You step in to the smell of old pages, old pages mixed with the scent of ancient fairy tales and the stench of future memories. You step farther, and you’re hit with air laden with relic adventures masked by the musk of forthcoming space travel.
As you open your eyes, you’re met with books upon books. No hallway, no floor, just walls and tiny paths formed between fables. Reminding me of Flourish and Blotts of Diagon Alley, the Dawn Treader Book Shop in Ann Arbor, Michigan has a charm that many have forgotten in the days of buy-with-one-click. Just on the outskirts of the University of Michigan, this is a store you go to on purpose.
And purpose, you have.
Visiting the Dawn Treader Book Shop is taking a voyage. To where? Let your imagination decide. Be careful as you peruse. Make sure not to trip over the piles of books covering the ground. You may see Ramses’ sarcophagus staring down at you, or perhaps a Captain Picard cut-out peeking from behind a bookshelf. Turn the corner and you’ll find a Hindu goddess hanging next to an African celebration mask.
The Dawn Treader Book Shop, a store I can only assume was named after the C.S. Lewis classic, is the perfect place to get lost on a random weeknight. On many days, I would take my double espresso and make my way down Liberty Street with no goal or aim other than to be delighted by an old book. Every time I entered the shop, I set the goals to look at a row I hadn’t seen before and find a book I would normally never want to touch. Just as I wanted to sit, I would find a small wooden chair taken from my grandmother’s kitchen. I would read just enough into the book that I knew I had to buy it to finish at home.
Simply put, they don’t make bookstores like this one anymore. While I don’t at all mind having a coffee and scone shop embedded within, today’s mainstream bookstores make the bulk of their money from selling technology and celebrity pages. For forty years, owner Bill Gilmore has given university students and Ann Arbor locals something real and unabashed in the love of reading. Clearly, a man whose passion for books is evident in every inch of his establishment, Gilmore brings the books to life while reminding people just how beautiful a place without screens can be. It isn’t the decor or the ornamentation of the store that makes it, it’s just the opposite. It’s the lack of coherence—the asymmetry of themes—that gives The Dawn Treader Book Shop its charm.
This book shop will always have its customers, no doubt. I hope that every new generation inherits the love for such places from the one before. We can’t afford not to.
514 E Liberty St, Ann Arbor, Michigan