Blog: Gene Alloway, Robin Agnew, & Bill Castanier

"The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who'll get me a book I ain't read," -Thomas Jefferson.
Add the organizers of Kerrytown's Bookfest to this week's list of recommended reads. Gene Alloway, Robin Agnew, and Bill Castanier will survey Ann Arbor's literary and book arts community and the city's book shop culture.

Robin Agnew - The Bookseller Backbone of Ann Arbor

When we opened 18 years ago, our stock was much smaller, and the book community had a stronger and wider array of used booksellers, though our real competition was Borders.  Through the years Borders' star has waned a bit, but it is still a giant part of the Ann Arbor book community.  Something happening to Borders is almost unthinkable – it was founded here and remains a giant presence downtown.

However, the used book community in town is also a strong and varied one.  The oldest shop, West Side Books, belongs to Jay Platt, who carries a wide variety of used books, mostly hardcover, mostly collectible. There's also Dawn Treader and David's Books, who sell a wide array of general used books.  There's Motte and Bailey Books, which specializes in children's, history, literary, and biographical used books.  There's Kaleidoscope, with an array of books and collectible objects.  And there's our store, Aunt Agatha's, selling new and used mysteries, and focusing on various author events through the year.

There is also a Barnes & Noble presence in town, as well as Nicola's Books, a strong and well-run independent bookstore on the west side of town.  The Kerrytown BookFest draws together many of these booksellers and they do form the backbone of our book community in town.  While Borders didn't have a booth, two of their employees ran our book cover contest this year.  Present on the actual day were Aunt Agatha's, Motte & Bailey, Nicola's, Kaleidoscope, and West Side Books.

We are joined, of course, by booksellers from all over the state. I started the morning walking through the Farmer's Market and found an old friend from the other side of the state selling books – she said she loves the day as she gets to socialize and see old friends.  All day I had conversations about reading and books, about and with writers, and I ended the day discussing Jane Austen with a woman waiting at my table for a book to be signed by an author.

The very tail end of the day, two of our speakers thanked me for including them on the program – they said it made them feel like they were a part of the community.  I love that the Bookfest brings together all the parts of the book – the reader, the bookbinder and printer, the publisher, and the bookseller.  We all need each other to stay vital.