

My bookshelf boasts blank journals and an eclectic combination of my read-or-to-be-read-again books.  Many of my sentimental favorites are in boxes in the basement, callously but deliberately misplaced from my reach, so I wasn’t sure I’d find anything upstairs, but that was the easiest place to start.  I was surprised when I saw right there on the second shelf, third book down on the overflow sideways stack, was the book Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett.

This wasn’t the first book in the series, yet I know I bought this one for a reason.  Why?

Two things caught my attention.  One, the front cover blurb reads, “It’s no vacation when Death takes a holiday.”  That’s what must have caught my eye because cover art does nothing for me.  This version showed the Grim Reaper with scythe inside a snow globe.  Charming, I suppose, but titles and taglines grab my valuable reading attention.

Reaper Man BordersThe second thing was the back cover.  The price tag was from Borders, a bookstore chain that died almost exactly 4 years ago.  Based on the book’s placement on my bookshelf, I must have bought it from the custom-built-from-scratch store that opened 8 months after I moved to Michigan.  This new store was less than 3 miles from my house, freshly built for me I liked to think, but that store became the default hangout spot for my husband and me.  I wandered the aisles and often took a magazine or my journal to the upstairs café before he joined me.

The store chain closed in July 2011, displacing us shortly after I became Foursquare Mayor of that location, and an appliance store snuck into those walls.

This one book brought back so many memories.  It was Death in so many forms.

In December 2014, I committed one New Year’s non-Resolution to revisit an old favorite book.  At the time, I had one particular book in mind, using this as an excuse to read that book for the third or fourth time.  But now I think this is the one to revive and explore.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll write a review about it to remember reading it this time.

The Bookbug: Catch the bug

While visiting Kalamazoo, MI for the show, Last Comic Standing, at Western Michigan University, I came across a gem of a bookstore: The Bookbug.



Located in a plaza, the Bookbug is an independently owned store in an area with one other bookstore, Barnes and Noble. This can make survival of a small business challenging. Yet, on entering the store, I immediately felt like I was in a cozy warm café, where I could sample some books and find the one or few to purchase for home. Full disclosure: there is no café in the store. It just has that inviting feeling to relax and read. The selections are quite wide so as to satisfy any type of reader. There is a fun area for little ones to explore many treasures.


The owner started the store because of her passion for bookstores along her travels. Settled in Kalamazoo, she found the courage to start Bookbug. It’s a worthy store whose qualities would easily compete with many bookstores across the country.


If you pass through Kalamazoo, stop in at Bookbug. You will be refreshed and inspired.

The Bookbug

3019 Oakland Dr, Kalamazoo, MI 49008
(269) 385-2847


A Tale of 3 Bookstores in Seoul–Part Three

Kyobo Books

교보문고 광화문점

South Korea, 서울특별시 Jongno-gu, Jong-ro, 1

This has been a fun trip for me to relive the experiences I had visiting these three bookstores in Seoul, South Korea. With one more to share, I’m hopeful to return to them someday and spend more time. If you get there before me, please send pictures of the stores, and you’re favorite books in Korean. Would love to hear other’s experiences at these places, and recommendations for other bookstores in the area that one should visit.

The third bookstore, Kyobo Book, was the furthest walk, approximately 3 blocks from the subway, which in the downtown area, street blocks are long. There are several vendors in small structures, selling magazines, food, maps, and other items that you might find useful in an urban area. I almost did not find the last location. The first person I asked for help, one of the vendors, only spoke Korean, and I only knew a few words. Need to brush up for any future trips. I showed the name of the store on the map, but she could not help. She called on someone else on the street to help, but no luck there. A pair of police officers pointed me in the right direction: 30 yards away, stairs went down. From a distance, one would not know there were stairs. Below was the store logo. Glass doors opened into what can be best described as a mall. Rows of books, jewelry, technology, clothing, food court, and…did I mention books. The space was larger than the other stores. There was much activity and merchandise that it would take hours to fully appreciate it all.

The English Language section was expansive enough to compete with a small bookstore in the US. It was in this store that I purchased my keepsake: The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, in Korean. Like the stores previously shared in posts, the store was well organized and pristine. This store had a feel of elegance beyond the other stores that from my experience is only rivaled by Books Kinokuniya in Sydney Australia (a future post). The place is only one level, but expansive. It’s the place to take your family and friends where they can find something to do while you peruse the books to your heart’s content. Get a coffee drink, a snack, or meal while passing the time with a book, as your partner is shopping for clothes, jewelry, or any of the other many options that this store provides. I’m sure there are other stores like this one and the other two in the world. I hope to have the opportunity to share those with you some day.