“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.”
[curious1]The words of Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye capture a true emotional connection with a story and its characters. It’s felt upon picking up that special book from the shelf: the one that grabs the reader’s interest from the opening sentence, forcing one to skip meals and go to bed at sunrise just to finish it.
Realizing that someone else sees the world the same way we do can be very comforting. There are times when even those closest to us do not understand what we are going through, and it takes the support of a complete stranger to help us get by. Maybe they have experienced the same troubles, needs or desires. Along the way, they have made the same mistakes or accomplished the same goals. The only problem is finding the voice that will truly speak to us among the stacks and shelves.
Independent bookstores are an excellent place to start this search. \”I like to read mystery and fiction when I have the time, and by shopping at these smaller bookstores I [can] find different collections than I\’m used to,\” human biology junior Brittany Burkhart said. \”I usually go to Barnes and Noble, but by buying them [at indepedent bookstores] I would also be supporting local business.\” In the Lansing area, Everybody Reads, Schuler Books and Curious Bookshop offer students unique outlets for personal exploration and growth.
So, Everybody Reads?
[everybody1]Upon entering Everybody Reads on Michigan Avenue in Lansing, the inspirational words of Mahatma Gandhi’s famous quip, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” are seen immediately. Scott Harris, owner of the Lansing independent store, is working at doing just that. His store features a vast selection of reading material with an emphasis on social issues and activism, including information on environmentalism, gay and lesbian rights and diversity.
Harris said he finds it frustrating that people often focus on a few individual issues to fight for, rather than seeing how all issues are related. He hopes that when people come into the store, they will see the correlation among many of the world\’s most pressing issues. “Involvement in the recent election is evidence that people care about issues,” he said. “We have a place for them to look for more information on peace, justice, and multiculturalism.” He desires to educate the public on these issues, serving as a resource center for individuals with specific needs ever since the store opened last June, as well as providing information that may not otherwise be available to them.
Harris has personally experienced the help that a community has to offer, and this is his way of giving back. After his wife passed away, he and his children went through very difficult times and received great support from friends and organizations. It became clear to Harris that students in the area were often not as fortunate in receiving the help and support that they needed. The bookstore and its missions were soon developed, and sections are dedicated to family issues such as grief recovery, divorce and adoption.
The books available include information that both adults and children can utilize, serving as a tool to help themselves and others around them. In addition to purchasing books, Everybody Reads has a section of free books and a book exchange program available to the public and those who may not be able to afford them. “The overall vision is that everybody counts – you are who you are, and everyone should be given equal opportunities,” Harris said.
Schuler Books is Indie?
These similar goals are echoed by Schuler Books and Music, another local independent bookseller which strives to cater to the needs and wants of individual clientele. Bill and Cecil Fehsenfeld, a husband and wife team from Grand Rapids, started the small chain, and two of the four stores are located in the area at Meridian Mall and Eastwood Towne Center.
“We choose on a store level what we want to buy and display,” said Audrey Brockhaus, promotions coordinator of the Okemos store. “Therefore, the differences between the stores are striking. We love to feature staff selections and we want to get people excited about what we like. We promote more quirky stuff instead of just cranking out Danielle Steele.” She acknowledges that each location has a personalized vibe, offering merchandise that may not be available in other places.
[audrey]As a fan of classic literature, Brockhaus takes pride in the fact that the store she works for is best known for its classic selection of both literature and music. She believes that her store is oriented toward older generations, while the Eastwood Towne Center store caters more to the college crowd. “We sell classic literature and they sell graphic novels,” she said. “They’re definitely more of a ‘hip’ store.”
It is clear that the owners desired to bring together both audio and visual art elements when they began operating the business in 1982. The stores satisfy a variety of tastes in each department and find ways to combine the two. As a testament to the establishment’s name, stacks of audio books are available, and there are prominent displays of literature on musical artists and groups. At the front counter of the Eastwood Towne Center store, books on U2 and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band surround the customer.
Curious About Books?
The counter at Curious Book Shop, on the other hand, looks completely different. It’s Seth Cohen and every other version of a hipster’s paradise, complete with a display case full of comic books. The store sells a variety of collectible comic books and magazines. [employees]“We sell pulp magazines such as The Shadow and Astounding Stories that were printed in the 1900s up until WWII,” Mark Wojcik, a sales associate at Curious, said. “Some of them are being reprinted, but we have originals, which are becoming increasingly hard to find.”
The most popular merchandise is the mystery and science fiction genre; however, the store features a wide variety of literature. The first floor of the store ranges from archeology and anthropology to Great Lakes nature and Michigan poetry. The second level of the store is home to sports, movies and rock n’ roll, with everything from MSU vs. Notre Dame programs from the \’50s to Rolling Stone covers and Beatles memorabilia.
Owner Ray Walsh has been adding to this collection for years, and started the business in the 1960s out of his MSU dorm room. In addition to attending various auctions, customers also come to the store to sell him their collectible paperback and hardcover literature, some of which is no longer in print or sold at large chain bookstores.
“We sell old copies of books such as The Wizard of Oz that only collectors will want to buy,\” Wojcik said, \”But we also sell more popular books that the students are looking for, like The Catcher in the Rye.\”

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