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Notebook: Rekindling my love for literature at Ann Arbor's Literati

By Tehreem Sajjad, Daily Arts Writer
Published April 12, 2013

I remember when my 7-year-old self would spend hours maneuvering through the aisles in the children’s section of the library, surfing through the collection of “Junie B. Jones,” “Magic Tree House” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books, gathering the ones I wanted and ultimately carrying the stack to my mom to take them home.

As a child, it was the anticipation of flipping through the pages of a book, taking quick glances at the forthcoming pictures and the growing excitement and desire to reach that particular place in the plot.

As a teenager, it was the words, rather than the pictures, that amplified my exhilaration. I can still recall the nights when I would stay awake long after midnight, turning the pages of a “Harry Potter” book — fully immersed in J.K. Rowling’s magical world — and painfully longing to be a part of it.

Though it has been only a few years since then, I see more people reading books on their iPads, Kindles and other devices. Sometimes, I feel like every such instance serves to remind me that this is the era of the e-book.

With technological advancement, including the expansive reach of the Internet and mobile applications, e-books are slowly crushing the publishing industry. Amazon, at the forefront of this movement, already sells three times as many Kindle e-books as hardcovers. E-books are by far the fastest-growing element of the otherwise stagnant, recession-afflicted publishing business. So, according to e-book fanatics, perhaps it’ll be another two years — or maybe five — but sooner or later the tables will turn. Or so those e-book fanatics think.

As if the departure of Shaman Drum Bookshop wasn’t enough, Borders, the second largest bookstore chain in the country, closed its doors to Ann Arbor and book lovers like myself. Since then, downtown Ann Arbor has been void of an independent bookstore — until now.

On April 3, after weeks of scanning, categorizing and stocking bundles upon bundles of books, Literati Bookstore finally opened its doors to Ann Arbor. Though the space is tight, I like it; it makes me feel as if I’m cozied up in my favorite quilt on a rainy day with an enticing book in hand.

A lot of people think of a bookstore solely as a place to buy books. Of course, that’s its primary purpose. However, I’ve always thought of a bookstore as a community center. It’s the place where people bring their kids for story hour, it’s the place where authors from all across the nation come to do readings. You can pick up a book, you can sit in a chair and you can just be there. It’s the “being there” part that I’m so good at.

Though Literati is tight on space, its collection of books is expansive. From “The Scarlet Letter” to “Twilight,” I found that the store’s fiction collection (my favorite) not only covered the classics, but also contemporary writing, something that stands out to me. I must’ve spent an hour making my way around Literati, flipping through books I’d already read and the ones I wanted to read, glancing through a few good recipes in the cooking section and ending up at the magazines. It felt rewarding and peaceful to be amid books again.

People think that with the rise of e-books, book stores will soon be extinct. However, the tables haven’t turned quite yet in Ann Arbor, and the crowds that Literati receives every day are a testament of that.

Sometimes, when I turn to the last page of a good book, I feel as if I’ve lost a friend. When I stepped out of Literati the other day, I felt as if I had lost a whole group of friends.

And, of course, the only thing better than the smell of a new book is the smell of a new bookstore.


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