Booktoberfest is the literary awakening Ann Arbor needs

Thursday, September 6, 2018 - 3:35pm

I would never move to a city without ensuring that there was an independent bookstore within walking distance first. A community without a bookstore is akin to a chest without a beating heart. Unable to function, unable to exist, without life. A bookstore is the type of place that makes a community feel like a home. It is impossible to imagine a perfectly functioning city without at least the option to walk a bit and find perfect solace between the lines of a good book. It comes down to storytelling –– the sweetness of it, the grittiness of it, the heartbreak of it and the necessity of it. We would not be much without stories. Our homes would not be much without stories. Our cities, our highrises, our public parks, our 9-to-5 jobs and our family rooms would not be much without stories. Our lives need independent bookstores. Our lives need books. 

In order for bookstores to function, people must read. Our communities need readers to buy and share books. In a world where Amazon is a click away and our eyes are glued to our phone screens, this proves no small feat. 

Enter: Thomson-Shore, a Dexter, Michigan book manufacturer, printer, publisher and distribution company with one goal: to celebrate books. In Oct. of 2017 the company held its first annual “Booktoberfest,” which Lori Minnick, an employee at Thompson-Shore, described as an “opportunity to celebrate all things books with the entire family” in a recent interview with the Daily. The event is a celebration of authors, books and reading put on by Thomson-Shore annually and aided by Ann Arbor’s own Literati Bookstore. 

Minnick went on to explain the event a bit more, which is scheduled for this Saturday, Sept. 8. 

“We have some great authors who will be sharing their stories and signing books, experts in the industry sharing insight, tours of our plant showing first-hand how books are made, a pitch your book contest for authors looking for a publishing deal and an opportunity for children to become published authors,” Minnick said.

When asked to describe the event in more detail, Minnick continued with the idea that events like Booktoberfest are necessary to get the community excited and passionate about reading, especially in a time of such technological advancement, in a world where we are all prone to be “too distracted” or “too busy” to take the time to read. 

“We celebrate our authors accomplishments,” she said. “We celebrate that the industry is still going strong and we celebrate the fact that people still want to hold and read real books.”

It comes as a bit of a heartbreak that we must be reduced to such a phrase — “people still want to hold and read real books” — as though the practice is falling away from us in this 21st century. A bookstore is idiosyncratic in this way because it holds something for everyone. It is a romantic practice — book browsing and book purchasing and the idea of authors putting pen to paper. As consumers we are given the gift of bookstores — an opportunity to walk into a blind date empty and walk out in love at first sight with words we didn’t even know we needed. 

There’s something special about the ability of literature to transcend time and space, and there’s something incredibly important about ensuring that children are a part of the push to get people reading again. Booktoberfest seeks out a variety of activities and authors for children in order to ensure families will come with their young kids, get them excited to read new books and ravenous about literature. 

The event is not only important for families and book consumers, but also writers, as it provides a variety of opportunities for authors to have their work showcased and new writers to bring their work to the community. 

“Writers generally are so involved in writing that they do not spend time thinking about the tough stuff: publishing,” Minnick said. “Once the manuscript is complete or close to complete there is still a ton to accomplish before your book gets to readers. This event will offer a treasure trove of information for authors to consider as they wind down their writing process and ramp up their publishing activities. There is a lot to consider in order to publish a book you can be proud of.” 

When all three exciting elements come together –– text, author and reader — real magic can happen. The community sees the need for independent bookstores, for new authors and for precious stories. The authors are inspired to write and the books tell the tale on their own. 

“Books are and will remain the most affordable vacation ever offered,” Minnick said. “In a world where people can’t get off screens, a paper book offers an escape and opportunity to focus on just one thing: a story, a narration, a biography, an interest. People forge relationships with physical books and this is across generations.” 

Between bringing the community together, celebrating books and lifting up new and previously published authors, Booktoberfest seems to do it all. Most importantly, though, Booktoberfest restarts the conversation about storytelling. It ignites a fire under a community’s belly, mingling the writers with the readers and mixing the words with  moments to make literary magic. 

“Books are people,” Minnick said. “We celebrate books because of what’s in them. Our history, our poetry, our stories.”

Books are indeed people, and people are stories. Now, more than ever, we need so many of these things –– stories, human interaction and words. But most importantly, all of us, whoever we are, need books.