Booktown: Ann Arbor’s Enduring Literary Legacy

Picture the perfect bookstore. Are you standing in New York City, facing the miles of shelves that make up the Strand? Are you imagining Shakespeare & Co. in Paris, with the voices of famous expatriate writers echoing off the tattered walls? Or maybe you’re a bit closer to home…

Ann Arbor, Michigan frequently tops lists of cities with the highest number of places to find books per capita. Its population of 120,000 supports a thriving library system and eight independently-owned bookstores. The college town is a welcome, if lonely, Midwestern representative on those lists, which are otherwise dominated by coastal cities. But as much as the number of stores helps Ann Arbor stand out, the identities of the bookstores are what make the book culture extraordinary. The bookstores, each with their own distinct feel, are deeply connected to their community, and the people that run them are intentional about uplifting each other and their city.

“People think of Ann Arbor as a very kind of forward-thinking, kind of progressive, alternative-thinking place,” Pastiva of the Ann Arbor Book Society said. “And I think that having access to so many bookstores probably has something to do with that.”

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